Em McCabe: Founder Story

Em McCabe is the Founder of the value-centered digital marketing web design and branding agency Eb + Flo Digital. Em has been an entrepreneur for three years now, already managing a team of five. In this interview, we explore her story, what drove her to entrepreneurship, and what hurdles and benefits became present in her journey so far. 

Em’s story

Freelancing on the side from an early age, in the back of her mind, Em always had the idea of having her own business. But coming from an environment of family and friends who were all employed with full-time, conventional jobs, she didn’t take the leap to pursue something more than freelance gigs until life put her in a somewhat difficult position. 

“I was always really good at Photoshop and design. If friends or family needed a little logo or a flier, I’d do that. Even people in school would give me money to design their assignments properly. During the pandemic, I was made redundant. There were no jobs and nothing to do. I had just come out of a long-term relationship and had to move back with my parents. I had nothing. I didn’t know what was happening with my life. I was about to move to London, and I thought the trip couldn’t happen. So I truly looked at my life. What would actually make me happy? My marketing job was fine, but it was very repetitive. I was doing the same tasks every day. I was put in a small box and that was the case for every job I ever had. I did a year or two at a company and then I’d move. It was never quite right.

“I’ve been thinking of starting a business for a long time, so I said to myself, ‘This is my chance. I’m essentially at rock bottom. I’m going to try and make my way up.’ And it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m really thankful I got made redundant because if it wasn’t for that big push and for me being desperate just to do something, I wouldn’t be here.”

When in a difficult situation, we are faced with a choice: are we going to let things happen to us or are we going to take control and try to turn it around? For many people, taking their employment and dreams into their own hands and following their passion seems out-of-reach, unattainable, possible for only a chosen few. But as we strive to show you in Follow the Founder, the reality is different, and Em’s story is another unique example of how our dream lives can be closer than we realize. 

“I think deep down I knew I had to build a job that represented who I was. How can we bring ourselves back and start again? I feel like that middle part is the most dangerous. So I thought, ‘Okay, let me create the kind of life and the purpose I want because I’m not going to get it from a corporate job’. The best part was that as soon as I got made redundant, a lot of my friends and colleagues came forward and said, ‘I know you’re amazing at what you do, you got this.’ In a way, I didn’t even really have to try. It was as if the world just made it happen for me, which I know is not the case for everyone. I got a bit lucky.”

Change happens best in times of distress. But there are moments in life when things just line up for us. So if we are aware enough, or available enough, we can take advantage. In fact, we have to take advantage and prioritize ourselves, watch out for opportunities to achieve that perfect, blissful life we envision in our wildest dreams. When we surrender to the magic the world offers us occasionally, it pays off. But of course, even then, it takes a lot of hard work, resilience, and consistency along the way. 

Hurdles & Benefits

When asked about the hurdles she encountered in her journey, the biggest one Em pointed to was realizing she needed to ask for help. This was closely followed by figuring out how to have a good management style. The transition from a corporate job to being a Founder and CEO of a small company could feel overwhelming. But staying true to oneself helps. 

“I had some bad managers in the past. Getting used to that management style and moving from a big corporate job to a Founder made a difference. Also, when it’s your business, your baby, it feels really different too. That was something I didn’t expect,” Em says.

A great benefit she didn’t foresee was the time she gained back as a Founder. After three years of hard work, she expanded her team and suddenly found time for herself. Being able to manage her time, her working hours, and her clients gave Em true control over her life. She was able to dedicate time to what fills her cup and brings her joy, so she could then reflect that into the business. 

“I have so much energy to enjoy what I’m getting out of my personal life. It’s making me more creative in the work I do for clients too and a kinder manager to my team, more understanding and accepting. Your personal and professional lives are so closely intertwined that if you’re not happy in one, you won’t be in the other. I’ve had time to do hobbies and things that I’ve always wanted such as learning languages. I get to travel around the world, be a nomad, and do things that there’s no way I could have done in a corporate job. I probably would never have been this happy if I hadn’t started my business. It is hard work but unbelievably worthwhile.”

Another major benefit of being a Founder is the ability to pick and choose your clients. Em has truly embodied this into her business, choosing their clientele to be, in Em’s words, “people doing good things”. Eb+ Flo work with small businesses, charities, nonprofits, and companies doing something that makes a difference. Em says she takes clients whose vision aligns with her values. The company even has a list of businesses they would not take on. This appears on their website contact form (eg. firearm guns, military, crypto etc.) Em says, “ We do good wherever we can.”

Other values Em has weaved into her business include making tech accessible to all and treating every client by giving them maximum attention. Em elaborates, “I like to treat every client like they’re our number one. We intentionally do that by not overbooking, not bringing on 10 clients at one time, or over-promising. We are a small team. So just be honest with people and say, ‘Look, it might take you a couple more weeks, but you’re going to get a better result that way.’”

One piece of advice

One piece of advice Em would like to offer to fellow Founders or those who are thinking of starting their venture is:

“If you’ve got even that little inkling of an idea or something that you’re thinking you’ve always wanted to do, just do it. Ask the people around you for help. I think all I needed was a little push, someone to say, “Just try to do it, you can”. It seems really scary, but it isn’t. There are a lot of people, pretty much anyone who started a business, has gone through the same thing as you. I love helping anyone who asks me even if we met just an hour ago. Business owners know how hard it is and are willing and happy to help. So reach out, stop people, go on LinkedIn, or to that friend of a friend. It’s very much worth it. Despite how scary it is.”

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