Trifle Talks: Spark Escapes Interviews Emma Morley

This week Trifle founder Emma was interviewed by Spark Escapes owner Faith Hill at The Trampery in Old Street.

We attended a great event in Old Street on Tuesday night organised by Spark Escapes where our founder Emma was interviewed about taking the plunge and setting up your own business. Here follows an edited transcript of a great interview (edited due to length not expletives!)

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SE:  Firstly can you tell us a little about Trifle Creative and what you do.  EM:  In short, we are an insight led commercial interior design consultancy.  To expand slightly that means that we  spend a lot of time getting to the heart of the business or corporation that we are working with and in doing so gain a tremendous amount of knowledge.  This means that when we are working for them we are really designing with purpose.

SE: What preparation did you do before you went live as a company?  EM: I was really lucky, I worked for an amazing innovation consultancy called ?WhatIf! and they realised that what I was passionate about was walking into a space and changing it somehow - making it more interesting or inspiring, whether for an event or a client day.  When I had been there a while they started handing me major events to design, not that I was trained to do it, but just because they could see I loved doing it and perhaps had some natural ability so that is where I started designing spaces.  When I was ready to leave, they asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to design something more permanent.  So they asked me to redesign their offices and gave me a significant budget and said 'off you go!'  The results got quite a lot of attention and great feedback from the people who worked here and visitors to the space and led me to think...there might be something in this!

SE: Where do you go now for your inspiration - work and personal?  EM:  This is a question we ask our clients all the time - to create an inspiring space for them, we need to know what they find inspiring.  For me, like a lot of people I suspect, it depends what I am doing.  It can be anything from a library or a dark and cosy space to a festival like Glastonbury, a space filled with amazing energy.  Likewise we always plan workspaces with quiet areas and areas that are buzzy and collaborative with stimulus, books and inspiring bits around you.  For me walking around London is constantly amazing, it's the best city in the world.  There is always somewhere new you haven't seen before.  I was at the V&A the other day for the Alexander McQueen exhibition which was beautiful and discovered the library there - this huge room filled with great leather clad books and there was one person in there - it was so peaceful.  And I love markets - (SE: Favourite Market?) - Maltby Street at the Ropewalk.

SE:  Have you had an coaching or mentors?  EM:  I was really lucky that I had colleagues at ?WhatIf! that were really supportive in the early days and more recently that has come from clients - we've been lucky to work for some really inspirational CEOs.  I think once people get to know you it is really important to be completely open with them as you never know what you can learn from them,

SE: With the business today, is there anything that yo find a struggle?  EM: No nothing at all, it's all SO easy (insert joking tone here- Ed.)  No - of course.  At the moment we are in the exciting but daunting position of having - almost - too much work.  We've had amazing conversations in the last week alone and there is nothing that I want to turn down.  So we are looking to recruit and that in itself takes time to do, time to nurture and train someone and create trust between you.  It's a good challenge but a challenge nonetheless.

SE: Thinking back -- how did you overcome your fear of leaving the security of a full time (and paid) position?  EM:  I didn't really have any - I had my first business when I was about 20 and used to sell vintage clothing to my fellow students at university and then when I left I travelled around other universities doing the same thing.  So having dipped my toe in and out of self-employment it didn't really worry me.  I knew that if you are good at what you do and you've got something to offer then there are people who will be willing to pay you.

SE:  Do you pay for any professional services - like accountancy for example?  EM:  Yes absolutely and it's so important.  Having a bad experience with an accountant almost broke the company actually.  I think having the right kind of advice and support is critical and you shouldn't scrimp on it.  We have an accountant, an amazing HR/legal advisor that we use when we need him, Paulie who does our website and branding.  I used to think that I should do everything myself to save money but it is just not worth it.  You have to pay people that are better than you to do the things you struggle with. (SE: And free up your time to do the things that you are passionate about)....EM: Exactly. 

SE: What does your day hold tomorrow?  EM:  Tomorrow is a really exciting day for me as I get to hand over loads of work!  What tends to happen with every project is that I do a lot of the upfront work - working with the client and the brand - along with our space planner and architect - and creating designs and moodboards etc.  So I pull the ideas and the big concept together.  Then I can hand over to our design coordinator so that she can start to select the furnishings, lighting etc that will really start to bring that concept to life.  So I have a morning of doing that across several projects.  Then we have a site visit at a client's great new space in Haggerston - it overlooks the canal and is really wonderful and we are designing the space to get it ready for them to move in.  So we have a big team meeting on site to walk that through and make sure all costs are accounted for before presenting the budget to the client next week.  That takes me through to about 1pm.  Then in the afternoon I have some proposals to write for new potential clients and hopefully writing some job descriptions for the various roles that we need to fill.

SE: Anything you miss about traditional employment?  EM:  Not one thing!  No actually I miss the massive Christmas parties!

SE: You have a lovely daughter - how does running your own business fit in with being a mother?  EM: Firstly it's far more flexible.  The business I worked in before I was working crazy hours - that's not to say that I don't now but they can be from home, after bedtime - the hours work around my life as a mother.  I think my daughter sees some of the madness that comes with running your own business but definitely the joy too.  I take her to nearly all finished projects and show her around and she loves that.  So I think it's a really positive thing...I hope so!  We'll see.....

SE: To market Trifle* you use a lot of social media and video to great effect - what made you choose those routes?  EM:  They're cheap!  You can be really creative with social media.  Making the film that's on our site now was the first time we had spent any real money on promotion and actually it's already paid for itself through new business and it only launched in June.  All we want to do is put our brand out there and tell people what we are doing and if you've got a creative team of people, social media - Pinterest, Instagram etc - make that really easy to do.  It never ceases to amaze me that within our industry - a visual industry - so few people really use these channels - they might have six posts on their Instagram feed and we are so small by comparison so it's fascinating that they place no value on representing themselves in that way.  The power of these platforms is that they give an instant idea of who we are, how we think and our creativity - it would be much harder to show that through traditional advertising.

Audience question:  How do you get people to work for Trifle who are as passionate about the work as you are?  EM:  I immediately look for like minded souls.  And if we were using traditional recruitment methods that would be really tricky. In the same way we get to know our clients before we work with them I like to get to know people.  I also rely on my gut and instinct a lot.  I look for chemistry.  And we involve people in the whole process - so we all know what is happening from initial meetings to final touches which makes everyone feel truly a part of each project. 

** Speak Escapes organise events and retreats in the UK, Europe and Asia to provide inspiration and support to help you create an amazing life and business.

trifle* talksEmma Smith