In the latest of my small business interviews, I’m chatting to Chiara Cupini from the Edinburgh-based graphic design business, Guizzo. Chiara specialises in working with small business owners to create unique designs that help tell the story of their brand.
I’m delighted to have worked with Chiara previously. In fact, you might recognise her illustrations throughout my website and she’s also the creative mind behind my logo! So, she seemed like the perfect person to have a chat with about small business life.
In my small business interview with Chiara, I asked her all about what she loves about running Guizzo, as well as things she has learned over the years.
Why do you do what you do?
The first time I answered “graphic designer” when asked “What do you want to do when you grow up?” must have been in Primary 7. So, shall we call it passion?
Then the passion for small businesses grew slowly as I discovered my preference for working in small agencies and for small companies, where I deal with people who have a direct interest in the projects we work on.
What are you most proud of?
Every single project. Every design going out into the world is my baby, especially the ones I can add my “Guizzo” spin to, like hand-drawn details, icons, or something really bespoke for the client.
I am also proud of all the juggling. Owning a small business while running a household and being a mum takes a lot of juggling to keep the balance between the three. It’s an acquired skill I think I can be proud of.
What keeps you up at night?
Only my toddler manages to keep me up at night! But how to get better at finding new clients and increase the amount of work is probably the one thing I worry about. As is the case for many creatives, selling my services is not my forte.
What was the best business decision you ever made?
Stop putting a corporate facade up pretending to be a bigger agency and just be myself instead.
Also, I used to be kind of ashamed of my working from home, being a one-person business, having to fit my working hours around my family. Then I slowly understood that most of my clients not only understand but like this about my business. Everyone who runs their own business is a bit like me and Guizzo.
And the worst?
For a few years, I tried to find a business partner who could bring in clients and do the searching and sales for me. But I was never able to find a like-minded person, and I just ended up wasting months I could have spent building my confidence and sales skills instead.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got?
I always had a hard time setting my rates. Each time a potential client walked away saying they can buy a logo online for a few pounds, I’d be thrown into despair.
Then a “wise marketing friend” (who shall not be named… ;) ) told me not to let those people define my prices, but to choose the rates I deem right for my business, find the clients who value my work and are happy to pay them – and to have the guts to walk away if somebody doesn’t. I still need a nudge every now and then, but I definitely got better at it.
How do you attract new clients or customers?
Most of my clients come through word of mouth, and the visible part of my work, such as bespoke designs for vans, cars and logos, hopefully speak for themselves when they go around. I also have Denise and a couple of suppliers who love my work and keep referring me to their clients.
Regarding “proper marketing actions”, I try my hand at social media, mainly posting works-in-progress and finished projects on Instagram and Facebook. I also write a blog that aims to help small business owners get more out of working with designers and explains how good design can grow their business.
What do you enjoy most about your marketing?
I love the interaction on social media, like when someone I don’t know sees my work and comments on it.
How do you relax?
Well, I love drawing, reading and cooking, and I watch the occasional TV series. But mainly, I am quite a nerd, so I play a lot of board games with friends. Nothing could make me miss my weekly Dungeons and Dragons night!
What is your favourite brand?
Mmm… I think I’ll go for Taschen, they have long been my go-to publisher to be able to afford art and design books in Italy, where books are incredibly overpriced and the second-hand market is non-existent.
I really appreciate their effort to make art books accessible to all, but I also love the bold corporate image, the multi-language editions and the use of strong photography on their covers.
What’s something you dream of doing?
To draw more.
I have recently started a surface pattern shop on Spoonflower, and a print-on-demand shop on Redbubble. My dream is to find the time I need to move further in that direction. And draw more maps as well; I really, really love drawing maps.
Well hopefully many more exciting designs and more of those lovely clients I have now, and more skills to learn, well… more of all this, there isn’t much I’d like to add or change to be honest!
To read more of these interviews, have a look here: