Our (First!) Year In Review...
It's hard to believe it's been a year since we took the leap and started our own creative studio! It's gone by in a flash, so we wanted to take a little time to reflect on all the amazing people we've met, the fun projects we've contributed to, small victories we've had, favorite memories, and why we did it in the first place. Without further ado, we present the Top 10 Moments, Highlights and Memories from our first year in business!
ONe: Our First Client Meeting
Will :: We were obviously excited for our first client meeting, not only because it was for a branding project, but because it was with a buddy of ours: local photographer extraordinaire, Erin Reid Coker. In an extra special cosmic twist of fate, Erin actually bought the house where my grandparents lived, and his studio is where my grandfather had his law office. Sitting in that first meeting, with all the butterflies and insecurities you feel in your first month of business, I found an overwhelming sense of reassurance in that special setting. The project was a lot of fun and we ended up with a logo we all love. And I like to think we had a little help from someone watching over us, when we needed it most.
TWO: Putting together our first proposal
Kelli :: If you had talked to me while I was in the midst of laying out our first proposal, I was definitely not a happy camper. But in retrospect, the couple weeks of frantically writing our resumes, crafting numerous pages of copy about our process and work, and seeing our business come to life in this type of context was so exciting. Having to really dial in to our work, tailor it down and write about creative projects in a very objective way was a unique challenge, and gave us all a huge sense of accomplishment. When all was said and done, we had a 30-something page document that was filled with nothing but work that we created, from scratch—from our logo gracing the cover, every bit of kickass creative that we featured, and each and every thoughtfully written word. I remember proofreading it for the last time and having the realization that WE did that. WE have a body of work. WE have so much to bring to the table.
THREE: ECLIPSE DAY & SIX MOnths in Business
Cara :: We've been meeting with SCORE Business Mentors since the beginning, and will continue to meet with them until they kick us out. If anyone else is thinking about starting a business, or has recently started one, we highly suggest reaching out to SCORE. They have equipped us with fancy (and effective) spreadsheets that help us with financial projections and planning out new business. We talk strategy with them and they guide us into making smart business decisions. They also urge us to periodically take a day to get away from the office and to really look at what we've accomplished so far and to establish new goals. We decided our six month business anniversary would be a good time to take this mini retreat which also happened to fall on the solar eclipse day in August. As fiscally responsible business owners in our first year of business we each packed our own lunch and met at Congress Park in Saratoga equipped with our fancy updated spreadsheets and our own thoughts and goals that we had been jotting down to prep for the meeting. We actually really surprised ourselves (in a good way!) when looking at the results of our first few months in business and used the meeting it as a chance to voice our own personal struggles and goals as business owners. With constant deadlines looming and busy work days, it can be hard to set aside a day, or even half a day, to take the time to reflect and to look forward, but this day was crucial for us and our business. In order to really talk things out, you need to get at least 10-miles away from your computer, because it's a time to look at the big picture, not the small everyday stuff that we know we'll get done.
As for the solar eclipse; did we come prepared with solar eclipse glasses? No. Did we try to look through our sunglasses even though everyone said "no, that's very dangerous"? Yes. Eventually, a kind passerby loaned us her glasses for a couple minutes so that we could all take turns taking in the eclipse. It was beautiful and slightly scary to have the sun disappear all of the sudden in the middle of a warm sunny day. I've been trying to search for some sort of connection between the solar eclipse falling on the same day as our six month anniversary and retreat, but after multiple solar eclipse google searches, maybe it's just the beautiful and scary part that is so similar to our first year in business.
four: Moving Day!
Will :: When we first set up shop, we decided to work out of the spare bedroom in my house. It was...cozy. We weathered the ups and downs of our first couple months in those close quarters and still have some fond memories from "the Clubhouse". But soon into our first year, we received a phone call from our friend and mentor, Mark Behan. Mark is President of Behan Communications, a strategic and crisis communications firm with roots in Glens Falls. He told us he had some space in his beautiful downtown offices and we jumped at the opportunity. It was a chance to score some prime studio space in the heart of our city, but more importantly, we knew getting to work alongside the Behan team would be an incredible experience and invaluable asset to us as a new business. The entire staff was so welcoming from day one and we instantly felt at home. The opportunity also evolved into a chance to work with the Behan team on a number of projects; learning new strategies and gaining insights from a different perspective of the marketing industry. The entire experience has given us even more conviction in our belief of collaboration over competition—the true spirit of Sidekick!
FIVE: Booth Set Up Practice Day
Cara :: We attended A LOT of craft and art shows during our first summer of business where we sold art prints, greeting cards and tote bags. Of course it worked out that the biggest one we attended, the LARAC June Arts Festival, was our first one. To make sure we were prepared for the weekend, we did a mock set up at Will and Katie's (our fourth Sidekick) backyard. We did everything from putting up the tent to setting up all of our merchandise and now, almost a year later, it's one of my favorite memories to look back on. Nothing big happened, I don't even think the tent fell over or blew away, but it was a warm and sunny day in early June when it was finally starting to feel like summer and everything we had been working on seemed to come together all at once. For two months we had been designing merchandise, getting it printed, applying to craft shows, prepping and sorting through thousands of prints and greeting cards, and sourcing booth needs (tent, tables, chairs, displays) from family, friends and Amazon. Then, with help from Will's wife Katie, we were able to assemble everything within a couple hours one afternoon and finally take a step back and take in everything that we had accomplished.
Kelli :: This memory is about both client and process. One of my favorite clients from the get-go has been Equestricon—we teamed up with them last summer leading up to their inaugural event, which was extremely fitting because we were a brand-new company ourselves. The work has been absolutely perfect for our Sidekick skillset—Cara’s unbelievable attention to detail and business savviness as she effortlessly project manages every little piece of our contracts, Will’s vision and crazy amazing illustration work that has been brought to life, and my joy in being able to take inspiration from the already beautiful brand that Equestricon had established and put my own spin on it. We have loved working with the Equestricon team, and it has been a primarily remote experience—which has made communication essential to its success. We’re lucky that their team has such a strong vision and voice, and that our own internal collaboration has been so streamlined. This year’s artwork is the work I’m most proud of from our shop, and I can’t wait to see how Year 2 comes together for the #EQcon team—and us!
SEVEN: Branding the Balloon Festival
Will :: I've been going to the Adirondack Balloon Festival for as long as I can remember. Growing up across the street from Crandall Park, the whole family would walk over to see the first balloons take off every year. Some years, we'd even be lucky enough to have a close encounter with a balloon landing in a neighbor's yard or seemingly skimming the neighborhood rooftops on a shaky takeoff. Then we'd bundle up—cider donuts and hot cocoa in hand—for a (very) early Sunday morning trip to the Airport to watch the big launch. The annual tradition is synonymous with Hometown U.S.A., which is why we were so thrilled to design this year's logo. The aforementioned Erin Reid Coker sits on the board, and the project came as a referral (love that word-of-mouth!). Working with the board to design this fun and colorful logo was definitely on our bucket list of local design dream projects. And we got to cross it off in our first year! We were so grateful for the opportunity, and even got a few of the souvenir pins, too!
EIGHT: OUR FIRST MURAL & POP-UP SHOP
Cara :: LARAC approached us early in the Fall to see if we'd be interested in participating in their 2017 Holiday Shop and creating our own little pop-up shop in one of their gallery rooms. It was the perfect opportunity to get in the Christmas spirit early! When we went to check out the space one of the first things Will asked was, "Can we paint on the walls?" The wonderful LARAC team was all for it, and we got to planning out the space and the mural. For the next few weeks we spent our nights making wreaths and displays, sourcing props and painting the mural. It was such a fun process and the Christmas tunes, all the help from our families, the glasses of wine while wreath making, and fun late nights that weren't behind the computer for a change, made it an experience for the books!
Super grateful to the LARAC team who ended up having to sand down the mural in order to repaint the wall! Also, PSA: Sharpie Acrylic Paint Markers go on pretty thick. Oops!
Nine: CREATE UPSTATE
Cara :: Create Upstate was a 3-day design conference in Ithaca, NY that we got to attend when we were only a month into business. We made it into a little vacation by booking an Airbnb and packed up the car with groceries, wine and beer to hit the road out west. We got to listen to design icons like Gemma O'Brien and Tad Carpenter speak and met some wonderful people at the after parties. We loved every second of it! The opportunity to connect with so many other creative entrepreneurs who had been in our shoes at one point was amazing. But the best part was coming back to our little Airbnb at the end of the day and hanging out with each other. Building a business is rewarding in so many ways, but sometimes it's easy to lose sight of why you did in the first place. Having the chance to step away from the business side while also getting inspired and reconnecting with your business partners (who also happen to be good friends) away from work is so valuable. This memory is in the books to help remind us to constantly stay inspired, have fun and connect with each other outside of work!
Read more about what we learned at Create Upstate here!
Kelli:: Without a doubt, starting a business has been the most difficult and rewarding choice I have ever made. The entrepreneurial road is one filled with endless challenges, but also endless excitement. It is a path that I never could have taken fully on my own, and having began this journey with Will and Cara by my side is something I am eternally grateful for. There are days that the creative juices just aren’t flowing, where I am filled with self-doubt and get overwhelmed by trying to find balance between growing a business and having a rewarding personal life. I think I can speak for all of us that we’ve all learned a lot about how to be professional business partners, but also remembering that at the end of the day, we started this damn thing because of the fact that we’re so close with each other—and truly, genuinely care about each other’s well-being. I can imagine that that’s a luxury that the majority of people in the business world never get to experience. Knowing that you’re working through challenges alongside people who truly have your back, 100 %, all the time (even when you’ve had a breakdown and feel like a crazy person) is incredibly rewarding. I am so proud of the challenges we’ve faced head on, the body of work that we’ve created in (only) a year, and for my two rockstar business partners that I’m honored to call my Sidekicks.