You’ve probably heard it before: people want more than pretty pictures on Instagram; they want authenticity and someone to connect with. In other words, people are seeking to get to know you on a more personal level.
So joining me for this week’s Entrepreneur Highlight is Lauren of Found and Free. She’s sharing lots of wisdom and inspiration on adding more personality into your brand (as well as some lovely interior spaces). She has a lively Instagram account and instantly makes you feel like a good friend.
If you’ve been searching for ways to connect with your audience, you won’t want to pass up Lauren’s insights.
The photos of her serene and cozy her home are also bound to give you all of the productive workspace vibes. (So know you may walk away wanting to do some serious decluttering and organizing.)
Welcome, Lauren! I’ve been looking forward to this!
Share Your Story:
Introduce yourself and your brand!
Hey there! I’m Lauren, a 6’0” tall redhead living in southern Michigan with my husband and two ginger boys, as well as our dog (our first child by age). My brand and business is Found and Free, and while it is a bit of an umbrella over a few different ventures, it is primarily focused on interior and event design.
What’s the mission behind Found and Free?
That’s a great question! Found and Free started as a creative outlet for me when I first started staying home with our kiddos, and it has grown into a brand and opportunity to connect with others that I am proud of and passionate about. Nowadays, I saw that I’m all about “encouraging you to love the place and space you’re in.” Our mental and emotional state and welfare can be deeply connected to our physical spaces and experiences, and I love talking with friends and clients about connecting the dots between all of those in a way that works best for THEM. There are always new trends and ideas, some of which are SO fun and a blast to join in on, but my favorite part about design is figuring out the heartbeat of the person and space, and basing decisions on that, rather than on trend.
How did you come to start a creative outlet of interior design?
We renovated our first kitchen basically immediately after moving into our first home (and had fun decorating our apartment before that), and I started out blogging about that when I transitioned to staying at home. The blog fell by the wayside for a long while (and is currently under construction while I prepare to start it up on the regular again, yay!), but my passion for design and our completion of projects didn’t. We are pretty much constantly dreaming up, designing, or doing a project, and I have loved sharing those with people!
What’s the story behind your brand’s name?
So Found and Free is both literal and metaphorical, I would say. Literal in that I LOVE using found items in design, as well as free ones, haha, and metaphorical in that there is freedom in seeking and finding who we are—from our passions to our preferences to our strengths to our weaknesses. I strongly believe that you can design a space twenty times and maybe still not love it if you don’t have joy and peace in your mind and heart. Our physical spaces can be soothing or aggravating, and I love the puzzle of figuring out how to make a room or home work for allll the people living in it!
You infuse your personality and life into your brand so well! What makes you passionate about sharing inspiration and behind-the-scenes, and how does it all fit into Found and Free?
That’s a huge compliment, thank you! I’ve shared before in posts and stories on Instagram, and in person with many people, that I’ve walked through some difficult seasons (who hasn’t??) that helped me realize the utmost importance of being genuine and staying true to myself. I think going through those times has helped me to feel content with just being myself when sharing about projects or Found and Free in general, and I believe contentment plays a huge role in sharing your heart and ideas with others.
A Day in the Life:
What does a workday or work session look like for Found and Free?
Oh man, it’s totally sporadic and sometimes chaotic! That can be hard, buuut I also tend to be a person who thrives a little bit under pressure, and I enjoy having multiple avenues of creativity at once. So a few days this past week were basically full of computer work focusing on both graphic and interior design work, and then I spent all day working on our event rental space. We often work on projects in our own home in the evenings or on Saturdays, as my husband and I love designing and executing our ideas together!
What do you love most about running your business?
I love being able to do something I’m passionate about. That sounds simple, but I know how blessed I am to be able to both hang out with my kiddos AND get to be creative on a daily basis, all the while working to turn that creativity into a business that can benefit our family. I plan to be working basically full time once both of our boys are in school five days a week, and it would be incredible if the majority (or all, dream big!) of that work could be under the Found and Free umbrella.
What business tasks do you face on a routine basis?
This is funny, because while I do enjoy being organized, I tend to wilt under too much routine or redundancy. I really enjoy doing different things every day, and I love drawing up a new project or being involved in physically executing one. That being said, there is a lot of planning and communication needed in the interior design process, as well as in our other ventures. So it is pretty important for me to be double checking the calendar and keeping up with messages and emails to make sure I’m not dropping the ball on something. I am super thankful to my husband, as he is both incredibly creative and very talented in business matters. He helps inject some reality into my crazy ideas while still keeping it fun, and his planning and finance prowess saves us time, money, and a headache in most every project!
You pour so much of your life and heart into your brand on Instagram! What does using Instagram look like for Found and Free? And how do you manage Instagram on a daily basis?
Instagram is like it’s own world, haha! Seriously, though, it can be a little overwhelming when trying to learn how to utilize it for business purposes, and I’m still learning a ton! That said, Instagram is my main avenue for sharing Found and Free with people, and I really enjoy it. It’s obviously about the pictures being posted, but the opportunity to share the thought and heart behind the photo through the caption/content is my favorite part—both in posting my own stuff and in checking out what other people share. I try to post most every day, so I will spend time curating that image and its verbiage and responding to anyone who comments, but a good portion of my time spent on Instagram each day is devoted to checking in on the feeds of friends and contacts I’ve made. Having a relationship with the people you are following and/or the people who are following you is totally key in having an enjoyable Instagram experience!
Where do you go for motivation and inspiration?
Everywhere! I am hugely keen on and influenced by nature, and I love to see how other people and designers bring that into the spaces they’re working on. I have met a ton of crazy amazing creators and designers through Instagram, and I am regularly saving their posts to go back to for inspo later!
Business Tips + Takeaways:
What are your tips for creating a lively Instagram account?
Oh man, as previously mentioned, I can ramble, so I’ll try to keep this concise:
Be yourself—basically everyone and their brother who has been on Insta for a while will tell you that, but it’s totally true. As bad as it sounds, some accounts will sort of just meld together in your mind because they all have the same style, are buying the same things, and are following the same trends. There isn’t anything wrong with any of those accounts by any means, but it does go to show how important infusing your own personality into your feed and stories is. You want to stand out, and being yourself is just the way to do that!
Use stories—from both a personal and a business perspective, stories are great. A lot of people only watch stories, so this is a great spot to be infusing personality and showing people the behind the scenes. It’s super fun to be inspired by the gorgeous photos being posted, but it’s the nitty gritty details we need if we want to try to create something similar in our own space!
Don’t feel super hemmed-in by your niche. Yes, it’s important to create a consistent feed (from how often you post to the cohesiveness of your photos), but it’s fun and beneficial to mix it up. I share pics of my kiddos and husband every once in a while, ‘cause I love them and they’re awesome and I want to tell everyone that!
Take as many photos ahead of time as possible—no joke! I could basically take zero “nice-looking” photos of my house today because I bought groceries and I’m in the middle of doing allll the laundry, so it’s nice to have a few photos to pull from. I do try to take them as I post them, but there is nothing wrong with having a stockpile to choose from!
What tips do you have for growing and running a creative small business?
I would say start with the end in mind, as much as you can. What is the dream/end goal/big picture you’re hoping to achieve? Some of that needs to just happen organically, but knowing yourself, your brand, and where you want to go will help SO much as different decisions come up. Write a mission statement, set specific time and finance goals, create accountability for yourself—then you always have that to come back to when you’re trying to decide if a new idea, project, collaboration, or venture is right for you.
Do you have any favorite tools and must-haves?
We try to be as paperless as possible, but there is little that can replace a paper calendar and pen to paper for us when it comes to project specs and deadlines. If you have more than one person involved in the plans and execution of a project, whatever your business/niche is, I would totally recommend a joint calendar or a task sharing program (like Asana).
What tips do you have for finding time to run a business while staying home with kiddos? And how do you stay productive with all the things you do?
Working with kiddos around is obviously not easy, and I definitely struggle to find the balance between working to build a brand and business and making sure they know that I LOVE being with them. The main thing that helps with that struggle is getting them involved. Letting them help me paint, saying yes when they ask if they can type on my computer with me for a few minutes, or even asking them their opinion. My four-year-old is my greatest cheerleader haha! I will say that we are blessed to have family in town, and I do my best to really pack in the work on days where the boys hang out with them.
As I type this out, something that is coming to mind is the idea of having clear expectations between yourself and whoever might be involved in what you have going on. For me, that’s basically me and my husband most of the time, and it is hugely beneficial when we are on the same page about the time and resources being given to a project or aspect of our businesses. Share your passions with your partner, let them know if you need that extra time an evening a week to pursue your dream, and do your best to give them the same when you can!
What do you like to include in a workspace to help increase productivity, coziness, and inspiration?
Coziness is the key word there for me! Being cozy is basically the main goal in our house at all times, so that is always something I am thinking about. While I love using neutrals with deep tones and pops of color here and there, my personal workspace is basically exploding with color and texture and inspo. Fabrics falling out of baskets and things pinned all over the walls—that’s just how my brain works.
How did you determine what your design services would include in order to best serve your clients?
Since I stay home right now, my services are almost more based on my schedule than a client’s schedule, you know? I will be able to change that as the boys get older, but I have been really intentional with what I do and don’t take on based on my availability, and I make sure I am super up front about that!
Would you be willing to share any tips on getting your first clients for people just getting started?
This obviously varies greatly depending on your place and type of work, but if you’re able to, I would offer some time or resources at a discounted rate or for free. Don’t go crazy, as work is work and you are totally worth getting paid for your creativity and efforts, but if you are able to offer services to some friends or acquaintances to get the ball rolling, I say go for it. If Instagram or another social media platform is something you know to be a good avenue for your business, then be careful and serious about what you post. Professional-looking photos, correct grammar, clear and concise language—those go a long way in a visually-driven consumer population.
Goals + New Things:
What’s in store with Found and Free? Do you have any new or exciting things in the works you’d like to share with us?
As I mentioned, I am working on getting my website and blog to a place where I can be posting regularly. I want people to be able to come there for more information on Found and Free and our different projects!
Stay in Touch:
Where is the best place to follow you and stay in touch?
The best place to keep up with me right now is on Instragram; you can find me at @foundandfree.
Thanks so much for sharing your insights on creating a brand with personality, Lauren!
Now it’s your turn: What are some ways you infuse personality into your creative business? Let us know in the comments!