Millie Copper

Money biz: Starting with nothing to 600% growth

Design by Mouse founder Millie Cooper shares her business money journey, talks 600% business growth and why facebook ads didn't work.

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In this money biz, Millie Cooper, an awarded young entrepreneur who started the creative agency, Design By Mouse armed with just a laptop and who found facebook ads just a waste of time.

Now seven years on, she’s making waves, business growth is up 600 per cent over the past year and she shares her money journey with Financy.

How much money did it take to start your business?

I didn’t have much when I started the business, $3000 to be precise. I used this to buy my first Mac laptop and Adobe design software. Being a serviced based company and a graphic designer who uses software programs and my computer with email and phone communication with clients there are minimal expenses starting out. This was a help being a University student on a minimal wage and not wanting to ask for financial support but do it on my own.

What was your salary like in your first year?

I started Design by Mouse in 2009, 7 years ago. I was young and at University so my first year salary was minimal, probably $20k. During this time of starting the business it was a side project to test the waters and see what I could make of it. Fast-forward to 2016 and Design by Mouse has grown significantly over the years, now becoming my full time job with staff around the world.

If money was a challenge in the first year, how did you make it work?

As I was lucky enough to have minimal expenses starting up Design by Mouse, my biggest challenge was time studying full time however I made it work by “making time” and dedicating time to myself and the business in the evening.

What has been the biggest financial investment?

My biggest financial investment was my laptop! It is my life! I don’t go anywhere without it and would be lost without it. Due to my employees being on a contract and freelancing, I don’t have the stress of paying staff on a regular basis if work flow is lower than usual. This model helps with cash flow and planning ahead to reduce financial risk, always making sure I’m covering my costs.

Who are some of your clients?

I work with a range of businesses from SME to global companies. My most well-known clients include: Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, Shangra-La, F45 Training, and ingogo.

What is your vision for your company?

My vision is to grow Design by Mouse to have permanent staff based in Sydney. At the moment all my freelancers are based around the world. I would love to have a team in Sydney running the show here so I can go out and do more business development, see clients, build more relationships. I want to grow the services we offer to include strategy, marketing and more.

What has been your best and worst spend in business?

My best spend was employing my freelancers. This means I can bring more work in, get more done in quicker turnaround times and increase the quality. My worst spend in business was on Facebook ads. I wanted to test the market to see if I could spread the word of Design by Mouse even further to attract new clients. I luckily didn’t spend too much as it didn’t work well – I didn’t see any increase in traffic!

And what are your top tips and traps for people thinking of moving on from freelancing to starting their own business?

Make sure you have a decent client base behind you before making the leap.

You have to be on call at all times when running a business in this industry. Clients want things urgently and rapidly so you have to be quick and be prepared to work to tight deadlines.

Make sure you get $$ deposits from all new clients to secure the job / trust.

Communication is key – make sure you a quick in replying to clients to ensure they know where their job is up to – even if it to just say you have received the email and you will get back to them as soon as you’re back in the office. Clients like reassurance and confirmation.

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