Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sarah Saunders, Founder of Sarah's Domain, located in Jonesborough, TN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is a multi-faceted graphic design and marketing business. I currently have clients of all types ranging from skincare to technology to healthcare marketing and education. For my clients, I handle a wide array of marketing needs, including designing and managing their website, print and digital advertising, print collateral, UX & UI evaluation, recommendations, and design - really anything that falls under the umbrella of marketing a company falls on my list of abilities.
Tell us about yourself
I went to college and got a degree in Graphic Design from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL. With my degree, I got my first job as a graphic designer for a very small agency back in 2003. Because the agency was comprised of 3 people, I learned to wear many, many different hats. I started before the digital world really exploded, so I was able to learn the world of print design and publishing. Then as the agency's needs expanded into the digital space, I was able to teach myself how to develop websites on the job. While this was extremely challenging at the time, it turned out to be a blessing because I did not pigeonhole myself into one specific skill set. I was able to not only design a website but to see through how that design would translate into a developed and functioning website.
I stayed with the agency for 17 years and helped it grow from 3 people to over 150. The agency focused its efforts on hotel and tourism marketing only. So when that industry took a big hit from the Covid pandemic, so too did a lot of people's jobs. I had always dreamed of working for myself - I had an excellent role model in my dad, who managed to put three kids through college working for himself as a copywriter. He is a freelancing pioneer, working from home for himself before it was the cool thing to do. For as devastating as the pandemic was for the vast majority of people, it opened a brand new door for me. From this tragedy, I decided the time was right for me to make it on my own - I already knew my trade and the ins and outs of the marketing world.
At the end of the day, I see marketing as many branches of the same tree, and I am so grateful to be able to understand how each branch affects the others and how they can all work together to develop one effective product. I think what motivates me is the fact that trends change almost daily, the web development world is constantly changing, yet at the core of it, all the concept of marketing and advertising is always the same. So I get to apply the same principles that I learned back in college and have picked up along the way, but the nature of the industry does not allow me to become stagnant or bored.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think my biggest accomplishment is simply making it work. I dreamed for years of working for myself but let myself become settled into the 'known.' It wasn't until I was thrown into it that I embraced the 'unknown.' There are always financial uncertainties when you don't have a steady, pre-defined paycheck. But when you are making money by the fruits of your own labor and relying only on yourself to make that money, the reward is so much greater.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things as a business owner, from my point of view, is the unknown. I am lucky in that I am only working to support myself, my husband, and our two cats. We don't have a large family depending on us or, like my dad, three kids to put through college. But it is always tough when you are not sure how much money you will make from one week to the next. I am also very lucky in that I have had a steady workflow and lots of referrals. But inevitably, there are still some slow weeks thrown into the mix.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
My top 3 tips for anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today would be:
- Don't hesitate. Don't let yourself become stuck in the 'known.' If you are passionate enough about something, then you are the only one that can prevent yourself from making it happen.
- Stay organized. The less organized you are, the more time you will find yourself wasting looking for something - be it a file on your computer or a piece of paper with that important contact info on it.
- Stay positive. There will always be down times. That's just the nature of life. If you don't have the downs, then you can't know the ups. It is cliche, but the challenging times will only make you stronger.
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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