Creative Director + Owner / Smack Bang Designs
What would you do with $300 in the bank? Do you think that you would put it all on the line at 22 years of age to start your own business? Chance it all to create a life that you love but haven’t even met yet?
Six years ago Tess Robinson was in this very position. She dropped out on her fourth university degree, bypassed any formal industry experience and in her own words took on the world. Some might say that Tess was born to launch a business. Her serious design cred, effortless aesthetic and genuine risk-taker-attitude has grabbed the attention of the countries freshest brands including P.E Nation, The Audience Agency and New Beginnings Fair, who all use her baby – Smack Bang Designs.
In todays #careerstory, we peel back the layers of Tess’s journey. We discover that beneath her exterior, lies an extravagant, creative mind. After meeting Tess, one thing is strikingly obvious… creative minds don’t let other’s achievements affect their own creation of something remarkable, Tess in everyway walks to the beat of her own drum, and always with coffee in hand
Before we unleash Tess’s goodness, let’s just stop and get a whiff of the Smack Bang Designs motto:
WE ARE ENABLERS. WE INNOVATE, CREATE AND COLLABORATE WITH LIKE-MINDED FOLK TO INSPIRE A RIPPLE EFFECT OF POSITIVE, SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS CHANGE. WE DESIGN GOOD, FOR THE GREATER GOOD.
Yes, she is all that and a bag of chips. Lets dive in…
Hey Tess, I am so thrilled to have you here today, sharing your career goodies. Can you start by telling us where you grew up and how that experience shaped the person that you are today?
I grew up on the North Coast of NSW and was born with the beach in my blood. I grew up in a creative family, was blessed with a strong education and parents who led me to believe I could literally do anything I dreamed of. Both my family situation and the environment in which I grew up encouraged a strength of spirit and fostered my creativity. I think a good mix of this, as well as a strong independence embedded deep within my DNA have led me to lead the kind of life I lead today.
Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to high school in Port Macquarie, a small coastal down on the North Coast of NSW and was one of that kids that loved school. I applied myself in all aspects of it; academics, sport and testing the boundaries of my parent’s patience.
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
I guess so, but not explicitly. My art teacher was a huge influence in me pursuing a creative career. She really fostered that side of me and believed in my skill enough for me to think that perhaps I could make a living from dancing with the arts.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
No, those kinds of opportunities didn’t present themselves during my time at High School. However, ever since I was old enough (13 years), I have been working. Even as a young teenager when I was rebellious and pushing the limits, I still rocked up to every shift and loved being a part of the workforce.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
I’ve never been one to do things by the book, and my career was no exception to this rule. My journey from school to the career in which I stand today was not a linear journey by any stretch of the imagination. At the age of 22, I dropped out of my fourth University degree, bypassed any form industry experience and decided that I was ready to take on the world. Without having ever stepped foot in another design agency, I started this baby I call Smack Bang Designs.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights.
It has been equal parts challenging and equal parts fulfilling. Having never actually worked a typical ‘day’ job for anyone else, I’ve had to learn everything the hard way. Being a business owner, with no industry experience has meant that I’ve been thrown in the deep end and have had to figure everything out on my own terms, all the while trying to keep up with the daily demands of business life and what it takes to run a 15 man design agency. After 6 years in business, I can truly say that I wouldn’t have it any other way and absolutely love the life I’ve made for myself.
How did you get the job that you are in now?
I created it!
What is the hardest part of your current job?
I am an all-or-nothing kinda girl, and with that comes long hours, hard yards and so much commitment. Working myself to the bone has long been a bad habit of mine, one that I’m slowly overcoming and learning to conquer.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
Every day is different and comes with its own unique demands.
But most days, I start my morning at the beach, walking my dog with a coffee in hand.
After sitting at my desk (either at our Surry Hills HQ or in my home office), I spend the first 10mins catching up with my gang.
Once the tunes are on and the vibes are flowing, I get stuck into my tasks which may vary from new client meetings, producing content, to marketing activities and brainstorming our next move.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
Growing up my hero was always my Mum and best buds. And whilst they’re definitely still high on the list, they are now joined by the likes of Michelle Obama, Sophia Amoruso, and Emily Weiss. These three ladies sit loud and proud on my desktop wallpaper to remind me to embody their values of humility, grit, tenacity, and innovation.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
If you think you can do it, you can.
Working for yourself is more challenging than you’ll ever imagine, but if you have enough determination and an unwavering self-belief, you can take on the world on your own terms.
Also, be prepared to work your ass off – It’s true, nothing worth having comes easy.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Websites: Darling Magazine is my current go-to for good reads and inspiring stories. And of course, Pinterest – all day, every day
- Name an Instagram account that you can’t go a day without checking: Oh, there are far too many to name! I have loads of friends doing creative, cool things with their lives. From the Insta accounts of my awesome team, to fellow entrepreneurs, I’m a total sucker for a daily scroll.
- Favourite Podcast: I listen to a lot of entrepreneurial centric podcasts. A few of my faves are So Money, Being Boss, Oh Boy by Man Repeller, Girlboss Radio and plenty more.
- Favourite Netflix Series: I have to admit I don’t actually watch much at all. I spend all day long staring at a screen, so to get home and do the same again feels a little too much like torture for me! I choose dinner dates, baths or a good old fashioned book over Netflix any day.
- Favourite all time book/s: Where to start!! I am a total sucker for self-help business and motivation books. I just finished Anything You Want, by Derek Sivers and absolutely loved. It’s a super quick read, but 100% life changing.
- Favourite people:
- A) My best friend, partner in crime, and love of my life, Byron.
- B) My team; they are a collection of some of the sharpest minds and brightest thinkers I’ve ever met.
- C) People who are unapologetically themselves and carve out creative lives to pursue the lifestyles they want to lead.
- Others: Coffee.