Nicolette Nottage is an entrepreneur in the visual design industry. She has proven herself as a force to reckon with in the industry by growing her company from scratch to a recognizable market player in just two years. Nottage is the CEO of Nottage Visual Design, a company that offers architectural and interior design services to companies and individuals. Her success so far is deeply rooted in her ability to integrate nature into her design works seamlessly. Whenever she needs inspiration for a project, Nottage looks to the wild. This gives her unique ideas that she incorporates in her work, and clients love it. Some of the projects that have lifted her profile have been inspired by simple insects and wildflowers. Being a lover of nature, Nottage also ensures that all her designs factor in environmental sustainability, which has won climate-conscious clients’ hearts. When not busy running her company, Nottage is also into philanthropy and is a regular giver at courses that support environmental sustainability. She is aware that the only way for humanity to avoid an extinction-level event is to avert global warming and climate change.
How did you get started in this business?
I started my business immediately after completing my visual arts degree. I always had a thing for entrepreneurship, and with my degree and skills, I jumped right into it. So far, my gamble has paid off. I found a way of incorporating my passion for environmental conservation into my professional field. This ended up being a very profitable idea. With climate change and its effects being felt now, more people are looking for environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives. I also got inspiration from nature such as plants and animals.
How do you make money?
I make money by charging a consultation fee for my design services. It’s just like any other business that offers consultation services. My services are unique in that they integrate nature and environmental conservation. I offer designs that provide ways to sustain the environment by reusing and recycling, reducing the amount of waste produced by the projects, and advocating for durable products.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
The business turned profitable in the second month, which is also the time when I landed my first client. I didn’t have lots of startup overheads so it played a role in my quick profitability too. I also had very few employees at the start. With the growth of the business and a steady stream of revenue, I had to increase staff to meet client needs.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Not really. I had the purpose of starting a visual design firm from the first day I set foot in college. This sense of purpose eliminated all doubts. Like any other startup, I faced a number of challenges. Some of the clients I approached were used to more traditional standards of design. It, therefore, took some time before we got a steady flow of clients. I was not discouraged and continued to pitch the business to other potential clients. Also, being new to the field, it naturally took time for clients to be able to trust us and seek our services. Aggressive marketing techniques helped create an awareness of our business, our services, and what made us stand out. Eventually, we built a solid client base and continued to reach out to potential clients.
How did you get your first customer?
I got my first client through a referral from a friend. I did my best work and they too referred other people to me. That is how I grew my clientele. The quality of service that we offered helped us get repeat clients as they were impressed with our service delivery. Our marketing strategies also put us out there and was successful in bringing in more clients.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Google ads have done wonders for my business. We combine it with SEO to rank highly on Google, and it works. With more and more people using the internet, our business can be accessed now by more clients than ever. There has been an increase in traffic to our website some of which have resulted in us offering our services.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
We moved most of our services online due to COVID-19 and had to lay off some office staff. It hurt because I was very close to most of them. Delegating duties was hard for me. I can be very detailed oriented and prefer to have things conducted in a specific way. For this reason, it took me a while to fully delegate my duties to someone else. Thanks to my capable team, everything ran smoothly. I have also had to turn down several projects because of the travel restrictions in most parts of the world. However, I believe that once the situation improves things will take a turn for the better. With time I hope to have the capacity to recall all of them.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I believe it is my mastery of the job that makes me successful. Clients are always sure that when they come to me, they will get the best possible designs. Secondly, my designs’ unique nature has attracted many clients because of the environment-friendly approach that we incorporate. Most people are currently looking for ways to mitigate the effects of global warming. For this reason, my company designs every project uniquely to meet the needs of the client. This business would also not have managed to grow to this extent had it not been for my capable team’s hard work and endless effort. They manage many things, leaving me time to focus on other aspects of the business, such as drawing up creative designs. Finally, our networks have brought in some of our most valued clients, and they continue to recommend our services.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The day I landed, my first client was my best. It was a morale booster for me, and from that point on, I moved with speed to enhance the quality of services I offer. Knowing that my business is making positive changes to the environment is also very satisfying. Also, having upcoming designers and people in the field looking up to us is very fulfilling. Some people have expressed the desire to replicate our design models, which is really one of the best compliments one can ever receive. We have also received several awards and accolades which have encouraged our efforts and strengthened my resolve to keep at it. Seeing my designs come to life when the projects are completed is very fulfilling too.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about the emergence of technologies that make design and visual design easier. It will cut costs and make the business more manageable in the long run. To add on to that the business intends to offer design services that incorporate Waste prevention strategies, mitigating the effects of Climate change, and halting the loss of biodiversity. The business will ensure that our designs promote efficient use of energy. We also aim to come up with designs that reduce the consumption and wastage of resources while ensuring durability. Future designs will also focus on the use of recycled and reused products. One of the things that excites me about all this is that the company will play a role in ensuring that the environment has been conserved. We can also begin to reverse some of the adverse effects of climate change affecting the world today.
I am also excited that with the growth of the company, I can delegate some of my duties and offer my services in other areas. I now have more opportunities to participate in events that will continue to create awareness on environmental sustainability and look for further ways to achieve these sustainability goals.
What business books have inspired you?
Being an avid reader, I am inspired by lots of books. One of the books that inspire me is the effective executive by Peter Drucker. It is an eye-opener on how to be an effective business leader. I have memorized by heart his strategies for business success. They are almost like my modus operandi. His principles include proper time management, choosing what to contribute to the organization. Identifying strengths and optimizing it for effective performance. Setting the right priorities for the business and finding a way to combine all these to make decisions effectively.
I am also inspired by the book, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. This book gave me some much-needed information about startups. I also learned about why most startups fail and how to prevent these failures in my business. The insights that are in the book also helps me anticipate problems in my business before they balloon out. It has taught me the need to adapt and adjust to stay relevant in business and grow.
Lastly, I love the book, The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman. I would recommend this book to anyone with a startup or thinking of putting up one. It explores complex dynamics such as cofounding with friends and family and recognizing when to let a successful staff member go. Noam also details how to predict and avoid making mistakes, and how to recover if and when they occur. He proposes that one of the best strategies is to strike and maintain a balance between controlling the startup and attracting the best resources to grow it. To me, that’s powerful!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would advise my younger self to take chances. You never know where your luck lies. Besides, you have the advantage of youth and can always start over if things don’t work out. I would advise myself to be more confident in my skills and abilities. I would also encourage the younger me to invest in the right people who are invested in my success. Having solid relationships and networks is one of the best ways to get clients and grow your business. Social support systems are also essential as they help to weather the storms of life. This also entails extending the same support and assistance to those who may need them. I believe in receiving what you give. I would also advise my younger self to practice healthy habits and exercise regularly. Health is the most significant investment we make in ourselves, and again, being healthy and energetic allows one to follow their dreams. Finally, I would tell younger me to have faith in the self and to trust the process. All the lessons, successes, and failures will help you on your path.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
I am very willing to mentor upcoming entrepreneurs. However, this will have to wait until the COVID-19 situation improves. Until then, I will be ready to offer mentorship courses online by hosting webinars and online Skype calls. I will provide my expertise in the field based on the needs of those seeking mentorship. I can be contacted through the official company email that is on the company website.