Tell us about yourself
Growing up in Bendigo (a town in Victoria, Australia), I never thought I’d run my own business one day, let alone live somewhere as exotic as Hong Kong. In fact, the biggest aspiration I had after finishing high school was to move to Melbourne and get a job, which I did and that was pretty much what my friends did too. It was quite a few years before I started to make deliberate career choices.
Tell us more about your business and your industry
Make Studios is a professional services company that helps clients deliver great customer experiences, products and services. We use processes such as Design Thinking and Service Design to really understand what customers value, want and need. It is a constantly evolving field of practice, and we don’t have a typical type of engagement - it’s anything from designing a strategy to grow a new market, to training people how to build a journey map.
If you had to explain to a five year old what you do, how you would’ve done it?
I’d say I help make the world nicer, more friendly and more fun.
What are the challenges of working in your industry? How do you see women influencing/bringing a special touch to it (referring to the industry)? How does it feel to be a women there?
The challenges are mainly around convincing people to think, feel and work differently that they have done before. In many organisations there is a resistance to change because the need isn’t yet obvious. If things still seem to be working and money is still coming in, it can seem like a risk to alter that.
Women are quite well represented in our field, so it’s probably not as bad as others. But over the course of my career, I’ve had to deal with loads of people (older males mainly) who were sexist, bullies or just plain obnoxious. That is never fun.
How was the idea born and and what were your first steps?
The idea for Make Studios was seeded when I was on holiday in the Philippines and I got a call from Kristian (who later became my business partner). He needed someone else to work with him on a project in Melbourne. A few days later, I jumped on a plane and joined him on one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. It was all about re-thinking the role of insurance in rural and farming communities. That was effectively the start of the business.
When did you decide to become and entrepreneur? Was there a breaking point moment when you decided, “thats it, I am doing it, I am starting my business”.
I never set out to be an entrepreneur and I didn’t consider myself one because I wasn’t always driven by those kinds of passions. I learned to be an entrepreneur from doing it and needing to make a living, and discovered I loved it.
What was your biggest motivation and inspiration when you decided to start your business?
My biggest motivation is Kristin (my life partner/ co-pilot / other half .. I haven’t found the right description for him yet!) who goes with me on these adventures. We started our first business in Hong Kong together called On Off Design & Technology.
For us it was like “baby’s first business” and we had no idea what to expect or what we were getting into. We made loads of mistakes, a few good decisions, massive highs and lows. It was a roller coaster that was awesome about a third of the time and scary as fuck for the rest of it!
What was the most challenging part of starting your business?
For me the most challenging part has been learning to take full responsibility for absolutely everything related to the business. Even stuff that does not seem like your responsibility… is most likely your responsibility.
More than that, you have to accept that it’s also probably your fault when something goes wrong. You can’t play the blame game because ultimately, you made most the decisions that lead to that situation.
Which marketing tools did you find to be the most successful? Which methods worked the best for you to acquire new clients?
All our business to date has been generated by word of mouth referrals. In terms of marketing, we probably aren’t very sophisticated.. we have a website and a couple of social media channels. We also run a conference called Service Design Hong Kong which also generates interest in what we do.
What is that you love the most about what you are doing?
I love the creativity and self expression involved in building and running a business. Make Studios is very reflective of who Kristian and I are as people and business partners. We want the business to behave and operate in a certain way, and we want it to attract the a certain type of person - whether that’s clients or employees.
As a woman, you most probably have something to say about work - family balance. Please share your thoughts with us.
I’ve chosen not to have children, not because of career pressures or any other reasons, it was just the right choice for me. Women should have the same choices available to them as men do, without the double standards and social stigma that unfortunately still exists.
What is the biggest lesson you learn running your own business?
That it is relentlessly hard work to get the rewards. You need determination, perseverance and the ability to show up every day and give it your best - even when you don’t feel like it.
What would you recommend someone who is debating whether to start their own business tomorrow?
I think you have to be realistic financially. Can you afford to survive for 12 months without any money coming in? If you are not prepared for that possibility, I would think twice. There are less risky ways to start a business than throwing in your job and starting from nothing, you need to figure out what that works best for you.
Any special advice for those who try to make it happen in the male driven industry?
I think you should not worry if it’s a male dominated industry. Unless you are an old rich white guy, you will have already had to overcome some obstacles to get ahead. I’d take inspiration from the females that are doing well in that industry. Even if there’s just one who’s made it, it proves it can be done.
What is your motto?
Do the work
What is your business philosophy?
People are the heart and soul of any business. Invest in them first and foremost.
What do you say to yourself when you feel like “ I can't do it anymore “?
Sleep on it and if you feel that same way in the morning, sleep on it again. People are more resilient than they think and what seems disastrous on one day can become very different the next day.
Thank you for your very honest and motivating interview!
I am sure, after reading it many entrepreneurs will try even harder to make their dream come true.
You can get to know more about what Patti is doing at
Interview with Patti, owner of Make Studios
User experience, which makes the world nicer, more friendly and more fun