Ross Kimbarovsky –

Nothing brings truth to the mantra, “It’s a small world after all,” like technology.  With the dawn of the internet and email, we have essentially brought the masses access to, well, the masses.  That is to say, you as a business owner could have a designer create a logo for you in whatever corner of the globe they happen to hang out at.
The challenge, of course, is knowing what designer would do a great job for you.  Add in the challenges of value and payment and suddenly the designer across the street looks more accessible.
But what if you could get more done, easier, with your design needs and have multiple options to choose from?  Suddenly the designer across the street looks limited, expensive and somewhat archaic in nature.
Ross Kimbarovsky  has essentially brought high quality design to any entrepreneur with internet access.  As an entrepreneur himself, he has solved one of the many challenges those starting businesses may face.  In this case, the challenge has much to do with how your business looks to the world.  Basically, what is the face of your business?
Through, Ross brings those in need of some design easy, affordable access to that design.  He made the deal a no-brainer by having designers compete for your business based on their designs.
Listen as Ross explains the joys, challenges and solutions that starting his business, has brought him and the world.
my personal site
crowdspring small business blog
Our blog has a ton of resources and deep pieces on important topics. Here are a few highlights from the blog and our site (where we also publish long-form content) – some mentioned during our conversation:
Complete guide to building a strong brand identity
Complete guide to branding
Complete guide to rebranding
Complete guide to writing a business plan
Complete guide to starting a business
Guide to marketing psychology
Complete guide to how much custom design costs

Want to hear more?  Hit it:   [themo_button text=”More Business Podcast Episodes” url=”” type=”standard”]

Authentic Business Adventures Podcast


You have found Authentic

Business Adventures, the business program that brings you

the struggle stories and triumphant

successes of business owners across the land.

We are locally underwritten
by the Bank of Sun Prairie.

My name is James Kademan, entrepreneur,

author, speaker and helpful coach to small
business owners across the country.

And today I am excited because we are
going to welcome/prepare to learn

from Ross Kimbarovsky,
founder and CEO of

The interesting thing is
Ross has so much going on that

we’re going to try to cram as much
content as we can in the short time.

So, Ross, how are you doing today?

Happy to be here talking
with you and your listeners.

Yeah, yeah.
This is super cool.

So let’s start just basic foundation here.

What is

So Crowd Spring was a company I started
we launched in 2008.

I started working on in 2006.

So we’ve been a business for 12 years and
over two hundred twenty thousand

creatives, designers and namers have
helped entrepreneurs, small businesses,

agencies and non-profits with everything
from logo design to packaging design,

web design, product design
and naming businesses.

We ultimately were able to reduce pricing.

Great design does not have to cost
tens of thousands of dollars.

Project started two hundred ninety
nine dollars, including our fees.

And the beauty for small businesses is
that we flipped the model upside down

instead of picking from bits and proposals
you pick from actual designs,

custom designs for your new business
or for your existing business.

So it changes the way you hire designers
upside down and gives business owners

control. Interesting, you know,
it’s your when you reach out

to me, the coolest thing or I shoudl say you’re

your admin or
whatever reached out to me.

I looked at the website and I thought, oh,
man, I come from a graphic design

background where I went
to school for graphic design.

I ran with it for a couple of years.

Then I decided that sitting on a desk
that long wasn’t my cup of tea.

But it’s interesting how I mean,
that was early to late 90s.

It’s interesting how graphic design has

changed just the purchasing of it,
let alone the creation of it.

Well, part of it was part of it was
driven by just change in the tools.

It used to be that tools were not
accessible to to regular people.

You had to be a designer.

You had to use sophisticated tools.

And of course, when you got to computers,
computers were expensive originally.

And as tools became more accessible,

not just in graphic design,
but photography is a great example.

There are phenomenally gifted amateur
photographers who whose work is on par

with some of the best
photographers in the world.

But as soon as the tools became available,
digital cameras became more affordable.

People started photographing
things and designer the same way.

So there’s a wealth
of designers around the world.

We have a community of two
hundred twenty thousand.

They come from 195 countries.

And where it used to be, you had to work
as a designer for a design agency.

Today, if you have talent

and you’re able to create great design,
you can live anywhere,

you can be anyone and you can work
with some of the world’s best clients.

That is so cool to talk about
gig economy, holy cow.

Well, very much so.

And I mean, there are lots of industries
that move in that direction.

But but but it opens up the world
to to both sides because think about it.

For small businesses,
one of the biggest challenges is actually

what motivated me
to start Crowd Spring.

One of the biggest challenges for small

businesses is, is how do you find
a designer or a design agency?

And when you do,
how do you make design affordable?

Because agencies historically have charged

tens of thousands of dollars
to help businesses with design.

And then even if it’s if it’s somewhat
affordable, how do you ensure that what

you get is actually good quality
that you’re going to be happy with?

Because if you’re getting one or two

pieces of design and you have to choose,
that’s not much choice.

And those are the problems we set
out to solve initially because I was

frustrated as a consumer,
as a business owner looking to get custom

design, I was frustrated that it
was expensive, it was inaccessible.

It was hard to find I had
problems transferring files.

And I also had a tough time
communicating with designers.

So you’re a designer when you hire
designers, you know the language

that they speak and you can communicate
these things or you can do it yourself.

But most business owners
are not designers.

They don’t speak the same language.

And this is where we thought we can help.

So we thought we could solve
every part of the problem.

For a business owner looking
to hire designers and agencies,

give them custom design at a fraction
of the price they used to pay.

And and this is this is the beautiful
part, is open up

the world to all of designers everywhere
because you’re no longer restricted.

If you’re in Manhattan,
only working for clients that are next

block from you, you can work with the
client anywhere, whether you’re in

Manhattan, or you’re sitting on a mountain
in Katmandu. That is awesome.

That is so cool.
It’s interesting

how I guess what you have

going on, it sounds like from a
couple of different directions

with me and a few other people that I’ve
met with just from starting businesses.

You look at something and you’re like,
this shouldn’t be this hard.

It shouldn’t be this hard,
especially when it comes to design.

It shouldn’t be this hard for me
to give money to someone to.

Get a decent design in exchange and
the experience that I had when I would

outsource stuff websites
and all that jazz years ago.

Oh man,

I feel like it was similar to marketing
where you just throw money at the wall

and you hope it turns out
the designer would give you their design.

And sometimes you’re like, yeah.

And other times you look
at it and you’re like, Hmm.


And you know, the other part,

the other part that’s frustrating,
and we spent a lot of time

talking about this with business owners
because this is really important.

There is a difference between custom
design and that is something that makes

your brand uniquely you
and generic templates.

So so, yes, you can go
get a free template.

ClipArt Stuckart.

Yes, you can hire a designer
on a service for five dollars.

That’ll give you a design the thousands
of other businesses have.

But this is this is the lesson that that I
think successful entrepreneurs all know

in younger entrepreneurs,
those that are starting businesses,

those have just started businesses
will know but but struggle initially.

And that is when you under invest
in good design in the very beginning,

you end up having a tough
time building a strong brand.

Now, design doesn’t solve
every problem in your business.

You can’t have great design
and terrible products or services.

And so and this is this is, I think,
where we differ very much for some

agencies that that preach this point
about the importance of design, because

there are people that suggest
that great design solves everything.

And that’s just not true.

You can’t overcome a bad customer service.

You can’t ever overcome poorly working

products just
by designing things better.

But if you don’t design properly,

if you don’t invest in design
properly, you get lost.

You get lost in a sea of competitors,

whether you’re a local business in a small
town who only has one or two competitors

or you’re a bigger business in a big town,
because the reality today is.

Whether you’re a retail store or online,

your competition is global and people
are looking at options everywhere.

And so you’re not just competing

with the next door grocery store,
you’re competing with Amazon,

you’re competing with Wal-Mart,

you’re competing with Target
and everybody else.

Mm hmm.
Yeah, it’s interesting.

Even in the past five years,

things have gotten even broader than that,
even totally in the past one year.

It’s crazy how walls have
come down and people are no

longer looking just
locally as much as they used to.

Tell me, have any local or even remote

designers complained about what you guys

have going on since they used to be able


to charge thousands
of dollars for a logo?

So this is an interesting conversation,
and when we started, we had we had a

lot of conversations about this topic
and there are still conversations about

this topic because as you can imagine,
established designers feel threatened,

established agencies feel threatened
by the fact that there is competition

and that competition could potentially
take away some of their work.

And so so our focus has been on trying

to to educate and explain our goals and
our vision and what we’re trying to do.

First of all,
Crowd Spring has never been about

the cheapest design possible because
cheap design is not good design.

Cheap design is cheap design.

It’s its templates.

It’s stuff you see everywhere.

It doesn’t differentiate you.

And so we’ve always said prices
that we thought were industry fair,

that that gave opportunities to everybody
but didn’t require a designer to spend

years in a design school if they
were great at what they did.

Nobody cares if they got
a degree or didn’t get a degree.

They just say they’re a great designer.

And the reality is in the creative arts

and the creative space,
most of the most talented people didn’t

have an actual degree in the art
in which they’re working.

There are certainly those that did
and they’re immensely talented.

But but that’s not a requirement
to be great at something.

And so so we had those initial

conversations and we took them very

seriously, because
at the end of the day,

our goal is not to put designers out

of business or put
agencies out of business.

We work with a lot of agencies

and the reason we work with a lot
of agencies is because historically

agencies used to hire designers
to create the designs for their clients.

But the reality of the marketplace,
you know, we’ve had a tough year in 2020

everybody businesses are struggling,
agencies are struggling.

So people are cutting budgets and agencies
can’t charge what they used to charge.

So, you know, they used to charge tens

of thousands of dollars
to build a brand for client.

Clients can’t pay that amount.

And so the problem for agencies is how do
you deliver a high end service

but not charge what we used to charge
and still be able to make a profit?

And so one way agencies have approached
this is to focus on what they do best

strategy, strategy, management and giving
clients direction and outsourcing

things like the actual production of
custom design assets to companies like

Crowd Spring and businesses
have been doing that, too.

So a lot of businesses that that have been

focused on design haven’t been able
to invest as much with their agencies or

with some of the designers
that they’re working with.

And so they’re looking
for other alternatives.

And that’s why we’re seeing more and more
businesses turn to this crowd sourcing

model, which which helps
them pick better designs.

But ultimately, at the end of the day,
you know, creativity is creativity.

And so you have millions of talented

people around the world who are looking
for opportunities to create designs.

And and I had the same reaction
when starting the business.

Actually, I wondered,
would designers work in this kind of model

where in a particular project so
and Crowd Spring, for example,

if you’re looking for a logo design,
we take you through a Q&A.

You pay two hundred ninety nine dollars.

Is there an entry price?

And that includes our fee.

And we send it out to our
entire design community.

So dozens of designers might participate

on your project, giving you
dozens of custom logo designs.

You ultimately pick one.

And so the question is that person gets

paid, but what’s in it for everybody else?

Why are there to support
requests? That’s

that’s the question we
asked at the beginning.

We wondered, would they participate?

Is there enough incentive?

And what we learned and continue to learn

after 12 years in business,
yes, they’ll participate.

Two hundred twenty thousand designers

around the world are speaking very loudly

that this is a model
that they don’t mind.

They do that for different reasons.

Some of them participate in this model

because they do not
have access to clients.

Otherwise, there may be not great

marketers, but but they
are great designers.

And so this is a way for them to create
designs without having to market.

And if they’re talented,
they end up winning a lot.

Some of them participate because they

figure, look, I could either market
my business by creating marketing

materials and doing pitches for clients

and spending time
on Twitter and Facebook

looking at anybody who says I need a logo
or in the website or I can just design.

And if people like my work,
they’ll pay me.

Some of them compete because they
feel like it’s the Olympics.

So we had some creative directors

from major agencies, moonlight
as designers on Crowd Spring,

and I’ve periodically gotten on the phone
with them to ask, you know, why?

And the answer is, well, look,
it’s competition on Crowd Spring.

Nobody knows that I’m a creative
director for a major agency.

I think I’m a good designer,

but I want to see if a client can see that
from my work, not from my name or title.

And so when I compete against dozens
of other people, if I’ve chosen,

that proves to me that I
still have good design chops.

And if I’m not, that forces
me to say I got to do better.

I got a.

Prove I got to maintain my art,
so lots of different reasons for why

people competed, but we’ve taken
it much more seriously than that.

It isn’t just that we’ve
listened to lots of reasons.

For example,

we’ve from the beginning introduced

various ways that we
can pay more people.

So we have a project package
called Elite, where you work with

five of our best designers
on any kind of project.

Each one of them gets paid.

So one is a winner,

but everybody else gets a guaranteed

payment for doing
the work in the project.

That means that that every single
person on a project gets paid.

We introduced last year something called
a finalist round, meaning you go through

your project and let’s say you look
at 100 different custom logo designs

and you want to work with with up to five
finalists for another two to three days.

You pick those finalists and again,

the winner gets paid once
you pick your favorite.

But the other four will also
get a portion of that prize.

So so it provides a more fair
distribution of funds to more people.

Our goal is to get everybody
paid as much as we can.

But the reality in a marketplace is that

businesses have a tough time paying tens
of thousands of dollars for design.

And so we have to find a good middle
ground where we can deliver a phenomenal

service at 10 to 50 times
less than the market price.

Give designers the opportunity to work

in this model and not ask either
side to to to take a big risk.

And so so for businesses, we have
a hundred percent guarantee you’re

going to like the design or you get
a hundred percent of your money back.

So for business, this is actually a no
brainer because ultimately we feel

the quality of the design is so high
we can stand behind it.

And for designers, our promises,

we’re going to continue to invest in our
design community and look for more

opportunities so that more people are

paid, because we
recognize that at the end

of the day, competition is good, but it’s
important to make sure that more

and more people are
paid in these projects.

So we’re always looking
for creative solutions for that.

That is super cool.

I want to back up to when you first

started this thing
you saw 2006 was ready for a crash,

so you had to start you have
your website as the foundation.

So you had to bring on businesses

at the same time that you’re
bringing on designers.

How like that’s the chicken and egg
scenario that I’m always curious about.

How did you get people to sign up with you

as customers as well as getting
vendors to sign up with you?

So this is there’s actually

an ironic story, if I can digress
for for two minutes to tell it.

I started my career as an attorney.

I was a trial attorney for 13 years.

And and the way that I came to start crowd

spring was like most entrepreneurs
end up starting a business.

In 2006, I was leading the redesign

of my law firms website as
a mid-sized law firm, as a partner.

And we did what normal businesses do.

We put together a request for proposal
saying here’s what we need.

We interviewed agencies.

We hired one, paid him a lot of money,
waited to see their web designs.

And I hated them.
I hated the designs.

I hated the approach.

And I was very frustrated
and frankly embarrassed.

And so I went home in frustration.

I thought, you know, this is this
is tough as a business owner.

It’s it’s really hard for me to pay so

much money and then get stuck
with designs that I don’t love.

And I didn’t have more money
to pay for more designs.

It was this is it.

So I thought there’s
got to be a better way.

And I started doing this research and

I found students in Malaysia just for fun,

competing with print
design competitions.

They were creating products
and creating print ads.

And I looked at those ads and I said,
you know, the quality of these ads are as

high as anything I’ve seen in advertising
age and industry publications.

And that ultimately led to a lot

of research and interviews and surveys
and starting crowd spring.

But but to your question,

how do we kind of get started,
the chicken and then the egg problem?

Well, we made we made a silly mistake.

We hired a design and development
agency to build our site initially,

notwithstanding this experience
that we just went through,

we thought that was the quickest way
to get to market and we were wrong.

They failed to get that done.

And so we were stuck a couple of months

from launch without a product,
without a website, with nothing.

And here’s what we decided to do.

We said, look, this is a make
it or break it moment for us.

Either we’re going to prove that people

around the world can create great designs

or we’re going to prove
that they cannot.

So our first project publicly was build

our website, create our website
design for our company.

That’s clever.

And it was a big risk and well,
it would have beeclever if we had

thought of it initially, or this is
one of these things that we had.

We had no choice.

This would have been a phenomenally
clever stunt had we thought of it.

But but we backed into it
by making a mistake initially.

And and.

So we had this open competition and then

on the back end
we actually hired our own

team to to build rebuild
the product and relaunch it.

And so as we were building,
we were doing two things.

First of all, the designers that were
creating website designs for us and we

took it through the same process
that ultimately became crowd spring.

We did the same thing.

You got a free legal contract
when you and the project,

you can give feedback to designers,
designers interade. And so we ran it

quasi manually, but then we ultimately
automated the whole process.

So as designers were submitting designs,

we were looking
at the quality and when we

found pretty good designers,
we brought him into an internal data

which we were running behind the scenes
with a product we were building.

And in the first couple of weeks we called
my mom. We called my brother and said,

hey, do you have any design projects you
need? Can we help you with something?

We’ll pay for it because we needed
to be able to test the product.

We needed to be able to get some advice.

And we knew that people wouldn’t trust us

in the very beginning,
just randomly posting a project.

And so we spent two to three
weeks with friends and family.

They were posting projects.

We were paying for them
until we got to a point where we had

a decent amount of designers
and we had a decent amount of projects.

And we said, you know what?

Now we’ll pay only half,
but we’re going to reach out

to associates, people we know
who are not our immediate friends,

but who will trust us enough to at least
spend half the funds on a project.

And we did that for a few weeks
and until about six weeks.

Then we said, you know what,
we feel like we’ve got the kinks out.

We feel like it’s a good product.

We can offer 100 percent money back

guarantee and and we can just open
for business and let people post.

And that’s what we did.

We said, OK, we’re not paying
for anybody’s work anymore.

Whoever wants to can post
a project and we take our fee.

And and we launched in in May of 2008

and since then have grown our so we had
a couple of clients at the time.

We had a couple of

maybe a couple of hundred designers
in our community in 2008.

And today it’s, you know,

60000 clients from one 100 countries
and two hundred twenty thousand plus

designers from one hundred
ninety five countries.

so I get how

word can spread within designers
because a few designers end up

on the website that they win a few
designs, they make some money,

they’re probably spread the word just

because that’s their
little sewing circle.

When I’m interested in are curious in

is how you got small businesses
to find you and then trust you to

do the designs for them.

So we did a couple of things.

This is, as you know,

and hopefully as your listeners know,
this is one of the hardest problems

to solve for a small business,
especially if you’re a new business.

How do you get people to to learn who you

are? How do you get people to remember who
you are? How do you get people to tell

their friends and family and associates?
So we did a few things.

First of all, we

we have a two sided marketplace,
clients and designers and neighbors.

And in any two sided marketplace,

we we know that one side is generally

going to be more
difficult than the other.

This is true of nearly every
two sided marketplace.

And when we looked at it early on,

we we concluded that it’s probably
going to be much tougher for us to find

businesses, to find the demand side
of the marketplace,

much easier for us to find designers,

because after all,
if we give them enough

business, they’re freelancers, they’re
going to go to where the business is.

So we’ve invested the vast majority of our

effort on looking for businesses, not designers.

In fact, just to give you an example
of of ultimately how right we were

for the last five years,
our registration has been closed.

We have waiting lists.

And so we don’t let people designers
register whenever they want.

We have waiting lists and they tend

to grow to ten, fifteen, twenty thousand
before we start letting people in.

And periodically throughout a year,
we’ll invite groups of people to to come

in and we qualify every single designer
in every single product category.

And then once they’re qualified
once or twice a year,

we do a thorough review of all of their
work in every single project category.

That’s a huge effort.

So so on the design side,
we weren’t so much worried.

On the on the business side,
we did the things that small businesses

need to do when they start all the
guerrilla tactics we can possibly do.

So at the time in two thousand
eight forums, we’re pretty popular.

And so we would be in forums,

participating in conversations around
design, around starting businesses.

And it wasn’t about hire me, hire me
composter logo project and crowd spring.

It was really trying to help
people solve their problems.

So if somebody ran into a problem with

incorporation or had issues with how
do you build a marketing strategy

or had questions about what are
some options for logo design or

business insurance,
we would actively participate.

And the idea was we would build
some credibility with with people.

And when they later thought, hey,
I need design, they would come to us.

We also invested really
heavily in customer support.

This is one area where we differentiate it

significantly from our competitors
from the very beginning.

Day one, we recognize that customer

support was one of the most
important things we do.

And so we did a number of things.

First of all, I continue to periodically
get involved with customer support.

So there are times when I’ll give
my entire team the holiday off and I’ll

work customer support phones,
chat and email tickets.

And the reason I do that is because.

Your support people,

if you’re running a retail business,
your sales people are far closer to your

customers than anybody
else in your business.

They know the customers pain.

They know the customer’s preference.

They know what customers are irked
about when they visit your business.

And these are the people that are in the
best position to help your customers

be more successful.

They’re in the best position to help you

build a better brand than
for most small businesses.

Whether you’re a retail business,
an online business doesn’t matter.

Word of mouth is the single most powerful
channel you’re ever going to have.

So, yes, spending some money on marketing
on Facebook and Instagram and spending

some time on Twitter may
or may not help you, but.

But if you can’t build great word
of mouth as a small business,

it’s going to be really tough
for you to build your business.

So that’s that’s what we invested in.

Really strong word of mouth.

We delivered great service.

We gave a guarantee.

So if somebody was unhappy and and it was

really encouraging
when occasionally we do

have a client that says, look,
I the designs are great.

I just don’t find something that inspires

me and that’s OK, because
that’s the reason we have a guarantee.

But but it’s always rewarding to get

a note from them saying,
you know, I ran my project.

I didn’t find something inspired,
but but you guys make it so easy and it’s

so comforting to know there’s
a guarantee I’m going to be back.

In fact, I just recommended
your business to other people.

So this is one of the things

that that a lot of small businesses
miss is the opportunity to create word

of mouth, even with those
customers that may not have.

Been exceptionally happy about what they
received, they received the service,

they ultimately said, you know
what didn’t work for me this

time, but if they will still recommen
you to others, that’s phenomenal.

Word of mouth.

And this is where we really invested
a significant part of our time.

And over the years, we’ve gotten involved

in in a lot of different
other initiatives.

So content became a much more prominent

way that we spend our time and share
like every business.

You know, for me, like every business
owner, I make my share of mistakes.

Tons of them share.

And we regularly write
about these mistakes.

We regularly write about
things we learn about.

So on the Crowd Spring blog,
we are publishing long form content.

So these are guides from three thousand or

twenty thousand plus
words on how to build

a brand identity marketing psychology,
how to start a consulting business,

a real estate business,
a marijuana dispensary,

all sorts of businesses
with all the steps that you need,

all the things that you need to get

through, because ultimately it was really

tough when we started the business
pulling all this material.

It takes a lot of time and we
figured, you know what?

We have some some knowledge
about what it takes.

Let’s share it with people.

And it’s the same the same effort to build

credibility to to get
people to understand

that we’re ultimately hoping to help
them and educate them along the way.

Why design is important.

So if they have a need and a future point

for design, they can think of us
as one of their alternatives.

Mm hmm.
That’s cool.

So when you first started in 2006

and 2008, was it just you
or did you have a team?

So I had a partner in the business

initially who ultimately exited
the business in twenty fifteen.

It was just us.

Initially we hired a director of marketing
and then as I mentioned,

we hired a design and development
agency who we later terminated.

And then we built our own team.

We hired customer support people,
we hired engineers.

But I’ve always been of the mindset

that us, the founders,
the business owner,

to the extent that you can,
should do every job yourself first.

It doesn’t mean do every job yourself
in perpetuity, because we can’t do that.

I mean, ultimately,
there are too many things to do.

And the reality is, I’m not
I’m not great at everything.

I’m not even good at everything.

There are some things I’m great at.

There’s some things I’m good at.

But but there are people that are

phenomenally better than
I am at most things.

And so so one of the insights we had
and this is something that really proved

really helpful for us across the board
through today is customer support.

As an example, I ran the customer support

function for six months and searched
every ticket, every phone call.

And and that helped me
understand several things.

As I said earlier, there’s no better way

to get to know your customers
and their pain points.

And so it really helped me understand

whether we will solving for their
problem or not and what we were missing.

But it also helped me understand,

if I hire somebody,
what are they going to do?

How long is it going to take him to do it?

What kind of skills do we want?

Because I did this job for six months,

so I was essentially
looking to replace myself.

And now I needed to find somebody that can
understand what they needed to do,

come up with a game plan,
be efficient at it, do the job well.

And and that helped us really understand
what kind of team do we need to build.

And we’ve tried to do
that across the board.

So so we’ve slowly built a team.

But our team has never
been more than 10 people.

We have a community of something like 350,
400000 people, designers and clients.

But we’ve supported them
with a very small team.

That’s cool.
That’s cool.

It reminds me of,

oh, my gosh, my mind is blank.

I’m trying to think what company was sold.

Maybe it was Instagram.

They had like 40 people or
something like that and got sold.

Yeah, millions of dollars
to Instagram, if I remember.

I think Instagram had
had less than a dozen.

I want to say four, but but it
was a very tiny number of people.

And so, so you can build really, really
successful companies with a small team.

And I mean there are plenty of successful
businesses that are in Chicago,

for example, base camp is is
one of our favorite businesses.

It’s a great product management tool.

We use it ever since the beginning,

but they have about 55 employees, I think,

you know, phenomenally
successful business

and they intentionally don’t want
to grow into a huge company.

And, you know, there are some people

that look at and say, well, you’re
missing an opportunity because you

can grow into a huge company
and make more money.

And their perspective is,
you know what, we’re very comfortable.

We’re an immensely successful business.

We control our destiny.

We don’t have people that we answer to.

And I think a lot of business owners
start businesses for that reason.

A lot of business owners start businesses
because they want to be their own boss.

They want to control their own time.

They want to make the investments

that they need to make and not
be beholden to somebody else.

And and that’s how we feel about it, too.

Yeah, that’s a there’s an interesting

conundrum when I talk
with business owners

about or potential business owners about
why they want to start their business.

And a lot of times they mentioned freedom.

I want to be my own boss, blah,
blah, blah, the typical stuff.

And I question them or challenge them

a little bit to see at what point,
where do you want to be?

Do you want to be a job owner or do
you want to be a business owner?

There’s nothing wrong
with being either one.

But from the coaching that I do,

I try to steer people more
into being a business owner.

This is a job owner.

Like you probably have more success
as a job owner working for someone

at least getting paid more
vacation or that kind of stuff.

When you you start adding employees
and being able to outsource.

I feel and this is just simply

my perspective, that you can
you can do more and get more

of the freedom that you initially
started the business for.

Yeah, I 100 percent agree with you.

So I think about it in exactly the same
terms, just maybe different terminology.

And I actually think this is

an area where where the vast majority of
business owners make a common mistake.

And I did four years to.

So, you know, the terminology I use is

the difference between working on the
business and working in the business.

And so so the problem with almost every
small business is that as the business

owner is the person who starts
the business and this is people in your

audience are thinking
about starting businesses.

They may be running businesses.

This doesn’t disappears like three,
four or five years later.

You’re still working in your
business as an employee effectively.

And the challenges when you
when you sit down and say,

I am frustrated that I can’t grow

my business fast enough
and I don’t understand why.

Well, there are lots of reasons.

I mean, marketing is one reason.

Maybe poor design is another reason.

But one of the fundamental reasons is
you’ve spent one hundred percent of your

time working in the business,
doing the work as opposed

to on the business
thinking about strategy,

think about big picture, thinking
about how to grow your business.

And so at the end of the day,

I agree with you that most people will
be better off if they just want to work

in a business to work for somebody else,
because you don’t have the headaches

of running a business,
you don’t have challenges.

But if you really want to be a business
owner, if you really want to be your own

boss, the quicker you can extricate
yourself from working in the business

to working on the business,
the more success you’ll feel.

Now, that could take time.

There is no overnight success.

You know, the most successful companies

can take 10, 15, 20 years to succeed

and some get lucky
and do it more quickly.


So the time frame is
different for everybody.

But but you have to, as a business owner,
recognize that it took me some time

to really understand that principle,
that the quicker I could focus

on the business and think about strategy

with my team, the more
successful will be.

And so my goal is to replace
myself for everything we do.

And like I told about the customer support

function at the beginning,
I did customer support and then replaced

myself with somebody that did
it much better than I did.

And with marketing the same way
and with engineering the same way.

And so everything that you
do in your company, you.

Want to find your own replacement there?

You know, it’s interesting,
I was looking at your history,

your background, you were a trial attorney
and then you shifted gears into this.

Those are two like that’s a 180 pivot.

Tell me about what made you change
from essentially your partner,

but still essentially an employee
from wanting to be an employee

into starting a business and starting
your business into something that was

completely unrelated
to your original field?

Well, so the second part of the question,
unrelated, just happenchance.

As I as I explained earlier,

I just happened to have stumbled into this
problem that I was frustrated

with and solved or thought
I could solve for myself.

And maybe it will work for others.

But I’ve always been entrepreneurial

and not always I started becoming
entrepreneurial in law school.

I wasn’t so much I worked three jobs

before law school
and one of them was an interesting job

where I was helping companies
facilitate technology transfer.

So acquisitions, product acquisitions,
company acquisitions.

This is why I was in college and
in law school.

I just started getting entrepreneurial.

I enjoyed starting new things, a school
newspaper, several different groups.

And when I started practicing law,
I started new practices.

So so the Internet had just become

commercialized in 95,
the year I started practicing.

And so I created a practice
focusing on work with startups.

And this is a time when
it was the Wild West.

So people would be trying
to create an online bank.

And I would have a client call me and say,

I’m meeting in New York with a bank
and they want an online function.

And nobody knew what any of that was.

I mean, none of these
contracts were written.

Nobody had coded anything.

And so to me, it was exciting to be part

of an industry that was
just being built.

And the beauty was that was the first year

attorney, but no partner
knew more than I did.

I mean, everybody started from ground
zero because it was new to all of us.

And so that put me on a level playing

field with everybody else,
which which helped later on to think

through how do we create the same
level playing field for designers?

And so as I work with more and more
startups, that was exciting for me.

I found that that I was very excited

by the opportunity to help
people that are starting out.

I love learning.

And so so part of what I enjoyed in trial

work was, you know, I represented
clients across different industries.

So I had to become knowledgeable
in mechanical engineering,

electrical engineering, chemistry,
in product design.

And that was great.
I love that.

And it occurred to me when I was
trying to overcome this problem,

I read into with our Web design
that learning about starting businesses

and their respective issues
that that entails was an analog.

I was I was really pleasantly surprised
that there was so much to learn

that it was is kind of like I was a robot
trying to consume all the information

available in the world,
which of course, is not possible.

But I found that to be as rewarding
as what I was doing in law.

So so I wasn’t I wasn’t a lawyer who was
frustrated with the practice of law.

There are some lawyers that are really
frustrated and leave that law industry.

For that reason.
I was very happy.

I had phenomenal colleagues,
phenomenal clients.

I was successful in my practice
and kind of at the peak of my career.

But entrepreneurship and the concept of
starting a business and doing something

unique and helping to solve a problem
for a global audience of of businesses

and and freelancers
was was both challenging,

but also intellectually really
interesting and hopefully rewarding.

That’s fair.
That’s fair.

That there is a challenge there

because I look like a trial attorney
to be doing OK financially.

You’ve got a decent gig.

You kind of you’re winning
at life, so to speak.

Now you’re going to stick your neck out,

starting a business
which is totally cool.

It’s adventurous,
but that’s security goes away.

It does.

And it it’s a tough conversation
to see with my wife.

I said, you know, when I take the step,

we’re going to take a ninety
seven percent pay cut.

Literally the next day.

And so but listen, I have
a very understanding wife

who understands, you know,
we are investing for the long term.

I have small kids and and part of the part

of the challenge was to try to see if
we can we can build a business that was

that was scalable, sustainable,
that that could help solve a problem.

And at the end of the day,

I think everybody has
to understand what motivates them.

So so for me,
money wasn’t the key motivator.

And I mean, taking ninety seven percent

pay cut is by itself, I think
pretty good evidence of that.


It wasn’t a key motivator
for many reasons.

I’m an immigrant.

I immigrated with my family from from
Ukraine in nineteen seventy nine.

And so when I saw my parents build
their lives from scratch in seventy nine

we got to America with a couple hundred

dollars to our name
and then in the eighty

seven market crash they lost everything
and they had to rebuild it again.

So for me that was pretty
good evidence that.

You know, if I’m

put in that position where I have
to rebuild from scratch here,

I see people I love, people
who are my parents close to me did

it twice and I felt like I couldn’t
do it and the risk was worth it.

So every person has to evaluate that risk
themselves ultimately because, you know,

a new business can be
intellectually rewarding.

It could open up your schedule.

It can let you control your destiny.

You can do things that you are incapable
of doing, working for somebody else.

But there are risks and you
have to put in the time.

And just as an example,
I work hard as an attorney.

For 13 years I was, except
for one year the top Beyler

in my firm by far the one year,
the one year when I was not

the person who who outbuild me was
in the hospital for three weeks

with a detached retina because
he had read so much that year.

So so I thought.

Being an entrepreneur,
being a business owner would let me

calm down a little,
but I knew it would be challenging.

But I thought, you know what,

compared to law,
it wouldn’t nearly involve as much time.

And boy, was I wrong

as our partner has has taken
up every available minute.

And there’s something I didn’t really
appreciate as much as as much as I do

today, which is
when you’re on your own business,

your brain is focused on that business
100 percent of the time.

You can figure out how to find
a balance in your life.

And I’ve fortunately been able to do that.

But but your brain doesn’t stop.

I mean, ultimately, it’s still focuses
on trying to solve these problems.

And at the end of the day, if an employee
has a problem, you have to solve it.

If there’s a problem in your business,
you have to solve it.

And so it created a very
different dynamic.

I wasn’t necessarily ready for it
because I didn’t expect it.

But but I appreciated it.

And I appreciated even more so now.

Yes, interesting how even
I guess I find myself,

other businesses that owners
that I talked to,

it’s almost like you’re
always on at some level,

even if it’s you know,
you get one of those late night phone

calls where something’s broken or
somebody dropped the ball somewhere.

You get a call at 1:00 in the morning
is really not that tough to

just solve the problem, even
just out of a dead sleep kind of thing.

Is this weird how you just always or

you’re looking at things and sometimes I
find myself coming up with solutions

and thinking like, oh my gosh,
this business could do X, Y and Z,

and you’re thinking,
I don’t need to do this right now.

This doesn’t matter.
Just relax.

But it’s tough.
It’s so just great.

Yeah, it’s very tough.

And I think I suspect most business owners
don’t have a secret way to overcome it.

I mean, ultimately, a couple of weeks ago,
I find myself sitting in a dark room.

My wife came in and said,
why are you sitting in a dark room?

I said, this is, I think the first moment

where for three minutes
I literally did nothing.

I didn’t watch TV.
I didn’t read a book, I didn’t play chess.

I didn’t think about my business.

I didn’t think about the pandemic.

I just I just sat there in dark silence.

And so it’s really hard to get

to that point as a business owner.

But it’s really important because
ultimately, when you start a business,

you have to recognize,
you know, there’s a trade off.

If you have kids, there’s a trade off.

You have to have a plan.

You know, how are you going to build
your business while raising a family?

And, you know, for some people,

the plan is, well,
my spouse will raise the family.

And for me, that wasn’t
an acceptable plan.

I had to find a good middle ground.

I wanted to be involved with my kids.

And so so at the end of the day,
it just takes some thinking.


but the thing that I talk about

to business owners,
probably more than anything,

and this is where I think
the people who tend to succeed do

something different,
they actually get started.

I think a lot of people worry

that that the business they want to start

is the pinnacle
business of their career.

And the reality for most businesses is

you’re probably going to start a number

of different businesses and most
of them are going to fail.

And that’s OK.
So so the businesses we see

in the industry today, even some
of the most successful startups

are started by people who started
other businesses who failed

and failed multiple times.

And it wasn’t until this latest business
that they figured out something magical

and something magical happened, including
luck to get them to a point of success.

And so so this is the thing that I think

a lot of business
owners don’t get is you

have to get started
in order to start learning.

And it doesn’t take a whole
lot to get started.

It’s a couple hundred dollars

to incorporate your company,
come up with a business plan

and a business idea, get some basic design
elements that create a professional

looking company and then
and then practice work.

I mean, this is this is nothing beats
getting started.

Reading, thinking, planning.

Those are all good things.

But but they’re not enough.
Oh, experiences.

Name of the game.
You got to actually do it now.

I always joke with them.

There’s a plumber that I have as a client

and I always joke with him because he’s like people. I’m the best
plumber there is and I’m

like, well if nobody knows you exist,

nobody cares that you’re
the best plumber.

His name is marketing awareness.

You’ve got to get out
there and spread the word.

Don’t just hang out it, man,
and hope that the phone rings.

Yeah, it’s recognition.

We talk a lot about the importance

of building a brand identity,
a visual brand for your company,

because at the end of the day, you know,
whether you’re a plumber or you

have a retail store or you
have an e-commerce store,

if people don’t know who you are or
that you exist or if they can’t remember

who you are, they can’t tell others,
they can’t find you again.

Right. And that puts you
at a huge disadvantage

to the businesses that are easily found,
easily remembered,

and who create this warm connection
with their potential audience.

And that’s one of the key differentiators

between people who start
small businesses.

Yes, it’s about your work ethic.

Yes, it’s about the people you hire.

It’s about luck and the funding
and all these other things.

But it’s also about
making the right choices.

A lot of business owners
spend a lot of time

doing things right.
They want to get this perfect.

They want to get that perfect. And,
of course, you know,

for small businesses to be successful,
you’ve got to do the right things.

Mm hmm.
Yeah, a lot of times,

I guess it’s interesting,
you’re in the Midwest as well,

maybe Chicago, you guys are
faster decision makers in

north of you, but locally here
we’re slow decision makers.

So it’s interesting that I
find business owners

just too apprehensive.

They’re looking for every single nugget

of data they can possibly get
instead of just taking the chance.

And the by the time they decide
that potential opportunity has been gone,

somebody from New Jersey
saw it and acted on it.

So there’s there’s a there’s a concept

that I talk about with with my team
and with other business owners.

We’re a data informed company,
not a data driven company.

And the difference I think this is

an important difference
for for a lot of businesses.

Data driven companies make their decisions

almost strictly based on data, meaning
they let the data drive their decisions.

But that also means that if they don’t

have data on something,
as you just described,

they’re going to wait,
they’re going to sit there and wait

and won’t make a decision
where a data inform company.

And I’ve been a data informed
entrepreneur for a long time.

And the difference is that No one,

I know that most of the time
I’m not going to have any data.

It’s just the truth of business.

Most of the time you have to make

decisions based on very
limited information.

But to succeed as a business
owner, you have to decide.

It’s the one thing that I
tell everybody I hire.

So I hire people and I give
them a lot of accountability.

I give them a lot of responsibility.

And I say to them, listen,

I don’t want you to come to me
for questions or for make decisions.

You’ll be wrong sometimes.
That’s OK.

I’d rather you be wrong,
but that you made a decision.

I don’t want you to avoid making
a decision and never getting to a point

where we know whether
you’re right or wrong.

And so a lot of times
you won’t have any data.

Most of the time you’re
going to have some data.

But if you’re a data inform company,
the data informs your decision.

You fill in the gaps with your own
gut because as a business owner,

you’re going to have a gut
feeling about a lot of things.

And you have to because most things
you won’t be able to know for certain.

If you’re hiring a person,

you won’t know whether they’re
going to make a great employee.

You’re going to have a guess if you’re

if you found a vendor who’s
going to supply products to you,

you won’t know whether they’re going to be

on time every time,
whether they’re going

to have all the products you need,
whether they’re going to mess up

the orders, you’re going
have to make a guess.

And so you can talk to references,

you can talk to them,
you could look at their facilities.

But ultimately, there’s a bit of data
and there’s a bit of gut feel.

And so so data and form companies
use the data as a reference point.

But to fill in the gaps and that’s what I

encourage business owners to do,
is don’t let data

paralyze you into not making decisions
or into making the wrong decisions.

Look at the data, fill in the gaps,

make decisions, because the most
important thing is do it hopefully.


And if you make a mistake,
just don’t repeat the same mistake.

Figure out what you did wrong
and do it differently next time.

I think these kinds of businesses

that that that are able to,
in an agile way, make decisions and move

forward a step at a time, tend to be more
successful, tend to be more sustainable.

These business owners tend to more quickly

start working on the business than
in the business because they appreciate

the value they can bring to their
business if they focus on strategy.


And when they’re working on, well,
making decisions with gut and data,

the data that they have, they can
grow more quickly because they’re

not hindering themselves
by looking for more data.

I’m thinking about when you started this
business, there probably wasn’t any data

on whether this would
be successful or not.

If you want to start a plumbing business

or something like that, like, hey,
we have X number of toilets and sinks.

We get so many miles of pipe, sooner
or later something’s going to clog.

So you can kind of figure out

what you’re going to do,
what you’re going to make all that jazz.

And you start a standard business

for something like this where
you’re sticking your neck out.

Let’s just hope it works kind of thing.

So in most in most cases and we’ve written

about this quite a lot,
we have this phenomenal guide on how

to start a business, where we
have a chapter on market research

and and this chapter is
based on our own experience.

So so when we were starting, we didn’t
know we would start with graphic design.

We have this white canvas and we asked

ourselves what we’re we’re can we make
the biggest impact? What’s the biggest

need? And so we looked at some
existing traditional RFP marketplaces.

You know, at the time it was

where you can hire, where you can hire

people, contractors to do
all sorts of things.

And and so it was not easy to get,
but we set up some tests.

We actually monitored them for two weeks.

Every product category,

the number of projects that were
launching and what happened with those.

And we built a spreadsheet model to see
what were the most popular categories.

How many?
Projects in each category,

how many people were working and when we
looked at it, we saw this interesting

trend, we saw that graphic design
was a third of all projects.

It was by far the biggest
category of projects.

And that

on that online site,
I remember Ilan’s holy cow.

And so we looked at each other and said,
well, there’s obviously a demand.

If a third of their business involves
people who need help with graphic

design, then there’s
definitely a problem here.

And so we built some surveys for small

businesses and we got on the phone
with business owners and freelancers

and started talking about graphic
design and ultimately ended up.

So today we have three
categories of projects.

So it’s graphic design
like logos and websites.

It’s industrial design.

So designing products,
it’s naming businesses.

It’s it’s outdoor billboards,
big outdoor billboards.

And we’ve done work for for lots
of different kinds of clients.

But but at the time,
we didn’t know what we were doing.

And so we started with logos,

we started with websites because
that’s where the need was.

So so whether you’re starting a business
in in Wisconsin or you’re starting

a business in Ohio or a California market
research works the same way.

If you have competitors,

you have to think loosely about
competitors because we were starting

an online business that was
going to be global ultimately.

And so our competition was global.

But if you have competitors
find a way to pay attention to what

they’re doing and where their
business is coming from.

So you can understand,
if you don’t have competitors,

that’s a red flag, obviously
because if nobody is interested in your

industry may speak more to the fact
that it’s not a real problem.

But listen, we’ve had
innovative businesses like

Airbnb came out of nowhere to create
a business that didn’t exist before.

They didn’t have any competition per say.

And so you have to figure
out how to test the market.

And so there are lots
of different approaches.

And and for business owners that are
struggling to figure this out, you know,

the traditional way to talk to people is,
is focus group research.

It’s interviews.

You meet with a person and say, hey,
tell me about your biggest pain point.

And and the historically,

one of the ways that the business owners

and marketers
in particular will ask this

question is, you know,
if I built a product that does X,

would you buy it and would you buy
it for thirty dollars a month?

Here’s the thing. That’s
a terrible question to ask,

because everybody’s going to say, sure,
they’re not paying you money.

They don’t have to worry.

You don’t have the product.

They don’t even know what the product is.

So that framework
generally isn’t as effective.

What’s what’s really critical when you do

market research in the beginning and we

learned this over
the years and that’s how

we do it now, is it’s to try to understand
what ultimately created enough pain

for a customer that they need
it to solve the problem.

It doesn’t really matter what they

hired to solve the problem, but tool
they use, what service they use.

What’s most important is what created

that pain that led them
to solve that problem.

And so there’s this great
framework called jobs to be done.

There’s a lot written online about
it’s the jobs to be done framework.

And it frames the questions in a different

way in terms of how you interview people
about the potential problems they’re

running into and how
you do market research.

And we’ve been really successful in using
this framework for our own client

interviews because it helps you understand
what’s the actual pain point your

perspective customers have, because
you can have a great business idea.

And this is something that
we learned early on.

You can fall in love and most

entrepreneurs fall in love
with their own business idea.

They think it’s great.

They think it’s going to do well.

Business ideas are can be great,

but if there’s not a problem, if you’re
not solving an underlying problem,

you’re not going to be successful.

There are very few companies that create

a business around a great product
that doesn’t solve a problem.

It could happen.
Instagram is a good example.

It wasn’t a problem.

They created this great
product that became popular.

But but if you look at every other
business, nearly every other business is

actually solving a real problem
that somebody has to overcome.

It’s like the difference
in a pain pill and a vitamin.

Some people take vitamins, but they
take them if they want to or not.

People who are in pain,

almost everybody takes a pain pill,
they have to they don’t have a choice.

And so so when we create new products,

when I talk to business
owners creating new products,

our focus is on find that pain point.

You know, build a pain pill,
something that people can’t live without

as opposed to a vitamin
that they can choose to ignore.

Oh, that’s clever.
I like that.

It’s interesting because we when I first
started Calls On Call the answering

service that I have,
well, even now we still have that issue

with some people where the problem exists,
where companies don’t answer their phone

and the callers feel
that that is a problem.

But the callers aren’t
the one right in the check.

It’s the business owners that are just
like, if it’s important, I’ll answer it.

If I’m busy, they’ll voice
message if it’s important.

And I try to look at them and say, no,
the only way to grow your business is

to actually communicate with your
customers without communication.

And I can talk to them blue in the face.
They don’t care.

So it’s interesting how we’re still

struggling with that, sometimes
with some potential clients.

We see the problem.

Other people have other callers have given
us names of companies are just like I’ve

been trying to get a hold of these
people for months, no luck.

And we reach out to the business owner
and they’re like, not a problem.

And if only we could have
the callers pay us some.

Well, and this is and this is one
of the reasons why I get on the phone

with customers and why I still
do support tickets periodically.

Because unless you hear from an irate
customer that’s been trying to reach you

directly, you don’t appreciate
that they’re frustrated.

And you may assume that they’ll call
back or they’re not so frustrated.

But when you have an earful

from a customer who was trying to reach

you, that’s when you
begin to appreciate.

And the difference, you know, listen
here’s something that that that a long

time ago I read from a letter
Jeff Bezos wrote to shareholders.

This is early on in Amazon’s days.
And yeah.

And he was trying to set up
a situation that that he was essentially

foreshadowing that Amazon is going to lose
money for a long period of time

and reinvest in the business before
they would start making money.

And so he was trying to explain
why investors should trust him.

And what is it about the investments
that Amazon was going to make that would

ultimately become successful
and the way he phrased it?

I’ve always found the fascinating,
really helpful is he said, look,

we try to focus on things
that will not change in 10 years.

So in 10 years, customers are still going
to want to have great customer service.

Customers will still want to have
affordably inexpensive products.

Customers will still want to have products
delivered as quickly as possible.

Nobody’s going to say in 10 years.

I don’t mind if it takes three
months for me to get this product.

And so Amazon focused on investing

in areas that would not
change for customers.

And one of the ones and so we think
about our business the same way.

Where do we make an investment?

And we did this from the very beginning,

which is why customer support
was so important for us.

We said there isn’t going to come a time

where people say, I don’t care
if the customer support is

good or bad, because at the end
of the day, everybody runs into issues.

Occasionally they need to contact

a company about a product
or service they purchased.

And when we do as consumers,
we expect good service.

Some of us expect great service.

Most companies don’t deliver good service.

The vast majority of companies
don’t deliver great service.

And so our goal in the beginning was
to create a company and a culture

that delivered great customer service
because we believed it was important.

We believed it wasn’t going to change.

And we believe that increasingly more

and more the way companies will
differentiate from competitors isn’t

featured a feature, but just
outshining their competitors

and supporting customers and creating
a great user experience.

And and ultimately, the market has proven
that that what Jeff Bezos said several

decades ago is true, that the user
experience is really important.

Great customer support doesn’t change.

People still want things
delivered as quickly as possible.

Know it’s one reason why we created the

100 percent guarantee

because we want people to be comfortable
and that they’re not taking a big risk.

Nice, that’s clever.

Yes, interesting that Jeff Bezos thing,
that’s interesting.

He’s got clever, clever,
clever stuff going on in communication.

That’s the name of the game.
People just want to be heard.

So I like what you got going on.

That’s super cool.
I want to ask you before and your accent.

We don’t have a ton of time.

How did you figure out your pricing model?

Because that had to be just

no one else there, not many companies
had been doing it at the time

and locally designers were charging,
let’s just take logo design.

Thousands of dollars, if not many,
many, many, many hundreds of dollars.

So how did you figure out what people

would be willing to pay and what your
designers, the the outsourced designers,

so to speak, your crew
would be willing to get paid?

So that’s an important question for every
business it was for us. And the first

question we figured out was where did
we want to be in the price point?

Did we want to be the most expensive, the
least expensive or somewhere in between?

That was the important question we had

to answer first, because
your market research,

your competition,
the amount of money you need to raise

for your business are all
impacted by that decision.

And we said we don’t want to be
the cheapest for two reasons.

Number one, because cheap and bad,
you can get a Loga for five dollars.

It’s ClipArt.

It doesn’t help you as a business
that hurts you as a business.

Expensive meant that we would have
to deliver at such a high level to a very

tiny number of clients and compete
with well-established agencies.

And we don’t feel we can improve their

well-established agency to doing
great job for those clients.

So we felt we got to find a middle ground.

And when we looked at what people were
paying for design and we looked at what

designers were getting,
we tried to find a middle ground.

And for every project category like logos,
for example, we said, you know,

a freelancer
may be willing to do the work for

a couple dollars, but but not a qualified
freelancer, not somebody who’s creating

custom designed, just somebody
who slap some clipart.

You know, what is a qualified,

experienced designer willing to do
to build a book of business.

And the way we looked
at it is, you know what?

What is their interest?

I mean, why are they going to work

on crowds spring and get two hundred
dollars is an award in a project?

Well, we figured they were going to build

a book of clients, 30, 40 clients,
and then go on their own way,

start their own little agency
working with us, 30, 40 clients.

And so we thought, you know what,
over the long term,

our goal is to help designers create their
own many agencies and go on their own.

And that’s ultimately
the approach we took.

So for Logo’s, we said

two hundred ninety nine dollars
is the baseline entry point

two hundred dollar award,
ninety nine dollars fee to us.

And we tested we talked to designers a lot
about this. We asked them, you know,

what are you currently get paid? What
do you currently spend on marketing?

What do you feel is is worth
your time? And that varies.

So webdesign is more expensive,
product design is more expensive.

But but it’s an example.
Product design.

So this is industrial design,

designing mobile phones,
designing actual products.

And we work with small companies and big

companies like LG
and mobile phone design.

You know, you could pay agencies hundreds

of thousands of dollars
for product design.

And our designers who are highly qualified

do this work for for one
or two thousand dollars.

And it’s a huge difference.
So why do they do it?

Well, they do it because they don’t have

access to these clients paying
hundreds of thousands of dollars.

They’re very experienced designers who are

happy to do the work for a couple
of thousand dollars.

The clients, first of all,
small business can afford a couple

of thousand dollars but can’t afford
two hundred fifty thousand dollars.

The clients have a way to reach
designers who are doing phenomenal work.

So so we’ve set pricing across every

category that we felt was a good
middle ground between what designers

needed to make and we
adjusted periodically.

If we see that, you know,
the market shifts a little bit.

So, for example, we initially said custom
illustration of two ninety nine two,

but we felt that there was
much more work involved.

There’s more sophisticated
required more designer time.

We raise it a little to three ninety nine,
still ten to twenty times cheaper than

the market, but it gave businesses a way
to get great custom design and designers

a way to make a fair return
on their investment of time.

That’s cool.

Yeah, the pricing thing for any
businesses is challenging.

I remember my first business,
I started in 2006

and it was a printer repair company and I
essentially just duplicated the pricing

of a place that I was working at before
because I didn’t know I was and new.

And then you realize, well,

I’m not making as much money as I want
and I’m better than other people.

So the whole service quality price thing,

if I’m better at service, have higher
quality than I should be charging more.

So I did buy pretty I think it was twenty
five percent and no one better than I.

And I’m like, oh man.

I gave up the past few years
of not charging enough.

And it’s just one of those things.

So that’s an interesting conversation
to figure out or just to talk with other

entrepreneurs to figure out
how did you come up with your pricing.

So that’s awesome. We actually
put together and I’ll send it

over if you want include US
outs we put together cost of design,

pricing guide for logos, websites,
business cards

that walks through the different price
points and benefits and disadvantages.

The questions you should ask your

freelancer, a design firm, the things
you should be. Look for because

it’s a it’s a question that that every
business owner should ask themselves is

how much should I pay for designing
the unequivocally clear answers?

And there are two two parts of the answer
you shouldn’t underpay in the sense

that cheap and free design
is never cheap or free.

You’re going to pay for it in the in
the midterm by by hurting your brand.

The most expensive design can be

phenomenally great, but good design
doesn’t have to be the most expensive.

There is a there is an area where there’s
a lot of room where business owners can

get phenomenally great designs,
a very affordable pricing.

And that’s really what we focus on.

That’s what we wanted to focus
on with crowds from the beginning.

I think that’s what we
accomplished over the years.

And that’s what we really strive to do,
is to make sure that that we deliver

that custom designed at an affordable,

fair price that meets
the budgets of every

kind of business owner
and give designers a fair

return on the time they’re investing
and creating these custom designs.


Can you I guess before we end this,
can you tell me how you came up

with the name of crowd spring
naming as tough took us 50 hours.

This is why we started naming services.

So we named businesses
because it was frustrating.

And as an entrepreneur,
I’ve named other businesses since then.

It’s like hitting your
head against the wall.

You know, we learned about this concept
crowdsourcing that that that was around.

At the same time, we started
looking at this business.

It was first coined in 2006.

Right at the time we started looking

at this business and we
liked the name crowd.

And so we spent a lot
of time brainstorming.

At one point we had this idea that I think

every entrepreneur has at some point
maybe, maybe we’ll pick a Swahili word

and looks like everybody else had the same

idea because we just
couldn’t find names.

And then we started thinking about,

you know, what are some connotations,
what are some ways people differentiate?

And and we ultimately stumbled
on this concept of spring.

You know, you spring from the crowd,
you stand out.

And so because we were having a really
tough time finding a normal word

and because we realized that good branding
requires you to do something unique,

you don’t want to have a name that can be
confused for other businesses,

lots of other businesses
with the word design in them.

And we didn’t know we were going to be
in design and we knew we wanted to be

a marketplace, but design
would be only a part of it.

So so we combine the two
words crowd spring.

Nice, cool.

And it’s worth apparently and it’s work.

That’s the thing people
people forget about.

Branding is a lot of the companies we know
today that are ridiculous, that Google,

you know, nobody knew what Google was
day one day, two days.

So so you build your brand with with good

design, good choices with marketing,
with time with good customer service.

And over time, people associate your name,
your logo with your business.

And it takes time in every case.

Yeah, it takes too much time.

But that’s it’s interesting
how some things like that.

Right, there’s the the pain in the butt

factor where if it was easy there would
be way more competition than you’d want.

So there has to be

a little bit of a hurdle
to keep the riffraff out, I guess,

from there from the
competition pool, I suppose.

Well, I mean, listen,
this is an opportunity for four business

owners to to think through a plan and get
going, because the reality is that most

of your potential competitors
never get started.

So they’re planning and thinking.

And the quicker you get started, the
quicker you start getting ahead of them.

And that’s, you know.


Yeah, that’s cool.

Well, Ross, I don’t want
to take any more of your time.

We’ve already gone over,
so thank you so much.

I do want to ask is really quick.

You guys have a ton of content on your
website and I’ve seen you it looks like

you blog for Entrepreneur
magazine, is that right?

So I’ve just written
for a few publications.


So is this just fun for you or is it

marketing, is it all you
or do you have writers.

So we don’t we don’t generally accept
guest posts, people on our team.


I write and I’ve written
from the very beginning.

It started as a way for us to to market.

So it’s a channel for us content

marketing, which is important
for every business.

But I also made a commitment when I
started the business twelve years ago.

Chicago at the time had
almost non-existent startup community.

There were there were companies, but there
was no connection, nothing uniting them.

And so when I started running into
challenges, how do I hire engineers?

What do I make,

what kind of choices do I
make for support software?

I don’t really have anybody to ask.

And so I would reach out to people

and say, hey, can I can I buy you a cup
of coffee and ask you two questions?

And so half the people said no.

Half the people said yes.

And people said yes are lifelong friends.

So I committed to giving back.

And part of the way we give back it crowd

spring is is we write long
form content, so we write.

Big guides, you know, 2000,
3000 to 20000 words on how to start

a business, how to create a brand


identity, how to create

marketing strategy

on marketing psychology,
and how to write a business plan.

And we share, just as an example,
how to write a business plan.

One of the resources we share is probably
a 10000 word guide with seven or eight

free templates, four for one page business
plans, budgeting, spreadsheets,

sale spreadsheets, all sorts of stuff that
you can just download and start using.

And we do that in part because, again,

as I mentioned earlier, we want
to build credibility with people,

but we genuinely want to help
people start businesses.

I think it’s important for us as business
owners to support other business owners.

It’s such a huge part of our economy.

It makes me feel good when I can help

somebody do something
better in their business.

And I want to avoid making
the mistakes I’m making.

So part of what I’m doing when I distill
these mistakes into writing is teaching

myself how to avoid these
same mistakes in the future.

I like it.

I love it.
That’s I can

tell you from the books

that I’ve written in blogs,
it’s the same situation.

You start doing a video or writing or
something like that and you’re like, oh,

and you end up learning almost as
much as you’re attempting to teach.

And that’s that’s the secret of writing
and teaching is you actually if you if

you’re open to it, you can
learn as much, if not more.


Something cool.
Something cool.

Ross how can people find you? So

[01:10:08.520] C-R-O-W-D-S-P-R-I-N-G.

Our blog is

I am Ross Kimbarovsky
on Twitter and LinkedIn.

So it’s R-o-s-s, K-i-m-b-a-r-o-v-s-k-y
and @crowdspring on Twitter.

Nice, super easy.

This has been
Authentic Business Adventures, the business

program that brings you the struggle
stories and triumphant successes

of business owners across the land.

We’re underwritten locally by the Bank

of Sun Prairie and if you’re
listening to this on the web,

which I’m sure you are, please give
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and of course, share with your
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My name is James Kademan

and Authentic Business Adventures is
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across the country, on the Web

As well as

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on the web at

And of course, The BOLD Business Book,

a book for the entrepreneur in all of us
available wherever fine books are sold.

We’d like to thank you our wonderful
listeners as well as our guest.

Ross Kimbarovsky.

Oh my goodness gracious.

Ross Kimbarovsky.

See what happens when
you drink orange juice?

Founder and CEO of

Past episodes can be found
morning, noon, and night

at the podcast link found

Thank you so much for listening.

We’ll see you next week.

I want you to stay awesome.

And if you do nothing else,
enjoy your business.



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