Co-Founders Scott Thomas & Ruth Stephensen

The online collective encouraging everyday artistry through creative challenges

Creatively Squared is a business which proves that starting small can lead to big things. The brainchild of Ruth Stephensen, who is now the Founder and Creative Director, Creatively Squared connects creative people with businesses searching for a creative boost.

Regular creative challenges, along with sponsored competitions, have inspired non-profesh creatives to explore their unique skill sets. Techly spoke to Ruth Stephensen about how the business began and how technology keeps the engine humming.

Explain what Creatively Squared does, and why that’s relevant for young Aussies.

Creatively Squared connects with companies that are in need of creative images to help sell their brand and puts them in touch with the creative talent and content producers who are most suited to do that. We can help companies get custom produced images at an affordable price, no matter where they’re located.

Our community of creatives comes from all over the world and covers all sorts of groups, from mums and kids playing along with our weekly challenges, to teenagers and even grandparents. One of our prize-winning groups was actually a group of New Zealand tradesmen who made a human flat lay.

We really work by the theory that everyone is creative, even if they don’t realise it, and we really value helping people have a go. It’s something everyone can enjoy.

How did Creatively Squared start?

I started an Instagram community in 2016 as a creative outlet. At the time I was participating in other online creative hubs and entering photo competitions, but there was nothing that really catered to what I enjoyed, which was to challenge my creativity.

So I started my own group. I’d invite up-and-coming businesses to provide a prize, set a theme for the week, and it just grew from there. It was unbelievable how many talented people were playing along each week just to have fun.

After a while we noticed our sponsors struggling to run their businesses as well as find the time to generate quality social content, so we saw the opportunity and Creatively Squared grew from there.

What’s been the most challenging & most rewarding aspect of running an innovative business in Australia?

The most challenging aspect of running any business is being comfortable with uncertainty, in particular, not having all the answers. Every day is different, and as much as you try to create a plan and stick to it, things change so fast that you need to be able to react quickly and think on the run. The great thing is that there’s so much support from Australia’s startup community, so there’s always someone willing to help with advice.

The most rewarding part is hearing positive feedback about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We’ve just been shortlisted as finalists for Creative3 Pitch in September, and that’s really helped reinforce what we’re offering as a business.

But of course the most important part of any business is your consumers, and we love hearing how happy our clients are with the quality of their images, or how thrilled our content creators are that they can earn money for doing something that they love.

One of the best parts of my job is getting to inspire our team and empower them to fully realise their creative talents, and getting the chance to do that every day is a reward in itself.

What’s the most exciting new technology you’d like to incorporate into your day-to-day?

With Creatively Squared there’s a lot of potential to incorporate image recognition machine learning to help us match companies and stylists. It’s an exciting space and something we’ve already started to look into.

Personally I’m really looking forward to the Amazon Echo and voice purchases. I love the technology and can’t wait for it to be released in Australia, especially after hearing how often friends in the U.S. use it – “Alexa, order me a pizza”, “Alexa, I need an Uber” or “check my bank account to see if I can afford a Tesla”. One of our fellow participants (BLKTATU) in the Collider Accelerator at QUT Creative Enterprise Australia is working on technology to enable drone deliveries to high rise buildings, and I hope they’re testing it with an Echo.

What’s the best customer feedback you’ve received?

Photo delivery day is my favourite part of the job, when I get to show the clients what we have been working on. We usually get a lot of very excited responses peppered with capital letters and exclamation points, like this feedback we just received; “I screamed out when I saw them! They are FABULOUS!!”

Of course the best compliment is when a client comes back to order more photos, but we also love it when our clients tell us that the images they receive are far superior to what they could achieve with a professional shoot. Hearing this in the early days definitely gave us the drive to turn our idea into a business.

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