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Checking in with 2023 TDC Scholar Olivia Macfarlane

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Our interview with Olivia Macfarlane

2023 TDC Scholar Olivia Macfarlane from Undercurrent Studio

TDC: Thanks for speaking with us today Liv. We last spoke to you in March this year at the start of your journey as our 2023 Scholar. We’re now just over halfway through the year, so we’re keen to get an update on your progress. Generally, how do you feel about your business journey with TDC?

LM: Thank you for checking in with me. The scholarship couldn't have come at a better time for me and my business Undercurrent. Since starting the scholarship, we've noticed it's had a huge impact on the business, across multiple sectors. And, our turnover has pretty much doubled on what it was last year. The end of our financial year is March, so it's a bit different in New Zealand. We've implemented lots of changes and brought on contractors who are unique specialists in their fields. This alone has been an amazing change as I can delegate some of the work which takes some pressure off me.

Central Hotel by Undercurrent Studio, Photography by Tim Pierce

TDC: How has being the recipient of the 2023 TDC Scholarship most impacted your business?

LM: I think for me, and I touched on this last time we spoke, the best part is being connected to a design community of people who have a similar mindset. Being based rurally down here, I don't have that community. Being able to lean into Andrew's knowledge, as well as the peers in the group has been amazing.

Through Business Bootcamp we received an incredible amount of templates and resources and have put them to good use. We quickly adjusted our terms and conditions clauses and built an incredible Undercurrent fee calculator, which has been a really useful tool in quoting jobs and feeling confident in putting fee proposals forward.

I guess the business is at a stage now where, although we've been juggling the Winter sicknesses recently, I feel like it's at a point where it's not like it was last year. Last year was really stressful, and this year we've managed to alleviate some of that. I feel like I have a bit of my personal life back, and I'm able to focus on wellness. And that's another part of the TDC courses that’s so important; wellness and personal goals, not just business goals.

Tarras Store by Undercurrent Studio, Photography by Tim Pierce, The Beards

TDC: You’re currently taking part in the Premium Group Coaching Program. The program provides fortnightly group coaching, 1-on-1 coaching sessions, a framework for setting powerful goals, and a regular accountability group. How has the ongoing coaching and support helped you achieve your personal and professional goals?

LM: The Accountability Group has been extremely useful for regularly setting goals and achieving them. Basically I started out with a lot of goals! I had plenty across the long term, midterm, and then the shorter term. Bit by bit, I've managed to surprisingly tick off a few, and some of the bigger chunkier ones.

Recently I got married and we are desperate for a break so we've booked a holiday and I am now attending yoga weekly, walking three times a week and going to Pilates every week. So, from a wellness perspective, I'm feeling really, really great. And I think it's because of the focus on the business that has also enabled that.

Olivia Macfarlane from Undercurrent Studio, Photography by Nat Symonds, Run in the shadows

TDC: You’re based in a beautiful town Wanaka on South Island of New Zealand, close to Queenstown where we will be hosting our October Retreat. Can you tell us a bit about your work and personal life in Wanaka?

LM: I grew up rurally, and then for most of my adulthood I've been living in cities, which have inspired my interiors until I moved to Wanaka. So, I guess I draw different inspiration now from what I have in the past whilst living in Auckland, Europe, and in the UK previously. When I moved to Wanaka, it felt like I was seeing colour for the first time in the colours, landscapes and textures. And instead of being inspired by trends and fashions, you're sort of authentically inspired by what is surrounding you.

I have a studio on the lakefront of Wanaka looking towards the mountains, but with the juggle of motherhood with a one year old, it's easier for me to work from home. Occasionally I do go into the studio-office space and work life also involves travelling around the South Island and also up to the North Island.

TDC: One of the things you mentioned in our earlier interview was that you can sometimes feel a bit isolated working in a relatively small town in a remote part of New Zealand. How has being part of the Premium Group Coaching Program community helped to fill this void?

LM: Most of my clients are across the country, actually. So, working from Wanaka, in a remote location, it helps to have digital contact with clients. Through the Premium Group Coaching Program, I've introduced VR capability into our concept phase of design. Our clients, during the early stages of design, get sent a VR headset so that they can walk through their interiors. So, it means that working from a location like Wanaka is easier, because of VR and technology. That's been a huge focus for the business, establishing a distinctive point of difference by using this technology.

The Premium Group Coaching community has been amazing, and I just can't wait to meet those who are coming to Queenstown. There's nothing better than physically meeting in person. But aside from that, we are regularly connected on WhatsApp, and via email, as well as our Trello boards. So, there are lots of different ways of feeling like you can keep in touch or reach out to your peers when you need that extra support.

There’s four of us in the accountability group, we meet once every 2 weeks and set fortnightly goals. We then work through those goals together. Often we end up going off on tangents, but everything's really relevant. We all have quite different backgrounds, so we can draw on different experiences and we're all at different stages in life as well.

St Moritz Hotel, Queenstown

TDC: You recently caught up with TDC Founder Andrew Mitchell in Queenstown while he was finalising details for the upcoming retreat. As part of the Scholarship, you have a place at the 2023 NZ Retreat in Queenstown. What are you most looking forward to with this special experience? For anyone who hasn’t been to Queenstown, can you tell them what makes it so incredible?

LM: I'm most looking forward to meeting everybody in person, and I guess showing off this region, because for those that haven't been here, it's pretty incredible. There's lots of great wine and food, and great interiors as well. But mostly the scenery is just breathtaking, so it'll be fun to share that with everybody.

The Otago region is a growing region for a reason. It's extremely beautiful with quite dramatic, incredible mountain landscapes and lakes. Lots of shopping, great eating, and incredible wineries. There's lots of new architecture, and a lot of contemporary architecture that's inspired by landscapes, and using lots of natural materials like cedar.

TDC: What are your plans for the rest of the year? What are you hoping to take from your continued involvement in the TDC Scholarship Program?

LM: I am about halfway through the Premium Group Coaching program. Each fortnight we are given an exciting new topic with valuable resources to apply. So, I guess the next 6 months will involve continuously applying the content related to the fortnightly topics.

I feel like there's just a continuous amount of work to be done, and I think that when I started the course, I didn't realize how much time needed to be spent working on the business. not just in the business. It's really great setting that time aside now to focus on that, which has been three to five hours a week of just solidly working on the business.

I’m also really looking forward to the Queenstown Retreat in October!

We're so impressed with the way Olivia has thrown herself into every aspect of the program, and look forward to working with her to further develop her systems and processes. We'll check in at the end of the year to see how she is progressing.

Once again, we thank our amazing Scholarship Sponsors, Est Lighting and Arthur G Furniture for making this program possible.

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