With vivid yellow images of Emma Gannon’s latest release – The Multi-Hyphen Method – populating the majority of my Instagram feed this week; walking away from a 9 to 5 in favour of your side hustle; juggling multiple projects that bring you joy; and creating a more fulfilled life for yourself on your own terms; is more popular now than it has ever been before.
But for Brighton based, multi-hyphenate Lola Hoad, such a lifestyle is virtually all she has known.
With multiple strings to her creative bow (that include that of being a creative business coach, podcast host, co-working space owner, Founder of One Girl Band and up until last year, a graphic designer too!); I caught up with the twenty-three year old a few weeks back, to find out how she has managed and continues to juggle so many projects in reality…
She can. She did. You’re the Queen of juggling multiple projects so shall we start with what led you to start your own business(es) in the first place?!
Having moved from Buckinghamshire down to Brighton with her partner at seventeen, Lola skipped uni, unlike a lot of her friends, and moved down South with the goal of becoming a photographer at the time.
Lola Hoad. I just had this realisation that I didn’t want to be in Bucks anymore. I wanted to go and do something with my life and knew that uni, for me at least, wasn’t the way to go. I was a photographer back then, that’s what I had my heart set on (it was the only GCSE I got an A* in!) but then I started a BTEC in it and realised, ‘I don’t love this anymore!’
SC.SD. Why so?
LH. You might be making beautiful work but you’d lose half the marks because you didn’t reference something properly. I think that’s why I have such a weird relationship with education; you have to fit a set criteria and the kids that don’t fit that criteria are labelled as failures when they’re not.
Ditching the BTEC one year in, Lola started working in Boots but left shortly after when she landed a job at a graphic design company.
LH. I thought, ‘there’s no way I’m going to get this!’ because I had no experience but somehow I got it. It was a tiny company making worksheets for schools that say things like, ‘G is for giraffe’. That job taught me how to run a small business though because I wasn’t just doing the graphics. I was doing the marketing, I was doing the social, and there were only three of us so we all did everything…
Shortly after joining, Lola and her colleague were both made redundant.
LH. That job made me realise that working in a 9-5 is incredibly detrimental to my mental health, so when we got the redundancy, I remember not freaking out. I was expecting to be like, “holy fuck! What am I going to do?!” but actually, I just thought, ‘something big is about to happen’. I could just feel it and I know it sounds a bit woowoo but looking back now, I know it was a massive sign. Now I’m so grateful that I listened to my gut and decided to do my own thing.
With a redundancy pay out of £1500 coupled with £3000 that she had received following a car accident a few months earlier; Lola launched her first business, LH Design, in May 2014.
LH. I didn’t make any sales with LH Design until August/September so I was living off that money all summer which in Brighton is so hard to do.
SC.SD. But for anyone wanting to start out, it’s possible?
LH. Definitely! It was just a case of living off the bare minimum. To be honest though, that’s still kind of how we live. My partner and I are really thankful for that period because it taught us how to live and get by with hardly anything. We were still so young and had no idea about money management… We still don’t to be honest but we’re better than we used to be!
Lola originally started LH Design by selling her designs on Etsy. After realising that she hadn’t established a loyal customer base however, she channeled all of her energy into learning about business thereafter.
LH. I had no clue! Both of my parents are self-employed but my Dad’s a plumber and my Mum owns a shop so there wasn’t a great deal that I could take from that. I just spent so much time reading blog posts, listening to podcasts, scrolling through Instagram… Just doing everything I could to teach myself how to create a successful business.
By September, things started happening though. It was still very slow but I could feel that a momentum was building. Then in December I did a graphic that said, “shop independent this Christmas” with a blog post to accompany it and it blew up. It went viral worldwide which was mad.
SC.SD. I had no idea you started that! That’s amazing!
LH. It’s ridiculous as it pops up every year but it’s insane how much of a difference that makes. People really resonated with it and shared it and that’s what helped get me the following I’ve got now…
Whilst her social media following picked up significantly in that time, by May 2015 Lola found herself feeling isolated. With a history of depression and anxiety too, her self-confidence took a big hit as a result.
LH. I remember just feeling really lonely and just very much full of self-doubt in what I was doing. But at the same time, I was spending pretty much all of my days on Instagram – as any modern entrepreneur does nowadays – and started discovering this amazing community of bad ass women creating things so that they could live their life on their own terms. At the same time though, they, like me, were also incredibly lonely and very much full of self-doubt too because as you know, social media is a curation of what we want to see, not the reality.
LH. When you’re starting a business and you’re seeing all these amazing businesses online, it’s so easy to think, ‘I can’t do that!’ Those thoughts were so prevalent at the time so I knew I had to get those women into the same room to meet in real life and show them that we were all in the same boat. Not everyone has their shit together as much as Instagram tells you…
Acting on that observation quickly, Lola hosted her first meet-up in a restaurant in Brighton which went on to inspire the launch of what is now One Girl Band.
LH. I just put on Instagram, “I’m doing this meet up! Email me if you want to come!” and within an hour and a half it was full up. So I started doing more and they’d sell out every time.
For the first six months they were free but then I realised it was something people need, they’re craving it and I wanted to spend more time on it so I started charging. It’s now £10 for a two hour meet up. We just sit round and I ask everyone to introduce themselves which they hate! The reason I do it though is because as women, we play down what we do. We say, “oh it’s just this little thing” so it was to just highlight that and say, “that’s not how we should be talking about ourselves.” We should be saying, “this is my business!” Simple!
Whilst the majority of her income was being provided by LH Design at the time, in June 2016 Lola decided to expand One Girl Band and make the meet-ups UK-wide.
LH. I just realised I wanted to make it a proper thing. People need it so I wanted to do the whole hog and take it around the country. Then in Christmas 2016 I had the idea for the One Girl Band space. I’d had the idea for ages but had no idea if it was going to work but that Christmas I just thought, ‘I’m going to make this happen!’
SC.SD. If you’d been thinking about it for a while, why then?
LH. I think I was just fed up of working on my own so it was partly my own selfishness. We’d just moved from Brighton to Lewes and out there I felt even more isolated. My partner still worked in Brighton so he had the best of both worlds whereas I was just stuck in our spare room. Anyway, I started researching and put together a plan of what I wanted it to look like then went and saw some premises but the rent is just abysmal in Brighton. I just remember thinking, ‘I’ve got no money to put into this; it’s not going to work!’
SC.SD. How did you make it work then because finding money to rent space puts so many people off?!
LH. I got really down trodden for a little bit but luckily, I got in touch with a friend from College and her Dad rents two floors in this warehouse. He was looking for someone to have it when he wasn’t using it so she said “why don’t you go and see him?” I was awful at speaking to new people – I put it off as much as possible – but I went straight in there and said, “I want to do this with your space” and he said, “brilliant go for it!”
SC.SD. Did you have to prepare a pitch?
LH. No, it was so casual. He agreed it’s what Brighton needed and his partner, Jo, is a business owner so she got it straight away too. We got such a good deal and I’m so, so thankful for them because we would not have been able to get anywhere without that opening!
In May 2017, the One Girl Band co-working space opened in Brighton.
SC.SD. Let’s talk about what the set-up for that involved because I’m guessing a lot went on behind the scenes to prepare for that?!
LH. Oh god! There were Ikea trips up to my eyeballs. There was about a month after he said “yes” that was spent on deciding the logistics, how we were going to use the space and then getting members on board because we needed some money upfront so I knew we’d be able to pay the first month’s rent.
SC.SD. What about marketing the space? Did you have members from the meet ups that you were confident would sign up straight away?
LH. The Christmas when I decided to go for it, we had a meet up and we were talking about what we want 2017 to look like… I remember saying, “I’m working on something but I don’t know if I should say it out loud because if it doesn’t happen I’ll feel like an idiot”. Eventually, I told them about the space and said, “would that be something you’d be interested in?” and all of them said, “YES!”
I had a list of about twenty people that were interested and out of those twenty, I’d say six signed up straight away. People have different situations, they have different incomes and you can’t predict how many spaces will go with co-working. It’s such an unpredictable ride which is a blessing and a curse but those early adopters are still there and are all from the OGB community that we already had. It’s a really good example of having community before product. It’s vital.
SC.SD. I couldn’t agree more! I’ve had to explain to so many friends who keep pointing out I’m not earning anything (!) that I’m trying to lay the groundwork for She can. She did. first!
LH. Exactly! You’re cultivating! Groundwork is so important. It might not look like we’re up to anything before the concrete stuff arrives but if it wasn’t for the One Girl Band community them the space wouldn’t exist. It’s why I say “we” when we’re talking about it because it’s a community.
In September 2017, Lola shut down LH Design.
SC.SD. What made you decide to close down that business and was it a difficult decision to make?
LH. I walked around in circles about it for months! When I opened the space, I just realised that I didn’t enjoy LH Design anymore and I’m very much someone that believes in doing things that bring you joy. It was beginning to feel like a slog and whenever an order came through, I’d be like, “eurgh” which is so not the reaction you should have when an order comes in!
I spoke to my family, my partner and my friends and was getting so many different responses so I knew I needed to make the decision on my own. I just told my stockists that I need to focus on OGB for a bit and everyone was really great about it. I had a few weird comments online but…
SC.SD. You can’t please everyone?
LH. You can’t please everyone and had I kept going, there would have been so many things that have happened now that wouldn’t have happened! It just opened up more space for more opportunities.
SC.SD. Which brings us to business number three… your coaching! Talk to me about how that came about?!
LH. I actually have no idea! I didn’t call myself a coach up until last year though. I felt really weird about showing up as one. I don’t know if that’s because I don’t have qualifications or my inner critic was saying I lacked experience…
SC.SD. Stereotypically, it’s a word you’d associate with older women with more life experience isn’t it?!
LH. Definitely! There’s a connotation attached to it. It’s like the term ‘life coach’… But I sat down with myself and really worked on figuring out why I felt that way and overcame it. I can’t remember where I came across the term ‘creative business coach’ but I remember thinking, ‘that’s it! That’s what I am!’
Lola now offers six month long, one-to-one coaching programmes and two hour one-to-one ‘power sessions’ over Skype or face to face, for anyone seeking guidance and support with their business and/or their business mind-set.
LH. Things again are changing though and I’m now going to focus on courses and online classes so that I can reach more people. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves at the beginning to stick to what we’re doing and stay on the same path but we’re all evolving; you’re going to change your mind.
SC.SD. Absolutely! You mentioned that you “sat down with yourself and just overcame it!” What did that actually involve in reality and how long did it take you to come to the realisation that you could do this?
LH. It’s hard because it spanned over two years. It was a daily practice and it still is to be honest. I have a coach and she definitely helped me through it though. We just unpacked a lot of my worries so I’d say, “I don’t think I’m worthy enough to show up as a coach” and she’d say, “ok but why?” You just ask “why?” constantly (!) and then I’d say “because I don’t have enough experience” so the answer to that would be, “ok, well why don’t you offer free sessions, build your confidence up and get that experience?” so that’s what I did.
It goes back to what we think we should be like to fit the mould and if we’re not that then we’re a failure. It comes down to fear, and to get over that you have to keep asking yourself questions to get to the core of why you’re afraid and keep going. I know that’s vague…
SC.SD. Not at all. Perseverance pays off…
LH. Exactly! There are no silver bullets. No one can give you a guaranteed answer to make you believe in yourself. You have to do the work and practice checking in with yourself. Once you know that you’re inner demons aren’t speaking the truth, you know you can do it.
SC.SD. I trust that you asked for feedback after those free sessions?
LH. Yep! I think asking for feedback is such a courageous thing to do because you’re putting yourself out there to be criticised. It’s what makes us grow though and those uncomfortable moments are where the magic happens! Again it goes back to, “why do I feel this uncomfortable?!” It’s because she’s picked up on something I know I now need to work on.
SC.SD. Given that you’ve had experience with putting a value on both your products and the services you have to offer, let’s talk about pricing!
She pulls a face…!
SC.SD. Haha! It’s a minefield isn’t it!? Go for it…!
LH. It’s definitely got easier the more I’ve done it. I’d hate to generalise but it’s something we, as women, don’t feel comfortable with. We feel like we have to apologise for charging our value but NO! It’s the same when we feel like we have to make ourselves small in order to be likeable and a nice person. NO! Yuck.
With LH Design, because there was an industry standard I felt better about it. Commissions were slightly harder though as there was nothing to base it on and it comes down to the value you put on your time. At the beginning I’d probably charge a tenner for a custom print because I wasn’t sure on my worth, but by the end, I was charging £50-£60. You always have that moment where you think, ‘no one’s going to pay that’ but it’s really about attracting the people who are your ideal customer because they won’t bat an eyelid.
I think that’s where the guilt comes from because we haven’t done enough homework on who our ideal customer is and how to attract them so it becomes a case of…
SC.SD. “Someone buy it please?!”
LH. Exactly! With OGB I knew the space needed to be reasonable because freelancers have no money and I’d feel awful for charging what some spaces charge.
SC.SD. I always think that when I see what the London co-working spaces charge! How does any small business afford that?!
LH. I know! It’s mad and it’s not that I don’t think we’re worth it. I think we’re worth so much more than we’re charging but one of One Girl Band’s biggest values is that we’re reasonable and accessible so pricing OGB was easier as it came from our core values.
SC.SD. And coaching?!
LH. Coaching has definitely been the hardest journey with pricing that I’ve been on. I used to charge nothing in the early days because I didn’t have a lot of faith in myself even though I was getting good results but now I feel comfortable putting my prices up. They say that experience is the greatest teacher and that’s 100% true. The more you give out quotes, the easier it becomes.
SC.SD. You’re really good at letting people in on social media so let’s get your low points out the way. Looking back on the past few years, have you had any stand out moments that have made you question whether all of this is worth it?
LH. I mean, it’s impossible to pick one! I suffer from quite severe depression and anxiety so it all builds up at some point…
LH. Oh wait! I should probably mention the big one — I burnt out, collapsed in my Mum’s bathroom and fractured my skull a couple of years back. I was in hospital for a week…
SC.SD. I’ve read this on your website so I thought you’d say this straight away!
LH. I love how I forget..! I was doing far too much for one person. I was travelling up and down the country, working fourteen hour days constantly, my phone wasnever out of my hand… just doing way too much for one person because that’s what I thought business was. But then “the incident” happened and I still felt guilty about not working.
I woke up in hospital and I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got so much I need to do’ so I made George, my partner, bring me my laptop and spent something stupid like £60 a day on the hospital WiFi so that I could work. I remember the nurse saying along the lines of, “you’re going to kill yourself if you keep doing this. This is your body telling you to calm the fuck down!”
It was a massive wake-up call. I talked about it instantly, went on Instagram and said, “this is what burn out looks like! I need to go away and work out how I want to do business because I didn’t start my own business to feel like this. I did it so I had control of my life.” I mean, it’s great for content now as it’s one of my core messages — ‘Busy doesn’t equal success’ but that’s where that message stemmed from.
SC.SD. What about day-to-day struggles… Do you have any chips on your shoulder that you’re still learning to deal with today?
LH. Hmmm… I very much believe in being 100% honest as you know so money for me is still definitely a challenge. Having enough of it, being paid on time… all of it!
I think social media creates perceptions about certain people looking successful, therefore they must be rolling in. But actually it’s not always great, we still struggle at the end of the month, so many people are struggling and I think it’s important that we talk about it. We put a lot of our value on how much money we’re earning so that’s definitely a daily struggle.
I think that’s what’s glorifying busy and glorifying burn out though because we feel like we need to work to get the money but it’s about working smarter not harder. It’s about working in a way where you’re focused on the things that bring you joy and money as opposed to the things that you feel like you should be doing but don’t bring you money.
SC.SD. What makes all of this worth it for you?
LH. Getting messages from people saying that the podcast has helped them set up their own business… Responses like that keep me going on a daily basis. Also seeing people share things that I’ve said is always nice. One person sent me a freaking print of something I’d said once and I thought that was amazing.
SC.SD. I love that!
LH. It was great. And when people I admire say something nice to me, I’m like, ‘holy heck! you know me?!’ Then of course seeing the girls in the space and how their confidence is growing and their businesses are growing makes it all worth it.
It’s funny… I could count so many more challenging things against good things but those good things outweigh the bad every time.
SC.SD. I could not agree with that more. Let’s talk about your personal life… You’re so open on Instagram and have spoken a lot about the OGB community but what does your personal support network look like?
LH. Hmmm… It’s a funny one. George, my partner, is 100% my rock and stops me from a lot of the dark days. My family is amazing, as are my friends. There’s a group of us who are all freelancers or musicians or business owners and trying to make our way in this weird little world so we all understand why we can go for a pint at 2pm in the afternoon but we might not be able to go out at the weekend. We’re all on the same wave length and that’s amazing. We don’t always talk about work which I also love.
With OGB it’s all about community and work which is great but sometimes I just want to be Lola. I don’t want to be “Lola, Founder of One Girl Band” kind of thing…
SC.SD. Absolutely! You’re allowed a life away from it!
LH. Exactly! There’s a tiny bit of life outside it somewhere. My dog is also my best friend. Barney is a huge support.
SC.SD. Honestly, it’s why I work at my parents each day! I need to see Hector!
LH. There is no love like a dogs love. It’s funny though, I think when you put yourself out there as someone that supports other people, you can’t help but question, ‘who’s looking after me?’ and that’s something I’m really trying to come to terms with this year.
It’s important that yes, look after your customers and yes, look after the community that you’ve created but you do need to look around sometimes and think, ‘who actually cares about me and who is just here because it looks cool kind of thing?’
SC.SD. How do you weigh up who’s there for you for the right reasons?
LH. I think you just have a feeling when someone’s there to be there, not because they care about you. It’s just a gut instinct and sometimes you just have to protect yourself and be selfish. I call it being ‘self-full’… It’s a bit woowoo I know…!
SC.SD. That’s the coach in you coming out Lola..!
LH. I know! Another tag line to add to my list..!
SC.SD. Have you seen any relationships evolve for the better or worse throughout this whole process?
SC.SD. The reason I ask is because I am so grateful that I knew who my safety net of family and friends were before launching this and that’s been invaluable because they root for you and you can lean on them no matter what when it gets hard. Any toxic relationship will do the complete opposite and that can make you vulnerable when you’re starting out/ your confidence isn’t there yet etc…
LH. 100% and I think that’s why I hesitated. There’s definitely been toxic friendships that I’ve had to cut out and it’s funny because now things are going well, I hear from them saying things like, ‘I’d love to see you again’ and I’m sat here thinking, ‘course you do!’
SC.SD. It can be the reality though can’t it?
LH. Definitely and ultimately it just boils down to looking out for yourself. Is this safe for me? Am I protected in this friendship? Do no harm but take no shit. We should all adhere to that in my opinion. Ultimately though, I’ve got people around me that are incredibly loving, incredibly supportive and I’m incredibly grateful for them but it’s also about getting on with it yourself. I know that’s very Alan Sugar but…!
SC.SD. You could have the biggest support network going but if you don’t trust yourself to follow through and deliver, then it’s not looking good!?
LH. Exactly! It’s the same with competition. I don’t believe in competition to be honest and I know that’s really easy to say because there are moments where you do scroll through Instagram and think, ‘fuck, they’re doing the same as me! What am I going to do?!’ but that’s human. I just think it’s vital we don’t put each other down.
Community over competition is absolutely what OGB is all about; it’s not and never has been a place where we all sit around and put other women down. Sapphire from The Coven and I are on that same wavelength, which is great. We might be doing something similar on the outside but we’re creating something different on the inside.
SC.SD. Absolutely! From an outsider’s perspective, you’ve both got very distinct identities and branding so it’s easy to distinguish between you both despite those shared values…
LH. Exactly! There’s never been a moment where I’ve gone, ‘that’s the same as what I’m doing’ It’s just pure love. Community over competition isn’t just a hash tag for me, it’s how I live my life and that’s not me saying, ‘look how amazing and loving I am’ because I do have moments where I’m like, ‘FUUCK!’ but I really do believe it.
SC.SD. Quick fire for a bit… favourite quote?!
LH. I’m like a fridge magnet in my head, I have so many! The one that’s relevant to what we were just talking about though: ‘No one is you. That is your power.’
SC.SD. One of the best!
LH. It’s so true though! And I say, “it will work out!” over and over again to myself daily because then it has to work out.
SC.SD. What does down time look like to you and how do you make time for it?
LH. Queer Eye!
SC.SD. I had a feeling you’d say that!
LH. It’s too good! In terms of finding the time for it, I work office hours now. Usually it’s 9am until 3/4pm and I don’t work weekends unless there’s an event. If I work a crazy day, I try and take the time off the next day to avoid burn out but for me, self-care itself isn’t just bubble baths and candles.
SC.SD. Don’t! My flat is so old that the hot water runs out if I try and fill a bath so I see all of these posts about everyone relaxing after a long day with a bubble bath and I’m sat there pissed off, freezing my arse off!
LH. Oh don’t – I have to fill mine up with four kettles to keep it hot! For me, self-care can be as simple as turning away from your laptop, putting your phone down and checking in with yourself though or it’s Netflix on the sofa all day. It’s so subjective. You just have to find out what works for you.
SC.SD. I just need to make sure I start the day with a good coffee! As long as I’ve had a good coffee before looking at my emails, I know that whatever comes my way that day, I’ll handle it!
LH. Exactly! It’s one of your boundaries! You don’t look at emails until you’ve had a coffee, I don’t look at mine until I’m sat down at my desk. It’s working out the little things that bring you joy and work for you.
SC.SD. Absolutely! Rounding up then… What do your future plans for the business look like? Go!
LH. Up until last month, we were going after investment to get a new premises in Brighton for One Girl Band but in the last month I realised that’s not where I want to go — and that’s ok. You’re allowed to change your mind! I’m now focusing on hosting more meet ups and expertise sessions around the country again this summer. OGB has never been just for Brightonians.
Then away from OGB, I’m working on launching online coaching courses so it’s more accessible to more people that might not be able to afford my one-on-ones.
SC.SD. Not much then..!
LH. Not much..!
SC.SD. Last question then… What does success look like to you and do you consider yourself at this stage, to be successful?
LH. My version of success is being content, balanced and financially independent, where you’re making enough money to thrive let alone survive… Christ that sounds very coach-y… But just that feeling of knowing that everything’s working out. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling down and anxious so finding that happy medium would be great.
I’m also aware of the traditional definitions of success though where it’s about being seen and heard. One of my aims this year is to be seen and heard more so I can help more people so that definitely comes into my definition.
Do I feel successful? I think I’m getting there but I’m no way near close to achieving everything I want to achieve. That’s because what I want to achieve changes all the time but that’s what being a creative business owner is all about. You’re allowed to move the goal posts – it’s what keeps us going and growing.
I find myself baffled when I read this chat back and remind myself of Lola’s age, because her story, to me, resembles that of someone double her years.
Having successfully launched both product-based and service-based businesses (juggling multiple revenue streams and customer demands as she goes) her story proves just how important it is to really understand your audience and the potential to expand your business offering once that insight is in place.
It also acts as a reminder that we are evolving daily and because of that fact, it’s ok to change our minds now and then.
From her ability to pivot in the direction of what brings her most satisfaction; her candidness when opening up about when it hasn’t always gone to plan; to her genuine affection for the community of fellow creatives that she’s curated and her willingness to welcome perceived competition with open arms; at twenty-three she has created and experienced so much already and is leading by example with every “woowoo” piece of advice at a time!
And yes, whilst her inner demons still surface occasionally, she’s learnt the hard way that self-care, no matter what the circumstances, comes first.
Dispelling so many myths about what a successful business woman should look like on paper, it goes without saying that I can’t wait to see where she takes her brand next.