Jen Husted has always loved the creative process. After years of freelancing as a graphic designer, she started her own graphic design studio in Chicago called JIH Designs.
Her eco-conscious graphic design business offers various services including advertisements, logos, corporate identities, posters, web graphics, among others. Learn how Jen started her graphic design business and the challenges she faces:
What inspired you to start JIH Designs?
There was a good recipe of: looking to get out of a job that was making me extremely unhappy, having the support from a business partner, and knowing very good friends who started and now run a successful design business.
I have a huge passion for design & art. I’d been working as a freelance designer as well as a normal 9-5 job for approximately 8 years before deciding to focus just on starting the design business. Honestly speaking, it was quite a scary thought at first, however, I set aside all of my hesitations and fears and just went for it. I was in the mind set it’s now or never and you never know how things will go unless you take risks.
I cannot express enough how much I absolutely love what I do, and the fact that I get paid to do something I adore is exceptionally gratifying.
What services does JIH Designs offer? Who are your target clientele?
We love small businesses that are just starting out that can benefit from the personal attention & detail that we put into creating their new brand. Logos, web graphics, business cards, flyers, & advertisements are some of the standard mediums that we breathe unique life into.
It’s very important for me to really get to know the people I’m working with and grow with them. JIH Designs is definitely a boutique and not an assembly line.
Over the past 30 days we’ve been proud to watch two fun projects come to market; an eco-friendly CD (with some mighty fine tunes) and a health and beauty line are now on sale at major retailers. Chicagoans also read a client’s recurring ad that showcases the must-see music lineups.
Our primary printing vendor utilizes 100% recycled (50% PCW), chlorine free, soy ink, FSC, wind power (credits), & other sustainable practices for their paper sourcing and production methods. More than just the color of our website is green.
As for our target clientele–that’s easy. Ideally, we work with individuals and companies who share our ideals on environmental consciousness and sustainability.
We work hard to develop a compassionate and “Green” business, meaning that everything we do–from the printing processes to me being vegan and Ian vegetarian–is essential to our operation.
What advice do you usually give to small business owners looking for visual embodiment of their vision and businesses?
First and foremost we always stress how important the logo is. It is the “face” of your business.
It is the first thing clients will see and it is what will stick in their mind. It’s your companies “face” if you will. We always use the logo as a starting point and go from there.
We prefer to work with a lot of start-up companies who often share the same hesitations about taking the “plunge” and going full force with their business. We highly encourage them to just take the chance, and the rewards we’ve seen with these clients has been extremely fruitful.
An example: A client who started off making environmentally/vegan/fair trade cosmetics in their home to now having those products being sold at Whole Foods and all across the Internet in less than a years time.
For us, being able to be a part of that is an incredible feeling and we feel lucky to be along for the ride.
What are the challenges you faced in starting the business?
Committing the time away from the weekly grind to create a business plan was a lengthy process. Having to keep focus while some people were encouraging and others were naysayers.
Finding good partners–banker, lawyer & accountant– and we’re still working on it.
In starting this business, what can you say was your biggest mistake? And what lessons did you learn from that mistake?
Taking a client based on a friends recommendation which turned out to be a financial loss and put strain on a friendship. We didn’t follow our normal operational practices as far as obtaining a signed contract and the staggered payment schedule. What we’ve learned from this is we now stick to our operational procedures for each & every client.
Your business is a partnership. Based on your experience, what factors make a partnership successful?
We definitely have a ying & yang/right & left brain dynamic: the creative end and the business end. If you asked me to open the financial software and do the books you’d no doubt receive a glossed over blank stare…that’s one of the areas where Ian comes in. This operation simply couldn’t work with just one of us. We’re both very confident in what we do and our roles within the company.
How do you see JIH Designs five years from now?
While I do greatly enjoy working from home, Ideally, I would love to have a storefront in the Chicago area, with a few of my extremely talented designer buddies on the payroll–that would be tremendous.
I’d also like to be working with local progressive companies and individuals whose focus is on making not only Chicago, but the world, a much, much greener place.
What lessons can you share to other women entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to take risks!!! If you’re confident about yourself and your work then stick with it and stay true to what you really want to do. If you’re not extremely happy in your current work situation, then it’s time to re-evaluate and do what you really have a passion for.
I was “stuck” in well paying & secure job but I was the unhappiest I’ve ever been. I took a large pay cut to pursue design and start a company. I can honestly say that I have never for a second regretted my decision–and, as a result, I have never been happier in my life.