Looking for a gift for someone? Maybe you’re moving house, or just bought a new one? Did you meet your partner somewhere special? Or is it Mama’s birthday? Fathers Day? Valentines Day? Christmas? Or just because? Georgia Draws A House is a small business that celebrates the little (and big!) places and spaces in your life in an adorable hand-drawn kinda way.
Georgia Draws A House
So what is this business? It’s pretty simple! Enter your address on Georgia’s website, wait four weeks or so and a gorgeous illustration and completely bespoke gift will arrive at your door.
The business concept was born when Georgia Norton Lodge started drawing houses for her Sister, Zoë Norton Lodge’s, first book cover, Almost Sincerely. The book was based in Annandale, where the pair grew up, so Georgia decided to draw all the buildings in the neighborhood. She drew her parents house first. As each brick was laid and each chimney grew, she thought to myself “hold on, this is pretty cute!” Georgia showed a few friends and family and they all wanted her to take on their homes. It wasn’t long until distant cousins, once removed started requesting illustrations – so she built a quick website (Thanks SquareSpace!) and launched Georgia Draws A House. That was a few years ago. Now Georgia draw little homes (and other things!) from all over the world and her customers love the way she creates original, vivid and emotive depictions of the meaningful places in their lives.
People often put all the emphasis on starting a business in the ‘planning phase’, Georgia is quite different as this project was almost a happy accident. She has been a full-time graphic designer for the last 6 years and so she could only dedicate evening hours to this side-hustle. It was fantastic for two things: it nourished the artistic side of her when client work got a bit rigid; and, provided her a second income stream. This business grew out of necessity, she didn’t hunt for an innovative idea, she did this for herself. She didn’t plan for success, she simply started doing something that she loved and that was uniquely hers. Her website and Instagram allowed her to measure true customer potential.
Georgia has been asked about her ‘starting steps’ before, this is her very personal response:
- Found something I loved, that was enjoyable and uniquely me.
- Built a website (SquareSpace is free!) to test the waters/customer potential.
- In order to keep the project growing and flourishing, I was moonlighting as the creator of Georgia Draws A House whilst working full time at a branding agency. I was drawing between the hours of 7 pm-midnight and often waking up early to draw more. I gave myself a year to do commit to this level of hard work, to see if I could grow to a point where I could match my full-time salary before jumping ship. I’m quite risk-averse so this seemed sensible.
- This is the turning point. In a world full of pay-per-click marketing and Instagram advertisements, I wanted to create something that would really bring attention to the business I was growing. So I put my branding hat on and painted a large mural, a drawing of my parent’s house on the side of my parent’s house! Sure it’s an ad, but it’s art first so people love it.
- It wasn’t long until the Sydney Morning Herald – Domain, caught sight of the artwork and put an article on the front page of their website (https://www.domain.com.au/living/meet-the-28-year-old-saving-for-a-house-by-drawing-yours/). The story was relevant to the current tale of millennials and Sydney House Market, so it stayed there, on the front page for three days. My phone was going bananas! Then, that Sunday, when I was standing on the front porch having a coffee with my Mama, my Dad walked up the street holding the Sunday Paper out yelling “Georgie have you seen this?!” – and there was a full-page spread with me, my mural and lots of my little house drawings all over it. The orders went through the roof so, I quit my job that Monday.”
“I draw houses from Google Maps (shhh! That’s my secret!) and once upon a time when there was only a couple of orders a month and I could talk through the details they wanted to be drawn, let them know my thoughts but now as I draw 10 (sometimes 30!) a week there just isn’t the time. Sometimes google maps mention the wrong address (yes, I have drawn a neighbors house before!), sometimes it’s doesn’t show the house after a renovation, sometimes it doesn’t show the house at all. So I made some errors, my customers are generally lovely so nothing a love-letter of apology and a refund couldn’t save however, I needed to alleviate this issue quickly. So I updated my order form, to include an option to send me a photo and prompt them to check Google Maps for themselves. Honestly, I believe you react to challenges as they are presented and that’s what makes your business improve. I wish I had a crystal ball that would tell me all the future problems I’ll have, but for now, I’m crossing those bridges when they come.”
Motivation is one of the biggest challenges. In the beginning, when you’re a micro-business, you’re the customer service representative, the social media manager, the graphic designer, the artist, the accountant, you’re the head of marketing, the product manager and the sales rep. It’s hard to keep on top, you’ll mess up and under-deliver. Georgia believes that if you’re honest with your customers and let them share your journey with you, they’ll understand.
Our feeds are flooded with super young people living out their best ‘co-working, self-employed, work/life balance, me-time, self-care, six-figure dreams’ and it’s easy to forget that we’re staring at highly crafted posts, not necessarily the real lives of real human beings. It took Georgia over half a decade of working full time before she had the financial confidence in Georgia Draws A House to take the leap into full-time self-employment. The things she has learned are to work hard and take calculated risks. Also, talk to other small business owners further along the path than you. Carving out a career can be messy and it’s always instructive to see how those that inspire us have done it before us.