nick allen

Five questions for creatives

Nick Allen

This month’s five questions is a guest post from London-based Nick Allen who after 25 years working for multi-national financial institutions left the security of his career to setup the design firm, Naomi Allen Design with his wife, interior designer, Naomi. They’ve since gone to build a successful interior design business working with large organisations in the public and private sector.

We met with Nick late last year, after coming across Flo&Vie, a spin off from Nick and Naomi’s core business that produces art, homewares and commissions. We found their mix of work for the corporate world, charity and retail and creative community inspiring and wanted to know more about how they cross over these boundaries.

How did you get into the creative industry, and was there a defining point in your career that led you on that path?

A few years ago I was faced with a difficult decision, continue working in insurance for another 25 years or change career. Although I was good at my job, insurance had only been something I fell into as I hadn’t known what I wanted to do when I left school. It had never been that enjoyable and, as I gained the responsibility for an increasing number of staff, I was often uncomfortable with my lack of autonomy and the negative messages I was told to pass on to my staff. Due to the economic climate at the time there was also the constant threat of redundancy hanging over everyone. After yet another round of redundancies Naomi said she wished it had been me because then I would be free to do something else and walk away. Naomi has been involved in design her whole life and had been juggling a career as a self employed interior design consultant with being a mother for over a decade. The idea of joining forces with her grew along with my desire to have a job that made a difference. Six months later I resigned and NaomiAllen Design was born.

Is there anything you would change in your current career and if so why?

I would love to have more structure to our working day. Building a new business is hard work and we need to cover a number of roles, sometimes learning them on the go. So, I often find myself responding to customers and stockists at quite unusual hours. One of the main reasons for starting our own business was to be more available to the family so this flexibility is worth it but it is still a tricky thing to balance.

Where do you see yourself, and your career in five years time?

At the moment the business is focusing on interior design and selling the artwork we create. However, we see design as a way of improving people’s lives through creative problem solving so, in future we want to evolve into a design agency. We started the business with a clear mission statement and we regularly remind ourselves of what we set out to do. We try to think of practical solutions to issues that are often on the minds of our customers and local community and we offer some solution as part of the way we engage with them even down to how we approach selling our artwork.

Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?

I don’t really believe in habits or rules. I think that it is important to have clear objectives and I use my past experience to run the company like any other type of business. Naomi is able to focus on design and managing her workload while I look for ways to grow the business, ensure our products meet the required standard and manage the finances. In that way our business is very efficient. However, we both understand the importance of staying creative and finding time to be inspired. That means allowing things to evolve and flow rather than relying on habits, so instead we are led by a clear ethos, in our case a desire to enchant.

What tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in the creative industry?

There is a lot of advice available from like minded people and many of them are happy to share their experiences. So once you have a clear plan of what you want to achieve, find your local creative community and see what help you can get. All of our work has come from client referrals or recommendations through designers we have worked with.

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