Creative duo has global business success Squared away
Thinking inside the square brought business success for graphic designer Ruth Stephensen and her business consultant husband Scott Thomas.
Striving to inspire her own creativity, Ruth started Creatively Squared as an Instagram community of likeminded content creators; the name referencing Instagram’s strict square tile format at the time.
What started as a hobby with weekly design challenges and fun creative collaborations became a serious business opportunity after only a few months when a prospective client approached Ruth for help.
A sole trader who sold night lights wanted product shots to use in digital marketing but was stymied by the high costs of hiring a photographer, studio and props.
“Instead, I sent out her night lights to four different creatives and together they generated 50 uniquely styled images — enough to refresh her website and social media feeds for a couple of months,” Ruth recalls.
“Because the pictures were shot in real homes, the images were personal and inviting, and exceeded both mine and the client’s expectations.”
This initial success sparked an idea that the community could also thrive outside the square.
“We thought there were probably a lot of businesses out there struggling to keep up with how much content they needed yet here were all these talented people creating all these amazing visuals for fun,” Scott says.
The startup now matches an impressive rollcall of international brands including Heineken, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Baskin Robbins with its global community of more than 20,000 creators to produce customised imagery which is used across digital, print and outdoor marketing.
An algorithm filters community members to select a shortlist for each job based on location, past work, preferred aesthetic and demonstrated style with Ruth then manually verifying the talent pool to select the most suitable candidates.
As Creatively Squared began to grow, Scott left his job as an innovation consultant with Ernst & Young to focus on the startup full-time.
On learning about the first creative tech-focussed accelerator in Australia, they applied for the three-month Collider Accelerator Program delivered by QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA).
“I’d helped set up other accelerator programs as part of my previous role at Ernst & Young but I quickly realised telling your wife day in, day out how to do something was probably not the best idea and this was an opportunity for us both to build our network in the startup ecosystem” Scott says.
Collider is a great way to learn a lot about startups and how to progress something from an idea to a viable business.
“Starting a business can be quite a lonely existence at times so to find other people in a similar situation to bounce ideas off and get feedback from and learn from each other is incredibly useful.”
To say 2018 was a year of growth for Ruth and Scott would be an understatement.
Not only did Creatively Squared grow to almost four times its size over 12 months, the couple also welcomed their son, Jett, in November.
Growth is again on the agenda for 2019; both in terms of clients and the community of content creators securing paid work through Creatively Squared.
“We’re trying to fight against this idea of crowdsourcing where creators are asked to work for free in the hope of being selected,” Scott says.
“It’s really important to us that every person who works for Creatively Squared gets paid for every image they produce,” Scott says.
Learn more about Creatively Squared at: www.creativelysquared.com
Register your interest for the 2019 CEA Collider Accelerator Program at: www.collideraccelerator.com