written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Kim Dow is a “Fredericktonian” who graduated from Linganore High School and then majored in art at Salisbury State University. She married her high school sweetheart (yes, he attended Salisbury, too!) and they moved back to Frederick. They share their home with two rescue pit bulls, a cat, a pet snake and a salt water fish tank “with a plethora of corals and fishes.”
Kim has a very active lifestyle. She enjoys reading, traveling, going to the beach, hiking and biking. And, her life-long passion for dance prompted her to start Equinox Dance Company, a local non-profit for adults.
Kim started her professional career at a local design studio. Then, about eight years ago, she launched Kalico Design. She continued to help other businesses develop their brand recognition while building her own brand.
With Kalico firmly established and entrepreneurial energy to spare, Kim recently added another startup! Sass Magazine puts the focus on the professions and lifestyles of women in Frederick and Western Maryland.
Kim has attained phenomenal success without any business courses. Instead, she credits her success to “learning as I go, having a lot of support and meeting a lot of amazing, experienced entrepreneurs who are willing to sort of mentor and give me advice along the way. And a lot of trial and error.”
She’s sitting in the mentor seat now, as she passes along some great advice for growing your own brands through visual recognition.
3 Tips For Business Growth Through Visual Branding
* Visual Branding Is An Investment
“Always have marketing as part of the investment in your business. Investing in your marketing and your visual branding can’t be thought of as an expense for your business. It has to be thought of as an investment in your business.”
“If you’re not willing to invest time, effort and sometimes (when you’re ready for it) hiring a professional and invest that into your business and your marketing, then how can you expect your clients or your customers to want to invest in your business or buy from you?”
* Visual Branding Speaks For You & Your Business
“When you’re ready to grow your business and you’re talking to lots of clients and getting your name out there — you’re networking…you’re marketing…you have a website — really think about hiring a professional for that. They’re going to know how to do it correctly, visually.”
“So when you’re not there, your website…your business card…your logo speaks for you. They automatically give people an idea of who you are and what you do.”
“A lot of times, that’s hard for a business owner to do because they’re so involved with their business. It’s good to have somebody have that outside perspective.”
The right marketing professional can also offer technical advice, such as what type of files to use or how to create something that will last a long time.
* Hire Professional Design Services vs A Neighbor’s Cousin’s Nephew
Kim strongly advises, “Don’t disservice yourself! Everybody who has a Mac thinks they can do design. Or, they have a cousin, uncle or friend who is in art school and who can do the design.”
But, when it comes to visual branding, “It’s a lot more involved than just making pretty pictures. At least talk to a designer or a marketing person or a professional who does web design. Somebody who knows how to do it and who really knows the strategy behind it as well as carrying out the visual side of it.”
From A Course In Graphic Design To A Business Startup On A Couch With A Laptop
Kim excelled at math in high school and was encouraged to move into a career field involving mathematics. However, she was really drawn to the arts. “It was just something that was a part of me. I took a lot of art classes. When I went to college, I couldn’t decide. Art? Or math? They’re two completely different fields.”
Kim continued, “I was lucky enough to take a graphic design course when I first went to Salisbury and fell in love with it. It filled that space for the creative, the design and the visual aspects. But, also, took into account the problem-solving skills that I think I really liked about math. That’s how I got into graphic design. Anybody who’s out there who likes art and who likes math, and doesn’t know what to do, this is the perfect profession for you.”
Kim really enjoyed putting her talents to work at the local design studio. She “learned a lot but reached a point where there was no more room to grow there. I just had the drive. I wanted to sort of do my own thing, do things a little differently, work with some different clientele.”
It was a very low-key launch. “I started on my couch with my laptop. I didn’t have any large clients when I first started. I just started networking and finding people. For the first five years, the business grew just based off of referrals — personal referrals… business referrals… people we had talked to.”
And today? “We’re up to three employees now. It’s myself and three employees!”
Know When And Know Who To Ask For Help
Kim doesn’t hesitate when asked what advice she’d give herself if she could go back to the start. “Stick to what you know! Know when it’s that time to ask for help — when to contract out things. Know when to get experts to help you with your business.”
She reassures budding entrepreneurs that “you don’t have to be an expert at everything in your business. You’re not an expert at everything, as much as entrepreneurs try to be!”
A New Startup? “Oh, My God! I Run A Magazine! How did that happen?”
“Kalico being eight years old now, we have a pretty good process in place for that. We can keep that running. Of course, you always have to continue to grow, keep your business going and doing new things.”
“Trying to start Sass at the same time, it was like having another startup while still having to maintain a full-time business with Kalico. That’s an ongoing struggle. It’s just finding the balance between the two.”
Meanwhile, the response to Sass magazine “has been overwhelmingly positive. We get people who send us emails, who will stop me on the street, who will send me text messages and Facebook messages — just saying how much they enjoyed the magazine and how much we needed something like that in our community. They were excited to see somebody highlighted or to read about amazing women in our community.”
Keep Communications Moving With The Slack App
Kim puts Slack to steady use to keep the communications flowing. “It’s kind of like an instant messaging service. We use that a lot for internal communications between myself and all of the employees. You can send documents over it and quick messages.”
She continues, “We use it for each of our projects. Then, we can go back to it and refer to things that we talked about for each project. It’s so much better than emailing back and forth.”
“It can even work with clients. Use it on your computer or your mobile device.”
You Can Never Know Too Much
Although Kim is an avid reader, she doesn’t have a single book or quote that she lives by. “I actually try to take in from whatever I’m reading, whether that’s a quick online article, a magazine article, a fiction novel or a business book.”
“I try to take things from all of those and figure out a way to apply it.” She’s currently reading “a science fiction book about aliens and an employee motivation book called ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink.”
Kim adds, “You have to constantly learn and have that motivation to continue to learn. Otherwise, you get stagnant. When you get stagnant, your business gets stagnant and you’re no longer relevant. You can never know too much.”
Reaching Kim is easy. Contact forms are on her sites, for your convenience. Get in touch!
Professional visual branding including logo design – business cards – web sites – full magazines – and so much more.
Women’s lifestyle and professional magazine “…for savvy and sassy women of all ages!”
Content Provided by Frederick Advice Givers Podcast #036