Having spent several years working together in a corporate environment, Melissa Carlson and Rachel Abel found they had a great working relationship, similar work ethics, and professional goals. In 2013, the pair decided to carry their partnership on to the next level, forming a small graphic design business together, which they named 818.
They intentionally designed their studio to be small, allowing them to fill the needs of small- to medium-sized businesses. This makes 818 unique, as the designers can place more focus on helping a small business succeed at lower costs than if they went to a larger design studio.
Before 818 was formed, Melissa attended SBDC business classes in early 2012 while building a client base. As her workload grew, Rachel stepped in to assist with the various projects. Prior to submitting their application to become an Iowa Targeted Small Business, the pair reached out to Mid Iowa SBDC Regional Director Christina Moffatt for assistance.
After almost two years, Rachel and Melissa returned to Christina for help when their business was experiencing significant growth. Since then, they have been in regular contact with the SBDC, discussing resource offerings, funding opportunities, education, and different ways to capture more revenue. The two have also received several business referrals from the SBDC.
“The SBDC and staff are helpful, friendly, supportive and encouraging. There are days in small business management when you aren’t sure where to turn for answers, and knowing the SBDC is a resource available to us is empowering,” Rachel and Melissa said.
Last year, 818’s revenue grew by 70 percent, and this year they are on target to hitting their revenue growth goal of 35 percent. Although 818 has seen a growth in new business inquiries, there is a growing workload among their loyal clients who continue turning to 818 for their design needs.
Currently, 818 has expanded to offering motion graphics services and discussions are ongoing as the duo seek to add basic video services to their repertoire. In the long term, they’re looking to add another design team at a second location.
818 is heavily involved with their community, making connections with the local design community and speaking in front of industry groups. Rachel and Melissa take time to mentor young designers and they donate their design services to worthy causes and organizations. They also devote a large amount of time and resources to help promote their community, clients, industry, and the culture of Des Moines.
“The most rewarding part is getting to know other small business owners and helping them grow their businesses. It sounds cliché, but it is true and it’s why we formed this business. Some of our clients are now some of our best friends and we enjoy working together to enhance the culture of our local communities,” Rachel and Melissa said of their small business experience.