Abbie Downey: 'Google Digital Garage was a great networking opportunity and a chance for me to upskill.'

Abbie Downey: 'Google Digital Garage was a great networking opportunity and a chance for me to upskill.'
Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial

Posted: Wed 29th Nov 2023

Enterprise Nation partnered with Google to deliver 20 Digital Garage events across the UK, providing free digital skills training and mentoring to small business owners who are looking to grow their ventures.

This series of in-person events offered free training to people who already own a small business, are interested in starting one, or are looking to develop their job prospects.

We're speaking to some of the business owners who have attended the events to learn how taking part has benefited them so far. Here, we talk to Abbie Downey of Feather&Fossil Interior Design, a Plymouth-based interior design brand that takes a maximalist approach to its work.

Abbie, tell us about your business and what led to you starting it.

I'm the founder of Feather&Fossil Interior Design, a small boutique interior design business based in Plymouth, which I set up in May last year.

I specialise mostly in maximalism, which is a "more is more" approach to interior design – patterns, colour and textures, but also parts and accessories. The complete opposite to minimalism – nice and bright and colourful!

My background is actually in public health and project management. I've worked for universities, in enterprise and research, and in the NHS commissioning services. I've always done interior design as a side hobby, and after working in the NHS for a while, I wanted to do something a bit more creative.

I was renovating my own home at the time and getting more and more convinced that I should do it. I looked at all the different options of what I could do, but I kept coming back to interior design, as it involves those elements of budget management that I've learned in my career.

What struggles have you faced with your business?

There isn't an interior design infrastructure, so there wasn't a ready-made audience. I have both an online service and an in-person service, and I had to publicise that and try to drum up interest. And that meant networking, and going out and talking to people. I've never had to talk about myself before! It makes you quite vulnerable.

At first, I went mainly to property development networking events, where traditionally the style of interior design is quite minimal. I was showing them what I do, and getting a lot of knock-backs and rejections. I really had to find the niche of people who have similar taste to mine, or who can see the benefit of doing something a bit differently and using maximalism.

I had to summon the confidence to turn up to events on my own, and not really knowing what I'm going to say to these experts, as a "non expert". Having that impostor syndrome. But the more events I did, the more I realised everyone is really nice and the networking isn't that scary.



Why did you decide to attend a Google Digital Garage event?

I've been on the Enterprise Nation platform quite a while, but this was the first event I've been to in person. I initially looked at the Bristol one, but then the Plymouth event was announced, and that meant less travel!

I saw it as both a networking opportunity and a chance to upskill. I was able to go along and meet like-minded people, but I could also interact with the speaker and listen to other people's experiences. On the learning side, having someone there to answer my questions and provide an immediate response was great.

What have you learnt from attending? And how have you started to implement it into your business strategy?

I've been looking into competitor analysis – having a little dive into Semrush to see what other people are doing and what keywords they're using, how they're getting organic searches, and trying to get my website ranking a little higher.

I've been working on customer personas as well. I did those before I started the business and had an idea of who my client was going to be, but then forgot all about them.

And the clients I currently have don't actually match the personas I put together, so I'm going back over those and creating some new ones: a persona for the clients I actually have, and another for the type of clients I'm trying to get.

There are other bits I've done already, but it was nice to get a refresher on them, like Google Trends and Google Search Console. Again, I used them quite a bit in the beginning but then got busy and ended up neglecting them.

There's no point doing lots of content if you're aiming it at the wrong people, so I've been delving back into those and putting reminders in my calendar to check them each month.

Have you noticed a difference or a change?

I don't think I've seen too much of a change yet in terms of the website. But thanks to Search Console, I found that lots of my web pages weren't being indexed properly, so I've been able to fix that and make myself findable again. It will take a little bit longer to see a change in traffic, but my pages are now visible!

I've also had quite a few new followers on Instagram. I think that's because I went down the route of getting more of me on there, and sharing content, and encouraging conversations in the comments.



How has attending the event made an impact on you and your business?

It was a reminder that data is really quite important to a business. It's the only information you have on your prospective clients or current clients that tells you what they want from you or the direction they want you to go in.

So now I'm going into the data and being a little bit more reflective of what people are looking at on my website. Which pages are they exiting really quickly? And with social media, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, what are people actually wanting to engage with?

I've spent some time in the last couple of weeks to really make use of the networking and the connections I made. I've followed up with a few people – some aren't really in the same industry, but there might be a job there eventually. And I've spoken to some local businesses, as it's nice to know that you have that support around you.

Since the event, have you accessed other Google Digital Garage resources, such as 1-2-1 Mentoring or Google Career Certificates?

Yes. I've had a 1-2-1 Mentoring session recently, and I had one before I attended the event as well. Both mentors are experts but very different, so I was able to get some really diverse information, learn about the other training courses on offer, and pick up loads of handy little tips.

Finally, what's been your business's biggest achievement or proudest moment?

Being brave enough to do it in the first place is probably my biggest achievement. Because I don't have a traditional background in it, and I have terrible impostor syndrome.

And then working really hard to get clients in and make the business sustainable. The first couple of months were all business basics, getting everything ready. And then around January last year, I started to speak to clients.

It was very slow to begin with, and I wasn't sure whether I'd made the wrong choice, but then it started to really build and I was getting new clients in regularly. Really exciting, different projects. So I feel like I've made the right decision, and that it was worth going for it.

Read more Digital Garage success stories

Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial
I'm Enterprise Nation's senior content manager, and I spend most of my time working on all types of content for the small business programmes and campaigns we run with our corporate, government and local-authority partners.

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