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INDUSTRY EXPERT \\ Michelle Fowler of HALF LIGHT STUDIO

Michelle is the creative behind Half Light Studio – helping small businesses level-up and create conscious, sustainable brands. Michelle works with our Wild Hearts team on strategic support and is one of our Industry Legend ‘Power Session’ speakers (exploring the foundations of branding & the concept of creating a ‘brand’ rather than just a business). Our lucky CMC members will also find her productivity tips in their weekly emails!⁠

This beauty is an absolute fountain of knowledge when it comes to branding, motherhood, design & business strategy… so naturally we picked her brain on all these things and more! Check it out.

How did Half Light Studio come to be?

I’ve been working since I was in school – I don’t think I’ve ever not worked! I studied a Bachelor of Design and have worked across a cross section of jobs and industries including owning a fashion store, PR & Advertising at Prada, marketing agencies, I started a kids holistic play store, women’s circles and retreats, office management and digital agencies. 

After my son Finn was born, I really wanted to get back into design so I started taking on smaller projects here and there in Auckland. We then moved to Hawke’s Bay when I was pregnant with my second Ava and I decided to launch Half Light Studio fully and it’s been incredible.

Today, I mostly work with clients in the holistic/wellness space, as well as the creative industries such as stylists, florists, foodies, photographers etc.

What inspires your work?

One of my biggest inspirations is interior design. The spatial awareness that comes with it, along with the collection of objects and textures, inspires my work in terms of style – plus it translates beautifully across to branding and websites. 

In terms of what motivates me, I really enjoy working with small business owners, and in many cases, other mums in business. I grew up with an entrepreneurial background with my dad, so I have a deep love of business, strategy and helping people articulate their passions into action.

My goal is to help people build more conscious and sustainable brands and businesses, because I empathise with the struggles! I know it can be hard to stop and take a breather, but I also know from experience that when we do something consciously, things just fall into place. 

How do you balance business with motherhood?

I try to avoid calling it ‘balance’ – because balance is virtually impossible! 

I’m a really routine person, which is all great, but then your kids get sick and everything gets thrown out the window. I try to look at my structure as more of a  rhythm, giving me flexibility to ‘tilt’ my energy towards whoever or whatever needs me most on a given day.

Finn is in kindy 5 days a week, and Ava has a nanny for 4 half days a week, so that’s my time to work which I feel very fortunate to have. It’s challenging to fit a full-time project load into 4 half days, but I want to enjoy time with Ava while she’s young as well. My husband James and I have learnt to communicate really well and rely heavily on our joint calendar – if it’s not in the calendar, it does not exist yet!

We have no family support in Hawke’s Bay, which can be tough sometimes, but we also try to organise fortnightly dates and time off together as James works and travels a fair bit on weekends as a DJ for weddings and events.

Tell us about ‘dating your business’ – what’s that all about?

I refer to it as ‘dating’ because working on our businesses should be fun!  

About 8 months ago, I knew I needed to create more space to work on my business, so I booked out a dedicated, non-negotiable time to do just that. Now I do it once a week and it’s where I do all my big picture thinking and action plans.

I started off by removing myself from my home environment and going to a café for a couple of hours. Now I go to the infrared sauna every single week, and it’s something I really love. There are literally no distractions – I don’t have my phone with me. I don’t have my laptop. I just take a pen and paper and get everything out that I need to. Sometimes I’ll batch content for social media or blog posts, other times I’ll just brain dump, write a course or work on offerings. 

As business owners, it can be hard making time to work on our businesses (rather than in them), so a weekly ‘date’ is effective in the sense it’s locked into your calendar. 

Any advice for small business owners entering the post-lockdown world?

One the best things you can do is get back to your foundations – now is the time to really understand your brand, your values and your aspirations. This isn’t necessarily a profit generating exercise to start with, but getting clear on these things is so important!

A lot of businesses move straight into discounting their products and services, and while there’s a time and place for discounting, it shouldn’t be your first point of action. Businesses should instead look to increase their value to clients – it could be something as simple as personal recommendations or spending more time nurturing the relationship, free shipping (this doesn’t decrease your value itself) etc. 

The other thing to understand is that social media plays an incredible role in promoting your business, but it’s not a conversion tool – it’s an entertainment platform. Yes, it introduces you to products and services, but it’s there to be social and engaging. It’s not the place for a hard sell. Ideally, you want to move people from social to your email list, which then gives you a direct line of communication with them to promote your brand.

And last but not least, try to build your connections! Whether it’s attending a networking event or organising a coffee meeting, connecting with others is a great way to build your reputation. 

Quick fire!

What’s in your handbag right now?

Real world sanitiser, usual cards, Karen Murrell lipstick… plus a nappy and wipes always manage to find their way in!

Tea or coffee?

Tea – Storm & India coconut chai.

What was the first big investment you made in your business?

Online courses…I always reinvest any funds from my passive income earners (downloadable resources) back into my business learnings.  

Your 5pm drink of choice?

Gin cocktail 

Your last meal on earth – what would it be? 

Linguine pasta with olive oil & garlic…plus tiramisu. I love tiramisu. 

To see more of Michelle’s work and find how Half Light Studio can help your busines, head to the website here: www.halflightstudio.co.nz You can also follow Michelle on Instagram here @halflightstudio 

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