Jo Barnard, Founder and CEO of Morrama is an experienced designer, who founded industrial design and innovation agency studio Morrama just one year after graduating from university. A champion of female empowerment within design and of the role of sustainability to create a better design industry, Jo has established an incredible understanding of all things design, from the idea curation phase right through to manufacturing and distribution as she continues to push the boundaries of innovation with Morrama on a day-to-day basis.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I’m an industrial designer and Creative Director of industrial design and innovation agency Morrama. At Morrama, we work with start-ups and companies that want to work like start-ups to design industry-shifting products with a focus on user experience.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Morrama started in 2015 in a corner of a shared office in Hoxton. A friend and I called Rob from university had always wanted to run our own consultancy. Having just finished studying and with no permanent jobs, we figured we had nothing to lose. When looking at our positioning, we realised that there was no-one specifically working with start-ups, so we decided to do just that.
How did you achieve awareness?
Initially, we relied on cold calling, word of mouth and our social media networks to reach out to people. Long evenings going through Kickstarter and Google, and finding start-ups which might need our services and a lot of ’thanks but no thanks’ replies. Slowly, we managed to build a portfolio of work [that wasn’t just projects we had done at university] and worked hard on our SEO. Now we have pretty good rankings for people searching ‘industrial design agency’.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
With regards to funding, Rob and I both put in £500 at the beginning to get things off the ground and we’ve managed to grow organically from there without investment. We are now a team of 10 and are working on six-figure projects from our own office in Hackney. It’s the result of a lot of hard work, some amazing hires, and a lot of focus on raising and maintaining our profile as an agency.
What are the key successes?
We’ve had some exciting achievements over the past few years. Awards aren’t everything, but you always remember the first one. Getting our first D&AD Pencil was especially meaningful because it was for the Angle Razor – a product we designed for ourselves rather than for a client. We launched the Angle Razor in 2018, wanting to fully understand the process of manufacturing, funding, launching, and selling a product. We had a really successful crowdfunding campaign that has kickstarted a side business for us called Studio Morrama through which we’ve launched two other products since.
The main success however has been the growth of the business and having a happy and healthy team that are excited to come to work each day. It’s certainly what makes me excited to get out of bed each day.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The biggest challenge for me was when the co-founder Rob decided to leave the business after the first year. My focus had been on the design work, so having to take on outreach and business development was a huge learning curve fraught with imposter syndrome and naïve mistakes.
I spent about a year in over my head until I began hiring people who can do things better than me. Together, we laid some really solid foundations for growth. My associate director Andy is a wizard at looking after new business and just generally overseeing the health and wellbeing of both the company and the employees. This gives me the space to go back to focusing on the projects and helping the team to do the best work they can.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Don’t hesitate. The worst that can happen is you learn a whole lot providing you don’t sink your entire life savings into it. Which would be my second piece of advice. Set measurements of both success and failure and be honest with yourself. I’ve seen a lot of founders sink more and more time and resources into their company and become so desperate to make it work that they no longer listen to reason. If you can fund your business using someone else’s money – through grants, crowdfunding or investment, then do.
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
1. Differentiate yourself, establish the value you bring to your customers and work hard to become a real expert in your field.
2. Regularly spend time thinking about what your competition, or the changing industry might do to take your business away.
3. Delegate. I’m still learning to do this, but no-one can do everything, and a healthy business is one that can run without you.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
No one is too small to make a difference – Greta Thunberg
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?