Today marks an anniversary in Dsquared Media History. We have officially been open for five years. I can now say looking back that I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started the company. The idea all started as a final school project. We were to come up with a fictitious company and create the branding and website for it. Our teacher had probably seen an idea like mine over a thousand times, but had any of the students ever taken their idea any further than the class project? I have always had the drive to be more, to do great things, and to never settle for what I have. It’s not easy to start a business, especially with limited start-up money. Unfortunately, the common saying is true; It takes money to make money.
I remember applying to SunBiz to get my business incorporated. There were hundreds of forms I had to fill out and 99% of the information requested was all legal jargon of which I had no idea about. I had seen websites like LegalZoom.com to register a business but I didn’t even have the $599 in order to do that. Even if I had, I didn’t have the money to put down on first, last, and security for rent of an office space. I was terrified with the financial responsibility of everything that I had to do, pre-revenue at that. Not only did I have little money, I also had very little direction on the right and wrong things to do when developing a business. As a result, I made several poor financial decisions early on. But, my company is a testament that you live and you learn.
Our first office was in Delray Beach and we had a whopping 210 square feet of space. I paid $540 a month and was excited to take the first step in the right direction. I can remember like it was yesterday that I was speaking to Patrick Coombe from http://www.elite-strategies.com. He told me, “Keep your overhead low”, which proved to be vital information. At first, I really wasn’t sure what he meant but I can now say this was the best information I could have gotten at the time. As I began to get larger in size, I had to take on more employees and the overhead began to grow. Soon, I wasn’t just paying $500 a month in rent. I was also paying weekly paychecks. Paying employees was the scariest thing in the world for me. Taking on the responsibility of someone else’s wellbeing is pretty overwhelming. There were some weeks where I wasn’t sure if I was going to make payroll or not. The bank account had less than $3,000 in operating expenses. Nevertheless, somehow we always made out. I always have paid employees on-time and never missed a single payroll. I may have told my employees to cash their checks the same day so that I could make sure we had cash in the account, but hey, we did what we had to do to get by.
In the beginning, we hired multiple Interns from http://www.dmac.edu to help us get the work done. Some were paid internships and some were free of charge. I slowly started to create a pipeline from my colleagues. I was able to employ people I went to school with. To this day, we still have Todrey Diles, a designer on our team who has been with the company since the beginning. She’s unbelievably talented. In that tiny 210 square foot office I eventually had two graphic designers, one office manager, one sales person, and myself. As you can imagine, it was hectic. But, I had always kept in mind what Patrick Coombe told me, “Keep your overhead low”. We were in that office for two years and eventually grew out of it. The company moved a whole ten feet down the hall to an office three times the size. For us, it was a step in the right direction.
Eventually, it got to a point where we were completely disorganized, had no systems in place, and things were slipping between the cracks. It was really make it or break it time. We were doing well revenue-wise but the operation side was slipping. We were growing faster than we could handle. This is not necessarily a bad situation to be in but it’s hard to change your way of doing things years into a business. Thank God for my wife, Lauren, who owns http://Studiosetc.com. She had been in business for several years already by then and had some additional tips and tricks I was not aware of to offer. She took on the brunt of the frustrations I was having with the business and helped revamp our internal process. We set up a CRM for the business and a project management tool. It helped us organize all of our contacts and projects. This was a vital part of redetermining our entire process. Up to this point, we were attaining all of our contacts on handshake deals. Unfortunately, I was sick of being burned by clients who were not keeping to their word. I had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars so we eventually decided to put contracts in place. I’m forever grateful for my wife because she put up with me being close minded and standoffish as she continued to push through my walls and forced us to put all of this into action. It was not easy, but it was worth it. After a business has been afloat for a few years, putting alternative concepts into the mix is a difficult task. Looking back now, it’s hard to imagine that we operated as long as we did without what Lauren put into place. Our process seems to be so much smoother now. A lot of the issues we had encountered no longer occur due to the procedures we put into place back then.
Currently, we are located in West Palm Beach, Florida. We grew out of our second office and moved into our new office in Northwood Village, a downtown area known for small businesses owned and operated by Palm Beach citizens. Our office is now 1500 square feet of space, over seven times the size of the tiny office we started in. I now employ twelve people and business is rocking. I constantly wish we could be further along than we are but I’m also so blessed for the process and how far we have come. I’ve learned more in the past five years than I have in my entire life’s years combined. This business has taught me how to grow up and to do so fast. I’ve had several sleepless nights and the added anxiety that comes along with being ‘the business owner’ but I have come to accept that this is all a part of the process. Lastly, I’m grateful for what the business has been able to offer me in terms of financial success.
If I was to give any business advice to anyone it would be to find something that you love to do. Something that you’re passionate about. Take a chance on that. Invest what money you have and try to make a name for yourself. I can’t imagine what my life would look like if I didn’t give myself this opportunity; if I didn’t take the chance. Hopefully, this is one of many business accomplishments I will have over the course of my life.
I’m forever grateful for my team and for my clients who’ve supported me thus far on my business journey.
-Danny Donovan / Owner of Dsquared Media