June 2018: Chasing my dreams, mid — year summary and success.

 

Chasing my dreams.

I first came to the UK when I was 20 for a one year internship, which was part of my Hotel Management Degree. I didn’t know anyone, hardly spoke any english, worked 12-hour shifts in catering industry and had no idea how my future life would unfold — or even in which country I am going to reside.

Fast forward 10 or so years and I am doing my dream job, running my own successful Brand Agency, employing and mentoring talented students and graduates who are trying to get their foot in the door, people constantly come up to me at networking events saying ‘You’re Lidia from Visuable, right!?’ and I live and work across three countries — UK, Cyprus and Poland.

It all sounds like a fairytale but my life wasn’t an overnight success. It took hard work, drive, passion, dedication, curiosity, sweat and tears to get where I am today. And still, it is very much a work in progress.

If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time
— Steve Jobs

After few years in the hospitality, I decided it wasn’t for me. Work, sleep, eat, repeat was not something I wanted, I was existing not living. I was determined to change my path so I returned to the university for a second degree in Media and Creative Arts. When graduating in 2011, I was assured that a 1st Class Degree would secure my dream job. How wrong were they, and how naive was I? With lack of relevant work experience, a fulfilling job that I’d be successful in, one that I’d love doing, seemed like a foolish teenage dream struck down by the harsh reality called life.

Third time lucky is something which only the luckiest can attest to. In my case, it was the sixth
— Lidia

Many internships followed. The Daily Telegraph, Pervasive Media Studio, and my own community radio show are just some of the highlights of this process which lead me to taking up a business start-up course and finally setting up my first photographic company in 2011. Due to the lack of funding, it failed within 6 months when my business partner was forced to settle for a pizza-delivery-job. Times were tough! Friends advised me to also get back to doing “a real job”, but I was determined to keep chasing my dreams.

My internship experiences and a growing network of contacts have finally paid off when I landed my first creative job as a photographer at Clifton Photographic Company, where I quickly became a top performer. One year in, it became clear that this was not the right career path for me and it was time to move on.

So I co-founded a pop-up-studio which sold images via an e-commerce website. We developed a lovable brand, the demand was high and we won 200 clients within 3 months using social media as the only marketing channel. This was by now my third attempt at finding my dream job, but unfortunately I soon realised that this idea didn’t have legs for the long-run.

After dismantling the puzzle and putting it back together again, I re-launched as a wedding photography brand whilst also landing a full time job at a start-up networking company. This job involved crowdfunding my own salary, organising the largest festival of female entrepreneur’s in the UK, rebranding the company with minimal budget, daily socialising with local business owners and telecommuting — as my boss lived in the South of France and only visited Bristol once per month to attend the necessary meetings. I loved it! One year in when the start-up funding dried out, it was my now blossoming wedding business that kept me going (but I knew this still wasn’t the dream job that I was meant to do).

When you loose your keys, they’re usually in your pocket 
— Lidia

…after all this time spent searching for my dream job, it finally hit me. I understood what my passion and purpose were. The answer was right under my nose. It was so obvious. Combining my innate entrepreneurial thinking with my visual talents of bringing brands to life was what drove me. It was something I was really good at and I really love doing! What’s more, I had all the necessary skills and experience to deliver it as I already successfully launched all those brands to the market. And it was unique, and very me.

In 2015, the idea for Visuable was born. So I quit all part-time and freelance jobs, closed down all of my side hustles and went for it. No turning back!  

Imagine a business where you get to bring out the best in other businesses and help the world see how amazing they are – that’s what I set out to do with Visuable! I also embedded my 3 core personal values into the essence of what we do: Freedom to run my company from anywhere as I live across 3 countries: UK, Cyprus and Poland. Freedom to choose the type of work I do. Helping my clients set their brands free too so that they can achieve the lifestyle of their dreams. PASSION to do what I love and love what I do. I have many creative talents and passions and I wanted them to be the essence of Visuable’s service range. I created Visuable to pursue my creative passions whilst serving people who inspire me with what they do. I help my clients merge their passion with their profession and become who they aspire to be. GROWTH – I wanted Visuable to be a platform for me to grow, shift, change, try new things and reinvent myself as I expand my knowledge and expertise. E.g. this September, I am starting an MBA at UWE Bristol which I’ll study for whilst applying my learnings to benefit my company, my team and my clients.

Implicit in these 3 core personal values is also how I’ve aligned my business mission: to change the way people feel about themselves and their business through the medium of photography and design, to transform brands from bland to brilliant and to help them grow and succeed.

If you would like more insight on how I came up with my business idea and why we do things the way we do at Visuable, just jump over to my January journal where I’ve explained this in a little more detail.

 
 Lidia Drzewiecka, Creative Director at Visuable
 

In my first year, I worked with a dozen companies helping them define, create and grow their brands. I was even appointed a CEO of a tech start-up called Aliofly and joined a business accelerator program to help them acquire funding for the flying drone camera they were developing.

Whilst all this might sound cool and exciting (which it certainly was) I was clearly spreading myself too thin. I was exhausted and over-worked. Plus, I was making hardly any money whilst serving “everyone” with “everything”.

Jack of all trades is a master of none

With the arrival of 2016, I niched down and focused on only offering my top skills and what I really loved doing most. I created a strong visual brand and started telling my story online. Within 4 months, Visuable took off. Not only taken off, but actually started to fly. Literally, as if it suddenly grew wings, like a legendary unicorn. Finally, I loved my job, I loved my clients, and I loved myself.

I generated so much demand for my services so quickly, that I soon could not keep up with it. I had no systems or processes in place to scale my operations. I had no leadership skills and I was afraid to let go of the creative control over my business. I knew I needed to access support or I’ll never get any time off.

 
 
NW_Entrepreneur_Accelerator_Video_Intro.jpg
 
 

The rapid success of Visuable lead me towards joining the Natwest Entrepreneur Accelerator (previously known as Entrepreneurial Spark) again in early 2017, this time with my own business idea. I was one of the 90 businesses in that intake, one out of 20 who made it to stage two, one out of 3 who made it to stage three and one out of just 2 businesses who made it to stage four — the final stage of the programme. Whilst on the programme, my mentor Olly Reid helped me transform from the in-side out and, as a result, I was able to transform my business for success. I turned my thinking around, stopped being a busy fool, took on a team and started delegating. I worked on developing my signature “Define — Create — Grow” process, my business systems, processes and automation, legal structure, product and pricing strategy, leadership and presentation skills. I met many new friends who now became collaborators and strategic partners. I helped over 30 businesses within the accelerator hub program to transform their brands from bland to brilliant through my process. Once I started delegating work, I was able to offer freelance opportunities to friends who I met along the way. I also trained and mentored 6 student interns to help them realise their passion and purpose, acquire tangible employment skills and be able to land their dream job faster than me post graduation. Some of them never left and continue working for Visuable until today as part time or freelancers.

Fast forward 2.5 years to mid 2018. This month, I’ve been featured in Psychologies Magazine where I talk about my journey and my life today. Here is a snap of the article:

 
 
 Lidia Drzewiecka, Creative Director at Visuable talks about work life balance in Psychologies Magazine
 
 

So what’s the moral lesson of my story?


To all the creative, determined and passionate entrepreneurs out there, here’s my 5 cents of advice:

  • Stop spreading yourself thin.

  • Stop working in your business.

  • Stop accepting work that you don’t want to do.

Instead, define your dream, invest in yourself and start working on your business. Get a mentor. Discover your secret sauce. Create a specialised offer of products/services that fulfil real needs, wants or desires of your ideal clients and are aligned with your top skills. Only work with people who value what you do and who you really love working with. Find your ideal clients and become their “unicorn”. Let go and say no to anything that doesn’t bring you money or make you happy. Keep chasing your dreams. You will get there!

 …

7 years after graduating and with a trophy cabinet full of business flops (or ‘learning curves’) I can safely say I didn’t CHOOSE to be an entrepreneur, it just happened. Being an entrepreneur however, gave me the ability to create my dream job where I help others succeed. A 9-5 job couldn’t fulfil this passion on this level.

I just love to help. Whether through organising competitions to win my services free of charge or skill swapping with others, or by taking on students with little work experience to help them get the knowledge they need to get ahead and secure their dream job - Visuable is here to help others succeed in business and life.

Today, I’ve achieved more than I initially envisioned. In the last 3 years, I’ve worked with over 100 brands all around Europe helping them get that one step closer towards achieving their business goals!

 
 

Mid — year summary.
 

Since we are midway into 2018, I thought I would write a quick summary of this year’s achievements to date:

  • Taking on and mentoring 4 Erasmus students to help them complete their final uni project through a work — based placement at Visuable, acquire employment skills and figure our what they want to do in life.

  • Running my first Define Your Brand Workshop for an audience of 12 business owners to help them succeed through great branding.

  • Invited to present at the Bristol Bloggers event on “How to grow a brilliant brand”.

  • Progressed through the final stage of Natwest Entrepreneur Accelerator.

  • Worked with 30 awesome business owners to help them transform their existing brands from bland to brilliant or to define, create and launch their new dream business.

  • Collaborated with two agencies to offer one lucky winner a joined £7000 worth of rebrand to help transition them from local to national brand.

  • Developed an awesome FREE tool for business owners: a website scorecard that lets you assess how effective your website is at converting visitors into leads.

  • Spent one month working remotely from Cyprus whilst keeping my business alive and growing, UK team productive and customers happy.

  • Took on 2 new hobbies — horse riding and art lessons both of which I engage in during the months I live in Cyprus.

  • Took several short trips to Europe without taking significant amount of time off : two visits at family home in Poland and Easter in Spain.

  • Turned my sister’s Instagram side hustle into a fully legit business which now generates a healthy profit. Just within 3 months from launching, she was able to quit her not so perfect job that was draining her and pursue her dream job full time (she doesn’t even have time for me anymore as she is too busy with client work).

  • Started a health, fitness & mindset transformation programme with a local health coach Anna from Health Means Happiness who is helping me become the best version of myself yet (I transitioned into clean eating diet, started weight lifting again and already dropped half a stone — more on that once I finish my 90 days programme).

Success.
 

What does success mean to you? Each of us will have a very different answer to this question. To some of us, success means growing a multi million pounds organisation, to others success means breaking free from 9–5, achieving a better work-life balance, building a beautiful home and having more time for family and friends.

I often reflect on what success means to me and I can’t help but arrive at the same answer over and over again: FREEDOM, PASSION, GROWTH. Freedom to live and work anywhere. Passion for what I do. Personal growth. Check out my March journal where I explain what those things mean to me.