Name: Decent People
Time period: February 2020 - Ongoing
[February 2020. Hyper Island] Me and my classmate Felicia had recently done a module (course) called "Business", where tried out creating our own agency together with seven other fellow classmates in the Design Lead program. Felicia and I had never worked together during our time at Hyper Island, but when we now got the chance we noticed that out brains worked in similar (and at the same time opposite) ways. What we now learned about eachother was that we made a great team - collaboration and communcation was flowing. During the module we "started" a design agency (not a real one), that combined with mine and Felicias collaboration turned into thoughts and dreams to make it a reality. A seed was planted, and somehow the only thing I could think about was starting a business together with Felicia. The energy towards the idea got stronger and stronger, and with a little back-and-forth talking me and Felicia decided that we were on board, even though we knew there was a lot of uncertainty waiting ahead.
[March 2020. Hyper Island] When the decision was made "Yes, we're doing this thing!", the first thing we started to do was laying out some sort of ground plan for us to get us moving forward. We did not have a super structured approach, in the beginning it was more about getting into a forward motion to make stuff happen. This suited us as personalities and was utilizing the energy we had towards the whole thing. We did apply some of the same things we had previously done with clients in other projects we had worked in that were proven effective from our experience. We applied those things to enhance our own progress. Some of the activities/methods we did were:
- Branding/Ideation Workshops. This was helpful for us to get started talking in more detail about our business identity and figure out or values, goals and vision. Basically: who are we and what do we want to communicate? - Inspiration and outside perspectives. When creating our brand identity we wanted to individually communicate to each other what mental picture we had in mind for the look and feel, for us to do that we both gathered visual inspiration for each other. This made it easy to see what our personal tastes was and how we possibly could merge those into our companies identity (the last part was much harder than we thought). We also took advantage of going to a school full of creative and smart people, and used them as a soundingboard for our thoughts and ideas. Their support boosted us a lot!
- Hyper Island Toolbox. The school Hyper Island is all about tools, during our education we had gotten pretty used to them by then and learned the value of using them. We used many of them throughout our process, depending on what we needed in the moment: more energy, increased innovation, team building etc.
- Getting to know each other in an honest way. From the day we decided to start a business, we spent time together practically everyday. Trying to figure out each other and how to collaborate was a big part when first starting out. What strengths and weaknesses do we have? How could we potentially clash? What do we do then? We wanted to have some sort of "crisis plan" so we knew how to handle the situation best when it came up. We then realised that a lot of things you can't predict and have to "wing it", but it smoothed out the rough edges of the roadbumps when we had already talked about how we reacted in different situations. The mutual understanding that we had naturally together also helped.
Throughout this journey of building a business from scratch there has been a lot of learnings and insights. When you do something for the first time you're almost forced into learning mode - without any prior experience everything is an exploration. Some of the learnings up until now has been:
DO, DO, DO
— Stand up for your needs and worth. It's important to be your own bestfriend when doing something like this, and think about how you treat yourself as well are being treated by clients etc. It can help to self reflect and spend quality time with people wanting the best for you, including yourself.
— Practice straight-forwardness. It's easy to be slippery and unclear when communicating, for me starting a business and having to take responsibility for every part of the process has been a golden opportunity to practice my straight-forward communication skills. Let's face it: it makes it all easier in the end (not to say doing it is easy).
— Celebrate big and SMALL things. This makes it all more fun (and is chockingly easy to forget). Cake because you got that awkward email sent? Yes, please. At least try to acknowledge when you do stuff, the small and the big ones.
— Internal development. Prioritize doing reflections and team development sessions throughout, over time it's easy to get consumed by a work loop and forget to look inward to the core of the company.
DON'T, DON'T, DON'T
— Let uncertainty get the best of you. Instead, dare to be brave and trust the process. Sometimes that's the only way to develop and reach your goals/dreams.
— Base your self worth on your work. I think this is important no matter how you work. It's easy to build self esteem around achievments, to some extent I think that's perfectly fine, but if I rely too heavily on what I can and can not do professionally, and my wellbeing is affected - it becomes a fragile system. Instead (after some soul searching) I try to get energy from other things than work. It can be from friends, hobbies or other joyful stuff I can fill my spare time with.
— Act (solely) on assumptions. It's easy to make up your own stories in the head and think you know. I think it's important to be humle to that fact and act accordingly. If unsure about a situation, practice asking questions to really know what's going on.
A month into our decision about starting the business, the world turned upside down and the pandemic started to get a tight grip - affecting everything around us. Now we had two completely new things for us to navigate. This increased the feeling of uncertainy which was challenging, but at the same time we had so much energy and faith in the business that it carried us through the days. We took a "day-by-day" approach and tried to stay flexible and be open for change.
In the beginning it was hard to know how to communicate our services, and to bridge the gap between what the client needed and how we could provide value for them to feel it's worth it. This has somewhat been easier with time, although it's always a customization to every new client. Once we had the first client it felt easier.
All of a sudden you're an accountant, project manager, communicator, sociala media manager, administrator, conractor - alongside our roles and responsibilties as designers. Some hats suits you better and more organically, while some has been "necessary evil" for making the company work on a practical level. At the end of the day we've learned a lot from taking on different roles.
It was thrilling to be responsible for creating something, and to be able to customize it to your personality and needs. This was empowering and a luxury, with both it's benefits and downsides. In this case and phase of my life the pros outweighed the cons.
Because me and Felicia were responsible for every part of the business, everything we achieved became heightened - it was us and only us who made it happen.
Animation made by Marien Singbo for Decent People
The greatest thing about this was the opportunity to do what we really love doing: to design, create and have independent freedom throughout.