What I Learned Starting A Design Company

From early in my career I thought I never wanted to start a business because it was a daunting task with huge risk, little security, and no healthcare insurance bundled in. I'd freelanced as an independent contractor a bit, and there were a ton of challenges that weren't as much as issue in the in-house creative departments I'd worked in up to that point.

I moved out to Colorado in 2017 for one of those in-house positions for a job as Senior Designer for The Brewers Association. This job allowed me to follow a passion of mine since college, which was to work in the craft beer industry in a design capacity.

In a relatively short period a couple years into that job, the COVID-19 kicked us all in the teeth, and my company at the time reacted by laying me off in 2020 along with around 40% of their staff at the time. After posting about my newfound joblessness on LinkedIn I was contacted with Matt Nelson who told me he loved and followed my work and wanted to work together on a new project he called Hopsonomy.

This did so much for my confidence, and was then that I first I reconsidered starting a business. Another reason to reconsider was the timing of my layoff, and I knew I would enter into a terribly difficult job market during the pandemic (which turned out to be the worse economic recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s [citation]).

After wrapping up the Hosponomy projects for Matt, I took a few weeks off to clear my head so I could think about what I should do with my career next, and decided to become a full-time independent contractor. About a week later (incredible cosmic timing!) my friend and fellow designer Adam Raiola asked me if I wanted to start a design company together. I knew Adam's work, skills, and personality from working together on projects for The Brewers Association, and his proposition to work together was an immediate yes from me.

Thus birthed, on Nov. 18, 2020, my first company Studio DNVR.

And, as of writing this on December 2, 2023, just over three years after starting, I find myself at a cross-roads that requires me to shutter the business and find a full-time job opportunity with another company.

How did I get here, and more importantly, what did I learn along the way? The answer to the latter is more than almost any other job I've ever held and its helped me grow in ways I couldn't anticipate before I started out with Adam.

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Studio DNVR

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