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The Working Life: Success Comes By Design for Amber Wallace

Branding expert has made attention to detail the cornerstone of her company, Dowitcher Designs of Santa Barbara

Amber Wallace of Dowitcher Designs says she attributes the company’s success to its conscious approach. “We start with a strategy session so everyone is on the same page about audience, goals and budget,” she says.
Amber Wallace of Dowitcher Designs says she attributes the company’s success to its conscious approach. “We start with a strategy session so everyone is on the same page about audience, goals and budget,” she says.  (Jenn Kennedy photo / www.kennedypix.com)

Starting a business is no small feat. It can be even trickier with a spouse as a business partner, but Amber Wallace of Dowitcher Designs doesn’t flinch when she recounts the first four years of their journey.

Wallace was raised in Orange County and came to Santa Barbara to attend the UCSB College of Creative Studies with a focus in literature. She edited Into the Teeth of the Wind, a campus poetry journal, which got her working digitally early in the cycle of such media. Upon graduation, she took a job in UCSB’s Center for Black Studies Research as a manuscript editor, followed by a copy editing stint at the Goleta Valley Voice. Wallace designed collateral materials, posters and event fliers.

Wallace met her wife, Jill Kingdon, in high school. After also graduating from UCSB with a degree in art, Kingdon worked as a pre-production manager at a Santa Barbara print shop. She learned file set-up, font choice, color, usability and effective use of resources. This knowledge of the printing and finishing processes uniquely informs her design decisions today.

The two formed Dowitcher Designs in the summer of 2006.

“We kept helping each other with projects and decided we made a great team in business, too,” Wallace said.

Kingdon handles design, and Wallace manages the back-end design and usability of their projects. She also ensures the sites they design are optimized for search to drive qualified traffic to their customers.

Dowitcher works both with new clients, who need first-time brand identity, and established companies looking for a redesign to energize their look and add functionality. They frequently do logos, business cards, catalogs, newsletters, Web sites and posters. They have national clients such as the Albertsons grocery chain and several local companies, including Lovebird Boutique & Jewelry Bar, Detox Depot and Le Reve Organic Spa & Boutique.

The duo signed up for Women’s Economic Ventures’ Self-Employment Training program in early 2007 and began to learn the nuts and bolts of running a business. While they had a name and a logo, Dowitcher still needed a lot of help. During the 14-week course, WEV walked the partners through writing a business plan, structuring their financials and strategizing marketing outreach.

While the company was launched on the eve of a recession, Wallace said it has seen steady growth in its four years. She attributes the success to their conscious approach.

“We start with a strategy session so everyone is on the same page about audience, goals and budget,” Wallace said.

And to design a successful site, they have to understand their customers’ clients, so she and Kingdon have a process of information gathering before the design begins.

She lists three things a company should do before hiring a designer: determine the target market; decide what action they expect the user to take upon arriving to the site; and determine the desired content and purpose of that content for the larger picture.

Dowitcher Designs is also committed to the environment, using 100 percent recycled paper for printed materials and relying on wind- and solar-powered energy to run its servers and generate its materials.

In addition to running the day-to-day business operations, Wallace speaks frequently about Web marketing and works as a Web development counselor for WebMarketingTherapy.com. She also teaches Web design through UCSB Extension.

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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