On April 1, 2015, Hue & Tone Creative opened its doors. In a literal sense, we opened one door – to our office on the Revolution Mill campus in Greensboro, NC. Figuratively, it’s been a year of many more doors opening and closing for this business. New clients and partners have made their mark. Processes have been refined. In a personal and professional sense, it’s been a year of learning what works and what doesn’t.
You only get one first year in business – and I want to celebrate all the successes and challenges that entails. So, with that in mind, here’s an overview of the last 365 days!
Where We’ve Been
Hue & Tone got its start in early 2015 as the new, relocated home of Hannah Pomphrey Graphic Design. I’ve been a freelance graphic designer since I was about 19, and was coming off a 9-5 stint in marketing. I realized, though, that it was time to start up a bona fide business in my then-new home of Greensboro. Here’s how I described my freelance journey a year ago:
It wasn’t until my first client gave me a $100 “tip” that I realized I had just found my new side hustle. I set out with my VistaPrint business cards in hand to find myself some new clients. I cold-called and did pro-bono work for local nonprofits until I found enough momentum to begin working almost solely on referrals.
Recently, I took a break from freelancing full-time to try out a 9-5. I packed up my mismatched furniture and my massive shoe collection and relocated to Greensboro, NC with the intention of settling into my much more ‘normal’ 9-5 job.
Turns out this 9-5 thing isn’t for everyone. Even the parts of freelancing that I thought weren’t for me – the irregular income, quirky clients, and doing my own taxes – were some of the things I missed the most. While some might call irregular paychecks and lulls in work terrifying, it now seems like some much-needed work/life spice.
A year in, I’d still describe it the same way. Owning your own business isn’t easy – it’s not even in the same universe as easy. But the ability to work for myself – to shape the business objectives of my organization, while still getting my hands messy with design – is rewarding and worthwhile in a way I have a tough time explaining. Given the decision to make again, I’d make the same one.
Growth as a Company
As I said above, Hue & Tone’s first year in business has been a year of refinement and learning what works. I’ve had the opportunity to work with fabulous clients, new and old, and have worked to improve processes both on the client side and internally.
On average, Hue & Tone typically works with 10 to 20 clients at a time, and the scope of work taken on varies by client. I’ve done print design, web design, videos, social media, and consulting for large corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. Some clients seek assistance on a per-project basis, while others hire Hue & Tone on a monthly basis for ongoing projects.
Internally, I’ve worked toward greater cohesion and focus for Hue & Tone as a business. That’s meant asking tough questions about the type of work I do and the clients I seek out. (For example: do I primarily work with local clients, or web-based businesses?) It’s also meant diversifying our portfolio so multiple skills and competencies are being exercised through our current body of work. It’s never my goal to do only social media projects or only video projects or only (fill in the blank here). When possible, I love working with clients across a wide variety of their creative needs – simultaneously working on design, video, and social, for instance. There’s a lot of interplay between different types of creative and having a hand in multiple pieces of the puzzle can add some coherence and visual consistency.
Finally, the growth of the past year has meant I needed to continue defining and re-defining the way Hue & Tone itself is marketed. You may have noticed some changes on our website, and here on the blog as well. I’d love to hear your feedback as I continue to learn what works.
A Few Stand Out Projects
With year one in the books, I’d love to share a few favorites and highlights of the year. Every project was an opportunity to learn and grow, and I’m grateful for each one. Here are a few that stood out…
Comprehensive Branding for CSDHH | Website and branding for CSDHH, a nonprofit that provides communication services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Notable for the opportunity to start from scratch and a desire, on the part of the client, to avoid the obvious.
Revolution Mill Social Media | Design and daily management of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for Revolution Mill. From social graphics to #RevMillGSO, a chance to engage with a broad range of stakeholders (from future leaseholders to the community at large) about the live-work-create environment of Revolution Mill.
Pitch Video for Brown Investment Properties | An opportunity to create something rich, visually appealing, and (no pun intended) creative, while serving a strategic (and serious) purpose.
Favorite Blog Posts
Throughout the year, this blog has been a reliable place to share the ups and downs of Hue & Tone’s first year in business. Increasingly, it’s also become a place to share design inspiration and a few hints of the colors, textures, and patterns that fuel my imagination each day. Here are a few favorite posts from the year…
One of my favorite aspects of being a local business owner is the opportunity to interact with the community. Here are a few of my favorite Greensboro events!
Coffee & Conversation | A Greensboro Chamber event with for networking and learning about a new, focused topic each time.
IdeaNetwork | Organized by Cochran Creative Group, IdeaNetwork is an opportunity to come together, hear a speaker, then participate in a group discussion on the ideas raised.
Craft Freedom | An initiative to change the North Carolina law that restricts the growth of breweries by placing a cap on the amount of beer they can self-distribute, and a chance to support small businesses’ rights.
When all is said and done, the past year has been a big one – a wild one – a just-plain-irreplaceable one. It’s involved a lot of hard work, both of the creative variety and the messy, hauling-furniture-into-offices variety. None of it would have been possible without the support and partnership of many, so a few thank-yous are in order!
To Hue & Tone’s clients, thank you for your partnership, and for allowing Hue & Tone to help tell your story. It’s an honor every time!
To the community of Greensboro-based designers I’ve met, your advice has been invaluable.
To Sirtuah, and to my family, thank you for your patience and support through the crazy journey of the last year.
To the Greensboro community as a whole, thank you for welcoming me, welcoming Hue & Tone as a business and being a wonderful place to call home.
With all that said…that’s a wrap on Hue & Tone’s first year. It hasn’t been perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Here’s to year two!