The Art of Strengths Coaching

H is for HomeSmiths: A Journey Towards Doing Fulfilling Work

Homesmiths three pictures in one

Jacqui Smith has always wanted to be a designer. That dream continued, but instead she forged a career as a marketer in companies.

Then came a turning point. She decided to focus more on doing what she loved, plus finding customers who wanted to buy her work.

Since then she and her husband David have built a highly respected interior design company called HomeSmiths.

http://www.homesmiths.co.uk/

Jacqui wrote the following story five years after beginning the journey towards building the business. The company has now been going for over a decade.

Homesmiths log

Background

As a child I could spend hours creating room sets for my dolls, fiddling with doll’s house furniture, making camps for my brother to play in or rearranging my bedroom.

Whilst I followed art and excelled at it through my childhood and teens, my school was fiercely academic. So when it came to ‘A’ Level choices, Art was dropped in favour of Economics, Maths and German.

University followed and I gained a degree in Economics and Maths. Having little clue of what I wanted to do, I found myself in sales and marketing, which is where I stayed for some years.

Feeling unfulfilled with my work, job changes ensued but I was never really addressing the root problem. Sales and marketing were not playing to my strengths. This left a whole host of skills and, more importantly, passions untapped.

Outside work I was continuing with more creative pursuits, such as designing room schemes for myself as well as friends and family.

But I never thought of doing this for a living, telling myself:

“I’m not trained in Interior Design – how could I make money from this and why would anyone take me seriously?”

Despite constant encouragement from friends, I remained unhappy in the corporate world.

Several years ago I went on a two day workshop aimed at helping people to make a living doing what they loved. Focusing on my passions, talents, dreams and goals threw up a common theme which simply read as ‘creating enriching environments’.

Beforeandafter_kitchen

I then met my now husband David, a cabinet maker. He had always wanted to run his own business – yet possessed none of the required sales, marketing or organisational skills.

Within months of meeting, we were engaged. We also knew then that we would one day set up on our own.

David continued to design and make furniture in the short to medium term. In the longer term, however, he wanted to get more involved in bigger interior design projects.

I wanted to help people enrich their living environments with colour and texture – plus take on the challenge of running a business. A brainstorm and a bottle of wine later ‘HomeSmiths’ was born.

The name really says it all – the Smiths with designs on your home! It also offers us so much flexibility in terms of what we offer our clients and will enable us to adapt and change the focus of an interior design based business in the future without worrying about the relevance of the brand we have created.

Success

The response from our immediate network was tremendous. Not only did people believe in the proposition, but truly believed in David’s and my ability, through our combined talents, to deliver.

Starting the business when our first son Cameron was 4 months old, people thought we were mad – but staying in our old roles was so much more frightening!

It has been hard work and almost five years on we are still of course a young business, but we are constantly building our reputation.

Our second son Piers was born two years ago. Whilst the order book was full on the day of his arrival, the fact that my eye was quite understandably off the marketing ball for a few months did impact the business for a little while.

We have people telling us that we are lucky but I really don’t think it’s about luck. To me, self employment is a constant challenge; a challenge that I am more than happy to face, but we’re kept on our toes constantly.

Overcoming the tests we face brings with it that enormous sense of achievement and I suppose pride in what we have built together. Going outside my comfort zone is a regular occurrence.

Beforeandafter_sitting

I don’t think that you can build and develop a business without forcing yourself into uncharted waters! I go outside my comfort zone and then as soon as I return to that state of ease and confidence, I see that I have to expand the zone again!

We have had to be open to opportunities and never look at them on face value. The best example of this was in our first year of trading when I wrote to a local business, introducing HomeSmiths.

A couple of follow up calls produced nothing until six months later the phone rang. For once ‘we’ll put your letter on file’ meant just that and they were calling to ask us to quote for some boardroom furniture.

The person calling was Elaine Erskine who is now one of my closest friends, God Mother to Piers and more importantly from a networking point of view has not only given us business herself but introduced us to five new customers.

As a team, we work together incredibly well. Some projects involve both of us; David focusing on the furniture with me designing the overall room scheme; other projects see us working independently.

As far as the running of the business is concerned, we play to our strengths; David focuses on the designing and making whilst I manage the books and oversee the sales and marketing.

Summary

We pride ourselves on our quality of product and service. Although bespoke furniture is not exactly a regular purchase, we have now developed a loyal client base where people come back to us for more work and recommend us to friends.

One lesson I learned on the workshop was to network but, most of all, to give something back to people in your network. So true and such a simple and cost effective way to grow a business! I am evangelical about doing work you love.

And as a mother I will certainly encourage my children to follow their natural paths in life and work.

Postscript

Jacqui and David continue to go from strength to strength. And, in 2012, HomeSmiths gained Certification for Professional Membership of the Society of British Interior Design.

This is the accredited Mark of a Professional for interior designers measures competence in practice and is often taken by designers and architects post-graduation.

http://www.sbid.org/

home-image4_03

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