DREAM CATCHER: RESHMA CHAMBERLIN AND ELIZABETH BUCHANAN
Reshma Chamberlin grew up in the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, India. She was a natural-born businesswoman, using her creativity and design sense to sell hand-made bookmarks to her neighbors for five rupees. Elizabeth Buchanan was raised on a farm in the Midwest, fueled with the ambition to earn a pilot’s license, complete various internships, and travel the world. They spent years working at major digital design agencies, where productivity was often prized over quality and where it was common for senior partners to meet with clients before passing the actual work off to less experienced designers. Reshma and Elizabeth partnered to found B/C Designers to challenge the status quo with a focus on customer service, quality, and really digging into a client’s industry and needs. B/C’s philosophy is that companies using design as an integral part of their business model have greater brand recognition and loyalty. They have helped companies all over the world make the leap to become dynamic digital players, and their work has been featured in such outlets as Fast Company, VentureBeat, and NYT Gadgetwise. B/C also created Muzio, an app that helps brands and individuals curate important moments through sound, video, text, and images. Check out their blog to get a sense of their design passion and perspective.
When did you know you wanted to pursue your business or venture? We both marched to the beat of our own drums from a young age. Both of us wanted more from life than what was “normal”, so we redefined normal for what worked for us.
Did your former careers prepare you for running your own business? We met at a previous design company, and our bosses there are still role models and mentors to this day. They were amazing leaders who allowed us to take ownership of projects within the company and gave us first-hand experience creating proposals and learning the management side of running an agency.
Did your original business plan change along the way or are you doing exactly what you set out to do? If it changed, how so? The fundamental pieces of our business plan didn’t change; it’s still about helping businesses think through how digital strategy and top-notch design can help them grow. However, we’re never afraid to reevaluate our offerings based on what we see that our clients (and targeted clients) need. Our toolkit and annual goals are always fluid, because getting stuck in the same place is one of the worst mistakes you can make in business.
What makes you different from your competition? At many design agencies, the goal is often to pump out as many logos and websites as possible. Traditional designers are often told, “We need a new brochure or a new landing page.” As a digital agency, we do produce design but we are also a strategic partner, helping clients evaluate what they are trying to achieve and how to get there. Strategy comes first, followed by the design and deliverables. As a company run by women, we’re unusual in the male-dominated world of advertising and business strategy. Given that a lot businesses are looking to reach a female audience, this can be a great advantage.
How did you fund your dream? We started with no external funding. We were focused on growing organically and growing well. Ultimately, we wanted to be able to maintain our commitment to service and quality. Our type of business did not need funding, but for many businesses it is essential to the growth of the business, and there is nothing wrong with raising capital.
How do you organize your day to best optimize your time? Describe a day in your lives: We start each morning with a whole team meeting to brainstorm on different projects and set daily goals and hold each other accountable. We then move into our own zones for heads-down work. We each have to-do lists we share in Google Drive for transparency in letting everyone know what we’re each working on. At lunch we meet again to see how we’re doing, and at the end of the day we meet again to see what we’ve accomplished and help each other overcome any roadblocks. It’s all about a combination of teamwork and independent work.
What three factors have most contributed to your success in business and in life? First, hustle, scrappiness, and willingness to do whatever it takes to move the business forward. No job is beneath us, from taking out the trash to bookkeeping. Second, integrity, openness, and honesty. And finally, a focus on quality, not quantity.
We gave up ____ to pursue our dream: When we left our jobs at major agencies to found our own company, we left the comfort of a regular paycheck and traditional paid vacations. It was a risk for the promise of potential future reward.
The key to balancing it all is… Organization! We have a great color-coded calendar system. Support! We have an incredible team as well as a great business partner in each other. At home, we have husbands who understand we might have to move appointments around or come home late.
You have to define what “having it all” means to you. For some people, it’s working 9-5 and then leaving it all behind at the end of the day. For others, it’s working from home and having lots of kids. And for yet others, it’s having a booming business. Don’t apologize for what your goals are.
If we had to do it all over again we would… Not change a thing! Everything we’ve been through, even the tough times, led us to where we are now.
LET’S GET PERSONAL:
The three words that best describe us are… Hardworking, motivated, and ambitious.
Our favorite place to go on vacation is… Elizabeth: Somewhere beachy. Reshma: Somewhere new.
Our favorite TV show is… The New Girl (it’s whimsical and funny) and Friends reruns.
On my playlist right now is… Elizabeth: Classical music on Spotify. Reshma: Silence!
What is one talent you wish you had? Elizabeth: That writing would come easily (it usually takes a while). Reshma: To touch my toes and ride a bicycle!
Being a mom and an entrepreneur means… Elizabeth: Showing your kids that they can do anything they put their minds to and being a great example of that.
We are most proud of… Our business! Our beautiful office, wonderful clients, and great team. We love helping our clients and learning from them and with them.
Lately we’re inspired by… The movement of gender equality. We need to redefine what normal means. For us, it means being supportive of your spouse, and they are supportive of you. As a couple, we work through life as a team.