Sometimes, as entrepreneurs like Nicole Heymer prove, you can have it all. Her web development firm Curio Electro, specializes in all things design: website aesthetics, logos, and even physical business cards. From programming to on-demand illustration, Nicole’s services provide clients with a venerable toolkit of strategies to maximize their online presence. I got the chance to discuss her innovative business practices with her, and the advice she’d give to budding female entrepreneurs.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I worked for Sandra Funk as an office manager for about a year, way back when her business was just starting out, and she ended up being my very first web-design client. At the time, I was a freelance designer on the side. When I gave birth to my first child, it just felt like the most natural step—to start building a business.
Maybe entrepreneurship runs in my family. My dad had a business all through my childhood, and my mom was constantly experimenting with creating products. I remember her selling cookies and vinegar through spreads in Gourmet Magazine. At one point, she made mountains of soap with wheatgrass in it—which didn’t sell, so we were literally using it for years.
What is the most rewarding thing about being your own boss? The most challenging?
I love the creativity of it. I specialize in working with interior design firms and if I see that there’s a specific service that would help them, I can create and test that service. It’s exciting.
But that might relate to what makes it challenging too. I can steer the ship in any direction, but there’s no one around to tell me what I should do when decisions get tricky. That’s where mentors and masterminds can be incredibly helpful.
How has running your own business changed your outlook on life?
This is probably annoying to other people, but I see it as the solution to everything. When a friend is complaining about her boss, I immediately want her to start her own business. I might be a little ridiculous about it.
Best part of the job:
Getting great results for clients, and receiving good feedback. I should probably be more emotionally neutral with that because things don’t always go smoothly, but it is fabulous when a strategy is more effective than we anticipated, or a client falls madly in love with their branding. A past client once wrote that we had provided “the best service experience I have had in any field,” and that made me so happy.
Also, I’m very into my office right now. I just got a standing desk, and it’s super fun. I keep thinking I’ll dance while I’m working, but that hasn’t actually happened yet.
Most surprising part of the job:
Every type of business is interesting when you start digging into the details. For example, I have more knowledge than I ever thought I would about frozen yogurt. When we built a website for a dentist, I learned a lot about dentistry. And, of course, we specialize in working with interior design firms, so I know much more than the average person about the day-to-day existence of an interior designer.
How do you find balance as a working mom?
What is this “balance” that you speak of? Seriously, I don’t know yet. My kids are so little, and there are so many of them (three), that things are just busy right now. It’s a bit cliché, but I do find that getting some time alone, usually to exercise, gives me the energy to handle the rest of the day and night. My husband gets time every week to play classic rock covers with other middle-aged dads. We all need something!
As for the nitty gritty, I’d say to automate or delegate whenever possible. Two of my favorite tools are Asana, which makes delegation much easier, and Zapier, for automating some of the repetitive tasks that come with running a business.
Top three branding tips for all business owners:
1. For visual branding, be ridiculously consistent. You can’t become recognizable when you’re not consistent. A recognizable brand will become one of your most prized business possessions.
2. Don’t compete on price. This doesn’t apply to all businesses, but it does apply to every client I’ve ever had. Instead of trying to be the cheapest in your industry, stand out with what you do, how you do it, and the results you get. Someone can always come in cheaper, but they can’t easily reproduce your unique value, the interesting process you’re created, etc. Focus on the problems that you solve for people, and they’ll see the value.
3. Interview your favorite clients and customers to help nail down what’s special about your brand. Ask them why they hired you or chose your product over other options. You probably have your own way of describing what you do, but the language that they use can be absolute gold.
Your go-to piece of advice for establishing a powerful online presence:
Be specific. There is SO much content out in the world. If I simply wrote blog posts about “marketing,” I’d be drowned out by a gazillion shouting voices. You can be specific in who you’re speaking to, the type of service/product that you’re discussing, or even the way that you express your message—perhaps by injecting a little bit of personality into a topic that’s usually bland. Like what Dollar Shave Club famously did with their video content.
You can be specific in the way you convey the information too. Maybe there are a ton of businesses covering your topic, but no one else is doing it via a podcast. Or infographics. Or short videos. Another option, if you’re a local business, is to address the specific concerns of the area that you serve.
Pick one or two things, the drill down. You’ll be more effective in establishing a presence that way. And, as a bonus, it becomes much easier to create content when you’re not trying to be everything to everyone.
Advice you’d give to other female entrepreneurs looking to start their own companies:
You get to create your environment, so make the most of it. Pick your contractors and employees carefully. It’s not always an option, but surround yourself with positive, funny people whenever possible.
Motto you live by:
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”