A veteran in the creative design industry, Suzanne Haddon is the Founder of Rooland and RooCreate, two Wollongong-based creative studios that create long-lasting brand experiences with a focus on sustainability.
Suzanne specialises in brand design services including branding, packaging, digital and print design, and brings over 25-years of international brand experience to the table, with major global brands such as Nike, Starbucks Coffee and Max Factor included in her portfolio.
You saw a gap in the market for eco-friendly branding design and packaging, that led you to start your business. How did that come about?
Having worked in the marketing industry for more than 20 years, I often came across businesses that were trying to improve their environmental impact. However, they were only looking at their products’ manufacturing process – ingredients, materials, production etc. – and fell short of taking a holistic view of their environmental footprint, including their products’ branding design and packaging.
In today’s day and age with sustainability a top priority for Australian consumers, it became apparent to me that brands who are looking to augment their track record with the planet must think about their products’ journey from start to end. I often asked, what does the customer do with your products’ packaging? The answer was usually thrown it in the bin.
This led me to launch Rooland, focused on eco-friendly design, soon followed by RooCreate, focused on creating environmentally-friendly packaging. At Rooland and RooCreate our goal is to inspire businesses to implement innovative design practices that will reduce their carbon footprint and eliminate unnecessary waste in product packaging—a huge benefit for the consumer and mother earth.
Sustainable business is all about being aware, listening to what your consumers want and making proactive changes towards a better future.
What is the vision for your business?
Put simply, our vision at Rooland and RooCreate is to revolutionise the branding design and packaging industry to help save the planet.
We seek to create absolute excellence in design, whilst upholding the promise of a more sustainable future. We have an enduring passion to move towards a more sustainable society by inspiring and creating change through design, including eco branding, packaging, digital and print design.
Eco-friendly packaging is alive and well, but our vision to fuse together branding design and packaging into one sustainable practice is a new and exciting method of marketing for business owners around the globe.
As I always say, making a bold branding statement doesn’t have to be expensive or harmful to the environment. In fact, choosing eco-friendly packaging, manufacturing and transporting tactics that are recyclable and biodegradable, is easier and more cost-efficient than one may think.
Did you always want to have your own business?
While I didn’t go into my career with the idea of starting a business, I did always have the desire to lead a team of talented and creative people to do things that make a difference – that was my goal. I’ve always had a passion for design and the environment, and wanted to create high quality design that inspires.
As I evolved through my career and gained more experience, I then wanted to enhance my design offering and focus on creating sustainable branding and packaging business practices, which saw the idea of my own business begin to develop.
Then, when I moved to Australia (10 years ago now!) I put my vision of creating a business that had an elevated branding experience into motion and launched my branding design studio, Rooland.
After working at some top businesses, including Starbucks and Jamba Juice, I learned that there is room for outstanding branding with an eco-conscience. I formed a strong vision of what I wanted to do with my own business and have now been able to grow each year with my talented staff at both Rooland and RooCreate.
What I love about working on my business is that directions can change quickly and you are driving the change. Running a business does take time away from creativity, so you need to balance between your passions and the business side of things. However, my goal is to eventually hire a CEO to handle the day-to-day while I continue to work on the vision and creative direction of each company.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Resilience, determination and self-belief. You need to be able to get back up on your feet – ALL businesses experience bumps along the way – have the drive to keep moving forward and be open to all scenarios and opportunities that come your way, as you never know where they may lead.
Personally, I tell myself every day that I can do it; so many times, you get overwhelmed, your competition grows, you feel inadequate to handle all that is thrown at you. You have to look at yourself and truly believe you can do this. I have a mantra that I say three times daily: “I am beautiful, I am strong and I can do anything.”
I’m very goal driven and set goals monthly to stay on track. Once I’m at the office, to keep me feeling strong and empowered, I write down the top three things that I need to accomplish that day. For the week, I have a longer list, and every night I re-group on where I’m at and how I’m working towards achieving my goals. This helps me sleep better at night, and in the morning, I have a clear plan of action.
I strongly believe your subconscious remembers your goals, even while you sleep or are doing other activities, keeping your focus and determination moving forward.
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
Wow, such a great question. I have to say many people inspire me; I look to them to learn from and grow myself to be better.
Since a young age, my father and mother have been a huge inspiration for me, and they completely believe in my vision. My father was a talented designer and artist who always inspired me to problem solve with design. Attending the same university as my father in Los Angeles also enriched me with the same values and aesthetics to create with integrity.
My husband is also a driving force in his belief in me and constantly being my rock, for which I’ll be forever grateful.
I also have many, many friends whom I have worked with over the years who continue to inspire me and often help me grow with their feedback and insight. I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with a lot of talented people, and all have enabled me to learn from every experience.
Lastly, my team members at Rooland and RooCreate are some of my biggest inspirations of all. They’re all so talented and whole-heartedly believe in our cause and stand behind what we do. On the regular, my team blow me away with the concepts they create and I’m super proud of the work we do together.
As you can see, inspiration comes from many and for various reasons. Still to this day, I cannot express enough how fortunate I am for having so many people support me and believe in my vision.
When you think of your journey, what is the thing you are most proud of?
Upon reflection, I’m most proud of staying true to my passion for a more sustainable environment and being a driving force behind this in the design and packaging industry. It’s humbling to know that I’ve inspired others and that they’ve chosen me to help them solve complicated branding and packaging solutions to have less of an impact on the planet.
Another moment I’m incredibly proud of is being named as a finalist in the 2018 Altitude Awards in the category of Purpose Driven Entrepreneur. This award is for business owners making positive changes in the world, and I was over the moon for the recognition and achievement.
I’ve learned a lot along the way and I feel lucky to have leading advisors and mentors continuously inspire me and push me to go further. When it starts to get hard, you start to see what you’re made of. It’s easy to quit something and give up, but after having so much time, money and effort invested in your concept, it takes guts and strength to keep running with it until it starts to make a profit. You have to believe in your ability to make it work.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
If I had to choose, my favourite aspect is being around other entrepreneurs and being able to learn from each other.
We’re all in this together, and having the ability to talk to other founders, engineers and developers, even from other fields of business in the start-up world, is key.
I’m fortunate to be a part of a unique business accelerator and incubator program at the University of Wollongong, called iAccelerate, where we have an open environment that allows us all to share our wins, discuss our problems and collectively learn from and empower others. One example is via our weekly founder’s expression sessions – something I always look forward to.
By being open minded with each other and meeting with other founders to learn from keeps us all reaching for the stars.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
First of all, I’m committed to growing Rooland and RooCreate into the eco-friendly business I know it can be to make a stronger impact on the planet.
My ultimate dream is to make all packaging eco-friendly by designing smarter, with no plastics, less material, and smaller print runs where we can test the packaging, adjust and reprint, minimising waste.
I’m on a mission to achieve this, so my next big project is to involve our clients more in the design process, so they too can see the impact, through the launch of a 3D builder workspace that will be available to our clients on our platform.
We understand it’s hard to sign-up for something that you can’t visualise yourself, so our new workspace will allow our clients to proof with us along the way and have access to a gallery of packaging and collateral material in 3D that they can view (from all angles), discuss, share, re-order or adjust.
With this, we will be able to educate our clients on simple green practice alternatives, and our clients will be able to view and understand the eco-friendly adjustments before the final packaging is produced. We plan to bring them along with us on the journey and create a better future one design at a time.
I’m excited about what the future holds for us, and we look forward to revolutionising the way forward for eco-friendly packaging design and branding.
Best lessons you’ve learnt?
One of the best lessons I’ve learnt is to believe in your team and empower them to create freely. Don’t limit ideas or concepts when you are in the initial creative stage, let the ideas flow and see what comes of it – not just in the design industry, but across all fields. As a director, you have to trust your team. I don’t believe in micromanaging, instead I allow our team members to have a go to work it out and problem solve.
Another lesson is to listen to your clients; you have to understand what they’re looking for so you can help them correctly. Clients come to us because we are experts in branding and packaging, but it’s their product or brand that we need to fully understand in order to create the best outcome for the project.
Lastly, but just as important, hire people who believe in the same vision as you do.