Today we hear from Samantha Clarke of Zukuri UnLtd & Style Architecture Academy which launched in Nov 2011.
Samantha is the Chief Creative Architect and founder of Zukuri UnLtd & Style Architecture Academy. She helps female entrepreneurs and professionals build a personal brand & style to get ‘visible’ and create a wardrobe that empowers them to present their most professional and authentic self.
1. What drove you to start your own business? What was the turning point?
I previously worked as a trend insight and branding consultant for numerous big brands and research agencies such as Selfridges, Clarks, DKNY, Absolut Vodka and State of Play. I loved every minute. Doing the research behind how people buy, why they buy and the psychology behind how we use products/services really gave me a buzz. But whilst I loved working with companies, I loved working one to one with clients and helping them grow their own personal brands and discover what made them tick even more. Having a geeky obsession with all things shoes and design I went back to study and retrained as a professional stylist.
I wanted to combine all my professional styling knowledge and background in marketing and branding to help women find the right ‘fit’. This meant not only with their clothes but also with their internal personal values so they can deliver in their businesses with confidence, pride and excellence time and time again. Working with private clients, I found that many women felt shy about putting themselves ‘out there’ even though the health and prosperity of their business required it. Many felt shopping had become something they were so unsure about and struggled to get to grips with what to wear or how to find clothing that suited them.
Sometimes a pretty dress will only paper over other issues. So I explore some of the deeper internal issues that also affect why we can’t get ‘visible’ in our businesses. Working with all the facets of women, I help build up their confidence levels so they can mirror that in their presentation.
2. Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
Several women spring to mind for me but Oprah is a big stand out. I admire her drive and tenacity to build what she has achieved. Even now when things are not as great as they can be, she still has a poise and resilience and we know that through the rain she will make it to the sunshine. Alongside this, I am empowered by women I meet every day either as clients or women I have had the pleasure to learn from, so many to name but they know who they are. All women starting businesses, learning new skills, collaborating together to form new ventures; this inspires me daily.
3. What are your goals for your business?
I want to make Zukuri UnLtd synonymous for personal architecture and female development. I want to work with women from the inside out to help them grow authentically and dress successfully in everything they do.
4. What would you do differently next time around?
I think the journey you start on is never where you end up. So whilst you always thinks of ‘what ifs’ they don’t really help you move forward. If I was to advise other businesses, I would suggest seeking a business coach or some form of coaching earlier on to really help cement some of your early ideas and develop good habits. It was amazing for me to speak to someone ‘outside of my head’ who really helped sort out some of my ideas and turn them into sensible steps. Sometimes when you are too close to your business you miss subtle things. Plus getting the help can push your business forward to start earning a lot quicker than you would normally. The Women Unlimited business clubs are a great place for women to start monthly coaching at an affordable level.
5. What difficulties and challenges have you had to overcome and how did you keep going?
I think when you are starting out, bootstrapping your business is key to make the most of your resources. It’s difficult because I had so many ideas and things I wanted to do, so creatively I did feel a bit stifled. But it does force you to see how to you can get creative on a budget and think outside the box. Then as you grow you will be grateful for the early budgeting techniques because you start to be very aware of how to streamline and make money go further in your business.
6. What legacy would you like your business to leave to the world and your family/friends?
I would love to know that Zukuri UnLtd and myself touched and transformed as many women as possible. I love meeting people, learning about their stories and seeing how my gift can help them transform their lives. If I can touch as many people globally and share my gifts that would be great.
7. What support did you seek out and what difference has that made to your business?
Coaching! I had an amazing coach. She really got inside my thoughts and helped shine the light at the end of the tunnel for me, to get clarity on my bigger vision. It can seem like a challenge paying for business help when you are slowly building a business, but it is an investment that has paid back many times over. I’m a slight geek so I spend a lot of time researching different businesses online, looking and learning what makes them successful. Reaching out and asking for help from others in business has been beneficial too, people are always happy to mentor you if you show willingness to learn and put in the work.
8. How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I have my 5 year plan and then try to work backwards looking at how I can implement the steps to achieve my goals. But life is unpredictable, you can plan all you want but forces beyond your control can unplan for you. So what I have learnt in my business is to stay nimble and flexible. Listen to your clients and take feedback as a useful tool to keep you focused on what is best to offer. You may achieve your plan earlier or later but just keep visualising what you want and what you believe in and all happens at the right time, I believe.
9. What has been one big success that you have achieved in your business?
So many, but gaining lots of international love and customers has been brilliant. I never imagined that I would be working with clients in Australia, Switzerland, Africa and North America so early on in my business. I just love it and it makes me so excited to keep going and keep pushing to reach more corners of the world. I love what I do and I want to share it with every woman out there.
10. What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business?
Someone once said ‘know your numbers as a small business owner.’ I hear these words ringing in my head every time I try to shy away from doing my accounts. My brain isn’t built for excel..lol. But my accountant is very keen that women should be more financially savvy, so he reiterates this often and is of the opinion that as women grow in business they need to keep an eye on the figures and not rely on someone else.
11. What are your top 3 tips for someone who would like to start a business now?
Do your research, this is key to understanding your target market. Find out what they really need, how that best fits, what you can offer and look at how you can refine what your doing to best serve your clients.
Know your numbers – keep an eye on costs, what you are paying out, what’s coming in etc. Where you can streamline and where you also need to invest in the health of your business and yourself.
Invest in your growth. Love what you do with all your heart. Trust me it is the love and passion for what I do that keeps me glowing and working away. This passionate fire will drive you through the dark times and also keep you invested in building a business that is authentic to you.
12. What are 3 books, websites or resources that you would recommend to other business owners?
Gosh I am a researcher by nature, so I am always scouring websites and resources for help. But the 3 that have helped me are as follow:
I love Marie Forleo – I watch her videos all the time, so fresh, honest and useful business and life advice
E-Myth – great book looking at the reasons why small businesses fail. Very useful to help you start to build a business that will work.
Various resources for women like Twenty Ten Club and Women Unlimited
Seth Godin – I’m a marketing geek so I love his stuff.