You know how hard it is to get started on something new; there are numerous things to do like developing a business plan, creating a website from scratch and so on. Creative Tim is providing new, clean and pretty interface content for you to speed up your process.
Thanks for your time Elena. Can you shortly introduce yourself and your work?
Hello, my name is Elena and I am the co-founder of Creative Tim. We are a startup based in Romania looking to make the life of designers and developers easier. We build and share easy-to-integrate tools that instantly provide you with clean and beautiful interface content. My personal work inside the project has gone from web development to design, marketing and building a community, all of which I’m very enthusiastic to talk about.
How did you get into design?
I started learning design while still in college. Me and my friend Alex, with whom I later started Creative Tim, were the people handling the design of 12 other teams in a group project looking to re-create the university website. It was basically a crash course for me with the essentials of what makes good design, but also about how it influences functionality. I guess, in a way, it completed and rounded up my studies which have previously been much more focused on back-end development and mathematical studies.
Since then, I have gone on to developing my own taste and strong opinions regarding what makes good and functional design; while constantly trying to keep up with the new trends and ideas.
What is the story behind Creative Tim?
The idea behind Creative Tim was creating a standard of things we actually need and would personally use inside our web projects. We have started small, with a few plugins and templates and have gone to more complex items like kits and themes. Along with our product development, we have grown as a team, becoming a group of 5 people, all focused on delivering the best possible design items.
I could say our story is still in the early stages and has not evolved to the full extent. To get to our full vision, we need to grow our community into a tight-knit one, that enjoys sharing as much as receiving. We see it happening in the development area, with people openly collaborating on platforms such as GitHub, but design is still quite restrained to showcasing. We need designers to help each other and actually give out freebies, plugins, things that they have found useful.
We have started out with our own actions as an example, we received some great feedback and we are very confident the future has some great things coming. Creative Tim will be your go-to destination for years to come.
You are studying and working on Creative Tim, how do you manage your time?
I am enrolled in my final year of my master’s degree that I will finish this summer. I definitely have an overloaded schedule, but I don’t have a prior experience of working without being a student, so I couldn’t compare it to something else. I basically write everything that I have to do in lists. I am very frank with decisions regarding what priority everything has and I don’t fool myself into believing I’ll be able to be both a ‘startup-er’ and a ‘straight-A’ student. I am, however, always happy researching things until I understand what makes them tick; so, in a way, I don’t think I’ll ever stop dividing my time between studying and actually making something.
What are the steps of building an engaged community?
I think figuring out how to build a community starts with figuring out what makes your team come to work every day to make it happen. I believe a group of people can stay united only if they share a common interest or set of values. While achieving or promoting your common interest is somewhat more tangible, it doesn’t assure you people will stick around after they got what they wanted. So I encourage bold statements regarding your core values, vision and actual benefits that people will have while being part of your community.
“I think figuring out how to build a community starts with figuring out what makes your team come to work every day to make it happen.” – Elena Conacel, co-founder of Creative Tim
Even more so, explain why people should register, subscribe, share or actually offer something to the other members. That means not only what they get (like a freebie or early access to products), but what they are creating by it (in our example, a community of designers helping each other out). I think this pre-step is extremely important because your community and product will eventually become more what they want than what you imagined.
The base of our community were people we personally knew, from whom we got a lot of feedback that helped us improve. Getting people engaged is extremely difficult while their number is still small, so we then moved on to promoting our work on different channels. We are at a point now where we try to keep a close contact with our users and still get their feedback in a manner that directly affects our work. And we still have our hand full with moving on to the next step of promoting the work of others inside the community.
The short version would be: define your values and the benefits that the members get and test it first. Adjust it, promote it and try to convince others that this is the channel where their voice will be heard if they intend to do the same thing.
What is your biggest failure you learnt the most from?
My biggest failure must be the fact that I prioritized products over people and lost relations over features that now seem to lack substance. For a while, I was pretty infatuated with a ‘Steve Jobs’ manner of defining yourself through the quality of your work. Which is not completely lost on me, but I have learnt to be more inclusive, listen to what other people have to say and value the work of a group more than my personal vision over how things should be. I now judge my work looking at the people around me too, and, in some ways, that feels a lot like growing up.
How do Romanian designers and entrepreneurs compare to the rest of the Europe?
If I try to find patterns among the people I had the pleasure of working with, I could say Romanians are naturally competitive. Even more, we usually have a way of approaching things with enthusiasm and finding shortcuts or easier ways to complete our tasks. This goes well in the context of design and startups, where you are in constant need of high spirits and an alternative approach.
I obviously think our work is at high standards and I could easily give you numerous examples of designers and entrepreneurs doing top-notch work. Anyway, you should keep an eye on us and come and visit if you have the chance; we are genuine warm and friendly people!
What is the most exciting thing in life for you?
The most exciting thing in life for me, right now, must be trying to build what I want to see in the world. That ranges from products I help build to the team I am a part of and my personal relationships. I am lucky enough to have found all of these amazing outlets that let me experience my personal search of quality and meaning. That may sound more abstract than it actually is: I enjoy working on things I care about and seeing how they fit with the outside world.
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