In March 2020, industrial designer and marketer Simon Cornelius took the plunge and started his own product design and marketing consultancy: Cornelius Creative. A week later, the UK went into its first national lockdown. But despite the rocky start, things have been on the up-and-up for Simon and his business. Let’s dive in!
Tell us about your business. What inspired you to set it up?
My son Leo was born in late 2019 and at the time I was living in Kent but working in Manchester. The commute was killing me and taking its toll on the whole family, so I decided to look for opportunities closer to home. With nothing available, I decided to start my own product design and marketing consultancy. I’d been thinking about doing this for years but had never taken the heap. After my notice period, we launched in March 2020 and Cornelius Creative was born. Then, just one week later the UK went into its first national lockdown – the timing couldn’t have been worse for a new business!
Wow, that’s unfortunate timing! How did you make it work?
Launching one week before the entire country closed down was a pretty big challenge! I’d lined up some contracts and they were immediately canceled as the businesses closed their doors. I wasn’t entitled to any financial help as the business had just been set up, so I had to roll my sleeves up and get pitching for work. After all, I had a young baby to feed and bills to pay.
I wasn’t entitled to any financial help as the business had just been set up, so I had to roll my sleeves up and get pitching for work.
Despite the tricky start, in under 18 months, we’re about to move into a bigger office, and at the start of 2022, I’m looking to employ our first permanent member of staff. Our first product launches will be happening soon as well, which is really positive, as most of the work we do is currently under NDA so we’re limited on what we can talk about. The business is growing well and it’s an exciting time for us.
In your interactions with other businesses have you spotted any common threads?
Our clients are all extremely busy, which is a massive positive as we’re only just navigating out of lockdown. August and September have been challenging as many people have been on holiday so responses naturally slow down, which can have a knock-on effect on project times. Of course, Covid and Brexit have both had a huge impact on the manufacturing industry; we’ve seen an increase in costs along with limited availability of materials, which has certainly added challenges.
We’ve also seen a trend for clients wanting to develop sustainable products that have a limited impact on the planet. There is also more demand for wellbeing products; self-care is certainly a growing area for consumers. And of course, Covid protection and prevention equipment has been a massive area of growth for us.
How has your life changed since you started Cornelius Creative?
Life has changed completely. I’m no longer tied to a 9-5, but I do sometimes work 24/7! It’s definitely not been easy, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
The freedom to do as I choose and being able to run my business my way without having to answer to anyone else is a big plus. I also love the fact that I have been able to spend more time with my son as he grows. Being able to work with my clients to bring their ideas to life is also highly rewarding, it’s why I do what I do.
Simon’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
- If you have a business idea you truly believe in, do it!
- Start an online presence to build your brand and establish yourself as an authority in your niche.
- Get an accountant early on. We may be experts in our own fields of business but running company accounts is completely different. I’d be lost without my accountant!