In our Ask A Founder series this fall, we follow 10 female founders on their entrepreneurial journey. Thousands of women have experienced our Selfmade virtual business coaching program, led by Brit + Co founder Brit Morin and sponsored Office Depot OfficeMax. Here, we ask Selfmade alum Nicole Poppell, founder of Mural Mates, a mural and custom art installation studio, about her aha moment, how she balances the creative and practical parts of her business, and how she keeps from feeling too solo as a solopreneur.
How would you describe your brand in five words? Creative, Bold, Approachable, Playful, and Colorful
What mood do you want your brand to evoke? Curiosity and imagination!
What was your aha moment before starting your business? There was no specific aha moment but more so a collection of experiences. If I had to pick one moment, it would be when I started bringing in clients to my old job. I said if I can do this with another company, then I can do this with my own company too.
What were you doing before you started the business? I worked for a professional mural painting company in the San Francisco Bay Area for 3 years before starting my own. Before that, I was a commercial interior designer working on workplace design for a global firm.
What’s one thing you wish you knew as an entrepreneur? It can feel lonely at times, both emotionally and physically. I have to make an effort to work outside of my studio and bring in collaborators so that I continue to grow as a person and designer.
How do you balance the practical with the creative parts of your business? I actually enjoy both parts. Lists help me categorize and prioritize both areas. I will group my creative work together to help me focus. For my weaker areas, I find people to help. :)
How do you celebrate the small wins? I don’t focus too much on the wins or losses. One thing I learned fairly early is that working for yourself is an emotional rollercoaster, and that anything can change at any moment. I try to stay aware of that, and it helps a lot with the ups and downs. But I do my best to stay grateful for everything and to soak in as much as I can along the way.
What’s your favorite form of self-care? Taking breaks. Whether it be a random weekday or a whole vacation, setting time aside to just explore without a schedule and without obligation to check email is such a delight for me.
What are your go-to snacks? I thought you’d never ask! Goldfish and Gardettos are tied for number one.
What do you do on your breaks? Walks around the neighborhood, bike rides along the canal, stretching at home or bouldering at the gym.
What is your go-to productivity hack? It depends on the task, but when things get serious I bring out the double monitor for double screen power. I also have different playlists for different tasks. For instance, if I’m doing something mundane, I’ll put on a great podcast. If I’m designing, I’ll put fast-paced, mostly instrumental music on which sets the pace for my work.
What is your favorite desk essential? I always have a sketch pad and a tape measure within arm’s reach.
How has the Office Depot OfficeMax scholarship to Selfmade helped you grow your business? It has helped tremendously! For starters, I gained a wealth of knowledge and confidence by taking the Selfmade course. Along with that, I made some lifelong friends who have been so supportive along the way. Through winning the scholarship and a $500 Office Depot OfficeMax gift card, it helped me kickstart my business. For example, I used that money to order business cards, get office supplies, get a proper ergonomic chair, and a scanner to help digitize my drawings. It made the stressful and expensive leap in starting a business way less intimidating and I’m forever grateful for that.
How have Office Depot OfficeMax services/products helped you accomplish more in your business? I really enjoy Office Depot’s broad selection of products and services. I’ve used the in-store pickup option quite a bit to save money and time while picking up supplies, and have always found what I need.
What does the word “self-made” mean to you? A dreamer and a do-er.
Thanks Nicole! Office Depot OfficeMax can help you reach your dreams; organize & save time with a suite of business services & solutions to help you accomplish more. Make a good first impression with business cards & build the business pitch of your dreams with custom presentations. With Office Depot OfficeMax it’s never been easier to think big.