From art major to savvy web design firm entrepreneur
Sue Spencer began her path to a successful web design business owner as a university graduate with a fine arts degree. An opportunity to transition to web design came to Spencer in 1996.
“Keep in mind the internet was still new at that time. Nobody had any experience. I didn’t have the internet at home. It was a ‘learn on the job’ situation – here’s a computer and see what you can do.”
“We want to make a difference in the success of others.”
Starting early in the industry provided Spencer with many opportunities to learn and grow as the industry itself continued to expand. She transitioned from working with small mom-and-pop-style businesses to working with multimillion-dollar websites.
A Radical Shift
The radical shift created a strong background for stepping out into her own business in 2003.
Spencer Web Design now thrives on helping smaller businesses set a solid foundation that they can grow on.
“I understood that even with small budgets, those mom and pop stores needed to accomplish a lot with what they did have.” Spencer said she saw the need to set up businesses to scale so those businesses wouldn’t have to continually go back to the drawing board to redo things when growth occurred.
When Spencer found iThemes, she knew she had something that would help create a solid groundwork for websites.
“In the earlier days, people would do these websites and they would be horrible. They would have to completely trash what they created in order to grow and expand.”
Invested in Growth
Not only did Spencer make it easier for her clients to grow, but she stayed invested in her growth as well. She studied UX with User Interface Engineering which helped her transition from her background in art to entrepreneurship.
“As an art major, processes were not my thing. I needed to understand process, handling the business, and having a plan for scaling the business so I could help my customers.”
Despite learning for her customers, Spencer continued to struggle with her business. “It’s like you have blinders on when it comes to your own business or website.”
Spencer sees the Kadence Theme and Kadence Blocks addition to the iThemes Toolkit as a solution to her business website needs. “I’m excited to put it to use redoing my website and seeing how it works.”
After a start with small businesses and a transition from corporate to entrepreneur, Spencer now focuses on the small to medium-sized businesses. She understands that startups need help too, but recognizes they don’t have the budget to do much.
“I work with some startups on an hourly basis. It’s more about offering guidance.”
Spencer does work with some larger corporations still – even creating websites in multiple languages. She learned from setting up others to scale and implemented those lessons in her design business. Their processes are able to scale up from the medium-sized business to the large corporation. The smaller businesses are a sweet spot for Spencer.
The biggest challenge for Spencer: Getting out of her own way. “Getting around myself, getting out of my head, and knowing when to outsource were all struggles.”
“The most meaningful part of this journey has been the opportunity to make a difference for people and in their businesses – sometimes it means the difference between success and failure. We talk it through with the clients. We help move from a “if you build it they will come” mentality to a business model that will work for them.”
The Power of Community
It was her continued investment in learning that helped her find her way. She discovered that she could use processes others had refined and making it her own.
Spencer also found encouragement in community. She developed connections with other web developers in classes and expanded on those connections through regular group gatherings. “We kind of refer to them as our therapy sessions, but they are more like group coaching.” This group of people from completely different areas find ways to relate. Even though there are differences, they focus on the common core of shared problems and perspectives.
“It’s nice to have someone you can call and say, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do. And someone will have an idea or a way to go about getting through it.”
Spencer emphasizes the importance of being connected. Instead of feeling alone in the journey, you know that you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
“The most meaningful part of this journey has been the opportunity to make a difference for people and in their businesses – sometimes it means the difference between success and failure.. We talk it through with the clients. We help move from “if you build it they will come” to a business model that will work for them.”
Spencer loves the WordPress community and the tools that come with that community. She has been building websites exclusively on WordPress for almost the last decade.
When it comes to essential tools in WordPress, Spencer starts with backups and security. “We install BackupBuddy and iThemes Security on all of our builds. Security is one of the most important things.”
“We work with a lot of fire districts that need a quick turnaround on content. It’s an interesting niche and I’ve connected with a group of people who are all providing services for fire districts. We are in the process of trying to set up a kind of consortium to be able to provide all these resources that will make the process easier for them and easier for us. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve been really proud of those websites.”
Spencer enjoys the business in part because of the variety of people she has met. Through the different focuses – such as copywriting – she has been exposed to some exciting clients. She has also worked with high-tech medical where the doctors and staff are in one location and the patients are in rural hospitals in other locations. The patients were finding they were getting better services from the remote doctors because they could respond immediately.
“It was interesting. The doctors could look at the patients. The patients were hooked up so the doctors could see their pulse. Any information they needed was right there. The doctors were able to respond quickly because they were dedicated to watching that bank of screens at that time. I like learning about things that are cutting-edge.”
The most meaningful part of this journey has been the opportunity to make a difference for people and in their businesses – sometimes it means the difference between success and failure. We talk it through with the clients. We help move from a “if you build it they will come” mentality to a business model that will work for them.”
Being able to help others mold their businesses is important to Spencer. She wants to see people get the best results they can online.
Learn more about Spencer Web Design
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