EAST WENATCHEE, Wash.—If not now, when? That was the question that finally prompted Rob Lewis and his wife, Mary Big Bull-Lewis to open their own graphic design firm, R Digital Design.
Though neither had owned a business before, Rob had been working as a graphic designer for nine years and knew the creative and administrative part of the business. At the time they started discussing their new venture, Mary was working as a project manager and estimator at the same design firm.
“We always knew we could do it on our own and be successful,” Mary said, but the problem was, how to get started?
Mary, a member of the Colville Tribe, had heard of an entrepreneurship program led by Lew Blakeney, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Okanogan. Blakeney has been instructing a 10-week course titled, “Indianpreneurship: A Native American Journey into Business” twice a year since 2003.
Since Rob and Mary Lewis were working in Douglas County, Blakeney referred them to Jim Fletcher, the SBDC certified business advisor in Wenatchee. The Lewis’ started working on their business plan in early 2012, Mary said, and met with Fletcher several times over the next year to make sure they were creating a solid foundation for their business.
“We learned what not to do,” which was a huge benefit, Mary said, and laughed. “Failure was not an option, so we wanted to make sure we were doing things right,” she said. Fletcher’s knowledge of small business was very valuable, she said, and “he directed us in the right direction for each step it took to start.”
Together with Fletcher they worked on everything from creating a company vision to setting up QuickBooks.
Originally, she said, they thought they’d need to find investors so that they could buy equipment and rent a commercial space, but instead they decided to create a home-based business and use service providers when necessary.
The Lewis’ have ambitious plans for the business, but starting small and lean has allowed them to find their niche and build brand recognition, even while they help other companies do the same.
“We really specialize in logos and branding,” Mary said. “We like to work with new businesses in town and help them create a brand identity.”
“When starting your company an important key is to start with a unique logo and build your brand identity from there,” Rob said. He cautioned against using clip art or other off-the-shelf design elements because marketing materials should stand out, not blend in. Ready-made design templates will only confuse your audience, he said.
“Consistency and repetition, paired with a unique design and color scheme, are important aspects of being remembered,” he said.
R Digital Design does website design, too, but specializes in print work including business cards, letterheads, programs and brochures.
Their five year plan includes opening an office in downtown Wenatchee and hiring additional employees, but for now they are enjoying the satisfaction of being sole proprietors and meeting each client one-to-one and seeing a project through to completion.
“The satisfaction of helping others and being able to produce quality work makes it all worth it,” Mary said.