I get asked that question quite often, especially when it becomes apparent that I am self-taught. Why did I choose to start a business designing websites instead of a career in Anthropology or Non-Profit Administration? That’s where my background was strongest.
Typically I respond that when I started my non-profit, we didn’t have funds for a website designer, so I figured it out. In doing so, I learned that I both enjoy website design, and am good at it. I liked that it’s a combination of right-brain / left-brain, design vs. coding.
It’s a short answer that is sweet and satisfies my audience –and it is the truth. But it’s not the whole truth.
I grew up during the beginning of the Internet. I was used to computers being around –my dad sold computer software my entire life. I can remember playing chess on a screen that only offered a black background, green pixels, and a rectangular cursor. Come to think of it, I don’t think there was a mouse attached to that computer…
When I was 13, we started receiving those free CD-ROM’s from AOL (and kept receiving them for a very long time). My dad installed it on our new computer. It was the era when computers came with all sorts of ‘bonuses’. We got Microsoft Office, but we also had a Jurassic Park game that my brother and I could not beat, and a Goosebumps game that scared me. But I digress.
All my friends were using AIM –aka AOL Instant Messenger. It caught like wild fire around school, and stuck around for quite a while. I liked it so much, my parents had to limit my time on the computer. It was like being able to call all your friends at the same time but have separate conversations –or group conversations, if we wanted –and it was free. I realize my parents paid for the internet, but that was nothing compared to the hours of phone calls I might have grown into had I been born a little earlier. And I learned to type REALLY fast in order to stay ahead in conversations / debates, a skill that obviously comes in handy today.
With the Internet came chat rooms. I don’t remember how I got into them, but my friends and I spent a lot of time in them during computer period at school. I certainly got into some shenanigans making international friends, but I had common sense, and stayed away from the creeps.
Think about it –a 13 year old girl had friends overseas whom she could talk to every day without extra charges. I never met these people face to face (or sent pictures), so who knows who I was actually talking to, but the concept still amazes me. There was a trust online in those days that doesn’t exist today.
My First Website
I can remember taking a class when I was in my early double digits (I think I was 12) in which we built a website. It didn’t sink in what I was doing, then. I just remember making the background one color, the text another, and adding all kinds of clip art and dancing Gifs. I wouldn’t say I had any kind of inherent talent.
My schools did a good job of exposing me to the computer and internet. We learned to type, how to use Microsoft Office, to format a proper business letter, cover letter, and resumé. I can remember the first time I discovered Amazon.com. Back then it was just for books. The school librarian directed me to the site to find a book on a topic I was researching. Its importance didn’t sink in then, either.
So Why Web Design?
It may seem like I’ve danced around the subject, but this is all relevant. Watching the Internet grow and change also gave me a unique view of society changing with it. I was born early enough to know what life was like without cell phones or laptop computers (or more than 60 channels on cable), and early enough to be aware of the changes taking place and take part in them.
I’ve watched it change business. When I was little, my dad would go in to an office in order to work. His meetings took place there or at a potential client’s office. Right before he retired, he worked from home, and rarely went out on a sales call. He didn’t need to. He could reach more prospects in less time, all from his office chair. He set me a good example –though he worked from home, he always woke up at 7am, showered, and put on dress clothes. I don’t think he ever had a video call for work, but he still dressed for success.
I’ve seen the Internet go from being novel, to useful, to imperative. It is powerful. It offers the world at our fingertips, waiting to be harnessed by the curious mind. It is the reason the startup world has boomed over the past decade, and entrepreneurship has increased.
I love being a part of that infinite space. It is exciting to help clients craft their message to target the right audience, and design a website that is both beautiful and replicates the culture of their business. I get to help shape the internet on a daily basis, hopefully for the better.
Why Small Business?
I choose to focus on Small Businesses each day. I’ve spent enough time observing our society to know that Small Businesses are the motor that turns our economy. Being a bookworm, I have read all kinds of books that speak to this subject. This includes non-fiction, literature, and philosophy. Having studied Anthropology, I have the tools to dissect and understand this interactivity. It all comes down to small business.
I think of a small business as a chance to make something happen. It’s an idea, bred by passion, and grown by common sense. A small business owner often won’t know to write a business plan or study their target audience until the business already exists. Small businesses may be family-run, started to fill a need, or offer a new idea or product, but it is rarely about turning a buck. We do it because we love it, because we’re good at it, and because we wouldn’t have it any other way.
My focus on small business is more about empowerment than anything else. As the Internet has grown, it has become absolutely necessary to create an online presence for a business. More and more, that is how potential customers find a new place to go, a different place to eat, or a unique shop. Word of mouth is still strong, but even when a friend refers me to a business, I tend to look it up online, first. I want to know their prices, their mission, and what they have to offer so I can classify its usefulness in my life.
I guess the bottom line is I want to help. That’s why I’ve woven transparency into my work. I’m not out to make a quick buck. I actually want to teach small businesses about what it means to be online, and how to cultivate the resource for the highest return.
That’s why I do what I do.