Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Justin Max, Founder of Spark DSG, located in Pipersville, PA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Spark is a digital design and development agency solving complex business problems. In 2011, our business was founded on our deep expertise in retail, but we've since expanded our offering to also cater to healthcare, finance, and industrial clients. Our method of approaching the problem and collaborating with our clients allows us to move nimbly from one industry to the next and bring insights gained in one challenge to another seemingly disparate problem and unlock unique solutions.
Tell us about yourself
How far back do you want to go? In high school, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house with a Mac, Photoshop 2.0, and Quark Xpress. I fell in love with that and would spend my free time creating album art for my friend's bands, laying out the school newspaper, and just creating digital art. That passion for visual problem-solving has just evolved and grown over the years but it has never left me. I've always been a bit D.I.Y., and the impetus for starting Spark was really born out of frustration with my experience working in both a corporate setting and at larger agencies. I wanted to cut through all the red tape, stop jumping through hoops and go directly to the source. Working in smaller, talented teams directly with client subject matter experts while incorporating the voice of the end user is a more efficient way to collaboratively problem solve. That belief has been part of the Spark DNA since day 1.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I don't stop often enough to reflect and really feel like I've accomplished much. If I could, I'd like to reframe the question and answer, "What do you feel the most gratitude over as a business owner?" That answer is much easier. I feel grateful to my team. There's been a few permutations of the business, and along the way, I've been blessed to be surrounded by quality human beings that are talented at their jobs, willing to learn and also have integrity and kindness at their core. Second, I'm grateful for some of the experiences that the business has provided me. I've presented work to the CEO of Uniqlo at their headquarters in Tokyo, I've led UX workshop sessions in Dubai, and collaborated with fashion brands in Copenhagen. I love being a little bit out of my comfort zone, and these cultural experiences would not have happened without my Spark journey. Lastly, I'm grateful to have a wife and family that allowed me the space and support to put the work in.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
If you care deeply about what you're building then each decision you make impacts the people on your team, the culture you create, and the financial success of the organization. These things are all intrinsically tied together and so that can be a lot of responsibility to place on your shoulders. Not many people can truly relate to that, so the biggest challenge, especially as a solo owner, is feeling isolated. It's important to be kind to yourself at times.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Have a vision and a system to achieve that vision. Revisit and revise both on a regular basis.
- Keep an eye out for strategic, process, or people gaps in your organization. These need to be addressed directly and not be allowed to become continual headaches.
- Care about your people and be authentic with them.
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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