Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs

by René Mullin

I’ve been working in design since early childhood with only hindsight realising this to be true. Curating my half of the bedroom in a pseudo minimal style at age seven much to the bemusement of my maximalist roommate (sister), was an inherent characteristic I went on to develop into a career.

My first design job after university was brand manager with Navy Blue, a graphic design studio based in a converted bonded warehouse in Leith, Edinburgh 1998. The pace was very fast, the fees were astronomical, we were all earning small fortunes, having client paid liquid lunches daily, and making the most of every commission. The internet was just kicking off, freelance graphic designers were popping up all over the place and all of us knew our huge fee days were numbered. I could not have learned any more about the design industry than I did in those early years in my career. I was managing accounts for a diverse range of industries - telecoms company Orange, in the food sector, Glanbia, the drinks industry, Diageo were among my accounts. We were designing everything across the brand, marque; packaging; exhibition stands; 2D; 3D; web; gaming (our designers worked on the first Grand Theft Auto games), it was a full package service and it was fabulous. I kept my mind and eyes wide open throughout and soaked up every experience like a sponge.

This is a picture of my first book published by Blackstaff Press in 2013.  It encompasses all elements of what I do/have done to date, drawing, printmaking, illustration, conceptualising, realising a dream.

This is a picture of my first book published by Blackstaff Press in 2013.  It encompasses all elements of what I do/have done to date, drawing, printmaking, illustration, conceptualising, realising a dream.

Almost 20 years on I am back in an idyllic design situation albeit with less hedonistic afternoons and the small fortune has all but disappeared. I have taken the experience of my graphic design days with me on every step of my journey because it was my baptism of fire into the world of art, craft and design. It is only by retracing my steps that I can see the path was the right one to take and that without many of the experiences I had with clients picking over tiny imperfections in a print run or demanding a deadline of yesterday, that I developed the ability to ‘try it out’. This is my mantra in everything, just try it, if it doesn't work, it doesn't matter, move onto the next step, but never bail out - just give it a shot and who knows where it will lead.

In the past 12 years I have returned to my love of screen printing and am now back to being fully engaged as a printmaker. I discovered printmaking at Edinburgh College of Art in 1997 as a visitor there and fell in love with the process. Pulling ink through a screen is very exciting and lifting the screen to reveal the print is never boring. I have found my own work very rigid at times and attribute that to the graphic design days and the fear of a very shouty boss-man not being happy about a .05mm offset! So now I am focusing on loosening up, freeing my style and allowing myself more artistic expression. The precision is still required to fully realise an edition, but the work itself is more enjoyable to create.

My tips for creative entrepreneurs:

  • Create like a child, invoice like a bank manager.

  • Natural light is essential.

  • The more money you turnover the more people you will have to talk to every day - factor this in.

  • Don’t fear the quiet spells - relish them.

  • Being a business risk taker can be an addiction, seek help if it gets out of hand.