I never could have imagined how my connection as a founder could lead my future growth.

Claudia is an interior designer M.A, design enthusiast and the founder of WAW – Wellbeing At Work, an interior design consultancy, which she started following many years working as an interior designer back home in Colombia.

So why start up on your own when the agency you worked for gave you exposure to big budgets, big client names and big projects? Well, for many of the entrepreneurs that we work with, it often comes down to the same thing – a desire to do something more relevant and meaningful for the community you want to serve. And in Claudia’s case, it was a belief that there was something more to be done through connecting design with the wellbeing of people in the workplace.

I sat down with Claudia to hear her story, and I know that it’s going to be one that will inspire you, just as it did me.

What was your situation?

I moved to the Netherlands 6 years ago to do my Masters in Interior Design. After I graduated I knew that I didn’t want to go back to working in an agency – yes the brands are great and you might have the money to put a big slide in the middle of your office, but is that what people want? It felt a bit empty to me. I knew that interior design could be used to help people be more productive, interact better, be more creative and, generally speaking, be happier at work. So I wanted to do something meaningful with design and putting people and their wellbeing first. With lots of interior design experience that was set in the workplace, I became focused on the idea of combining them both. And this is how WAW was born. 

Wanting to create a viable business, I became obsessed with building an extensive matrix with my business partner. It was a system that combined the pillars of wellbeing with the pillars of design and architecture, to generate a specific solution to solve certain issues. And, luckily enough, we secured two amazing projects – they perhaps didn’t use the full scope of the matrix that I had envisaged, but they were projects we could be proud of. 

Then, once these successful projects were being finalised, the disconnect started to happen when I began looking for new clients.

I knew that interior design could be used to help people be more productive, interact better, be more creative and, generally speaking, be happier at work.
What was stopping your growth plan?

We got caught up into the research and the matrix, and much less into what we were really offering. We knew that our target audience was hard to find, but we were also not communicating well enough. We were focused on what we wanted to tell them, rather than what they needed – and what they needed was an understanding of the value and end results of hiring us. 

I was leaving our customers with a wish for an office that people wanted to work in, but wondering why they needed a matrix. Now we actually had to sell ourselves and we were completely stuck with how to do it. Just because the audience is hard to find, didn’t mean that the product should be over complicated and over engineered to entice them in – it was actually the opposite.

I believe that meeting Julie gave me the pushback to remember what my business model was all about. What I really needed was to connect with the owners of these companies and make it simple.

What did you do to create a stronger growth path?

Julie helped me really connect with my purpose – my purpose as a designer and as a person. We worked together to use those different values, traits and talents to bring out creative solutions. It was this that gave me the courage to actually keep going and try to revamp the way that I was communicating my service and bring about a whole new way of showing the world what I do.

She also immediately realised that we were also over complicating the communication. I made peace with the fact it was a design service and as such, everything needed to be directed towards design, towards something tangible and real in the space. This was a moment of such clarity for me. 

We worked through things that I hadn’t even thought about before, like my values and how they are shown in the company and so much more. It was this that helped me keep the idea alive. 

I feel fortunate that this all happened at a time I needed the support the most, just as I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the company. If it wasn’t for Julie, I think that I would have given up a while ago.

What changed?

I felt so much more connected to my purpose and the lens through which I saw the world, which was very comforting for me. The whole idea felt like it came from deep inside, from my deepest wishes of how design is not just decoration and it’s not just happy colours. I’ve always thought design has importance beyond aesthetics, it can be a strategy and it can influence people’s behaviour. The Wyseminds programme helped me realise this once again, allowing me to use my talent and knowledge to help people work better.

Our approach has been simplified for our clients, we’ve made the research much more efficient so that it can be done faster and not be such a focus. We have a whole new customer journey offering our design service with very specific deliverables and are working through making it just a standard fee dependent on the client’s budget.  

I’m so ready to sell my service again, to be clear and to support employers in making a welcoming workspace that people want to be in. There is now clear space between me and my company which helps me lead new opportunities. I’m even now beginning to work with finding the right workspaces for the home, with the same purpose of well-being I create in offices. You could call me Hybrid ! Most importantly, I am enjoying it. I started WAW to make a difference and now step by step that’s exactly what I am doing.

Most importantly, I am enjoying it.

What’s next for you, Claudia?

Over the past months I have ​​embedded the new and clearer defined  mission, vision and value proposition into my brand. This has resulted in a concept that is clearer to understand for my customer and therefore much easier for me to connect to new potential customers. Now I continue to ensure that everyday I am connecting design to well being in the workplace, office and home. Yes, data continues to be an important part of this journey but now I am much more connected to the teams I work and can see for myself by the smiling faces that my work makes an immediate difference.

What's the one piece of advice you would pass onto another female entrepreneur:

To get support - to find mentors who are in a different stage of business growth and have that level of experience to be your wingwoman. It helps to fight the loneliness of entrepreneurship. It can be stunting to be a woman in a room full of men and try to pitch ideas - especially when business founders are your target audience. By having the back-up of as many different perspectives and supporters as possible, you’ll gain a newfound confidence.

What could be next for you, our Wyseminds followers?

Claudia has been on the Wyseminds support programme for the past 12 months and we’ve loved working with her. Are you looking for a business coach and wingwoman? Trial our ‘Your Journey’ support programme for free by signing up here or get in touch with our founder, Julie, to find out more about what we do.