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  • Writer's pictureHeather Pierpoint

The long, rocky & winding road to creative freedom – a nutshell timeline of my career journey so far... it's been a wild ride!

🥳 So, last week I turned 45 years old. Whilst chilling with my dogs by my fire pit, and a cheeky birthday Prosecco or two, I felt very introspective and reflective about my career in design and how far I've come. Its had me thinking all week about the incredible rollercoaster🎢 of a journey I’ve had, since I first started out 28 years ago…


🤷🏼 I’m not one for sharing personal stuff on professional platforms, but after attending a recent business event and increasingly hearing that’s it’s 'ok to tell your story', to 'be more you' and to 'own it', I decided I’d share just a snippet of nuggets from my design timeline so far, for those interested in reading it 😊. So, here goes. My crazy journey. Massive highs, massive lows and everything in between. You might want to grab a coffee! 


Chilling in the New Forest with my dog Bella in 'Skye', my VW Campervan.

 

Getting some headspace and downtime by my fire pit and contemplating my journey.

 

It all started with...


🏫  4 years studying Graphic Design at Salisbury College, from 1996 - 2000. Sadly, this chapter was an incredibly turbulent and dark time in my personal life, with a very unhappy and unstable home, but against all the odds, I kept showing up – no matter what it took – and remained determined to finish my course and hold onto my dream of a becoming a Graphic Designer. 


🎓 After 4 long and challenging years of studying, I passed my HND with all Distinctions and Merits, despite battling through it all with serious mental health struggles and personal trauma. 🙏 I was blessed to have had a couple of incredible tutors who 100% believed in me, and helped support me along the way. 


🎨  In 2000, straight from college, I got my 1st job as Junior Designer at a long established design agency in Southampton, called the Hampson Partnership. They specialised in branding, illustration, print & packaging design. Here I learned invaluable typesetting, artworking and print skills which laid a strong foundation for attention to detail and the high standard I hold today.


 

😞  Unfortunately, after 3 years, I was made redundant due to the company closing down after 30+ years in business. It was an unsettling time and a bit of a blow to the confidence, but I picked myself up and it wasn't long before I found myself a new job. 


⬆️  In 2003 I got a position as middleweight designer at a company called WorksUnit in Southampton – which I absolutely loved – and where I worked for almost 5 years, gaining vast experience in branding, print, artwork, digital and website design. I worked my way up to Senior Designer level and eventually, the offer of creative director. My years at WorksUnit were filled with a lot of fun, fond memories and a wealth of experience and knowledge. However, after about 4 years there was a rapid growth spurt with the company, causing a big shift in staff dynamics and some challenging new egos to work with! I started to feel unhappy and unsettled and my confidence was plummeting. 


 

A book I picked up in Sydney airport, which really struck a chord with me. 

 

✈️  So, in early 2007 I decided to take a short sabbatical from work (which my boss was kind enough to allow me!) and go travelling to Australia & New Zealand with my best friend. I was heartbroken after my dog passed away and due to some money recently gifted from my grandmother’s will, I was able to fund this trip of a lifetime, so it seemed like the perfect time to go. I had the best experience – living life to the full; road tripping in a graffiti'd campervan; embracing the freedom of the open road and ticking off a load from my bucket list! 🌏🐬🏔️


🧘🏼 This life changing and defining trip made me realise I was too much of a free-spirit to work for other people anymore, and after a lot of soul searching (and chucking myself out of a couple of planes!) I came home with a new zest for life and feeling 100% focussed and determined on creating my own happiness, freedom and opportunities going forward.


🪂 My skydive experience was quite a profound one for me. It switched my mindset from a place crippled by fear and uncertainty, to a place of f*ck it - just do it! Life is for living! I'd wanted to do a skydive for many years and so the build up to when the day finally came was immense. I was filled with anxiety, had a full blown panic attack 15,000ft over Mount Cook, and saw my life flash before my eyes. 20 mins later, I was back on solid ground – beaming from ear to ear, elated and buzzing from the greatest high I'd ever experienced! A few days later, when we arrived in OZ, I spontaneously booked to do a second jump the following morning! This time, I had no fear. No huge build up. And I embraced and loved every second of it! (my instructor was also insanely good looking too, which helped! I think there is a good metaphor for life and business in here... 


My 15,000 ft skydives over Mission Beach in OZ and Mount Cook in New Zealand. EPIC experience!

 

👋🏼  I returned to work from my travels to find out that redundancy was flying around (here we go again!) So, I made the difficult but right decision to save my friend’s position and take voluntary redundancy myself. It was the push I needed to take that leap of faith and go it alone. And I’ve never looked back.


🎉 Late 2007 Headfudge Design was born and on the 29th October, I woke up scared sh*tless but buzzing with excitement about my new chapter – and with a new found sense of freedom that I’ll never forget. I remember feeling like ‘Red’ from Shawshank Redemption when he couldn’t go pee because he’d spent years only going when he was told to! 🤣 I had absolutely no idea what to do with myself for those first few weeks, but it was an amazing moment in time and I had some incredibly supportive work friends who supported me so I didn't feel alone.


💻  I started out doing in-house freelance initially, to build my income and gain more experience. I worked for various design agencies around the South, such as Halo Design, Remarkable Group, Design Haus and Willoughby Stewart. I met some awesome people and worked with some inspiring creatives – plus I got to work on some massive clients like Oyster Yachts, Haven Holidays, B&Q, Yamaha and many more.


Princess Cruises and P&O became big clients of Headfudge Design. 

 

🚢  After only 6 months as a freelancer, I had Princess Cruises as a massive new client! They contacted me wanting to use Headfudge Design as their new design resource, after working closely with me previously at my old company. This was an amazing contract to get so early on and hugely boosted my business. I continued to produce huge volumes of design work for Princess Cruises for several years, including all their brochures, direct mail, press ads and digital. 


🗣️ Referrals from Princess Cruises led on to securing P&O Cruises as a big new client and then onto Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Hurtigruten UK. More referrals and more new clients, large and small, kept coming my way and Headfudge was booming! 💥 



New born baby Sienna being lovingly watched over by protective Bella.

 

👶🏼  Then, in 2014 – following a surprise pregnancy – I became a Mummy to my incredible little girl. She was the happiest of 'happy accidents', and the best thing to ever happen to me. However, at the time, I was working 16 hour days, had a busy and successful design studio in Southampton – with a few freelancers working for me – and suddenly I was a single mum with a newborn baby (and a dog) to look after on my own, whilst trying to run a full time business. It was incredibly tough. I was taking Sienna to my office in her car seat when she was only a few weeks old, so I could still hit massive print deadlines and keep all the balls in the air. There was zero maternity leave for me! 😥


My little hippie chick and me in Ibiza when she was 12 months old.

 

👎🏻  I failed. I broke. After about 9-10 months, my health started to suffer badly and it began to take its toll. I had severe postnatal depression, re-surfaced mental health battles, exhaustion from being a new mum and burn-out from working too hard. And on top of all that, I was let down a few times by 'trusted' people, causing even more pressure and stress to save my business. 


😩  I lost everything. I lost my two biggest clients within a short space of time, due to not being able to keep up with the demands and deadlines, I lost my office, I lost my confidence, I lost over 90% of my entire income overnight, with a young baby and a mortgage to pay. I recall being sat on my kitchen floor, hugging the dishwasher at 2am, ugly crying, as a particularly low point at that time! 


 

Photoshoots I directed for my lifestyle clothing brand in the early years of launching it.

 

👕  During that same period, I’d also been working incredibly hard trying to build my new lifestyle brand, Headfudge Clothing – which I envisaged being a sideline gig to help me cope financially, and bring in a passive income whilst I couldn't work such long hours in my design business. I'd thought up the idea one night when 6 months pregnant and anxious about the future, and got to work designing the branding, website and first clothing range. It was a steep learning curve as I had no experience with retail or garment production! 


🚀 2015 Headfudge Clothing was launched and gradually started to get sales trickling in and local stockists selling my garments and accessories. It was an incredibly exciting time and a massive creative outlet. It started to get more exposure and better known, and sales were increasing rapidly. My brand was heading in a great direction. I even got to meet up with the original co-founder of Animal (from the 80's) who gave me several hours of his time and advice. However... it turned out everyone was right – I couldn’t manage running two businesses at the same time all on my own, and after suffering another burn-out, I waved the white flag, and decided a re-focus was needed and my priority absolutely had to be on rebuilding my design business. 


🆙  The only way was up. I was pretty rock bottom. But I didn’t give up - and I didn’t for one second ever consider looking for a job. I knew in my heart things would be ok for Headfudge Design and I hung onto that positive mindset as best I could. I had worked too damn hard to create my own freedom and wasn't going to let it go! And, as I manifested night after night, things started to get better eventually… (with a little help from happy pills and 'Mummy juice' too 😊🍷).


My world.

 

☀️  New clients started rolling in and I got some amazing and creative new projects. A significant one that really lit me up inside was MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo’s Mauritian Street Kitchen in Southampton – this was an absolute dream job, working on all the branding, packaging, print, restaurant signage, website, packaging, menus and everything else!  It came at a vital time and breathed a new positive energy into me, which lifted me up and re-ignited my passion and drive for my business. 


🍲  Shelina then recommended me to Southampton Hospitals Charity, for whom I designed a series of three specialist children’s recipe books. This was a wonderful project to be a part of and led on to further referrals too.


One of my all time favourite design projects. Lakaz Maman – Mauritian Street Kitchen.

 

🌟  Around this same time, I was recommended to the Wessex Academic Health & Science Network, and I was commissioned to produce their entire rebrand and subsequent roll-out of all their branded assets and corporate guidelines. This in turn led onto yet another referral to the Director of NIHR Clinical Research Network Wessex, who has become an amazing and long-standing client for the past 7 years. I’ve been blessed to work with some truly amazing people at CRN Wessex, and had the pleasure of designing hundreds of brilliant projects for them. 


🏥  In 2016, I was very fortunate to get University Hospital Southampton as a massive new client, via recommendation from a previous client who went on to become their Head of Brand and Engagement Manager. My design work was so well received that it led on to project after project and a huge volume of ongoing work for the Trust. The most recent being an incredibly significant and rewarding project – to design branded wall graphics and signage for several wards in Southampton Children’s Hospital. Knowing the positive impact that my designs are having on the children, parents and staff is an incredible and humbling feeling. The first area I worked on was the Children's Hospital theatre reception (pictured below). From the incredibly positive reaction to this work, I then went on to design space themed graphics for the newly refurbished G3 ward and currently, I'm working on designs for the PICU and Neonatal wards. Really blessed to be a part of these projects. 


Southampton Children's Hospital Theatre reception - branded wall graphics and interactive elements.

 

🏁 Alongside my large clients, I've also had some wonderful branding projects for numerous start-up companies, which I take immense joy from – seeing the impact my design work has on their business growth. There's been a real mix; from dog training and daycare to women's wellness clinics, a Paralympian and professional speaker, chiropractors, beauty salons, property rentals, online craft shops, yoga studios and architects – variety is the spice of life and I love nothing more than creating the branding for a new company and rolling out a consistent and strong design across all the full spectrum of assets. 


Outside the Old Bond Store in Southampton – an inspirational 'club working' space for business owners.

 

📖  2024 has brought an exciting new chapter for me – taking a big step out of my comfort zone and the lonely bubble of home-working since Covid, and I joined the Old Bond Store in Southampton. I feel like I’ve finally found my tribe. My safe place. And being amongst fellow business owners who ‘just get you’ gives a real sense of understanding, community and support. It’s been great for my mental wellbeing and really helped boost my confidence, allowing me to find my old self again. #HevsBack 


My happy place – out on the water on my paddleboard. The best therapy! 

 

💭  As of now, at the ripe old age of 45 😳, with a few recessions and a global pandemic dropped in the mix; a rollercoaster business journey; bringing up my 10 year old daughter as a single working Mum and solo business owner; 25 years industry experience; and now in my 17th year of running Headfudge Design, I can safely say that (weathered as I may feel 🥴) my passion for design – and for my business – is as strong and vibrant as ever! 🙌


The 🔑 to me never giving up when times have been incredibly hard, is because design is in my blood and having a sense of freedom is part of who I am. Through all of life’s ups and downs, design has always been the one constant in my life and what’s always got me through 💪🏼 – and when you're that passionate about something, you can never give up on it! 


At my home office with Bella & Buddy. Yep, figured life wasn't busy enough, so added another puppy in the mix!

 

🥂 So, I’m cheers’ing myself for making it this far, for always maintaining authenticity, fun, honesty, relentless dedication, being true to myself and to celebrate all my hundreds of happy clients, old and new! It’s been a wild ride but I’m here for it and excited for the next 17 years of Headfudge Design! (well, ideally I’ll be semi-retired by then, surrounded by trees and dogs! 😁). Thanks for reading my not-so-short snippet of timeline nuggets and hopefully it inspires others to never give up on their passions and keep riding the crazy waves of being a business owner!


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