What inspired you to start your business?

I fell into being a freelance graphic designer at the ripe old age of 22 when I left what was my first and only job as a graphic designer for a publishing company in Wellington. I had tried to resign after 3 years in the role so I could move back to my home town of Auckland when my boss suggested that instead of resigning, I continue in my roll from home.

That company continued to be my client for the next 15 years while Crisp Graphics grew and evolved around it.

Tell us about your business?

Today, Crisp Graphics is on the precipice of another evolution. My passion and talent for showcasing the individuality and personality of any business has seen my business evolve into a full-service brand, packaging and website design studio. I work on comprehensive brand identity projects and build websites including not only design but planning, content writing, SEO, photography, videography and marketing.

To do this, I work with a number of talented individuals – many whom I’ve met through the Venus Network – who are each experts in their fields. I work to my strengths as the Creative Director and Project Manager to bring entire projects together on time, on brief and on budget.

This new focus has led me to re-brand my own business as the scope of what I do is now larger than it was originally and I have outgrown the name Crisp Graphics. The next stage of my journey is about to be born as Greenhouse Creative with Crisp Graphics still in existence as one of the services I continue to offer.

What do you love about running your business?

I love helping business owners to communicate the value of the product or service that they offer, which helps them to succeed. I love getting stuck in to the challenge of digging deep to uncover their point of difference and the I love completing a project with an immense sense of pride in a job well done. I also love being able to give opportunities to the people I employ and the business owners who I work for. We’re all on a journey of growth and I adore seeing this in people and myself every day.

What have been some of your biggest challenges?

My biggest challenge is also my biggest opportunity. The challenge is to be able to step back from working in the business to working on the business. When we create that space for “CEO time”, ideas begin to flow and doors really do begin to open.

Venus has been a huge part in that growth journey for me. The fortnightly meetings have meant that I’ve prioritised time to step out of day-to-day tasks for clients and think about my business and where it’s heading. I’ve been a Venus member for 7 years now and don’t doubt for a second that that time I’ve invested in the network and therefore in myself, as well as the connections I’ve made have been an integral part of my business growth journey.

Do you have a favourite quote?

The quote I have printed and framed on my office wall is “ People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel” – a slightly tweaked version of Maya Angelou’s famous quote.

For me, this embodies the core values of my life and business. Commercial branding is all about how people feel about companies. It’s my job to communicate those feelings through visual design using the psychology of typography, colour and imagery.

And for my business, which exists solely for the relationships I form with others, I try to base every decision and conversation around ensuring people feel supported, confident and at ease.

Who inspires you, and why?

My dad has been a huge source of inspiration for me over the years. In many ways I’ve followed in his footsteps as a business owner from a young age, a problem solver and designer (he is a toolmaking engineer). As a child I would love visiting his factory and office and I still get a kick out of popping in for a cuppa every now and then and seeing him in his working environment. He always has an interesting project to share with me that requires an incredible talent for creative problem solving.

What growth have you experienced being in Venus?

I’ve already answered that above! However, aside from business growth I’ve experience huge personal growth as well. The difference in the me who went bright red and speechless at her first Venus meeting, to the me now who can comfortably speak and facilitate off the cuff is an awesome amount of growth and achievement to look back on.

Women are redefining success and growing businesses on their terms: What does success look like to you?

Success to me is a multifaceted balancing act. It includes:

  • Working with clients who I respect and admire
  • Producing a standard of work that I’m incredibly proud of
  • Feeling like I’m valued (through thank you’s and fair remuneration) for the work I do
  • Maintaining a work/life balance
  • Prioritising my health and wellbeing
  • Being able to provide the things my family need, whether they are financial, emotional, educational, physical or other
  • Doing all the above in my own time and on my own terms or – if the mood should strike – not at all!
  • What’s your favourite pastime when you are not working?

What’s your favourite pastime when you are not working?

I have so many pastimes it’s hard to pick a favourite. I need regular quality-time with my kids and husband to feel sane. I love to spend time with girlfriends playing netball or multi-day hiking in the wilderness. We have a group of families who we ride dirt-bikes with. I am also fortunate to have regular alone-time which I spend doing anything from walking with my dog on the beach, doing yoga, restoring old furniture, planning home renovations and holidays or tending to my house-plant obsession.

Tonia Hill

Venus Profile