IIBN interviewed Catherine Orpen Director of Orpen Design Solutions. Catherine says that Orpen Design Solutions is a graphic design consultancy. We offer creative design support to both bid and marketing teams. We work alongside SMEs as well as industry leaders. We think of ourselves as an extension of our clients’ businesses: as a creative department that can be bolted on as and when needs be. Today, Orpen is made up of a team of experienced and inspired creative professionals working on the front line of bid delivery as well as across all marketing solutions for both print and web.

You can visit Orpen Design Solutions here

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

I have always worked within “Work Winning” teams, designing bids and marketing material for print and web. It is an area where I knew creative work really does make a big difference, particularly at in sectors like Construction.

Give a brief account of your education background.

From a national school of 28 on Bere Island off West Cork to getting the boat to the mainland each day to attend secondary school, I moved to Cork City to study Print Media Communications in CIT. From there I moved to Paris and restudied a Graphic Design Diploma in French so I was market ready. From there I worked as a Designer for 6 years.

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

Yes, I was always very sure I would work for myself and wanted to be the driver of my career but was very aware that I had to get the necessary experience before taking that big step.

Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?

Yes, 3 of my 4 brothers work for themselves back in Ireland and my sister in New York runs her own consultancy in health care.

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

For the most of my career I worked within the “Built” Environment. When I moved to the UK I worked for Carillion Construction for 3 years. I worked intensively in the Bidding department so gained a huge knowledge of the UK market. I then launched Orpen Design Solutions.

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

I have worked in Advertising and Design agencies in Paris and Sydney as well as working for Main developers in Paris and the UK. Having had a broad range of experience in both the creative and corporate side of Design, it most definitely benefitted the business in those early days and even today.

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

There was a lot of saving before I quit my job!

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

Resilience, perseverance and confidence. I quickly learned that if I didn’t believe in myself and the work I did, nobody would, going from behind my computer screen to being in board rooms pitching was a huge step for me, self-belief was a key ingredient.

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

I have been very fortunate to work with some amazing people down through the years. The clients we have really do value the work we do. Having a fantastic team around me is definitely key to Orpens’ success as well as copious amounts of Coffee.

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

Having a network is of huge importance. Setting up the business in London, I had access to many networks to spread the word about the work I was doing. Even today I use my networks for not only business development but also finding suppliers to work with. It’s a trusted circle.

Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?

I remember when I first started out, a client remarked on my way of dressing, that it was not “corporate” enough for them! I was by no means dressed casually. Today’s entrepreneurs are younger, much younger in some instances. It is no longer mandatory you wear a business suit to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur – if you have the next greatest idea for a tech start-up, a hoodie and jeans will do.

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

A lot of people felt the need to tell me not to quit my job and that it was not a good time to go it alone. Surround yourself with supportive peers and just go for it! I would also say, having a nest egg of savings does take the pressure off in case it does take longer than expected to get that first client in.

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