IIBN asked Barbara to give a brief description of her business Cube Design.

CUBE Design provides strategic and creative design services for award winning, established SME’s and funded start ups that want to grow and succeed. Those who recognise that by branding their business effectively, they will be empowered to communicate with, be recognised by and be memorable to their ideal client.

Our record of success is with award winning, established SME’s and funded start ups. We are strong on industry and sector knowledge, with three decades of experience. We are professionally qualified, accredited, fully compliant and insured. Most importantly, we are VERY client focussed.

Through listening to our clients over the past ten years, CUBE Design has developed collaborative packages with our associates, to deliver on our clients needs. Our most recent package is a collaboration offering business people who want to self publish a book, to assert their leadership in their areas of success. Our offering starts at first draft manuscript, where we can offer creative writing coaching, editorial and copywriting services, design services for the book itself and for promotional items around the book, including an author’s website and marketing supports around a book launch, promotional events and general promotion of the author and the book.

How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?

The business was more of a lifestyle choice. When I initially set up ten years ago, I was at home with my children, doing bits and pieces for friends and family, and some people I had worked with in London. An opportunity came my way, which led to a self realisation. I took it and set up CUBE Design. This allowed me to fulfill my passion for design, and to be there for my children. I was never going to be happy drinking coffee and playing tennis while the kids were in school. CUBE Design gave me the drive to fuel my design passion. Art and design make me very happy.

Give a brief account of your education background.

My passion was always based around art, and the Ireland I grew up in was a harsh enough place where the focus was on getting a ‘proper job’, and art wasn’t going to be one of those so called ‘proper jobs’. I can understand why my parents were so concerned, given that they were doing everything to put food on the table, but thankfully I had an uncle who spoke to my parents about the commercialisation of art. This thankfully led them into allowing me go to the College of Marketing and Design to study Visual Communications. These were a great four years where I found my way and specialised in graphic design.

On graduation, I worked in Dublin for a year, and like most people then, I went to the UK. I was lucky to have secured a job before I got the boat across the water. That job turned out to be a fantastic one with great responsibilities, one that just wasn’t available in Dublin back then. Around the same time, Apple computers were gaining traction in the design community, and Adobe software was how design work was being created. It was no longer the hand drawn, marked up overlays, rubylith and scalpels to create artwork boards to hand over to the printer. I was given so many opportunities with my new employer to learn. I took many courses to learn everything there was to know about using the Adobe creative software. Part of my job was in a publishing house in London, and so I was also given an opportunity to do an evening course in book design. I adored this course and left it with a distinction in book design.

Working for myself now, I still feel it is hugely important to stay abreast of the latest skills in design, and as a member of the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI), I can keep up my skillset and engage with renowned designers worldwide.

Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?

I always knew I was creative, and would do something creative. I don’t think I thought too much about entrepreneurship. It was more about being creative, but creative work often leads to working freelance or working for yourself.

Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?

One or two family members did. The closest experience I had was with my uncle, the same uncle who convinced my parents I could make money from my art.

Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?

Yes, it was all I knew. Graphic design was the only field I had ever worked in.

What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?

The job I had in the UK began in a publishing house, which was part of a larger charity, (an umbrella body for all charities in the UK), gave me a fantastic grounding when I set up CUBE Design. I don’t think I realised the impact of this until someone said it to me. Eventually the publishing house and the larger charitable organisation became one, which led to my being the only designer responsible for all the work produced within the organisation. I worked closely with a print buyer, editorial staff and marketing staff. We were a small unit responsible for all communications from exhibition materials, leaflets, annual reports, brochures and quarterly magazines, and of course the books. Being part of a small close team gave me the understanding of how everything worked together, and I learned so much from the more experienced people. Running CUBE Design as I do now definitely draws on my experience in that job. Instead of employing directly, I work with associates, and that all needs project management. A skillset that was paramount in my job in the UK.

How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)

I started out with my own funds at the kitchen table. Not very much funding – enough for my Mac and Adobe software. Then as the work came in, everything went back into the business.

Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?

No I don’t think so. There weren’t any grants I could have gone for at the time. There is probably a bit more available now. I do have to say that my local LEO (Enterprise Board back then) were very supportive, and great at giving knowledge.

What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?

I’m pretty determined when I want something. I also think my passion for design has sustained me – it’s that longing for the next amazing and interesting project that keeps you going and striving to do great creative work.

To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?

I wouldn’t be where I am, ten years later, if it wasn’t for my fantastic clients who trusted me to deliver their communications in a way that has helped us all to grow alongside each other. I thank them all hugely for the opportunities, and for my portfolio pieces.

What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?

To me networking is key to any business in Ireland. Starting out, my local enterprise board, or LEO as they are now known, were very supportive, and the networks they run give you fantastic information and opportunities to share experiences with other business owners.

As I’ve grown, my networking has grown up, and I feel that the mix of networks that I now have is working for me. That mix is a combination of a women’s network, the WIBN, the LEO Link network, the Chamber and of course the IIBN.

Networking with my peers through the IDI is also very important to me. And as a spin off from attending IDI training and events, I am now part of a group of six brand designers who meet regularly to socialise of course, but also to learn from each other’s experiences and improve our own design businesses.

Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?

Yes, of course it has to change with the times, and the internet has changed everything. Anything is possible now, and the world is at your fingertips.

I do see much younger people taking the leap of faith, and maybe they learned lessons from older generations, and don’t want to be caught working in larger businesses 9 to 5 in their 40’s. A lifestyle business is more popular amongst younger people, but also amongst women, who want control of their lives, and to work in a way that suits their passions and lifestyles.

Also I don’t think there is any stigma for those who are self taught, where there may have been in the past. The need for degrees and qualifications does not prohibit anyone from following their passions. The internet and social media has also made it much easier and far cheaper to promote your business than it was in the past.

Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?

Yes I would, and am exploring a few ideas at the moment. I’d like something to sustain me in retirement.

If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?

Its possible one of my children might be involved in a future start up and I’ve been thinking about what advice I might give to her. As a brand designer, I would naturally say the brand is hugely important. I feel strongly that you can’t sell something if you do not first understand your brand, and that takes research and testing especially at the beginning when you are unsure of how things might go.

I would also say that working out your process is important, which again comes back to branding. At what points do you engage or interact with your customers or clients? What processes do you have to get to each of these points? How does your customer or client feel at any point in their journey with you? It’s so important to think about your customer’s journey, and to think about why would they engage with you. You also need to know your own why, why are you doing this because you have to have a passion. Money alone isn’t a good enough reason.

Leave a Reply