Celia Sawyer’s 7 Tips For Successful BusinessLast Updated: May 1, 2020
“If you’re out there, working as hard as you can and doing all the right things, it will happen.” Celebrity interior designer and business inspiration, Celia Sawyer, shares the 7 tips that have made her business a success.
BEFORE I share my tips for successful business with you, I think it’s useful to formally introduce myself, tell you where I am at now, and then use my back-story to illustrate the qualities I believe are necessary in the matter of what makes a business successful.
So… how do you do? I am Celia Sawyer. I have an interior design business. I design homes, yachts and private aviation for the super rich, including high net worth individuals, sporting personalities, and celebrities.
I’m currently working on an affordable luxury range of home accessories, which will be coming to the market in 2020. This year will also be my fourth year on national primetime television: I appear on Channel 4’s Four Rooms, and I have also had my own primetime interior design show on BBC One. I also write columns regularly for a variety of publications and titles.
I’m the owner of two beachfront homes — one in the Caribbean, one on the Sandbanks peninsula — and I have a central London family house.
In 2014 I won the Inspiration Awards for Women, and in 2016 was voted one the UK’s 100 Most Influential Business Entrepreneurs, and also one of the world’s top 250 Women Leaders. I mentor business people who wish to improve their lives and businesses, and also mentor children at schools.
My 7 tips for successful business
All of this has not happened overnight. It has taken a lot of hard work, commitment and sacrifice. While that has been important, it is not the only thing that will keep your business going in the early stages, and through growth to success. Here are my five tips for successful business, as illustrated through my own personal and startup business story.
1. Dream Large
I guess my journey started when I was very young. My parents had a modest home, but used to drive around looking at the impressive properties in the upmarket areas close to where we lived. I used to wonder what it would be like to live in a house like that.
My imagination used to run riot, and I believe this is the key to how my life journey has evolved so far. Even back then, I would dream about the fact that there must be more out there, and that if someone could have one of those big houses, then why couldn’t I?
2. Work Hard
After leaving school, I started out as a dental nurse, but I never intended staying in that career for the rest of my working life. I wanted the experience of it for a few years. I didn’t actually do very well at school. I was extremely shy. But I knew that working in this type of environment would help my confidence. It did. It taught me how to talk to people.
As I’ve said, I’d always dreamt about having more, and about eventually owning one of the big houses. But I was also very pragmatic, and knew what would be necessary. I decided to take a chance and try my hand at having my own business. I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a go.
I knew a photographer who told me he couldn’t get any work, so I started a photography agency. I had developed good people skills, and so I thought I could help him. I’ve never been lazy, and I worked very hard at this. I went out, day after day, filling up successive hours with meetings after meetings at various advertising agencies, seeing everyone I could.
I soon had other photographers on my books and went out on their behalf relentlessly, trying to find work for them.
3. Trust Yourself
Attaining success is no walk in the park. Not only does it require a ton of hard work, but also huge self belief. I had lots of ups and downs in the early days, and it can be a challenge to fend off self-doubt.
After six months, despite all the hard work, I felt that my efforts weren’t working. Believe me, I was reduced to picking up the phone, just to see if it was still working. Of course, it was, but it just wasn’t ringing… until the breakthrough came.
Right at the point where I was considering bowing to the wisdom of my mother’s question—“how can you do that job when you know nothing about it?”—the telephone rang, and it changed things for ever. The global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi was on the line, with an offer of a huge advertising campaign for my photographer.
This was a game-changer for me, and it taught me to never give up even when you feel nothing is changing. You need to keep believing in yourself. If you are out there working as hard as you can and doing all the right things, it will happen.
4. Don’t be Complacent
Another strength is diversifying and broadening your horizons, rather than getting too focused on one thing. Because my confidence had improved over the years, I wasn’t afraid any more of trying the things that at one time I only imagined I could do.
I just went for it. I started working with commercials directors, and I became successful in this too and soon saved enough money to buy a property.
I developed this, adding value and making the interior a statement that people noticed and liked.
5. Give Voice to your Passions
Linked with being open to change, is the importance of valuing your passions. I’d had no previous training in design, but it was something that I really enjoyed. So, soon, I was running a business in this too.
I learned as I went, reading hundreds of books and studying huge numbers of visuals to research the things that I liked most, which I could later nurture into my own personal design style.
Of course, I was determined, and worked hard, as I wanted it to be a success. When you want to be the best in a particular field, you have to complement that passion with a focused effort on finding out everything about that area; in my case, design.
6. Start with Small Projects
It is important, when you want to be the best, to take on small projects in the beginning, and focus all your energies on getting those projects absolutely perfect. I worked on some very small projects when I started my design business. I was doing everything myself, and staying up all night if I had to, either to perfect the design, sign off on the project, or simply just worrying.
Yes, there were quite a few sleepless nights, but I didn’t want to let anyone down.
As time went by, I started getting offers of much higher level work. This was scary, but being challenged meant growth. Eventually I was working in a circle of high net worth clients and celebrities.
7. Be Limitless
At this point, I was buying valuable items for my clients’ collections, when I saw an advert about a show called Four Rooms, which was about the interesting items that people owned and brought in for four expert dealers would value.
I thought I could be the perfect fit. Although the advert was for photos of interesting objects for the show, I decided to send a photo in of myself and asked, ‘How about me, as one of your dealers?’
The next day, the programme-makers called me. I’ve been with the show ever since as a long-term deal, and it’s now in its fifth series, with a cult following.
Since appearing on Four Rooms, I’ve had many other TV offers, one being my own show on BBC1.
One of the tips for successful business that perhaps has been most significant in growing my business is that I don’t place limits on myself. As I’m in the luxury sector now, I’ve been sought to write columns about luxury and design for various publications.
I receive offers weekly for collaborations in the interior business, in many forms, and most recently joined forces with a luxury jewellery company to design a home range of affordable luxury items, being introduced into the retail market this year.
I also receive hundreds of emails from people asking for business advice, and so decided to start my mentoring business to offer help in this field which is growing fast.
So that’s it. Those are the 7 tips for successful business that I believe got me where I am today, and I hope that they inspire and help you on your own business journey. Now it’s over to you.