Starting a small business is an exciting transition to make. And for Claire and Beka, starting The Renew Room, there was plenty of motivation to do so. Both in a time of their life with young children, they wanted flexibility and control over their working environment and schedules, as well as the ability to pick up more clients when it suited.
We caught up with Beka and Claire recently and they beautifully explained how they combined their skills and experience as a graphic designer and marketer to start The Renew Room.
The Renew Room is a wāhine and māori owned agency that offers creative services such as branding, website design, digital advertising, marketing strategies & more. Over the past (nearly) 3 years they have worked with new and existing businesses, social enterprises, community organisations and government entities.
One of their biggest learnings as business owners has been around how important having a solid mindset is for sustainability and growth. So, we sat down and talked to them about what that means to them.
Money on the mind
Changing their money mindset was a learning curve for both Claire and Beka, but more so for Claire as she was leaving a permanent job to start the business. A self-described ‘spender’, she says it was a big challenge to go from a secure salary and bonus schemes with larger employers to then feeling worried about what’s coming in from week-to-week.
“I have always had quite a nervous money mindset, where even as a teenager I’d never check my bank accounts, I’d just kind of spend until the money ran out. So now I’ve had to adapt how I approach thinking about money and not being so stressed about where the next dollar is coming from. It’s focusing on more of an ‘abundance’ mindset’.”
This is an area in which the symbiotic partnership works so well for the pair, as Beka, coming from a family where her parents had their own business, feels more confident to be in control of that side of The Renew Room.
“I guess I’ve kind of subconsciously learned things from them and I like knowing all the details about the business.”
Managing stress as a business owner
When you’re a business owner, words like ‘recession’ and ‘economic downturn’ have the ability to turn a good day bad, and while some clients have already had to reduce their requirement for services, the pair remain philosophical about what the future holds.
“It’s just knowing that when one door closes, another one opens. Things always work out the way they are supposed to. But that kind of trust in what’s meant to be only comes naturally with time. So while it’s in our business owner toolkit now, it’s not really something someone can have on hand until they have been through it themselves,” explains Claire.
However that’s not to say they don’t have other, more specific, tangible ways to manage stressful situations. For Beka, it’s taking time out to go for a walk or listen to a podcast - as she finds it helpful to switch off to what’s causing the worry, easing its hold on her. And once she returns to it, it doesn’t seem as bad.
And the benefit of having a business partner certainly works in Claire’s favour, as she finds being able to talk about her problems very useful.
“I’m a talker, so like being able to say how I’m feeling out loud, then it’s like ‘I got this, it’s gone now’. It’s about gaining perspective on an issue.”
Think about the future
Having a growth-oriented mindset is crucial for The Renew Room, and when Beka and Claire recently took the Gallup’s Strength Test, they discovered that thinking about the future is something that comes quite naturally to the pair.
“While our plans change on a regular basis, if you’re in business and not thinking about the next five, ten or even 100 years, then what’s the point?”
“When I’m working with clients, or supporting different people, I consider what I’m teaching them or what learnings they are gaining from us - and how that is going to create a better lifestyle or direction for them and their business?
And then it easily lends itself into feeling so committed to every project because you start to think this might seem like a small thing, but building this amazing website for a photographer could help him to feel empowered and [have a positive] impact on his family and their future’.”
Prioritising family over ambition
As business owners who are ambitious and passionate about what they do (alongside being mums of young children) life is busy. And just like most people, balancing their work-life and home-life is challenging.
But when it comes to their kids, time with them is non-negotiable. And whenever they do realise that their days have been too full with work that perhaps they haven’t been able to go for a walk or prepare dinner in the way they would like too, it’s an immediate red flag.
“When this happens, we know it’s time to reprioritise our schedules, and it’s just about communicating with each other. We’re lucky that we’re able to push things out if we need to find some time in our days for our family or ourselves - even blocking out time for a walk,” says Claire.
“Sometimes you will slip up. And that’s okay because while every area of your life is important in a way, you can’t be one hundred percent in every space all the time. So it’s just about keeping track of yourself and saying ‘have I spent too much time here’ and also talking with those around you, as no one else knows how you’re feeling unless you tell them.”
And as all good business partners would do, they are happy to call each other out if they see things tipping out of balance. Whether it’s being honest with a ‘hey, maybe you should just finish this one tomorrow because you don’t seem to have the energy for it today’ - Beka and Claire know not to take it personally if the other one sees them struggling for enthusiasm or motivation, because sometimes you just need someone else to point it out.
“Everything in business and mindset is about creating perspective, whatever that looks like to you,” says Claire.
Managing ‘negative’ feedback
Criticism is part and parcel of our working lives, but what happens when the ‘buck stops with you’ as a business owner? And when you’re also managing those challenges with the rollercoaster of life as a creative? For Beka, who is the Creative Director at The Renew Room, it has been about learning to separate herself from the feedback - understanding that it isn’t a reflection on her ability, but simply that everyone is different.
“I’ve come to appreciate that some people have very individual ideas on what they like and don’t like, and I just have to be okay with that because it doesn't mean what I have done is bad. Sure, some feedback obviously isn’t nice to hear, but there’s always someone who has to say something just for the sake of it.
“We try to be really collaborative with the client on their design journey, from creating Pinterest boards to talking about colours and openly inviting them to give us input. But sometimes people don’t really know what they want, so it’s about managing expectations and letting them roll with their opinions when they do have them.”
Beka and Claire from The Renew Room are certainly showing us how to navigate business ownership, and how important mindset is for them. A couple of awesome wāhine, keeping each other accountable, and always striving for more.
Thank you so much to Claire and Beka for sharing some of your invaluable thoughts and insights into what it takes to run a successful small business. We’re so happy to have you onboard as a Rocketspark Design Partner.