We love sharing our work at Brand Ambition – but our story also has something to offer. So over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing our adventures as we grew from a 2 person partnership to a full time team of 8 in less than 6 months! It hasn’t all been roses. A lot of the challenges I faced as a “solopreneur” were resolved as I partnered up and we brought staff on. I had people to brainstorm with, I didn’t have to work until 2am as often, and there was a greater range of expertise. But transitioning my personal, long standing clients to the team was difficult. Creating systems that carried projects from one department to another without anyone falling through the cracks was also an agonizing system of trial and error. There is so much to be learned, and I want to share what worked – and what didn’t!

You can see in the background, the condition of the office the day before we moved in. Still lots of construction dust and clutter. But we were grateful the landlords added a kitchenette and made some ceiling repairs before we moved in.

This first post is about our new office! Taking the jump to rent professional space was something I never anticipated doing. But as we were interviewing our fourth team member, I knew there was no way we would continue to fit into our tiny 8×10 office. We scouted many spaces and we were certainly intimidated by long lease agreements (5 years!?) parking fees (no space for staff parking in downtown Whitby!) and dark offices that were difficult to locate. 

When we finally saw the 3rd floor loft office in the Bowmanville Factory – we all prayed it would work out.  The space was in terrible shape.  Leaky pipes, broken windows, and under construction.  But we could see the potential.  Natural light, high ceilings, a trendy cool vibe (its located above a craft beer brewery)!  We took the plunge…
Here’s some of the things we learned at this stage:
  • First & last AND A security deposit.  Call us naive, but we were not expecting to pay a security deposit.  After we had gotten a loan for our start-up costs, we received our contract and it included a $1000 deposit.  There goes our entire IKEA budget, and everyone got downgraded from desks to tables.
  • Make a plan for the lease just in case.  We had to sign a 5 year lease.  Which is crazy to me.  I have never committed to anything for that period of time.  I feel like it would be easier to get out of my marriage – than my lease.  My partner and I sat down and made SURE we were both ready for the commitment, and we came up with a contingency plan if things didn’t work out.  We also researched the landlord.  The previous one had a terrible reputation, but we were happy to learn that the building had recently been bought by new owners who really cared and were investing a lot of money in improvements.
  • Run some stuff by your life partner too.  I spent a lot of time preparing myself to sign a 5 year lease before it occurred to me that this locked my family into our area as well.  Did everyone want to live near mommy’s work for the next 5 years?  Ok, good!
  • IMG_20160309_170121071 (1)

    Building IKEA furniture takes longer than you think. You will absolutely need a powered drill if you are putting together 10 tables with a combined 40 legs. :O (*Note the bottles of wine in the fore-front).

    Design to fit your brand.  As designers we need our space to look current.  So the walls and most of the furniture is white so that we can easily update the colour palette just by switching up accessories.  But I recommend any business to decorate using their brand colours.  You want to take behind the scenes pictures that people will recognize on social media.  On point design in the office can help you build your brand, and make clients feel good about coming to meet you there.

  •  Light is worth it.  The bright windows keep our staff happy – and every photo we take looks fantastic.  Remembering some of the dark interior offices we could have chosen, I know now that I will pay for natural light every time.
  • If you’re in a building with many other offices, confirm that your electricity is on it own breaker, and know who to call if you blow a fuse every time you turn the kettle on. :S
  • Keep a budget for signage.  Its a lot more expensive than you think it is, and you often need more signs than you think.  Despite trying to send all our guests clear directions, some people still get lost.
  • Put someone in charge of buying toilet paper

Everyone is hard at work building beautiful brands in our BEAUTIFUL office.

If you are thinking about making the plunge to a professional space, consider how many clients you need to get each month in order to pay rent, insurance and utilities.  Usually this means a price increase or hiring an additional person (which also costs more!)  Basically you are facing the questions that haunt all solopreneurs: grow, and change everything or stay small and try to maximize your time and minimize expenses. Either choice requires faith in yourself.  Jump, and the net will appear!

Stay tuned for more on our adventures!

~Katie Dempsey & The Brand Ambition Team