Posted on January 25 2017
This week's Wednesday Woman is the multi-talented Sarah Akwisombe, founder, award-winning blogger and interior stylist. Here's her story:
Newnham: What were you like as a kid and who/what were your inspirations growing up?
Sarah Akwisombe: In primary school I was really geeky but I totally owned it. I even had a club that I ran where we talked all about bird and did bird watching - I mean could it get any more geeky?! High school I was defo one of the 'cool kids' but never really felt like I could be myself. High school is a horrible time for most people I think, even in the cool crowd it sucks.
I've always really been into art and creative stuff. Music was a big part of my childhood too - I played the drums, the piano, the flute. Shame I totally suck at all three now. I've always looked up to people really just being themselves, especially in business. I remember being inspired by business people even as a kid. I always wanted to have my own stamp on things and bend the rules.
Newnham: You spent the earlier part of your career working in music – what was that like and what prompted the change?
Akwisombe: It was great! I got to travel the world with my hubby and spends hours upon hours in the studio making music. Time just seemed to float by. I think though, over time, I realised I'm a real homebody and quite an introvert. I found it really draining to always be on the go, meeting new people and having to perform. I'd find myself in a hotel room at 2am somewhere abroad waiting for my set to begin at 3am in some dark smokey club when all I'd really want to do was eat Chinese and watch movies on the sofa at home.
It's also a very tough industry to 'make it'. There's no method to it, no if you put this much effort in you get that back out. It's a complete lottery really, and after a while I just couldn't be bothered.
Newnham: Can you tell us more about what you do now and talk us through some of the obstacles you might have faced early on? How did you overcome them?
Akwisombe: Now I am a design and lifestyle blogger, an interior stylist and a startup founder. All at the same time! After music I was working in various office jobs and although I enjoyed some aspects I always knew I wanted to go back to working for myself and building my own brand, whatever that was going to be. Music taught me so much about marketing yourself that it would be silly to spend that knowledge working for someone else. I got 'let go' from my office job just as my blog was starting to grow, so I made a decision then and there that I was going to start blogging full time. After the blog became quite successful, I started the No Bull Blog School, an online school where I teach courses all about how you can build a blog, brand or business online.
Obstacle wise, it always comes down to cashflow. At the start you have some really tough weeks where you and your family are literally scraping together the money to pay bills or eat, and although it's always OK in the end, it's the stress and pressure that comes with it that's the hardest part. Knowing that if you don't go and secure another project or client then your family could be struggling is the hard part. Further down the line now we don't have so much of that, and now the new pressure is about juggling everything at once and trying not to get too overwhelmed by the scope of what needs to be done. There are so many moving parts and you have to play many parts at once. You have to find clever ways to look after yourself and stay on top of your game.
Newnham: Your creativity / career has spanned different fields from music to blogging and interior styling. What are your favourite parts of your career and why?
Akwisombe: The best bit of all of it is when people tell you that you've added value to their life. Sometimes it's about bringing an honest view on something, teaching them a new skill or helping them see past a block. My ethos with everything, whether it's interior styling or starting a business is 'do you'. Too many people nowadays are really unaware of who they actually are as a person and have very limited self-belief. They're constantly unsure about trying new things because they're worried about what other people think. If every day I could help one person realise that caring what other people think is bullshit, then I'm happy.
Newnham: You have a great online presence and always have done (from music days to now) – what advice do you have for other women when it comes to presenting an authentic profile and growing a following online?
Akwisombe: The only advice I have in terms of presenting an authentic profile is PRESENT AN AUTHENTIC PROFILE. I mean it's common sense really isn't it? We're all sick of seeing the perfectly polished bloggers and influencers, what we crave is a bit of realness. But you know - if you are a polished and polite person then that IS being authentically you too. Don't get caught up in what's being authentic, it doesn't mean you have to reveal everything about your kid pissing themselves or the fact that you've drunk too many glasses of wine tonight. Just do you.
One thing I will say is that you do need to have a 'thing'. A USP, a niche or an angle, whatever you wanna call it. The world is full of stuff that's constantly vying for our attention so you need to become 'the girl that....' otherwise you'll get lost.
Newnham: What are your career goals for 2017?
1. To understand that I can't do everything and I have to learn to outsource
2. To create automated systems and processes internally within the business so I don't spend time doing the same things over and over
3. To make £100,000.
Newnham: If you could go back in time, would advice would you give a younger Sarah starting out in her career?
Akwisombe: Save money every month and don't touch it