Moustique Design: Anuschka Fritz

A new business with a sting in the tale

When Anuschka Fritz came to London, the jobs she ended up doing had her fearing for her own sanity. After some words of advice from her Mum she decided to go it alone, and put her creative energies into a design company specially suited for startups.

Startup profiles go straight to the hub of the action by speaking to entrepreneurs who have literally just started up. We find out what made them decide to start their own business, how they got it off the ground, the obstacles they’ve overcome and the barriers they still face. We’ll look at their hopes and aspirations for the future, and then, in six months time, we’ll go back and find out how they’re getting on.

Name: Anuschka Fritz Age: 30 Business: Moustique Design Type of business: Web & Print Design Start date: Feb 2003

Tell us about your businessMy business offers web and print designs with a difference. I called my company ‘Moustique’ which is the French word for mosquito, to show that it’s an international business, and that it has a certain ‘sting’ hence my slogan is ‘Web Design with a Sting”. I’m targeting mainly startup companies and small businesses because I’m able to keep my costs down and at the same time maintain a high level of quality. I believe that a business can benefit a lot from having a professional web site, that conveys a corporate image which will help convince potential customers of the quality of the services of the respective company. In addition I provide them with print designs at a very competitive price.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?Moustique Design is a business born through my wish to be more creative. I had been very successful at my A-Level in Applied Arts, but I chose not to pursue this as a career because I was worried I couldn’t live off it. I come from a small village in Germany, where there’s a belief that you need a business-based career in order to survive. However after finishing my MA in French and English Language and Literature and Business Studies, I was sick of all things business and ended up being recruited to work at the residence of an Arabian Prince and went on to Paris with him, where.   After a period of having little freetime and freedom, I quit and came to London. I found life very hard as the only jobs I managed to get were so boring I was worried I wouldn’t be able to use my brain anymore! Eventually I found myself working on web design and HTML coding but it wasn’t very challenging. After the company took a nosedive I started to think that it couldn’t be much worse to be self-employed. I quit my last job in September, two weeks before my 30th birthday, thinking that, at that age, I really need to finally do what I like and not something that drives me mad!

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? The decision to start my own business was inspired by two friends who are self-employed, one as a jeweller, the other one as a musician and sound engineer. Although they had patches with little work coming in, I saw that they managed to survive and were happy.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? I know that the web design market is very competitive but the positive feedback from all my advisors made me feel more confident and believe there would be other people who would like what I do. I have some glowing references from my current clients who tell me they are really happy to be working with me.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first?Call my mum! Every time when I have to take a difficult decision to make I do just that! Although she usually says “I’m sure you’ll do the right thing”, it’s great to know that I’ve got my family backing me even though they are far away. Then I started to look into all the support agencies around because I had little knowledge of business in the UK

What research did you do? To be honest I think my research was a bit rubbish. I was convinced that I could serve anyone and any business. I thought the artistic market sounded nice, so I decided to concentrate on that. However, after sending out a few dozens of emails to art galleries, I realised other people had thought of this before me, and stopped. My adviser made me think of startups – an obvious market really – as they need everything to create a corporate identity such as stationery, business cards, and a website.

What advice did you seek? The first place I approached was DHP Southern, my local business advice bureau. They were great, I’m still on their programme for another month, and then I can come back for more advice if I need it. I did go to BusinessLink too, but I was told I could only have two sessions for free and anything else would have to be linked to the mentor scheme which I would have to pay for and. As I was operating on a tight budget, I didn’t want to have another regular cost going out. I’ve also seen an adviser from the Prince’s Trust who has been a great help. He’s advised me to go to the Threshold Training business plan writing course, which lasts for a month and explains all the things you have to think about. I now have a great business plan which hopefully will help me on the when I go in front of the Prince’s Trust panel to be judged whether I am worthy of their support or not!

What other help did you get? I was contacted by Elena Souto, who most of your readers probably know because she’s such an incredibly active networker and was featured in this section with her online shop “OohLaLaa”. She introduced me to Startups.co.uk and Shell Livewire, both of which have been great for getting advice from others who are either at the same stage of setting up a business or a bit further along the line.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? I would obviously appreciate it if organisations like the BusinessLink would provide their services for free all the time, not just a few initial meetings. However, DHP Southern is a government-backed organisation, too, so I feel the goverment has done quite a lot for me.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. DHP Southern provided me with a general format that would fill a few pages and give me a general idea of what I was going to do. The format of the Threshold Training was much more detailed, it took a lot of work to get every section right, and it made me aware of a lot of things I didn’t even know existed. As it was an ongoing course for a month, I got practical help as I went along, which was great.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow?I think I will stick to it, as I’ve mainly put down what I believe in and what I want to do. It wasn’t aimed at cheating banks into giving me lots of money, as a web design business doesn’t need huge amounts of to get started. I will probably not stick to the cashflow estimation though, it might have been a bit too optimistic!

How much did it cost to start the business?I bought a computer, digital camera, ergonomic healthchair, software, which all in all £3,000, but haven’t got everything I need yet.

How did you fund this? Half of what I need has been funded by myself – I shall be eating beans on toast for a while! The other half will hopefully be provided by the Prince’s Trust. I settled for them because they were recommended to me, and I instantly trusted and felt comfortable with the adviser.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off? Beans on toast!, Seriously, I have cut down on my living expenses so I haven’t bought any organic food or branded clothes for a while. I don’t go out much now but I don’t have the time for that anyway!

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected?Just before starting my own business, I did a course in language teaching for speakers of other languages, so I could give English, German and French if necessary.

When did you stop working? I stopped working at the end of August, two weeks before my 30th birthday, and my family came over to party with me. So it was a big moment in some respects and it was certainly a relief to leave a position I wasn’t happy in. It was scary though, and still is.

Are you working from home or from premises? I’m working from home because with all the hours I’m putting in, I wouldn’t see my boyfriend or be able to speak to friends ever again if I didn’t! Also, considering the competitiveness of the web design market, I wouldn’t be able to keep afloat if I had to pay for premises right from the start.

How many hours are you working at the moment? I don’t work every weekend but if I sometimes it can be around 60 hours a week.

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taken to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock?I don’t, if something needs to be finished, I will work till midnight in order to get it done. If I’ve got a lot to do, I won’t have anything great for lunch and only take a dinner break. But I will catch up on other days, where I’ve got more time to breathe.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far?I have done some direct marketing via email, I’ve tried to exploit word-of-mouth with the help of my friends andI put out leaflets at organisations where startup companies are likely to pass through. I have just printed some funny Easter postcards with my own design and a T-Shirt (with the same design) to be won on my website. I’m also offering referral schemes to my existing customers and I go onto networking sites as often as I can.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months’ time? I hope that the name Moustique Design will mean something in the startup market, and I hope that it stands for good, friendly service. I hope that people will choose me not only because of my rates but because of the quality of my work. I hope to have established strong working relations with my co-companies and freelancers and to be able to envisage the next stage of growth: premises and a happy corporate family and culture to grow.

What are the main obstacles to growth and how do you plan to overcome them? Money, and the fickle economy. Not knowing what impact Bush’s war will have on the financial situation in the UK, I feel it’s difficult to predict the development of a company. By steady growth and careful planning of the company strategy over the short and long term hopefully I’ll be able to deal with this.

Tell us about your website. My website – www.moustique.net – is obviously very important to my business. I did design it myself and it crucial to me that it looked lively and different to other sites. I wanted to stand out from the crowd with a simple but striking method. The process took a long time but luckily I started to work on it way before I set up my company.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? You have to be a friendly and patient person if you’re dealing with clients. If you’re stroppy with them, your business will suffer instantly, not only with them but anybody they talk to. You need to be passionate about what you want to do or at least be unhappy about what you were doing before. Finally I think you should also have a fairly stable and happy family background because you will need all your energy to startup, and if family issues get in the way, you will have a very hard time.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?Stay as long as you can in your old job while preparing because it will take longer than you think. If you can spend six months carefully researching and figuring out what you want to do without having about your finances than that is a bonus.

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