Consider the Wildflowers

026. Fiona Humberstone: Business on Your Own Terms

January 05, 2023 Fiona Humberstone
026. Fiona Humberstone: Business on Your Own Terms
Consider the Wildflowers
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Consider the Wildflowers
026. Fiona Humberstone: Business on Your Own Terms
Jan 05, 2023
Fiona Humberstone

Flexibility and Freedom.
Success without Sacrificing what matters most.
A business aligned with our life values.
Hustle without Burnout. 

While “Business on your own terms” may be thrown around a little too often these days, it’s why I’m so passionate about what I do every day. 

And today’s guest. Well, she’s modeled it for the past 18 years.

I was first introduced to Fiona Humberstone back in 2016 when I was approached about being featured in her book Brand Brilliance, a true honor. But it wasn’t until this conversation, that I got to see how incredibly wise, intentional, and brilliant she really is.

If you long to build a business on your own terms, truly, like not just on paper. This episode is a must listen!


Show Notes Transcript

Flexibility and Freedom.
Success without Sacrificing what matters most.
A business aligned with our life values.
Hustle without Burnout. 

While “Business on your own terms” may be thrown around a little too often these days, it’s why I’m so passionate about what I do every day. 

And today’s guest. Well, she’s modeled it for the past 18 years.

I was first introduced to Fiona Humberstone back in 2016 when I was approached about being featured in her book Brand Brilliance, a true honor. But it wasn’t until this conversation, that I got to see how incredibly wise, intentional, and brilliant she really is.

If you long to build a business on your own terms, truly, like not just on paper. This episode is a must listen!


Fiona Humberstone (00:00):

There seems to be this kind of very anti sort of almost anti profitability. And that's not what we are talking about, is it? We're talking about making money, but in a way that doesn't make burnout inevitable in a way that doesn't crush your soul in a way that doesn't have you doing things that feel uncomfortable just because your coach has told you that you've gotta hit 20 grand this month or whatever. Yeah. 

Shanna Skidmore (00:24):

You are listening to Consider the Wildflowers the podcast episode 26. Build a Business on your own terms. Sounds a little cliche if I'm being honest. The laptop lifestyle influencer culture. This phrase is thrown around more than it used to be, yet for good reason. I think it's what most of us want, right? Flexibility and freedom success without sacrificing what matters most to us. A business aligned with our life values, hustle without burnout. It's why I'm so passionate about what I do every day. And today's guest, well she's modeled this for the past 18 years. I was first introduced to Fiona Hubber Stone back in 2016 when I was approached about being featured in her book, brand Brilliance, a true honor. But it wasn't until this conversation that I got to see how incredibly wise, intentional, and brilliant she really is. If you long to build a business on your own terms, truly like not just on paper, this episode is a must. 

Fiona Humberstone is a bestselling author and founder of the brand stylist, an exacting creative director and commercially minded brand strategist. Fiona empowers entrepreneurs and brand designers to create truly extraordinary brands. She works with a variety of entrepreneurs across the consumer and lifestyle sectors, bringing clarity, creativity, and her incisive vision to every project she works on. Fiona has spent more than 20 years in the industry successfully navigating countless challenging times, including two recessions and a global pandemic. She has owned, grown, sold, and run franchises, as well as founding building and selling her own thriving design agency. She's the author and publisher of the bestselling books, how to Style Your Brand and Brand Brilliance Variously described as the business owner's knowledge bomb book and the book we've been waiting for by readers and Press Worldwide. Fiona is passionate about empowering entrepreneurs to create exceptional brands and runs inspirational online courses, game changing workshops, and highly sought after retreats. 

She has a knack for capturing the essence of a business, finding clarity in a complex brief, and translating commercial goals into visual assets. She is a creative thinker and innovative marketer and thought leader in her field. Okay, formal introductions over, let's dive in. Hey, it's Shanna and this is Consider the Wildflowers, the podcast. For the past 15 plus years, I've had the honor to hear thousands of stories from entrepreneurs around the world. As a former Fortune 100 financial advisor, turn business consultant, I have a unique opportunity to see the real behind the highlight reel. I'm talking profit and loss statements, unpaid taxes, moments of burnout, and those of utter victory. Or as my husband says, the content everyone is wondering but not many are talking about. And now I'm bringing these private conversations to you. Hear the untold stories of how industry leaders, founders, and up and coming entrepreneurs got their start, the experiences that shaped them and the journey to building the brands they have today. Stories that will inspire and reignite encouraged to redefine success and build a life in business on your own terms. Welcome Wildflower. I'm so glad you're here.

Hi Fiona. I'm so excited to be chatting today. This is so much fun. 

Fiona Humberstone (03:38):

I'm so excited you asked me. Thank you. 

Shanna Skidmore (03:41):

I feel like we connected with your first book. 

Fiona Humberstone (03:46):


Shanna Skidmore (03:46):

Which was 2016. 

Fiona Humberstone (03:49):

Yeah. I'm trying to think, was it first or second? Because you are in brand brilliant, aren't you? 

Shanna Skidmore (03:54):

Yeah. So maybe it was your second one. 

Fiona Humberstone (03:57):

Yeah, I think you were so I can't remember the dates, but I think Bra, how Style Your Brand came out in 2015 and then I was writing Brand Brilliance, which is probably when we connected 2016. 

Shanna Skidmore (04:11):


Fiona Humberstone (04:11):

It was published 2017. 

Shanna Skidmore (04:14):

Okay, got it. Yeah. Yeah. I love it. And I still hear, I don't know if I've ever emailed and told you this, I still hear from students or clients. Oh, we found you through Fiona's book and I just am so honored to be in there and this is so exciting. I mean, cuz this is the first time we've really chatted and we can see each other here as we record, which is fun. So welcome to the show and I'm just excited to hear more of your story. 

Fiona Humberstone (04:41):

Oh well I'm it's lovely to meet you at long last, so thank you for asking me. 

Shanna Skidmore (04:47):

Okay. So I just wanna kick things off and just tell everybody who you are and journey back to before your business started, what were you doing? And just give us a little bit of background. 

Fiona Humberstone (05:00):

Okay. So I am Fiona. I'm the author of two bestselling books. So how Style your brand and Brand Brilliance. And I work with brand designers and also entrepreneurs. And my passion, I guess. And my purpose is to inform, inspire, empower, both of those sides of people to create really extraordinary brands. I kind of know passionately that when you create a brand that not only looks beautiful, but that resonates at a deep level, that you will move your business forwards commercially. So creating something that looks beautiful, there's a great start, but actually if you can create something that feels right, that strikes the right chord, creates the right impression, that is game changing. So that's what I do. I'm a consultant, I work directly with clients on bigger projects, but also on quite short consultancies or days or sessions. I have online courses, seminars, professional level programs. So that's kind of how I make my living and what my business is today, if you like. We've just launched a podcast as well, actually my friend Elizabeth and I. So first episode came out last week, so that's a bit of a learning curve, isn't it? Yes. Doing that. 

Shanna Skidmore (06:26):

So fun. I'm excited to listen. 

Fiona Humberstone (06:29):

I'm really excited. It came from Instagram being not what it was. I suppose the short answer in wanting to connect with people at a deeper and more meaningful level. So that's my business right now. And to kind of rewind and think about, oh, how did I get to this point before? So I started the brand stylist in 2014. Before that I had a design agency in a branding company, which started as a print company. I sold that in 2012 and I set it up in 2005, five 2005 when I had Ellie, my eldest child who is now 18 and a half. So there's loads for you to unpack there. 

Shanna Skidmore (07:19):

Your background is in design and graphic design and brand. I mean, is that what you went to, what you wanted to do with your career 

Fiona Humberstone (07:27):

Before all of that? I worked for a print company as a regional director and before that I did a history degree. So I'm a self-taught designer. I never really wanted to get into design. I went to a really academic school, a grammar school, which I don't think you have in the states, but you sit and exam at 11 and if you are academic you get to go there. And basically it was great on many levels. I wouldn't send my own children there. And it was one of those things where if you weren't a fine artist, you weren't creative and therefore you got pushed down quite an academic path. It was a girls school, so they wanted lots of engineers and scientists and mathematicians and that was never me. But yeah, I kind of ended up doing a history degree and while I was at the University of Sheffield, I set up a student marketing company and marketing was what I wanted to get into. It was a real passion of mine and I kind of liked the idea of getting into PR or advertising, but kind of fell into a job with a print company that was going to be a very short term thing until I could do the milk round the following year and get a big corporate fancy job, frankly, cuz I wanted the suits and the fancy office and the high heels. That was my motivation. 

I thought it was so serendipitous because this print company approached me, I'd worked with them through the student marketing company and ended, they ended up offering me a job. I really didn't take it that seriously at all. I think I turned up to the interviewing trainers and trousers and the <laugh>. You've just been at lectures and I thought he was just making chicha. But I look back now and I think, God no, what he was actually saying was, you look like a mess. You'd just been at university all day. And I was just really lucky they put me straight into this. They were expanding at this rapid rate. It was 2000. There was lots of funding going around, they were doing lots of business online and revolutionizing the print sector and it was kind of right place, right time. And I met my husband there. And so there's so many things in my life that had I not happened upon that job, it's a bit like a sliding doors moment really. 

So I worked in Nottingham and the company was growing really fast, so they moved me to London and I launched my own store in London and then that went really well. So then they promoted me to regional director. And so I was looking after first company owned stores and then they started franchising. So I was selling franchises and training them and developing designers. And I think the company had this real ethos that anyone can design, which I don't a hundred percent agree with it, but I think the ethos of it can be is kind of a good thing. And I just learned loads and loads about design, about marketing, about direct marketing, about copy. And my career was on a real trajectory. And my plan, my goal was to go and open the New York office of this company. And there was lots of talks around that. And then I discovered that was pregnant at 24. And so everything changed because suddenly I was going to be a mom. 

Shanna Skidmore (11:03):

So when you found out that you were pregnant, yeah. What I would love if you would share, if you don't mind sharing, what was your thought process? Did you think you wanted to be a stay-at-home mom? Did you think I wanna be a career focus? I mean, it sounds like that definitely changed your plan to come to New York. So just tell me about that with your career. 

Fiona Humberstone (11:24):

It was a real turning point. It wasn't in the plan. We had to think very carefully about whether we could do this. And I remember my boss saying to me, you're at a really awkward age because you're not so you are teenager that it is, but you are also, we weren't financially solvent. I had student debts, I had a huge shoe and makeup collection. But no, and actually we were also looking at buying a flat in London, but it was a very, you would have in your mid twenties. We were going out loads. I had lovely clothes, didn't have any savings particularly. And all of that completely changed though being a stay-at-home mom was not an option. And I find it really interesting because I've got three children. So Ellie's 18 just was 14 and then Poppy's nine. And I was really unusual in my group of friends when Ellie was a baby, obviously I was seven years younger than everybody else, but also lots of them were at that point in their lives where they and their husbands had had really stable jobs. 

They'd made good money on the property market, they had that opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom and I not only didn't have that, but we had no financial security at all. We didn't own a house, we needed my income. So stay at home one wasn't really an option. I had a very, very well paying job and I felt very strongly from the outset that I wasn't going to work five days a week. So I took nine months off maternity leave and my boss was amazing. And they were also amazing in that when I went back to work, they took away all the travel elements of my job. So I would quite often be in Manchester, which for those of you that aren't familiar with geography, is about three or four hours away from my house or I'd be in Glasgow, which was a flight. It's kind of flying. 

It's not, yeah, it is. Flying from LA to San Francisco, I didn't really want to be away that much. So they were amazing in making it logistically workable. But what that meant on a practical level was all the bits of my job that I loved I weren't doing. And on a day-to-day basis, I had this epiphany about two months in where I was in Luton with a franchisor and I would go in and I was really good at turning businesses around. So I would be going in and I'd be cold calling for him, or not necessarily cold calling, but kind of calling a warm list and having all these amazing chats with entrepreneurs. And there were two things that were going on in my mind. One was that this guy just couldn't give less of a monkeys about his business. He really, I'm not kidding when I say he had films on his laptop and he had his dog sat next to him and he was watching movies while I was grafting trying to build his business. So that irritated me because I thought, I'm doing all this for who you don't even care. But also I was having these amazing conversations with these entrepreneurs about their businesses and I was really excited about them. And I was thinking, one, I want to follow this through, and two, I can't in all conscience send you to the guy that's watching the film laptop. 

Shanna Skidmore (15:13):


Fiona Humberstone (15:15):

So quite quickly I handed in my notice, which wasn't a very popular decision because the company had really supported me through my maternity leave. And I think there'd been some mumblings that this might happen and that my boss had really fought for. He was like, no, she's committed. She'll come back, she'll do a great job. But they supported me, they were amazing in that they helped me set up a print franchise because by this point, had we bought a house, I don't think I'd paid off all my student debt and my husband's in my maternity leave. And I think, so we hadn't yet bought a house what we were going to, but I knew I needed a very steady income. So that was a bit of a turning point where I could have built a design agency and I kind of wish I had in many respects, but they persuaded me that it was a better idea to buy a print franchise and that would have steady income. It came huge overheads. But a lot of things that have really informed me in the way that I do things now and a lot of the messages that I share, particularly with designers. So yeah, 

Shanna Skidmore (16:29):

There's so much learning in all of the steps of the process. I don't know if you ever, I feel so often I just wanna get there, I just wanna know the journey. And it's like, I think the journey is the journey, you know, had to go through all of those steps to learn what now and the way you run your business now. And that's so good. So you bought the print franchise and it sounds like you had that for quite a while. Yeah. When did you start thinking, I wanna transition out of this and start my own design business? 

Fiona Humberstone (17:04):

I would say within about two weeks. 

Shanna Skidmore (17:07):




Fiona Humberstone (17:12):

It was really interesting because obviously the reason you buy a franchise is because you want that safety net and you are are the kind of person that enjoys following rules. And you're probably getting from everything I've talked about so far, that isn't me. So we had this very fixed way of marketing a business. So you would put inserts into the Chamber of Commerce magazine, you would go networking at the Chamber of Commerce and we would buy a list that you would cold call. And the cold calling thing was basically phoning businesses. And I developed a lot of this stuff and saying, I can save you money on your business cards, we can do business cards for 50 pounds. And that had always worked. It was all really great door opener, icebreaker. And then you'd send them a sample pack and you'd build a relationship with them. 

It wasn't adding much value, it wasn't anything that was academically inspiring, but it was a great way of opening a door and you could then start to build rapport. But <laugh>, what I found was literally within about two weeks, people were saying to me, oh yeah, but I can get them from good print for 25 pounds. And I was like, oh, <laugh> that then. And so that edge that of we are the cheapest, we are the fastest. Suddenly that's gone. And when you are running a franchise, you haven't got any autonomy. So very, very quickly I realized selling print was not fun. It wasn't where I was going to get creatively inspired, but I knew what did inspire me was talking to entrepreneurs about their businesses and kind of catching their passion. And it was in the branding and we were terrible to start with. I mean we were selling logos for 99 pounds. 

We didn't have a clue what we were doing. But over the years we built that up and the print became just an add-on. It wasn't anything that we majored on. And then about 2008, I think, and my boss, old boss had said, if you wanna buy yourself out the franchise, please do <laugh> think I was doing that many favors. So I did. We would still sell the print, but we were our own company by that point. And that was probably, that point was a big turning point. Also, learning about color psychology and being able to really underpin the kind of things that we instinctively felt we knew or the things that we were seeing or the things that just made sense. It brought a new level of insight to our process. And so we launched our own branding agency 2009 and I started blogging, and I say this now in 2022, and it doesn't seem very earth shattering, but we were winning clients from all over the world, which back in 2010 was really unusual. And that's on the strength of our portfolio and our work and having that process and being distinctive and resonant. 

Shanna Skidmore (20:22):

And how were people finding you, Fiona? I mean all over the world and 20, this was before Instagram, before 

Fiona Humberstone (20:30):

Blogging. I love blog, honestly. Yeah, I mean it was back in the day and it's so funny cause I feel like things are going a bit full circle. 

Shanna Skidmore (20:38):

Full circle. Yeah. I was just reading your blog about, it sounds like your Instagram account was deleted. Sounds like that was a whole ordeal. And me, I've been off social media since 2017 and Oh wow. Instagram specifically. And so 100% I am so passionate about this conversation and I was so intrigued to read your blog about getting back to the days of SEO, organic content, creating a brand for yourself through you're the content and your portfolio and the things you're creating. So yeah, I love this conversation. So back in those days you were getting clients from around the world because they were finding you on your blog. Yes. 

Fiona Humberstone (21:25):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And because I would tell story, I'd explain and I had the process and the insight and the words to explain why we'd done what we'd done. So it wasn't something that looks gorgeous. I was telling the story of who the business was and how we wanted this to feel and why it was right. Yeah. And people just loved it. 

Shanna Skidmore (21:50):


Fiona Humberstone (21:50):

They did. Yeah, 

Shanna Skidmore (21:52):

I love that. So when you went from the franchise, which had, I'm assuming set pricing for you, like you mentioned you franchising is good for people who like the rules, they get a package business in a box kind of thing. So you had the pricing, you had the offers. Was it a big learning curve for you to start figuring out the branding side and like you mentioned with your first logo not charging enough, how did you find out the offers you wanted to offer and the pricing? Because I just think that's such a big shift, even though you were a business owner before, now you're creating everything from scratch. 

Fiona Humberstone (22:30):

Well, so the print company set the pricing, but the design pricing, we had total autonomy over from the start. So I remember we had this threefold leaflet that had corporate identities cuz that's what we called them back in the day. So you had a budget logo design that was 99 pounds. And then the premium corporate identity I think was a whole 300 pounds. And basically right from the get-go. So there was never a moment where I launched my design agency was where I was thinking, oh my goodness, what are we going to charge? Really? We just repackaged what we were already doing. By that point I was already running a design agency, I just wasn't allowed to call it 

Shanna Skidmore (23:16):

Your own thing. 

Fiona Humberstone (23:18):

So the thing with the pricing was we just felt our way. And I think this is really important. You see loads of stuff about raising pricing and value-based pricing and all that stuff now. But I think at every turn your pricing has to reflect the value that you bring for it to be sustainable. So what we would do is every single project that we did, we would just look back, we would always deliver the level of work that we wanted to be working at, not what the client paid. So we were constantly moving forwards and every time we'd look back and we'd go, well what was that worth? Not to be annoyed or beat ourselves up, but just to build our own sense of confidence. So my pricing raised incrementally throughout the entire time of my business because we were constantly improving. And 

Shanna Skidmore (24:18):

I actually, I love that you brought this up Fiona, because I have a lot of my students and clients, I recommend doing this a lot. Looking back at past projects, how much did it cost you with your time and your materials and almost repricing it for yourself. And I think that teaches you so much more about the value of your deliverables and what you are giving. Cuz sometimes I think when we price things on the front end, I know I've done this, you get in a lot deeper than you expected and you're like, oh, now I learned. So looking back teaches you so much. I think that's such a good exercise for every business owner to do. 

Fiona Humberstone (24:57):

And the flip side that people don't talk about, I mean I'm sure you do, but people don't talk about enough is that anyone can hike their prices. Anyone can sell one five figure brand identity project. Anyone can do that with the right mindset. But if you don't have the skill to back that up, you're going to quite quickly run out of inquiries, run out of referrals, run out of confidence, and that can have a really detrimental impact on your business. So I think the challenge you've got with constantly raising your prices is that you, let's say referrals take six months to come through, which was kind of the average. If you are raising your prices every week or every month, the inquiries that you are getting are going to be out step with what you're charging. So there's a sweet spot between the two, isn't there? Yeah. 

Shanna Skidmore (25:51):

And I love what you said, Fiona, in the sense of, I think so often the messaging is to raise your pricing, raise it faster, faster, bigger, better. And it's like don't get better at what you're doing and your craft and the pricing will, of course, I'm an advocate clearly for profitable pricing and not running yourself, burning yourself out. But I love what you said, I mean I think there's so much more messaging now about oh you should be here at this level and what you learned from your very first day <laugh> sounds like in the print business when you compete on price Yeah. That's not where you wanna be competing. Yeah. There's so much more value add and that's sure what you do with messaging and helping clients understand the value of what they're doing and all that. So would you say there's some lessons you learned in that those years as you were building the branding side and the design agency going out? I would love to hear just what went well looking back and what are some things that like, oh that was a hard lesson to learn. 

Fiona Humberstone (27:00):

Well I think one of the biggest things was the shift from doing things fast, which was the whole ethos of the print company was pilot high, sell it cheap. So to win the work, you had to be the fastest person to send out the sample pack, the first person to call them back to follow up, the first person to send the quote over. You had to turn it around the fastest. It was really high pressure. And by the way, you had to be the cheapest. So it wasn't a very fun place to be. And so when it came to design, that same ethos followed through. It was all about how quickly can you do it, how cheaply can you do it? And I just remember having this epiphany one day and having got through however many designers that couldn't keep up with the pace where I was like, if we just charge twice as much time, I can afford to lose a third of my clients and I'll be no worse off. And what I couldn't see at that point was that although I was worried about we are going to lose clients cause we're going to be too expensive, what I didn't see was that we had been losing clients because we were too cheap 

Shanna Skidmore (28:17):

In that moment when it's like, yeah, oh yes, that's a hard, I hear that from so many of my clients are kind of in that more luxury market. Yeah, actually we never think, always think, oh, I'm too expensive. But in fact, often pricing yourself too low is having the exact opposite effect. 

Fiona Humberstone (28:37):

Yeah, I would caveat though with, I've seen a real shift in this even since publishing my books. So I'm pretty sure in brand brilliance I talk about the R that most people underprice. What I'm seeing now is most people overpricing. And I think that I say that has a big impact on not just the sustainability of your business, but this imposter syndrome that keeps kicking in because we find ourselves out of our depth and over our heads. 

Shanna Skidmore (29:13):

Okay, well I'm totally going to ask you to unpack that a little bit more. Yes. I have seen this a massive shift. I spoke in 2019 at an event and I remember saying you used to, when I would share this talk, the number was six figures. I pulled the audience and what's your dream salary? Something around six figures. And then I made a joke in 2019, I said, now six figures is the new seven figures. And I pulled the audience the same and the number had changed, it had gone up. And this is an anonymous survey everybody sent in their things and it was this crazy moment of there has been an absolute shift and in some ways maybe it's good we're elevating each other to think more strategically about our offers. And you know what? Now in 2022 it feels like the multi, now I joke it's the multi seven figures. Yeah, yeah. And what you're seeing I have felt too. So I would love, if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit more where people are not giving themselves the time to build a track record. And yeah, there's detriment to that. We are, you and I are both advocates for profitable pricing, but earning your stripes, your stripes is important. 

Fiona Humberstone (30:41):

And I think, I worry that I always <laugh> do feel extremely passionately about this. And I worry that talking about it makes me sound all kind of scrooge or judgy or I don't know, but I just as underpricing yourself is massively detrimental not just to your profitability but also to your own sense of worth and mental health. This over-inflated pricing creates an extraordinary amount of pressure. And what I also see it going with is what do we even mean by multiple six figures or seven figures? Do we mean profit? Do we mean turnover? Do we mean gross profit? Is it over a year or are we talking over the lifetime of the business? Nobody ever talks about this. And what I also see is the costs involved of achieving these crazy ass numbers. My business was grown from a point of being this very young mom who is the breadwinner and is still the breadwinner of her family and wanting, I grew up, my dad's Iranian, he, he's trained as a merchant naval officer. 

He used to work for the Iranian oil company in tugs and they had a very luxurious expat life. And then the war broke out and he came over here and to the UK and for 10 years could not get work in shipping. Now that was partly because he wasn't prepared to go away to see for six months at a time. But I also look back now, and I think that was partly because of racism because people didn't wanna employ an Iranian. And so we lived on a hundred pounds a week, a family of five, and we grew up in a really beautiful part of the new forest. But money was always tight. And I felt very strongly and passionately that when my children were born, mom and dad absolutely did their best and there was loads of love and was very happy. And I'm not knocking that, but I wanted to create opportunities for my kids that we didn't have. 

And so I don't say this, nobody seems, and it's so nice to meet a kindred spirit because there seems to be this kind of very sort of almost anti profitability. And that's not what we are talking about is it? We are talking about making money, but in a way that doesn't make burnout inevitable in a way that doesn't crush your soul in a way that doesn't have you doing things that feel uncomfortable just because your coach has told you that you've gotta hit 20 grand this month or whatever, whatever the goal is. And just building a business organically and in a way that serves you. So we talked at the start about how right from the start, my business has always been based around supporting my family and giving me time to be with my kids. So I don't work for a quarter of the year because I take the holidays off. That is going to have an my financially and I, I'm not going to share the numbers cause I don't agree with, I don't wanna be part of the income boasting. 

Shanna Skidmore (34:12):


Fiona Humberstone (34:13):

Actually we do very nicely. We do really well and I'm able to take quarter of the year off, which means that for 25% of the year, I mean I've set it up so that I am earning money, but you know what I mean? Yeah. In theory, I'm only working at 75% capacity. That's going to have an impact right. On what I'm able to earn. But it also has an impact on my mental health in a good way. 

Shanna Skidmore (34:41):

Yeah, absolutely. And I love piano. Thank you for saying that. I love talking about numbers and I, but I love talking about it in the sense, I think there is a moment when someone shares, oh I'm here. Yes. There's so much of the backstory that isn't shared and isn't told. So I 1000% support your decision because inevitably when I share a number or you share a number, we all share numbers. There's a comparison there that's going to happen. And I never want others to compare a number. What I do hope people compare is joy and satisfaction and are you paying your bills? And yeah, we didn't talk about this before. I think we are such kindred spirit, which I feel like we've known forever but this idea, I almost wish business would go back to the days of, and I feel the same way. I feel this weird tension even saying this out loud, but let it be okay to be smaller or support your family or celebrate in that where I feel like sometimes the messaging makes it so that we can't celebrate in being able to just support our family. It needs to be more or bigger or grow it more strategically. I hear this question, you can have a seven figure business or whatever it is, just be strategic with your offers. And it's like, well there's still a cost with that. I don't know. So sometimes I never wanna be the advocate of I sound lazy, I don't wanna sound lazy. But at the same time I'm like, I love that you have built a business that supports your family and supports your family well and you work three quarters of the year. How amazing is that? 

Fiona Humberstone (36:29):

And I think to pick up on what you were saying, I just feel it's very sad that we can't just focus on doing things well. Why can't we just do a great job in whatever we do and enjoy it? Why does all the messaging have to be around how much money we are making Unless you are a wealth coach? Yeah. It's kind of, which I'm guessing you are, 

But also I had another interesting chat with a friend of a friend and she was talking about transparency. And I think there's a big difference between being transparent about your numbers cause that is empowering and that can bring joy and that can be informative. A few people have popped up on my Instagram recently and they've been talking about paying off debts or saving or being frugal. And I find that really interesting. The difference is the agenda behind it. And so when the agenda is I'm making seven figures and I'm going to show you how, yes, well actually how does that help me as a designer? If I purely wanted to make money, surely I'd go be an investment banker. So we are doing this for other reasons and of course you have to make a profit. Of course you do. But I think when the biggest priority and focus in your business is money, you're missing a huge amount of potential. 

Shanna Skidmore (38:03):

Yeah. It's funny, and Fiona, I don't know if you know this, but I always have three kind of main courses and one's on business finance, one's on personal finance, southern's on goal setting. All three of them start with vision boarding and defining what you want. And I always joke because I tell all my students, they take my business finance class because they are like, I need to understand pricing. And I'm like, well we're not going to get to that until week four. And they're like, wait, what? And I always say understanding what you want in business and in life is the most important factor to creating a business honestly that is profitable because there's so many ways to build an offer ladder or a portfolio or how you wanna work. But I love it. It's like we have to start with the heart first. And I truly believe 

Fiona Humberstone (39:00):

That, and I think this is what this point misses, is that my business, I've set up in a way that works for me. I know that I don't enjoy managing people. It's not what I'm best at. So I don't employ people, I don't enjoy having overheads that I've got to meet. I've done all that and I don't wanna do it again. And again when our primary focus is on, I've gotta hit that turnover cuz I've gotta tell people that I'm multiple six figures or I'm seven figures or I'm multiple seven figures. You lose track of what is actually going to make you happy in your business. And also just in terms of profitability, I keep my business really lean. I don't employ people, which means that I don't have a coach that I'm paying 30% of my turnover to. And very often what you find is, you know, need that level of involvement from outside people to keep you at that level. And that doesn't always trickle down to be able to renovate your house or 

Shanna Skidmore (40:08):

Exactly. Rather, okay. You and I are such kindred spirits for anyone listening who they're, I know we have people listening who are, they want the team, they want the big numbers, they want the 30. And I'm like, so just hear us say we are not saying that's bad. What I do think it's so important to define what you want, and I'm very similar. We run our company extremely lean because I don't like to have a big balance. I don't like to have a lot of debts and I don't like to have a lot of people I owe. And maybe that's, I'm sure that's a money mindset that comes from my upbringing as well. But I know if I were to walk down the path of building a huge empire, I would be so stressed out, I would shut down. So you have to know these things and learn and sometimes you take missteps and that's the way you learn them. So yeah. This is so good. Would you talk Fiona about raising your family and raising your business at the same time? What do you feel mean? How did that look and what do you feel like you did well or any kind of like, oh, wish I could do over moments, but I just am so interested? So I had Madeline when my business was almost 10 years old. So I've gone through a lot of that. 

Fiona Humberstone (41:25):


Shanna Skidmore (41:26):

Those early days. 

Fiona Humberstone (41:29):


Shanna Skidmore (41:29):

She's 20 months. 

Fiona Humberstone (41:31):

Oh, gorgeous. So I have the great privilege of having sort of come out the other end with Ellie. And Ellie is very, she's not backwards at telling me where my failings have been as a mum. And to be fair, she's very lovely and she, <laugh> done a great deal of that. But on the odd occasion where I've said to her, oh, did I get the balance right of work? She says, I absolutely did. And I really feel like I did from the start. I only ever worked four days a week, even when I started my business. So Ellie was 15 months when we launched the business. We got married that summer and we bought a house in the December, so it was quite a year that first year. So when I had Jasper, when my business was about four, three years old, and one of the reasons we waited that long was because it was really important to me to take maternity leave. 

So I took six months off with him and I literally did nothing on the business aside from going in once a month and having a meeting with my accountant, with my studio manager and just checking that the business wasn't going to go under. But I've worked towards that point of having plenty of money in the bank where we could afford to take a bit of a dip in sales. I'd built my team up to a point where I could leave them alone operationally. So I had six months off with Jas. And then again, waited quite a long time to have, because by that point I just wanted out and I wanted to sell my business and I just wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. And I was at a point where financially I could do that. So I had two years of sabbatical with Poppy, which was lovely. 

And I saved, so from the business sale, I kind of had enough to take a couple years off and then I made sure that I had six month money in the account so that I could not just take whatever work came my way so I could be quite picky about it. And I also only worked, going back to the family question, I only worked two hours a day to start with when Poppy slept. And then when she was two she would go to nursery for 15 hours a week. So that was all I had until she was, I think three, she had 30 hours a week. I, I dunno that I did 30 hours a week, I dunno. But I've only ever done school holidays. So my kids are my hard boundary and it all starts there. And I think this has always shaped what my goals have been with my business is there's only so much I can do. 

And not just to not work, but actually emotionally to be present in the room. I've just finished a really epic course and for the last, it's been two and a half years in the making and for the last two or three weeks of that course I wasn't there. I work from home but I wasn't there. I wasn't able to cook or plan meals or have a proper conversation. It was just in my head. And I know that's not sustainable for me. It's not something, it's not how I wanna live. And it does have an effect on the kids. There's no doubt they struggle. Yeah. But it's quite nice having sort of a young one and then that reassurance that did no, okay. Job with my older one. 

Shanna Skidmore (45:14):

Yeah, no, I mean I love how you said being present physically in the room and then also are you present mentally in the room. Yeah. And that's a big, yeah, it's a balance. I think that you mentioned sometimes it sounds like you've done that really well and then in this season you just sounds like you were in a course and it was a lot and it took more of you. And I think I'm learning that grace of some seasons you're able to do that and what a gift. I mean Kyle always is telling me, you're with Madeline more than a lot of working moms are able to be with, and I'm so grateful for that. But there are seasons where it's like, okay, this is a hustling season and knowing for me, I, I'm the same knowing. This isn't sustainable all the time at this level, 

Fiona Humberstone (46:05):

But you're going to have that this time last year you could barely get in my office because we were having the house renovated, we lived through it, stupid idea. And I had literally three foot of space around me to work and there came a point where I just thought, I can't do this anymore. The only way this is going to get better is if I pick up a paintbrush and I start making, painting these kitchen units so we can get our house back together. So that was three weeks this time last year where I wasn't doing any work where life took over. And I think this goes back to why I feel so passionately that the income boasting approach is not one for me because you can't, well I can't relentlessly work to anyone else's criteria. It has to come from what I know is right for me and for our family and for my clients. That course was the right thing to produce. But more than about three or four weeks of working at that intensity is not a doer. And I think this is where people get into burnout, isn't it? Cuz they keep pushing and they keep pushing and they keep pushing and 

Shanna Skidmore (47:22):


Would you say that knowing your family goals paired with knowing your fan financial need? Cuz we're in the same situation like Kyle and I have worked together now this company is our income, family income. So I have also never been in a situation where I did not need to produce income for our family. And I know for me pairing those two things has been really helpful and given me a lot of peace. Would you agree that there's a sense of what your family needs financially and what your family needs mentally and how to find that balance of those? Yes. 

Fiona Humberstone (48:05):

That's always been at the center of everything I think. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Without question. 

Shanna Skidmore (48:13):

Yeah. I just am so grateful for the work I get to do because I think so often I don't know if people know that they can define their number. I call it your like what does your family need? What does your business need? And there's so much peace of mind in knowing that and knowing what you're running towards. 

Fiona Humberstone (48:34):

I think for quite a long time I've, I've had that and then I'm seeing how far I can stretch it, but at a level, I dunno about tax over there, but tax over here, there's a point where you can earn more there, there could be more profit but actually it's better to just keep it in the business. So for some years I've just been doing that and then the peace of mind know, actually I could not work for six months and it would be okay, I could not work for a year and it would be okay. Yeah. Is really lovely. So that kind of, I don't think on that granular, what I don't even think about that anymore interestingly because it's at a point the businesses are at a point where I'm doing that and obviously I have to have that sense of, yeah, I've gotta have that sense that this is what we need and how far have we gone over it. It's really important but it's probably to, it goes back to my dad being a milkman and everything being very budgeted out. 

Shanna Skidmore (49:39):

This has been such a wonderful, we are such kindred spirits. I do love, I've loved how this conversation have centered so much around growing a business, doing what you loves, serving your clients well and also balancing that with the family life that you wanna have. I do always like to ask though, before we hang up, what would you say is the best thing that you have learned about money? 

Fiona Humberstone (50:06):

Oh God. About money. I dunno. I mean I do think probably one of the best things for me was launching my brand stylist business with six months money in the bank account. I know I've already said that so it's not very game changing. But when I talk to my clients about what made the difference, it was that it was not having to take everything on just because I needed the money. I wanted to make the right choices. So yeah, probably that. 

Shanna Skidmore (50:37):

That's so good. Okay. I just wanna keep talking to you. But we are at 50 minutes. I mean we're just chatting. So I wanna end with kind of a quick fire round. I have just a few questions I want to ask you. And then this has just been so wonderful. I think just almost like a business therapy session of <laugh>, remembering again that we can design it, we can create it, we can grow it slowly and good and deep work and all those things. So 

Fiona Humberstone (51:06):

I wanna look at all your offerings now cause it sounds like you're doing such good stuff in a way that is sustainable as well. I just think that's so important. Yeah. 

Shanna Skidmore (51:17):

Yeah. I mean there's so many good conversations we could unpack and let's keep hanging out. I do think we're a experience and I need to come over and see you. Kyle has never been to Europe, so I know. Yep. I know. It's crazy. Okay, let's quick fire and put you in a hot seat. Yes. What is one thing you would be embarrassed if people knew? 

Fiona Humberstone (51:39):

Well I'm not going to tell you that. Am I <laugh>? 

Shanna Skidmore (51:42):

Keeping it close to the, oh, that's awesome. Okay. Second. Do you have any kind of wish you could do over moments? 

Fiona Humberstone (51:55):

Oh, I think the only thing, I don't tend to look back and regret much stuff if I'm honest. I remember when I sold my design agency, I was in this really awful position of I had to keep the team in place because otherwise I would be in a worse, I wanted out and if one of them was to leave, that would make <laugh> my life really difficult. So I couldn't tell them, basically, I didn't know how long it was going to take to sell my business and I couldn't tell them that this was what I was thinking of doing. And I kind of knew because I knew all of their financial setups. I knew that it was never going to be something that would be a management buyout it that I didn't think that was going to happen, which meant that I managed to get persuade the buyer to do an exchange process. So we exchanged a week before we sold it you when you bought a house, which meant that I knew it was going through so I could tell them and give them a week's notice. But I think they felt really betrayed that I hadn't told them sooner. Cuz we had a really close relationship. And I think Kaz, who is now one of the designers I recommend the most, shouldn't speak to me for a year. I think they were really upset and I don't honestly know what I could have done differently there, the right thing with the situation that I was in, but if I could wave a magic wand, that process would've gone a bit differently. 

Shanna Skidmore (53:34):

Yeah. I've had a situation where I was leaving a position and it was kind of a similar, I was so close to them. Wow. I wanted to tell them, but I also was like, you, there's like, if 

Fiona Humberstone (53:46):

It doesn't 

Shanna Skidmore (53:46):

Work out, protocol. Yeah. It's this. Yeah. So I know that feeling not to the level, but yeah. That's tough. Yeah. So nothing pr Oh, you're right. Nothing you could have done differently, likely, but no, you just wished. Yeah. Okay. <laugh>, third question. What is a big win or pinch me moment? 

Fiona Humberstone (54:05):

Oh, probably when just publishing my books and particularly how to style your brand has, I remember having a meeting with my editor who worked for a big publishing company and I had this idea that it would sell tens of thousands of copies. And she was like, nobody buys books anymore. If you sell a thousand, you'll be doing really well. And we sold 2000 within six weeks and sold out and it's basically sold, I think about 40,000 copies. So that I think is my biggest, 

Shanna Skidmore (54:42):


Fiona Humberstone (54:43):


Shanna Skidmore (54:44):

Was publishing a book a dream of yours? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. 

Fiona Humberstone (54:48):

Well, but it was more just that how style the brand just demanded to be written. It got a hold of me and it wouldn't let go. And it was the same with Brand Brilliance, which is the one that you are in. I just couldn't not do it. And now I kind of feel done a bit like when you know your family's done and I don't think there'll be any more books. I feel quite done with that process. So I don't know that it was a burning desire to write a book. It was that thing of, I need to write this book right now. 

Shanna Skidmore (55:26):

And they're so good. I have both of the books, but we'll link them because they're amazing. Well, that is an incredible <laugh>, incredible pinch me moment. Okay. What is the best advice or just really good advice that you have received? 

Fiona Humberstone (55:42):

So I think probably, probably one of the most game changing things for me was doing a sales course with a guy called Richard White who had a company called the Accidental Salesman. He's not around anymore, but he completely changed my mindset in terms of customers because he was, up until that point, you kind of think about your top customers and you think about, well, who spends the most money? And actually he taught us to look at what motivates those people to do business with you and how does that align with what you wanna be known for and what you're best at. And when you start looking at things that way, you realize that printing off a list of your top clients doesn't print off a list of the clients that bring you the most joy or the most satisfaction, or that are the easiest to work with. But when you start looking at what motivates people to do business with you, you can unlock something quite special that you can then use to grow your business. 

Shanna Skidmore (56:41):

So I would love 

Fiona Humberstone (56:42):

That. Yeah. Yeah. It's a real turning point. So for you, I, it's sort of understanding what will people value about what sounds like a much more sustainable and resilient approach to pricing and growing your business rather than the, let's turn a fast buck right now approach. Who is that person? Because there are people that won't engage with that and that just want Yeah. The wealth right now. Yeah. 

Shanna Skidmore (57:10):

Oh, exactly. 

Fiona Humberstone (57:11):

But what is it about that person that makes them want to take the more slow slows, maybe not the right word, but the more sustainable mind approach to 

Shanna Skidmore (57:23):

It. Yeah. Oh, this is so good. Because I think I know the special part of who I am just I think in general is I love numbers, I love finance, but I pair that so deeply with art and have a psychology degree as well. 

Fiona Humberstone (57:41):

You're not an accountant? 

Shanna Skidmore (57:43):

I have a background in accounting. Yeah. Perfect. But I have a finance degree and a psychology degree. And an art degree. It's like have all the things, but like you said in your beginning of the conversation, now I see how all of those things come together. But I have had people, like you just said, they're just not the right fit. If they wanna click answer and sometimes answers and finance are quick. Yeah, okay. This percentage and have a good day. Yeah. But there's so much deeper to building a business. There's a lot of deep questions. And so yeah, it's knowing that not everybody is your customer and that's okay. Yeah. That's so good. Okay, last quickfire question and then we'll send it off. What are you working on now? Or is there a resource that you would like to share? 

Fiona Humberstone (58:32):

Oh, well, I've literally just, I've getting a bit of Headspace because I've literally just finished color psychology for brand designers, which is a really deep, rigorous program for brand designers, funnily enough. And I've developed this whole res brand resonance model and method, and it has been all consuming. So in terms of what I'm working on next, I wanna just enjoy December, do a bit of housekeeping. So just catch up on all those bits of my website that are out date and all that kind of stuff. But my brand Stylist Academy has a whole wealth of resources for designers and entrepreneurs that will kind of walk you through everything from naming your company to rebranding, to creating a media kit, to color psychology, all the stuff. But one thing that might be a good place for people to start, cause rest, we haven't even talked about branding, have we? But that's good. It's nice. It's nice to talk about different things, is I have a free seminar on how to create a brand that feels right. So that might be a good place to kick 

Shanna Skidmore (59:45):

Things off. And we will link that seminar in the show notes and also your new podcast. 

Fiona Humberstone (59:53):


Shanna Skidmore (59:53):

Yes, yes. Okay. I'm excited. I know, I'm excited to dig into all of the content. I know we didn't even talk about very much what you're doing right now and what you're offering. I know. So there's so much wonderful resources about branding and for graphic designers it sounds like, for brand professionals and for entrepreneurs. Yeah. Wanting to, yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. Yeah. Oh, I could talk to you for so much longer, but oh, 

Fiona Humberstone (01:00:19):

It's so nice to 

Shanna Skidmore (01:00:21):

Chat. I wanna just send it off, Fiona, with, if you could go back to either your days in the corporate world just starting out, or when you officially went out on your own and started your design agency. Either one of those. I just would love to hear what you would tell yourself kind of looking back now on day one of that journey. 

Fiona Humberstone (01:00:45):

Yeah. Well if I think back to when I started my own business, I was 26, I think at that point. Ellie was 15 months old. We were about to buy a house, but I felt very much, I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and that just wasn't ever going to happen. I felt like a bit of a failure cause I couldn't make that happen. And I was desperate to kind of create this life, I guess, for my family that would allow them to do things. And I guess if I look now, Ellie, my daughter's doing a foundation at drama school, which is her dream. And that means that, yeah, that's really meaningful, isn't it? To have built this business to this point, which has meant that we can do the singing lessons, we can do the drama school, she can have those opportunities, they can all travel. 

And we've done some nice holidays and we've got this lovely house that is far bigger than anything I grew up in. And it's not just about it being big, but having that space to grow and be able to make it beautiful and be able to make it a place where hopefully the kids feel really safe and inspired. And it's been a bit of a few years, hasn't it, in terms of Yes. Lockdowns and then we've not really had anyone round cause we've been building. But to start to make those memories mean if I'd known 18 years ago that in 2022 we would live in a village that I'd always wanted to live in, that the kids would've had these experiences growing up, it would've blown my mind. Yeah. And I don't think this was any sort of grand plan. It's just devolved and it's just happened. But 

Shanna Skidmore (01:02:43):

I love getting to sit on this side with Madeline being 20 months old and I never thought I would wanna be a stay-at-home mom, but I absolutely would if I could. And I love my work, but I also have to work. That's so encouraging for me to hear even 

Fiona Humberstone (01:03:01):

Do you not want your daughter to grow up and have a career because Yeah, I feel very passionately and Ellie's a real feminist and feels very strongly about the domestic load and all these things. And I've got an amazing husband who more than pulls his weight around the house is not, it's not just my job right at all. But I feel like it's really important that girls grow up 

Shanna Skidmore (01:03:30):


Fiona Humberstone (01:03:31):

Have role models that do have fulfilling jobs. That, and I really noticed the difference between poppies is moms who are unapologetically working, they're unapologetic and they should are all working. They have fulfilling careers and they're doing it part-time around their kids and their husbands are much more on it. Whereas Ellie's generations almost another generation apart. And those women have often sacrificed their careers and they've not really gone back in at the level that they were working at before. So some of them will have jobs, but they don't all have careers and they are pretty much doing a hundred percent of the domestic load and don't, that's not how I want my kids 

Shanna Skidmore (01:04:22):


Fiona Humberstone (01:04:23):

Live their life. So I don't think it should be seen as a sacrifice. Yeah, I think from what we've said, there's a balance and you need a balance for yourself as much as a child, don't 

Shanna Skidmore (01:04:34):

You? Oh, absolutely. I'm like, I'm a better mom because I get a minute to work. But I love how I, I'm so proud to have her see the way our family dynamic is, cuz Kyle and I own the company together. We work together. It's very much a partnership in all things. And there is something so beautiful about that and just knowing that I feel so blessed to get to do both. I get to be a present mom that's with her quite a lot. And then also I love what I do. And like you said, yeah, there's these moments where it can feel like you're finding the balance. And balance is always a moving, it's moving all the time. And so it can feel like, oh, I'm always having to shift a little bit. But I'm so grateful to get to do both things. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, this has been so good. Thank you so much for your time today and just your experience and your journey and there's just so much wisdom that you have to share and it's been just such a joy to get to spend this time with you. So thank you. 

Fiona Humberstone (01:05:42):

Thank you. And let me know when you're over here, cuz it would be lovely to 

Shanna Skidmore (01:05:47):

See you. I know. And I wanna see your beautiful I, for everybody listening, I get to see Fiona's beautiful office. I'm like, I wanna come check out this beautifully renovated home. It looks gorgeous. Yay. 

Fiona Humberstone (01:05:56):

You don't use Instagram, do you? But it is on Instagram. I've put a whole, you can see the whole renovation. 

Shanna Skidmore (01:06:03):

Okay. I'm looking into your design is like my second love language, so Yeah. Yeah. All right, darling. Thank you love. Hey, wildflower, you just finished another episode of Consider the Wildflowers, the podcast. Head over to consider the wildflowers for show notes, resource links, and to learn how you can connect with Fiona. One final thought for today from Bob Goff, the more we fill our lives with purpose, the less time we'll spend looking for approval. As always, thank you for listening. I'll see you next time.