In the land of small business, owners are often the jack-of-all-trades: business planner; financial, employee and operations manager; sales staff and marketing director. This do-it-yourself (DIY) tactic can be very effective most of the time and can save working capital for inventory, wages, and other overhead costs.
However, one area where DIY may not be appropriate is in the development of graphic design, which largely impacts the brand of the business. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” tells us why graphics associated with your business speak volumes about you and your business and are essential to building a brand that is vital to your business success.
In a competitive and crowded marketplace graphics can communicate what makes you and your business special. For three Manchester Small Business Development Center clients looking to establish themselves in the marketplace, graphic design help came from the Manchester Community College graphic design internship program.
Through an internship, facilitated by Manchester Community College professor Joanne Jagodowski, students are required to get real world, hands-on, client-centered experience. In Joanne’s class, students learn how to use all the state of the art technology required to produce exquisite designs; most of these software platforms are only available to professional graphic designers and require special training to effectively use them.
Every January, at the start of the spring semester, the Graphic Design class from the Manchester Community College reaches out to our office to see if there is an interest in hosting one of their interns. And every January I respond with a resounding YES.
Why? Over the past 15+ years as a business advisor I have seen the three categories of DIY graphics, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wish I had a dollar for every time I was told, “My nephew (who knows nothing about marketing) designed my website” or “the high school kid down the street helped me with the logo.” Sometimes the results, although not perfect, are a good start. But other times these DIY graphics miss the mark and fall short of making the impact the business owner is looking for.
When Dawn Marquis, owner of Recycled Cabinet Solutions, came to NH SBDC for assistance, she wanted to grow her sales and expand her operations. Dawn purchased a new trailer to transport her cabinets, and was able to work with student designer Cassandra Conover to create a wonderful graphic for application on the side of the trailer. Dawn said, “She [Cassandra] was adept at listening to suggestions and applying her knowledge of the software to produce the desired effect I have been looking for. The logo and materials have a professional look that I am very proud of and eager to share with others.” Now Dawn is able to use the trailer not only for logistics, but also as a moving billboard, letting people know that Recycled Cabinet Solutions, LLC is open for business - everywhere she goes. www.recycledcabinetsolutions.com
Barry Berube is the fourth generation business owner of Central Energy LLC. His great-grandfather started the business in 1931 with the mindset to “offer the best customer service and treat people like you want to be treated.” Today, Barry sticks to the same principles, and when he came to the NH SBDC, he wanted to communicate them, tell his story, and promote his business using an effective website. MCC intern and graphic designer Matt Salinder worked with Barry to give his website a makeover. As Barry says, “What you did helping me with my web site and the student that did my graphics, I can NEVER thank you enough. Everyone that looks at it says it is "top notch". Check it out for yourself at www.centralenergy1.com. (Editor’s note: Barry Berube also said, of Andrea O’Brien, “You are one person I will NEVER forget for helping me getting things off the ground.”)
Student engagement can also be accessed through capstone projects. This is how Souleymane Mori established his business. He emigrated from his country of Niger years ago but he has always wanted to share the culture of his youth with friends and families here in the USA. This gave him the idea to establish an import export business. Mori Enterprises, LLC, dedicated to importing traditional handmade artisan Tuareg ethnic jewelry and exporting an array of goods to Niger, needed a comprehensive website and brand. As his advisor, I connected Souleymane to a UNH Information Systems and Business Analytics class’s capstone project. Students spent their time building his online store and establishing a platform for prospective shipping clients. The students gave his website a professional look with seamless functionality. Meanwhile, Cassandra (graphic design intern) developed a logo that can be used on business cards, contracts and labels. Give the students’ work a look at www.morienterprisesllc.com.
So, no matter where you are in business — an emerging entrepreneur or an established business in your industry - engaging with student interns or classroom capstone projects are a win-win. Students today are eagerly looking to enter the market place and flex their understanding of technology and skill necessary to enter the workforce. Business owners need help mastering many tasks and in this they can leave the graphic design creation to students.
Thanks to Andrea O'Brien, NH SBDC Manchester Business Advisor & Business Sustainability Program Director for authoring this article.