Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Melissa Balkon, Founder of Strong Design Studios and Phoenix Supply Co., located in Tempe, AZ, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

A boutique design studio on a mission to help businesses grow through strategic brand-centered design. We help bold organizations build meaningful brands and websites.

Tell us about yourself

I am the founder and lead designer at Strong Design Studios. In the last two decades, I’ve been blessed to be able to work with clients and projects of all shapes and sizes, but my passion is for smaller organizations and solopreneurs who value design as a business asset and want to work one-on-one to develop and implement a consistent design strategy for their business. That passion for helping small businesses is not only the spark that drove me to start Strong Design but is also the fuel that keeps me going every day. Strong Design exists to champion the dreams of these organizations by guiding them through the development of their brands.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

This year marks 10 years of running Strong Design full-time (there were 10 years prior to that when I ran the business as a side hustle). From day one, the intention for Strong Design has always been to be a single-person business, so I’ve always defined growth as better projects, and I feel like I achieve that a little more each day.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The hardest thing about being a business owner (particularly a business owner without staff) is hands-down having to do ALL the things, ALL at the same time. There is really no aspect of the business that I dislike, but many days I dislike that I can’t fully focus on design all day, or fully focus on administrative tasks, or fully focus on sales—your focus pretty much always has to be split.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Start the business as a side hustle and start growing your client base. It is really hard to create a client base out of thin air (despite with social media will tell you), so starting the business while also working a full-time job allows you to grow a client base without the pressure of them having to put the food on your table. It also gives you an opportunity to refine your processes so that you can hit the ground running when you decide to take it full-time. Once the side hustle grows large enough that you could theoretically start living off of it, then you can consider taking it full-time.
  2. Save. Save. Save. Having cash in the bank (and minimal debt) is key to being able to operate a business. Not only does it allow you to weather unexpected expenses, but having a substantial cushion of savings enables you to make the best choices for your business (turning down clients who are not a fit, etc.) It is ideal to have a cash reserve before taking the business full-time.
  3. Your reputation is your marketing. From day one, the main marketing plan I have had was to give every customer the best experience possible. And sometimes, that may mean putting in a little more work than I had planned. But happy clients refer other clients, and a referral is often a sale just waiting to happen.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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