It’s amazing how time flies when you’re travelling at the speed of business. Deep Dish Digital was founded ten years ago (January, 2010) at a time when the world was still recovering from the Great Recession. The economy was facing head-winds, unemployment was up, and advertising was down. The conditions to set sail on my own were perfect 😉
Well, maybe not perfect in the traditional sense of the word. But, from the perspective of starting a business that could help organizations make their marketing dollars stretch further and take advantage of consumer habits shifting online, it was perfect timing for the birth of Deep Dish Digital. I just didn’t know it at the time.
You see, I didn’t actually have a perfect plan. I’m an accidental entrepreneur. I was squeezed out of my previous job due to economic conditions and rather than accept a lesser role, I quit. Cold turkey. And it was Christmas time. How’s that for perfect?
It was a perfect shit-storm is what it was.
But, as the saying goes, a good captain is not made from calm seas. I’ve always been in sales and marketing, so creating opportunities is what I’m trained to do. A ship is safest in harbour but that’s not what it’s built for. I set sail and headed into the storm.
In the early days things were week-to-week. You eat what you kill with little left over. So, logically I decided to give away knowledge for free. It might not make sense at first, but I discovered blogging, speaking, and volunteering my time for free was the best way to raise awareness of my online marketing knowledge. People would read or hear my messages and it built trust in my expertise. Sharing attracted business.
Giving away things for free takes a lot of work and a willingness to stay the course in hopes it will pay off. There were ups and downs to be sure, but gradually I was earning the ability to get paid to speak at conferences and attracting larger clients. However, being a solopreneur could be lonely at times, so I figured belonging to a community of like-minded peers would be helpful. There was no formal association in Saskatchewan for marketing professionals, so with the help of a few peers we created one!
Co-founding the Saskatchewan Professional Marketing Association (SPMA) is one of my proudest accomplishments and became a source of many new friends. The SPMA is a non-profit membership driven organization run by volunteers devoted to building community and aiding professional development. I served as the inaugural President and still sit on the board as an advisor. Today the association has members across Saskatchewan and hosts an annual conference called FUZE.
In the ensuing years I had opportunities to partner and grow Deep Dish with employees, but I made the conscious decision to remain an independent consultant. I’d been through the high-growth, start-up grind before as an employee and discovered bigger isn’t always better. Besides, I wasn’t interested in building a battleship that needed constant fuelling and ammunition to fight enemies. Sailing a smaller boat was more fun and easier to maneuver.
That said, we are thankful for the collaborations we’ve had over the years with other consultants, designers, programmers, writers, and photographers. Deep Dish Digital would not have been able to accomplish as much as it has if it were not for the help of other freelancers’ willingness to help on projects. There’s too many names to mention, but I hope you know who you are.
My goal has been and continues to be working on projects I’m passionate about that deliver end-results. Deep Dish Digital has never been about locking clients into contracts; our goal is to enable clients to sail on their own. In other words, I often consult myself out of a job. It’s not a scalable business model, but it’s one I believe serves the client’s interests best. If you take care of your clients they’ll take care of you.
To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes