Artemis Doupa is CEO & Founder at maake.com and maakeAcademy. A creative entrepreneur, profit guide, adventurous marketer and bestselling author based in London, Artemis specialises in one-to-one coaching of visionary fashion and interior designers who want to grow their business and have an impact in their market while still doing what they love.
Her aim is to help creatives learn to balance the responsibilities of a thriving business whilst still making time for designing and their craft.
Artemis is an expert in digital fabric printing and over the past years has worked with over 10,000 brands including ASOS, Dior and Alexander McQueen. Her new book, Design & Grow, is all about how creative entrepreneurs can reach their business potential, grow profits and get their design time back at the same time.
Please can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current role?
I am originally from Greece, a country I love and visit as often as I can. I received my early education in Switzerland, and I was fortunate enough to travel a fair bit from an early age. These experiences were formative and helped shape my decision to pursue higher education in London, in the form of a Master’s degree in Architecture.
Having had a few professional experiences in several positions, I eventually found a path that resonated with me and brought me genuine satisfaction. Presently, I serve as the CEO of Maake (formerly Fashion Formula), a company that I co-founded, and its associated brands. Maake is one of the UK’s leading on-demand digital textile printers, and we work with many big-name brands, from small e-commerce or high-street shops to some of the world’s most established fashion houses.
I also oversee and have an active role at maakeAcademy, a consultancy firm focused on design-led businesses such as interior and fashion brands. I am very much invested in this firm on a personal level, as it is the first brand I founded on my own. It combines my favourite things: business, design and helping other founders achieve their dreams/goals.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Although I am someone who tends to obsessively plan, it’s ironic that I didn’t plan for the career I currently have. Growing up in a family with a strong business focus, I learnt many business skills but ultimately didn’t follow the family business path as my true calling lay elsewhere. Although I work in the business world, what I do today is very different from what my family and myself had originally intended.
However, when I entered the world of digital printing and had the opportunity to collaborate with talented designers, big and small names in fashion, everyday craftspeople as well as famous singers and the like, I took a step back and considered what I wanted from my career.
I wanted to help other designers achieve their goals while pursuing a career that filled me with happiness and excitement every day. I understand that life can often take you off-course from your plans, but I try to prepare for the unexpected by prioritising my values. My ideal career allows me to spend time with my family and give back to the design community, while also providing a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Absolutely, and I am grateful for the challenges I’ve faced in life because a life without them would be too dull.
One of my biggest challenges was deviating from the path I was prepared for and had envisioned since childhood. It can be daunting to choose a path that others question, but when you have your own goals, achieving them becomes much more complex as you strive to prove to others and to yourself that you made the right decision.
Another significant challenge for me was starting my own business at a young age. I had to learn things I never even considered, and the journey of researching and testing was incredibly difficult, especially since I had a team to manage. I had to take responsibility not just for my own future, but for the well-being of others, which added an extra layer of complexity.
I face challenges daily, some of which are small and easy to overcome, while others require more serious attention. I believe it is the attitude towards challenges and your reaction to them that determines the outcome as much as your ability.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
At this point in my life, having such a wonderful response from designers to my first book Design & Grow, hearing that they found value and can identify with the pain and struggle gives me a growing sense of direction.
However, no matter how well things are or can get at work, I consider my ability to take three-week breaks with my family and still maintain the quality of our products and services to be my greatest achievement.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
For success in business and in life, I would say, having a clear and compelling vision! It is important to have a long-term perspective and a clear idea of what you want to achieve, as this will guide your decision-making and keep you focused on your goals.
Having a vision in business also helps you to inspire and motivate your team, as they can see the big picture and understand how their work fits into the overall mission. This can lead to greater engagement and commitment from your employees, which can be a critical factor in achieving success.
In addition to having a vision, I also believe that being adaptable and willing to learn from failure is crucial. Entrepreneurship is inherently risky, and setbacks and failures are inevitable. However, it is important to view these as learning opportunities and to be willing to pivot and adjust your approach as needed.
This also serves well in your life and anything you do, and it is what I teach my children daily. Learning from your failures and most importantly, from others’ failures is an incredible asset. Every failure is an opportunity to see the world in a different light and solve a different problem.
Finally, I believe that building strong relationships and a supportive network is also key to success. This can include family, mentors, advisors, investors, and other entrepreneurs who can provide guidance, feedback, and support when you need it most. Building a strong network takes time and effort, but it can pay off in spades when you are in need. Every person in your life has an important role to play, and you never know when you will be able to be there for them or them for you. And this goes beyond business; this is a life choice and at the end of the day you want to go through life surrounded by inspiring people as well as those you love.
Have you ever struggled to find a balance between the pressures of running multiple businesses with your personal identity and passion as a creative and designer?
I am not going to lie and say it is easy – but when you find something you love to do, and your business involves your passion and a large chunk of you (and your identity), then it makes juggling the pressures of running multiple businesses more palatable. Part of the reason I wrote my book was to show and teach designers and creatives of all levels in business, that with the right attention to the right details within their business, they can get released from the pressures of the business monotony and let their identity and passion shine through once more.
My primitive passion for Architecture is rooted in detail, problem-solving and in building something from nothing or improving an existing situation to create a new structure. Regardless of being something completely new or combining the new and the old, the result should always be astonishing. I believe my passion and creativity are aligned with my work now across all the businesses I am involved with. Regardless of building businesses from scratch or helping other designers re-build or add to an existing business through our programmes or simply with our products, there is always an element of creativity and a lot of detail and problem-solving that I love.
Design and creativity come in many forms and designing businesses and products is my way of expanding that part of my personal identity.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Yes, to both! I would be very surprised if any successful entrepreneur or anyone, in general, doesn’t have at least one mentor in their life. I was fortunate to have mentors that expanded my vision and helped me think bigger than I ever did, and that’s saying a lot considering I don’t hold back on high-achievement goals. Bouncing ideas and having a think tank of specialists and mentors gave me the ability to expand my views and achieve goals that otherwise might not have been possible.
I love mentoring. It seems I often have a lot to say, and also, I have an uncontrollable need to solve any problem. My belief is that there are no secrets worth keeping, and I strive to share valuable experiences whenever possible. This is great when mentoring is welcomed, and I have three people in my life who I am mentoring, and hopefully, this will be for as long as they seek it.
Having said that, being a professional consultant among other things, I find it impossible to resist the temptation to engage in mentoring daily. I am equally committed to sharing my expertise and knowledge with any client or friend seeking my help. I would say that I also mentor several entrepreneurs and designers through our programmes as well as members of our team. However, I believe it takes time to earn the title of a mentor and I wouldn’t claim the title for them unless they bestow me with this honour someday themselves.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
I would start with respect, and to address that, I would promote and implement policies that ensure equal pay and opportunities for women in the workplace. This includes addressing the gender pay gap, offering flexible working arrangements, and actively promoting women to leadership roles.
Studies have consistently shown that women are paid less for the same work than men and are under-represented in leadership positions. Sadly, I have seen this issue first-hand throughout my working life and this is why I make it a priority to take action in any business I work in to address this matter.
This inequality not only impacts women’s financial security and career progression, but also perpetuates gender-based stereotypes and biases that can affect their sense of belonging, confidence, and ability to thrive in the workplace and in life.
Therefore, by actively advocating for gender equality, creating a culture of inclusion, and implementing policies that support women’s advancement, entrepreneurs can help to accelerate progress towards a more equitable and just society. This, in turn, can help to create a more diverse, innovative, and competitive business environment that benefits everyone.
You have just written a new book, Design & Grow. Can you tell us a little bit about it and why you decided to write it?
Absolutely! Over the years, starting with my university teaching positions, working in architectural offices and later running Maake, I have come across thousands of designers and talented individuals with visions and passion, in their element. However, I identified a common thread that held them back, and that was their business savvy.
Many brand owners had what it took to become successful in their element but seemed to struggle as their brands grew. As the business aspects began to dominate, their creative pursuits, schedule, and personal life were largely affected. This often resulted in a very stressed business owner and a brand with great potential falling behind.
I was already consulting at that point, and I reflected on my mission to eradicate designer poverty and increase sustainability, but the pace of my brand expanding and sharing this knowledge felt too slow. So, I decided to write a book where I shared my STORMS method of running a successful design-led business and improving sustainability in one’s products in the fashion and interior design industry.
The STORMS model unpacks how creative business owners can optimise their systems, teams, operations, reactions (or mindset), marketing and sustainability efforts, all to help them to establish a thriving and profitable business.
I want to reach as many designers as possible and have a positive impact on their entrepreneurial journey. Because design reflects who we are. In our business, in our world, and in our future.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
“Start building your personal brand early on, as you are your biggest asset”.
I have always been an off-grid type of person. I used to feel very strongly about sharing anything, or in my case not sharing anything, publicly. It took me years to accept that social media and other types of personal sharing are what builds your profile, and it actually strengthens my work and helps my mission. In this way, more people and more designers can hear my message, they can seek me out for help or simply connect with me, and it has been a wonderful journey where I have met extraordinary people and I wish I had started it earlier on.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I am working on establishing a charity called MaakeLess fabric waste, which I want to gain official charity status, and the truth is that I do not have a lot of experience in charities, so this is my biggest challenge now. I am committed to learning and overcoming any obstacles to make this happen. This aims at enabling companies to give the fabric a second life and become more sustainable with minimal cost. I’d like to get a passionate and active team to run that organisation/charity and find ways and people to collaborate with to give fabric a second life.
As for the future, I fundamentally believe that talented designers should stand out in the crowd and be given the tools to be profitable entrepreneurs without sacrificing being involved in the creative process. I want to continue empowering designers and women in business through any one of my businesses. I am working toward an ecosystem covering many steps in a designer’s journey, where they can get support with their products, business, and market towards achieving success in business without ever having to give up what they love – design.