Meet Kimberly Schwede:
Kimberly is an entrepreneur after my own heart! We connected years ago during one of her travels (read below about her being a “digital nomad”!) and I have great admiration for her and her work. Kimberly Schwede is a versatile Graphic Designer and Illustrator from San Francisco. Her resume reads like a bestseller – from being published in Logolicious to creating a logo for the City of South San Francisco to designing a Swatch Watch. Graphic design projects include branding and logo development, print collateral, infographics and website design. Inspiration comes from her love of travel and children.
Sarah Nance: What inspired you to create your company?
Kimberly Schwede: After working in the graphic design industry for 10 years and freelancing after hours I figured if I didn’t give it a go on my own now when would I? Other people have successful design businesses, why I couldn’t I? I knew I’d become more complacent in my full-time position and lose the motivation and excitement to launch my own business if I stayed. I told myself to give it 3 years and knew I could always find another in-house design job in the future.
Sarah Nance: How and when did you start your business?
Kimberly Schwede: I opened my graphic design studio in 2008 after working 10 years in the industry. Over those years I freelanced after hours building up my clientele. I went from FT to PT, added to my nest egg savings and joined female entrepreneur groups in San Francisco for inspiration and motivation.
Sarah Nance: Tell me about your professional background and experience.
Kimberly Schwede: I graduated from California State University Chico in 1998 with a BA in Communications, emphasis in Graphic Design. My first job out of college was a at a boutique size graphic design studio in Palo Alto where I had great hands on training seeing how a design studio was managed by four business partners. Then I worked for a real estate company in Burlingame as their Creative Director and Photographer. I designed all their marketing collateral and took residential property photos.
Sarah Nance: What should your customers expect when they come to you?
Kimberly Schwede: They won’t get lost working with an online design factory churning out generic designs to every other client. They have my full attention. I make every effort to provide the best service possible, satisfaction guaranteed. Whether they’re trying to meet a tight deadline or make a quick change I let them know I’m there for them.
Sarah Nance: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? If not, share a bit of history about another business you owned.
Kimberly Schwede: Yes, this is my first time managing my own business. Learn by doing! There are no mistakes, everything is a learning experience. You can’t grow if you don’t make an occasional mistake.
Sarah Nance: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?
Kimberly Schwede: Sometimes I’ve been too trusting with new clients. Always get a 50% deposit before beginning a new project.
Sarah Nance: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?
Kimberly Schwede: The freedom and independence has been priceless! I especially love taking time off in the summer to work remotely abroad and vacation . It’s very rewarding creating a unique design for a client and have them excited to show it off to the public. I make their vision a reality.
Sarah Nance: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?
Kimberly Schwede: Lots of networking events and word of mouth referrals.Listing my website portfolio on entrepreneurial/small businesses website directories. Positive testimonials.
Sarah Nance: What is your target market?
Female entrepreneurs, small business owners and non profits. Retail – spas, fashion, restaurants and bakeries. Educational foundations and anything related to kids! Gift, apparel and stationery.
Sarah Nance: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?
Sarah Nance: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?
Kimberly Schwede: Yes about 1-3 times a month. I enjoy meeting other entrepreneurs because it keeps me motivated. You can get stuck doing your business one way alone so its good to get a different perspective and new ideas. I don’t like aggressive sales shark types that instantly put their business card in your face, talk too much about themselves and move onto the next victim. Not into MLM marketing groups.
Sarah Nance: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you
Kimberly Schwede: Looking back at my first job there were four female business owners. I think they had a great impact on me starting own business. They too loved to travel abroad and worked with similar clients. Marti Somers really encouraged me to develop my illustration skills. Designing the annual Palo Alto Festival of the Arts Poster and event schwag was always a highlight!
Sarah Nance: What are your long-term goals for your business?
Kimberly Schwede: Continue to receive client referrals to sustain my business and be a part-time digital nomad every summer! I’m not looking to expand my business with employees, I enjoy the one on one client interaction. It makes it feel more like a family business.
Sarah Nance: How can people find you on social media?
Sarah Nance: Share some fun facts about you!
I designed a Spring 2004 Swatch watch, a brand I idolized growing up in the 80’s along with Guess and Gotcha 😉
l’ve traveled to Europe, Central America, and SE Asia – 22 countries so far.
I’ve done pro bono graphic design work in Mexico, Tanzania and Sri Lanka which got me featured in an NBC news article called Digital Nomads Working Abroad.
Sarah Nance: Tell me a story about one of your favorite projects and or client/customer.
Kimberly Schwede: A unique pro bono project I recently finished was in Sri Lanka! I branded a nonprofit for girls education and women empowerment. I designed the logo, marketing brochures and collaborated on the website design with the founder and intern. In addition we’re creating a line of children’s placemats and flash cards where 25% of the proceeds will go to the Malini Foundation in Sri Lanka.