Extraordinary Lives: Olivia Norman

Olivia Norman turns loved but hidden photographs into beautiful linen books or leather-bound albums that are collected by everyone from Elisabeth Murdoch to Melissa Odabash. I recently gave one to David for his birthday. Her business is bustling and she runs it whilst being a quite involved, devoted mother of four girls who are so proud of all their mother has achieved.

You’re an entrepreneur and mother of four. Did your business spring from your family life and looking back on photos and videos of your girls?  

I have always loved photographs and the idea of archiving – it all started when I created a scrap book whilst traveling the world as a 20-year-old. I was then the first one amongst my friends to stick my wedding pictures into an album and then went on to create baby books for my daughters. The idea to make it into a business happened whilst I was three months pregnant with my third child.

Your books are so gorgeous – the linen and the leather both. How did you come to make the world’s best-looking photo books?

I started the business in 2004 on a very small scale and it’s taken this long to really understand exactly what clients want and to be able to source the best suppliers worldwide. I am a Virgo, and by nature a perfectionist.

You have a large team. What is your advice for entrepreneurs growing their business?

Firstly, you have to be passionate and really love what you do!  Of equal importance is who you determine to bring on the journey with you. The team defines the character, the profile and ultimately the success of the company. I feel extremely happy with ours, every member genuinely cares about what they do and have been working alongside me for a good amount of years.

“The bigger the job – the bigger the challenge.” Is a way you cheerfully let people know that you can sort out 40 years of photos, but it also sums up your approach to life. With four daughters and a busy business, how do you keep life sorted in real time?

I remember being given a piece of advice by a great friend of mine, Thea Green, who started Nails Inc. She told me as the business gets bigger you have to remember to draw the curtains on your windows every night and if there are nights that you don’t have time to draw them all, then be sure to close that of your family. I do try to remember this advice but inevitably something suffers on weekly basis.

It’s so hard but do you have any advice for other mothers trying to achieve that horrible concept of work/life balance?

I wish I did have lots of good advice here, but to be honest I am still learning this myself! There are often weeks where I feel I have got the balance wrong and have moments of guilt or doubt when it comes to my children and whether I have been present enough at times when they need me. But on the flip-side, three of my girls are now grown up teenagers and I know they are hugely proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m now the first port of call for all their friends needing work experience. I am acutely aware that I have had huge support also from my husband Jonathan, who is an extremely hands on father and offers encouragement in both personal and professional matters on a daily basis. Over the years, I have been approached by various investors and until one requires significant funds to consider a major strategic expansion I have held off as I believe the constraints that would be placed on me and the business understandably would to date have likely impacted my effort to maintain the very important  balance of work and home life.

I would say to working mothers “Celebrate what you are achieving given all the challenges, rather than focus on what you can’t accomplish”.

What do you hope for your girls as they find their way in the world?

Be happy in whatever they do and be brave enough to take opportunities!

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