My work space in front of me is festooned in a schizophrenic mix of Halloween and Christmas table settings and decorations. Just another day and to be expected at Carlin Creative headquarters, as I make final preparations for today’s photo shoot with Stephen Potts, Creative Commercial Photography. The party season is almost upon us and the early bird is up at dawn in order to catch the worm.
I can’t help feeling, I’m right at home amongst all the bling; the glitter, glue, diamante stickers and two toothless ceramic pumpkin lanterns grinning at me from ear to ear. I’ve finally arrived in exactly the place where I want to be. I’m at the start of a brand new and thrilling entrepreneurial career, where social media has become my playground.
I have to admit, I got a bit of a kick posting a trial run picture of my twin pumpkins on LinkedIn. Two orange eejits, generating lots of likes and sticking out like sore thumbs in a sea of commercial wisdom including the nearby post: “If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to build theirs for them.”
In my second blog: Business from the Beach, I wrote, “Letting go of a 20-year career in British Broadcasting wasn’t easy. I loved my time working in marketing, communications and event management for Channel 4, ITV and the BBC and was proud of my association with some of the best known media brands in the world.
“It was a bold move to quit a high paying job to venture out and see what the world had to offer. It took a while to let go of my normal corporate work ethos, of engrained ways of working and to break free of traditional expectations around finding and keeping a job.”
Reading Daniel Priestley’s inspirational book Entrepreneur Revolution; how to develop your entrepreneurial mind-set and start a business that works, was my first tentative step in setting up Carlin Creative.
In a chapter entitled, Create the Future, Don’t Consume the Past he writes: “Don’t fantasize about going back to the past, as there’s simply no such thing as going back to the way things were. Life doesn’t move backwards, it moves forwards. There’s no time machine coming to pick you up. You are moving forward in time and the only way things will be better is if you create them as better.”
He subscribes to a theory that everything you consume requires energy, either to digest it or to maintain it in your life and that creating is the opposite. When you create, he writes, energy flows through you. The act of creating wakes you up and makes you feel joyous.
I know, for a fact, that this is true. I named my blog and business after it!
There is great satisfaction to be had from coming up with an idea, building a brand around the promise of delivery of great value and infusing it with creativity, passion and love. The experience of building something that gets talked about, is perhaps one of the most rewarding and energetically uplifting things you will ever do.
Like having a child, it needs to be cared for, nurtured and loved.
My Carlin Creative birth plan began with a painting on my bathroom wall by local artist, Gavin Fitzsimons. It’s called Heat and I have always loved it. It has a colour palette of burnished gold, black and deep red. It is stunning in its clean lines, simplicity and richness.
I bought it from an art gallery on the way to sign for the mortgage for my house at the Progressive Building Society in Wellington Place, Belfast. On the way back, it had been replaced by another work called Ice which I also bought and then a third one called Fire.
There I was, the proud owner of three fine paintings and neither the keys to my house nor a penny to my name. I’ve always had an eye for tasteful things and have the knack of putting them together to create something stunning in the sum of all its parts and I’ve been doing it for years. I have a very real and life-long passion for creativity, production and the process of transformation.
I might not be able to sing, or dance, or paint but somehow, I have an innate ability to take the ordinary and turn it into something remarkable and it is around this fascinating process, I have decided to build a business.
So whether it’s writing a press release, running an event or giving someone a gift, it’s my view, there is joy to be had from taking the standard and elevating it into something unique. But having an idea is easy; creating something is an entirely different ball game.
Daniel Priestly writes: “Thinking about having a date with Pippa Middleton doesn’t make you her new boyfriend. Thinking about a business idea, a product or a new service doesn’t make you its creator. What makes you creative is your ability to bring it into the world in a way that other people can understand and value.
“Being creative isn’t easy; you need to decide upon the idea and then do everything required to bring it into the world. The process can take months or years to get a single creation completed. It’s blood, sweat, tears, risk and sacrifice.”
Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to overcome it, so at the end of April 2016, I took a leap of faith and probably a leave of my senses by announcing, via a Friday night post on Facebook that I was launching a new career.
Making a declaration and in such a public way was the only way of getting up on Monday morning and not being able to back out of it.
It was the best and craziest decision I ever made and from that point on, Carlin Creative developed a momentum all of its own. To get the ball rolling, my brother, Peter Carlin, co-owner of Logicearth Learning Services recommended an American company called 99 Designs.
It appealed because freelance designers across the globe compete to create your logo and hosted website design and it’s guaranteed; a design you love or your money back. It’s that simple. The process begins with filling in a number of questions asking for a bit more about who you are and the people you reach.
Mine reads: “Carlin Creative is a highly personalised, creative and innovative event management and communications solutions company for private and corporate clients. No event is too big or too small but all are delivered with the highest quality production values and where attention to the smallest detail is key. Transformation is at the heart of the creative process making the mundane not only memorable but truly stand out. Think Martha Stewart meets Pinterest but for the Irish market.”
Asked what do you have in mind for the style and theme of the logo and hosted website? My response: “Visual, clean, angular, rich, high quality, attention to detail with the same brand capable of migrating to all social media platforms. Black, burnished gold and red; a royal rich feel without being fussy.”
And that was it, my creative brief submitted alongside a photograph of my favourite painting in my newly refurbished bathroom.
It took less than 24 hours to receive my ‘stand out from the crowd’ winning logo concept from Vikram Khan, (with the patience of a saint) based in New Delhi, India.
I later found out, he spends most of his time running a number of businesses, Broadcast Guru Technologies and Digital Navigation Pvt. Ltd, kitting out television studios and media labs with new technology.
With both of us coming from professional backgrounds in broadcasting we had far more in common, than that which divided us but God only knows how he put up with pernickety me! I turned out to be a right royal control freak.
Vikram, who goes by the name of Viks, was the only designer of all those competing who had read and fully understood the creative brief. I don’t like flowers, and stars and swirls and doves and ‘all things little girls are made off’.
The design, he produced, bringing Carlin Creative to life and at lightning speed in just under eight weeks, was boutique, elegant and impactful. It was a great privilege to work alongside a complete stranger, now a life-long friend who is just as passionate about the brand and its success as I am.
Apart from the odd monsoon, floods and disrupted networks, working with someone half way across the world and in a different time zone was much easier than expected.
Life has moved on.
Today’s technology enabled culture provides an immediate, accessible, self-directed and adult appropriate way of conducting business. Working is no longer a composite 9am to 5pm picture, belonging to the industrial age. It is now a moving, high tech film requiring constant innovation and re-invention and brings with it creative freedom and flexibility.
In the digital age, it’s all about on-the-go, on-demand; much more mobile, social and global ways of doing business. Commerce is conducted everywhere at home, in offices overseas, on the beach, in coffee shops anywhere that can accommodate a laptop, tablet, mobile phone and broadband.
Never in a million years, back at my desk at the BBC did I dream, I would be planning my own photo shoot, pumpkins at the ready, never mind running my own business with first class technical, creative and mentoring support hailing all the way from India.
Never mind Brexit and all the doomsday stories about economic downturns and austerity. It strikes me there has never been a better time to start and grow a business that brings excitement to the working day and that can make a difference to the world.
And no matter how many mistakes I make or how quickly or slowly I progress, I’m still one step ahead of anyone and everyone who isn’t trying.
Suits me Ji!