Female Entrepreneur: Brandy Miller
Company: Creative Technology Services
Age range: 30s
What motivated you to start your business?
I have dreamed of owning my own business for as long as I can remember. My first idea for making money wasn’t very successful, though. I was taken blackberry picking with the family of a friend and my idea was to squeeze the juice, let it dry in the sun, and it would crystalize and become kool-aid which I would then package and sell. This was at age five. My second idea just a few weeks later was better and actually did produce money. I convinced the neighbors to let me pick weeds for them in their garden.
Tell us about your business.
Right now, I am the Creativity Consultant for Creative Technology Services. I am in charge of all things creative for our business, from graphic design and marketing to copy writing and editing as well as research and event planning. I am also a traditional artist, so we’re able to offer some unique services like custom art work and custom fabric design for businesses who want a truly one-of-a-kind look. My husband, Randell, is the Technology Consultant for our business. He handles all of the actual development of a website and creates custom programs when there is no app for that.
What is a day in the life of you like?
I get up and check my email. Then, I open my projects list to make sure that I know exactly what projects we have going and what the status is for each of those. My projects list includes the priority, so I make sure that any top level priority jobs get started right away. We work until either the projects are completed or we’ve run into an issue that can’t be resolved on our end because they need further input from the client.
What have been your biggest challenges so far with running your business?
The biggest challenges in running the business have come from cash flow issues. We decided early on that we would run a debt free company using no loans and no borrowing of money from friends or family. The upside to that is when money comes in, it’s free to be put back into the business directly. The downside to it has been that we often have to wait to make even the most important purchases. For example, very early on we were both using the same computer to do our job which meant projects took longer to complete because we had to switch off to do it. It was fine in the very beginning when we didn’t have many clients, but it became a serious bottle neck once we got our first big client, SMB SEO.
The second biggest challenge is that we started out working out of our home, which is a tiny two bedroom apartment with five people living in it. Three of those five are teenagers and not good at keeping the noise down, so that was really distracting to us. So, we needed to find a good sized space for us to work in without having to pay a whole lot of money upfront.
The third biggest challenge is advertising. We live off the money we make, so we have to balance putting money into the business with making sure the rent gets paid. This doesn’t leave a lot left over for advertising, so we’ve had to get creative with that.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I took a second job temporarily in order to overcome that first challenge. I worked at a gas station for three weeks until I knew I had the money I would need to cover the cost of a new computer. We found a used laptop for $300 that had everything we would need.
The second challenge we overcame by partnering with the Elko County Art Club. We had become sponsors for the Club back in February, offering free marketing and web design services to them. When they were forced to find a new location for their Art Gallery, the lease they took out was more than they could afford, and we approached them about subleasing an office space. It worked out very well. I got a home for my artwork where it can be displayed, we got an office space where we can work in peace, and the Art Club can better afford their rent.
We overcame our challenges with advertising by partnering with a local radio station. We exchange our information technology services for their radio advertising. It works well for both companies, as the radio station really needed the help but couldn’t afford the quality of services we provide and we really need the advertising but couldn’t afford their rates.
What have you found to be the most effective way to get new clients?
I have found that the most effective way to get new clients is referrals from friends and family. In fact, 75% of our clients were referred to us by a friend or family member. The second most effective way to get new clients has proven to be post card mailers. Direct mail isn’t dead, and post cards are cheap to create and cheap to mail.
What advice would you give to other business owners?
The first piece of advice I would offer is that you are never closer to having what you want than the day you feel like quitting. Don’t quit on your dream. Every business that you try that doesn’t work helps you to learn more about what works and what doesn’t, and you can apply that to your next business venture. Don’t worry if people stop believing in you. I’ve had plenty of people tell me I would never succeed, but I knew they were all wrong. I knew I could.
The second piece of advice I would give is do not isolate your business from your community. The more people you connect with, the better known you become, and the more likely you are to be able to find and seize great opportunities. Most of my success has come because I connected with people in my community and reached out to them for support. Join your Chamber of Commerce, join a business association, get your name out there and get known.
The third piece of advice I would give is GET CREATIVE. You don’t have to buy everything. You can often trade services with other businesses. You can also split costs on advertising with nearby businesses. If you can put together a proposal that makes it a win-win for both sides, most people are willing to listen to what you have to say.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I keep motivated through difficult times because I keep in mind why it is that I’m creating this business. The why has changed for me, over the years. At first, I just wanted to be rich because I thought if I had enough money I wouldn’t have any more problems. Now, though, my goal is to use the proceeds of my money to help the homeless get on their feet. That is what motivates me today, the knowledge that success for me means success for them.
What’s your favourite quote?
“There is no try, only do” – Yoda. Yes, I’m a geek and proud of it, but more importantly I don’t believe in trying. Trying is taking a leap of faith but not putting everything you have into it. If you’re going to take a leap of faith, but your whole self into it. Believe me, God will catch you on the other side. Even if you leap in the wrong direction, as long as you took the leap for Him, He will catch you.
My family and I packed up our whole lives, left everything behind, and took those leaps of faith 7 times before we landed in Elko. We have struggled the whole last year with poverty so bad that at one point I was grateful for finding an unopened can of beer as I was walking because it allowed me to make the beer bread that we had for dinner that night. But we made it through, we’re better for having gone through what we went through, and God has definitely been there for us the whole time.
Who inspires you?
You might guess it already, but what inspires me is God’s love. I find glimpses of it everywhere I look, and I am inspired to put that into everything I do. I want everyone I come in contact with to walk away from the experience feeling the same love that I do. I want everything I have and am to be an expression of the love that I have from Him.
Do you have a business philosophy?
Yes. Our business philosophy is this: Our success is directly correlated to how well we help your business succeed. I truly believe that.
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