- Owner of designKREW, Los Angeles, CA
How was designKREW born?
I was working as an Art Director at an independent magazine and I kept having all these ideas and I would present them and they wouldn’t be heard. Being that the job was in the publishing industry, I had a hunch that the company wasn’t going to last very much longer. I jumped ship even though I had zero clients, zero money and ZERO clue what I wanted to do. I actually call it my “zero moment.” I said to myself, I have two options; I can freelance for a while and just see or I can try to hunt down another job. Trying to hunt down another job did not seem like fun and I am a firm believer if you think you can do something to better yourself then you better go and do it. So that’s what I decided to do. Organically, a client fell into my lap and I started doing work for that person…and then another one… and then another one … and then all of the sudden designKREW was just happening without me realizing it. It confirmed for me that I had made the right decision. And I went for it…jumped all the way in.
How did you make the leap to starting your own business? (Did you have any financial backers or did you just start small on your own?
Really, it’s that I met the right people at the right time and it evolved from there. No financial backers. It was savings and credit cards and a HUGE leap of faith in the beginning. I actually spent most of my savings to hire a business coach to get me started. That was my way of putting faith and investment into what I was creating.
What have been your biggest learning’s since starting designKREW?
You can’t do it alone – no matter what stage you’re at in the process of building a business! Even if it’s in the beginning when you have no budget, make sure you surround yourself with motivating people who can support and guide you. That way when you are ready to throw in the towel or are feeling overwhelmed (which will happen many, many times), they’ll step in and cheer you on. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you should (or even can) be doing everything or you’ll burn out and you’ll lose your passion. And now that I have had the experience of a solid, beautiful team both in business and in my personal life…I’ll never go back!
You have quite an amazing and talented KREW of employees. How did you find such great people?
Step One is I’m really clear on what I want as well as what my expectations are and I try to communicate that as clearly as possible. Step Two is I don’t settle. That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, fire quickly and hire slowly. Be really clear on what it is you want out of your team and then communicate that as clearly as possible. Do as many interviews as you have to for as long as you need, to get the right candidate in place. Also make sure they aren’t just like you, you need people who will fill in your weak points versus want to be doing what you’re already a natural at.
How do you market yourself? Do you find your own clients, or do they come to you?
Our clients come to us for the most part. I’d say our clientele is 98% referral and it’s something I’m really proud of. To have the clients that we work with be so thrilled that they can’t wait to tell other people about us is a great testimony to designKREW as an agency. I don’t know that it was always that way as I did a lot of networking in the beginning. We’ve always put the focus on creating relationships rather than clients, and I truly believe that is a huge component to our success.
Words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs who are looking to make the jump from on-the-side freelance to full-time business owner?
There are a few guidelines I put in place right from the get-go and I’m happy to share:
Get Guidance! Don’t try to do it on your own. Either find a mentor who is doing what you want to do or get a business consultant ASAP. Really interview them before you work with them and make sure they are a right fit for you.
Dive In! Don’t feel like you have to have the full blown-out plan to make the leap into starting your business. You actually don’t have to have all the pieces together to start because you don’t know what you don’t know yet. The business environment is changing so quickly anyways - a 5 year plan is ridiculous. I say have a guideline and be flexible.
Trust your Gut! Trusting my instincts has been one of the most successful and rewarding experiences of running designKREW. Always trust your own instincts about your own passion project. There is no greater authority on the matter. The caveat to that is FIRST make sure you are in touch with your instincts, however you need to do that. Make it a practice to get in touch with your intuition – you inner-guidance system – and then always trust that.
You’ve Struck Gold! Once you land a client, you’ve struck gold. Truly. The effort it takes to conjure up a new client is to high compared to the effort it takes to retain one you already have. So make customer service even MORE important than the product you put out.
What’s the Endgame? Can’t remember where I heard it but you got to begin with the end in mind. Make sure you’re doing something that motivates you and moving toward something you want…REAL BAD. Whatever your “WHY” whatever your vision is, hold it close to you and revisit it Every. Single. Day. because when the cinnamon hits the fan you got to remember what you’re doing it all for! My staff and I bust out our own personal vision boards and visualize for 5 minutes every morning.