An interview with April Hodge

April Hodge

We spoke to April Hodge, Creative Director of Littlebigbox.

“I’ve always known what I wanted to do for a career. For my final year project at college, we were asked to complete a piece of work that was related to any form of media. My Dad had always been interested in IT, and it was something I was naturally drawn to (I was “that person” creating all her own code for her MySpace profile), so I decided to have a go at building a website for his company. I’d never attempted it before… and I fell head over heels in love with the entire process!

I applied to study web design at University, and once I was there I figured it would be far more fulfilling to use my skills within my own business rather than working for anyone else. And hence, Littlebigbox was born!

I went straight from University into the business back in January 2011. I knew it was what I wanted to do, so I thought “why wait?”. I was lucky to have a huge amount of emotional support from my family – they were very motivational, pushing me to go for it and helping with the business admin side of things that I had less understanding of. I’m not sure I could have done it without them fighting my corner.

I’d have to say it’s the clients I get to work with that I love most about my job. I focus predominantly on startups and small businesses, and there’s nothing better than helping them make their business a reality.

They often come to me at those early stages, when they haven’t attempted any marketing yet but they’ve got this fantastic idea and all the fire to launch it. When I make their website live – and they feel like a “real” business – it’s incredible. They are always so grateful and full of excitement. You can’t help but get a massive buzz from that.

Running a business is challenging – there’s no way around that. But getting to work with such inspiring individuals and businesses makes it all worthwhile.

I think we’re in a very different climate to the one I was in during University. Back

then, I was one of only two girls on the course and the only one who went on to build a career in web design. But, now, there are some fantastic initiatives, groups and events aimed entirely at women in tech – things I wish had been around when I was starting out. I would always recommend joining networking groups, especially those focused on women in digital. There are also powerful events such as Codebar, centred around diversifying the tech industry and supporting the women in it – these are brilliant for growth and meeting influential people.

Essentially, I think it’s about taking advantage of what’s out there.

There are now some epic groups supporting women out there, and fantastic women in tech and web smashing it. They are serious role models.

I do think there’s still room for improvement. Particularly when you look at agencies or in-house, the tech employees will often be more men than women. I know quite a few that have only one woman on board. Something needs to be done to tackle that.

I think they’re out there, but perhaps still too shy to get involved as they know it’s a male-dominated industry. I hope this will change as we see more and more women in tech-focused groups and events crop up.

I’ve been lucky to not experience discrimination due to my gender! A huge chunk of my client base comes from the construction industry, which is – in itself – a male-dominated one. Not once have any of my clients made me feel any “less” because of my gender. The fact they have chosen to work with me (over a man) in the first place says a lot from the get-go.

As a whole, I have built quite an intentional group of both men and women (in and outside of the industry) that I surround myself with; they are people who would never make me feel like anything but an equal.

But you can’t control everyone you interact with! I have had a few experiences with male counterparts where I felt looked down on, perhaps, haven’t been taken as seriously as the men in the room. It’s disappointing, but I think it says a lot more about their self-esteem than my ability!

In 2019 there was a lot of movement for women in digital – some massive events purely for women, and I think this year we will see a good deal of that development come into fruition.

I also think – in general – we’re going to see a spike in self-employment and startups.

There’s so much uncertainty, even in the big companies, and so I think more and more people will opt to work for themselves. This could see both a rise in female entrepreneurs in the digital space and also the clients that need their services!”

The Trials and Tribulations of being your own boss

“When your career comes in the form of your own business, there’s so much more that goes into it outside of the service you provide. Building up my exposure has been difficult at times. You have to be committed to your own marketing, meeting new people, putting yourself on a platform and just “getting out there”. It’s difficult and can feel like a separate job in itself. But I know how crucial it is to ensure my business keeps growing.

It can also be lonely – another reason to put yourself out there. I’ve tackled this challenge by building a wonderful network of friends who are also self-employed. It works because they just get it; we’re totally in the same boat, and we help each other through the waves.

I think that discussing mental health in the workplace is changing for the better. I regularly see on social media companies promoting a healthier culture in the workplace. Even things as simple as breakaway moments from the desk, or shared lunchtimes and after-work drinks.

They’re promoting time away from heavy workloads, valuing their staff as individuals with human emotions rather than simply cogs in a machine.

The problem is, people see things on social media and take it at face value; it’s something I’ve certainly been guilty of. These curated feeds can be seriously detrimental to our wellbeing and self-appreciation… often you’ll look at these perfect posts and think “why am I not doing as well as them?”. Deep down, I think we all know that social media isn’t “real” – let’s face it, people rarely share those grey areas, do they?

I am starting to see more people – especially business owners – sharing the lows as well as the highs, which (I think) is a step in the right direction.”

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