Clare Gleeson is the Head Bear Handler and co-founder of Neon Zoo, a graphic design studio.
Clare studied a Bachelor of Visual Communications (Honors) at the University of Newcastle, and it was here that she established a working relationship with her best friend and co-founder Abby McCarthy.
In 2015, Abby and Clare launched a sister business ‘We love Startups by Neon Zoo’ and they have a few more ideas in the pipeline that they would still like to test.
Jumping into business at an early age meant that a great deal of self education, short courses and mentors have influenced where she is today.
- What career path led you to where you are now?
I studied Visual Communications, which is essentially Graphic Design, at University of Newcastle, and quite early on I started freelancing and working on bits and pieces all over the place. There I met my co-founder of Neon Zoo, Abby, and we started working together and we worked out we had a pretty good working relationship happening. Then post university, and that kind of black hole period when you’re looking for jobs and just spending a lot of time at the beach work kept on flowing in and so we thought we might formalise things and we registered the business and got an accountant – then we were business owners!
- What motivates and drives you?
I am pretty passionate about design. Even though my particular area is graphic design, I really love industrial, textile, animation, anything like that. So it is pretty easy to stay motivated and aware and active and seeing new things all the time so that I think is pretty motivating to try and incorporate things into your work.
All the businesses we work with we normally get to work with them at a pretty exciting time so that naturally rubs off on us. It is usually a new business that is about to enter the market or a business that is revamping itself or anything like that where a business has kind of hit a milestone is generally where we get involved and so that is pretty contagious and pretty motivating to keep you going.
- As a younger business owner, what advice do you have for others that may be considering branching out?
I would probably say don’t over think it too much and just jump in there and give it a go. When we started out we were quite young and we didn’t really have any property or fancy cars or possessions to lose at that stage so it was a really good time to just get out there and try it.
I would then say once you’re out there don’t be afraid to make quick decisions and learn fast and be flexible so if what you set out to do didn’t quite work out then just change direction and keep going.
- Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Quite a hard question. I would like to think that I will be working somewhere following the sun and in a villa initially. I think more and more that is the way the business is going and so that is a real possibility so I would love to be able to travel and work a bit more. I think I will definitely still be working in design in some capacity and I have the feeling that I would be a hopeless employee so I feel like I will still be a business owner in some capacity.
- Have you had any significant Hunter-based mentors during your career that inspire you?
We have been really fortunate to have quite a few mentors along the way. Quite early on we realised that there was a gaping hole in our business knowledge so we got a business coach on board – Andrew Massey from Yellow. We have had help from various people at the business centre, we have great accountants at Growthwise that are really proactive and just get in your face and help you with things. For about six years we shared an office space with the guys at Conversant Media that publish blogs like Lost at E Minor and Zac one of the co-founders there was very generous with his time and over a cup of tea we usually workshopped things and combined I think we have got a pretty good network of people who are always willing to jump in and give advice.