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Common Exception is bringing joy to starting a business

Louisa Tan is the founder of Common Exception, a joyful community for creative people building brands. After years of having her own strategic consultancy, Louisa began working with creatives wanting to move in a new direction, either to start a business or grow. Noticing that the real challenge was down to confidence, rather than ability, Louisa launched Common Exception in 2019, bringing a more joyful and mindful approach to business.
Common Exception Louisa Tan

You describe Common Exception as a joyful community for creative people building brands. Can you tell us a little more about what it is and how you got started?

I’ve worked as a strategist for years and started to do some ad hoc consultancy work for friends in the creative sector. Despite many of them saying that they didn’t have a business brain or weren’t strategic, I started to see that this wasn’t the case at all, that it was more about confidence and really looking at what the problem was that they wanted to solve. I found that many people, because they had been stuck with the problem for so long, often just wanted someone else to provide the answer to them, and in some cases this led to bad decisions being made. But I knew, with some confidence and being asked the right questions, they would know what decision they needed to make. Around this same time I became really interested in the start of the journey, and how to get a business off the ground. I’d had my own consultancy practice for nearly 15 years, and over the years I’ve had some many people tell me their amazing business ideas but never take it any further, due to a lack of confidence and it seeming hard to start a business. I knew that if they could see other people in the same boat, and how much fun it is to have a business, this would help demystify the process about how to start, and then how to grow. And that’s what Common Exception is about. Because life is meant to be enjoyable, and so is having a business!

How did you get started as a strategist?

I initially studied English and Politics, before going on to study and work in urban planning because I was interested in the intersections between the various fields in creating public spaces. When I moved to London, I became involved in transport and behaviour change, continuing to work with local authorities and organisations on strategic projects and policies. I’ve always loved a good jigsaw puzzle too and strategy feels a bit like this to me, I can just see where all the pieces are meant to go!

What’s the most common problem you’ve noticed amongst people starting or wanting to grow?

Not knowing where to start is very common. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with ideas and different, and sometimes contradicting, advice. It can feel really hard to know where to start first. The other common problem is confidence. Both of these can be easily overcome as once you start prioritising ideas, and breaking everything down into small tasks, it becomes a lot less daunting.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give someone starting out?

Just start! Don’t get scared of not being good enough or qualified enough. And your starting point also doesn’t need to look like someone else’s. It’s better to start in a way that’s authentic to you, that feels good, because however you do it you’ll be learning on the job. And be passionate! There’s no point starting or growing a business if you don’t love what you’re doing because it does take time and effort but if you love it, it feels good and worth it.

Have you ever needed to make an insurance claim?

Yes, and very recently. My property was broken into at the start of the summer and I was really lucky to have insurance with Whinney Insurance. Matt stayed late and made sure that the door to my building was secure. It was one less thing to worry about in a very, very stressful situation and the personal service is just amazing. I can’t imagine ever going anywhere else for my insurance!

What’s next for you?

A big move! After almost 15 years of living in London, I’ve decided it’s time to go back to Australia for a while. I’ve designed Common Exception so that it can work anywhere in the world, with online workshops and one to one sessions

I’ve also got some collaborations in the pipeline and looking forward to building the Common Exception community — which is what it’s all about!