Q&A: A graphic example of a start-up journey

This week we chat to Kirsty Milne, founder of Victorian graphic design business Peg & Pencil. When Kirsty fell pregnant, she knew she wanted more flexibility than her then career as a paralegal offered, so she made the life-changing decision to start a business of her own.

ISB: When did you first discover your passion for graphic design?

KM: The most honest way to answer this was that I would page through magazines, walk through malls and scout the net and always find myself taking photos of different logos and fonts and typography. I would sometimes think I could design something better than someone else had (shameless plug, I know) but that was the sign I needed to know that I had to upskill and get myself qualified and confident enough to be responsible for designing for SMEs that chose to put their trust in me. Having my firstborn is what sealed the deal and made me launch my business.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge in making the transition from being a paralegal in a large org to running your own graphic design start-up, and how did you overcome that challenge?

KM: Time and finances. I had just become a new mum and was working a fast-paced role where I was under immense pressure, on top of not sleeping much because of a teething bub. So, I wasn’t always able to commit to the studying and practising design techniques, and wasn’t able to take on too many clients until I was fully confident in being able to deliver five-star work, which in turn meant I wasn’t bringing enough money in to pay for new programmes such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I couldn’t afford a website at the time so I used Facebook and Instagram to market myself which helped to bring in new clients.

ISB: How has the business has developed in terms of its offering since you started out designing wedding invitations?

KM: I have now actually put a hold on offering wedding stationery and now offer a full branding service covering logo design, business collateral, websites, social media design. I will soon be bringing back my own lifestyle range where a lot of the wedding pieces that I

used to do when I first started out, will start to make an appearance again. From only working with local clients, I have now extended my client base internationally with my anchor client based in Singapore who I work for on a weekly basis providing internal marketing material, company newsletters, logos, a website and internal presentations. I also work with clients in New Zealand, South Africa, The UK, Malta, New York and of course, some wonderful local companies in Australia.

ISB: And how do you see the business developing in the next few years?

KM: With both my boys attending school next year, my goal is to rent an office space/studio where I can display and sell my new lifestyle range and have an assistant to work with me and live the same values and intentions that I have, to offer an honest, friendly and fresh new design business for the community. I would love to be able to sponsor more local events within my community and I would also love to be a support to other parents / youngsters that would like to be their own boss but just need a little help and guidance in getting there.

ISB: Tell us a little about your community and how it specifically supports small-business owners.

KM: I live in the Aintree community (Woodlea) which forms part of Melton. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been supported by the Aintree Garden by being asked to design their logo, and by the new Aintree Cafe & Garden who got me to do their logo. They have also promoted me in as many ways as possible and I have formed part of the “Humans of Woodlea” campaign.

ISB: Finally, what is the #1 piece of advice you’d give to mums looking to start their own business?

KM: Start! Start small, start somewhere and start all over again if you lose direction. Running a business is hard – we all know that – but preparing yourself for the fundamentals before you take that leap of faith is what will get you over the hurdles at a later stage.

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