The Story Behind Bittersweet Design Boutique
Eight years ago today, I was staring blankly at an outdated computer screen in Austin, TX trying to figure out what exactly I was getting myself into. I had just taken out a $10,000 personal loan for a failing design studio, when shortly thereafter, my next paycheck bounced. At the time, I made $400 a month. Yep...you read that right. Four Benjamins a month. There were so many red flags that I should have seen from a mile away, but these 'rose colored' glasses kept getting in the way.
I didn't know the difference between an LLC & sole proprietor or anything else about running a business, but with a giant loan looming over my head and no other good options, I was determined to make this business thing work. Either I could figure this out, or I could go back to waiting tables. The alternative was something I'd sworn off for good.
A Craigslist Connection
While browsing the Craigslist ads one afternoon, I noticed a really talented photographer’s need for a second shooter. I saw the company’s beautiful images and knew I wanted to be a part of it. Just HOW I was going to do this, I wasn’t quite sure, as I was a designer, not a photographer. On a whim, I made a quick phone call to the photographer and learned I was the only person to call out of the hundreds of email responses they received. Several cups of coffee later, I was designing photography goodies and marketing materials instead of second shooting, which was exactly what I'd hoped for all along. It didn’t take long before other photographers started contacting me about my work, and Bittersweet was born.
The early days
When I first started this business, I'd take on any and every project that came my way. If a client wanted layered wedding invitations printed on metallic paper with ribbons tied around each piece, I would spend all day searching for an affordable laser printer to purchase half the night sticking double-sided tape to each layer of the invitation to make it work. I took on logo projects, stationery design, wedding albums...you name it. If a project came my way, I gladly accepted it.
The busier I got with Bittersweet, the more I realized the importance of specializing and saying 'no' to clients that weren't a good fit. This was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, as I wanted to be able to help as many people as possible. With every project, there were two things that stood out: small business owners wanted to create a brand affordably, and they wanted their designs to be done quickly. To help remedy this situation, I started creating premade marketing materials to reach more photographers & creatives. They were a huge hit! I found myself spending more and more time creating the work I loved for a bigger audience than ever before.
Thomas Quits His Day Job
Fast forward 5 years, and Thomas was able to quit his job to join me in this crazy entrepreneurial journey. Thomas is a rockstar marketing man and an even better husband & father. Griffin has no idea how lucky she is to have a dad like him! My own dad always wanted to own his own business but never got around to taking the plunge. I don't have many memories of him, but I do know he'd be proud to see his kids following in the footsteps he didn't get the chance to take.
A Peek at the Present Day
Fast forward another 3 years, and we now have a 1-year-old & two fur babies to chase after when we aren't working. Pepperoni & Meatball, our Boston Terrier/Pug mix rescues, guard our home office with their ferocious barks and make sure our feet stay warm at night. Griffin sets an alarm for us each morning and shares her half-eaten snacks when we're hungry. She brings meaning to our lives & is the 'WHY' behind our work.
Eight years in, and there's only one thing I know for sure - we're pretty fortunate. Thanks for sharing in this journey with us.