So...Visualise designs and makes props for visual merchandising. Founder and creative director Lisa Borrie talks to BQ about setting up a business and what its like to be your own boss.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Visual merchandising and bespoke prop making.
What did you do before you started this business?
My career so far has included working with a number of independent businesses, some of a national standing. I have also worked with a number of smaller businesses on a structured and individual level.
I worked on an exclusive interior design project in Europe which was swiftly followed by working as a sales and graphic designer for a local glass company, and then two years working for a niche interior product business.
What inspired you to start up?
The business I initially set up was So… Weddings & Events which I loved doing … but I had a moment of clarity when I saw a creative niche that I simply couldn’t ignore. The world of prop making is a really special world; it occupies a very creative sphere. It needs to deliver and be memorable. New creative ideas hide around every corner. So… as I felt a door was slowly closing, a new one definitely opened.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
If you pause to look at a shop window and it holds your attention and tells a story … I make that happen.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I get excellent support from a great team of bespoke creators, a copywriter, and help with my PR. I’ve also had a Virgin Business Mentor and support for Scarborough Business Centre, which is an brilliant service in my home town.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
If possible it is best to do your own groundwork. There is finance out there if you are prepared to look for it. I received a Virgin Start-Up Loan and also a business grant from my local council. From the very start I had a tight hold on stock control and ordering which in turn aided my cash flow.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
When I am asked this, it is tempting to mention some of the better-known ‘names’ that So… Visualise has assisted, such as an event running up to London Fashion Week.
However, there is also a sense of achievement even if one of your pitches falls short of getting the green light. To use the door analogy again, it might result in the door being left ajar rather than being slammed shut. And while you’ll have spent time on this pitch or similar, it is not wasted time. The seed has been which might bear fruit later down the line and the experience you’ve gained is invaluable.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Our flexibility, our ability to communicate and the personal touch. So… Visualise also goes that extra mile with our customers. There is also a chameleon-like quality to our approach. We match our skills to the client and this definitely reaps rewards.
We also send out samples to our clients every step of the way so expectations are met and any adjustments can be made along the way.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
It is wonderful. The flexibility is one of the biggest pluses.
But there is a lot to it. Lots of background work and often very long hours. And while I’ve got better at switching off, it is difficult to not feel like you’re at work all the time.
Where do you see your business in five years' time?
So… for me, the challenge of my line of work is not knowing what is round that corner. In five years time, I might have the same number of clients, yet these clients might be different to the ones I have today and they might have such a fabulous challenge this this would be an achievement in itself.
Some businesses would need to have fixed goals. However this can make us feel like we’ve failed if we don’t achieve them. It depends entirely on the business of course, but for me being able to deliver to happy clients will always be my goal.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you feel you need to change direction, then embrace it. It will terrify you and you’ll maybe lay awake at night wondering what to do next … but I followed by instinct and I’ve never looked back.
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