Cheers to 11 Years Raney Day Design
Reading Time: 9 minutes
Hi, I’m Jennifer Sakowski, née Raney. I currently live just east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but I originally hail from Greenfield, Indiana. I’m celebrating 11 years in business, and this is the story of my little business that could.
I’ll take you to the beginning of the story, but I have to first confess that I often feel like I’m this little girl playing dress up when it comes to what I get to do every day. I mean, it’s hard work. We’ve had some hard years to get to 11, but the fruit of starting this business 11 years ago is almost unimaginable to me now. That’s such a cliche, right? But it’s true!
Having gotten that off my chest, we can now start at the beginning.
I Started a Side Gig – A Couple, Actually
Eleven years ago, I was working for a not-for-profit company in Indiana that was very dear to my heart and soul. While I was there, event planning was one of my responsibilities, and I loved it. I helped plan our conferences, flying out to the locations, negotiating contracts, and booking rooms. I touched nearly everything down to the name tags, and I ran some of the meeting sessions and coordinated and set up the technology needed.
It was rewarding for me to be behind the scenes at these events, plus I’d get lots of great feedback from board members.
“Jen, that was great. Way to go.”
“The event went so smoothly!”
And of course, I loved that, too! It fed me. So, I thought it was a no-brainer. And that’s how my first startup came to be. I started an event planning company.
Well, I took on a few events, like weddings, to coordinate. And guess what. It wasn’t for me. Business event planning? You bet! But weddings? Not my jam. So, my event planning business was short-lived.
Event Planning to Websites
Among my other responsibilities, I helped coordinate the nonprofit’s website maintenance with their web developer, and I thought, “I could do this myself.” And then I started talking to friends and they were like, “Hey, I wanna start a business.” And there was my opening.
What did they need to start a business? They needed to register their business name. They needed a logo. And most importantly, they needed a website, and I was gearing up to help them.
Luckily, this was when GoDaddy was starting to become a household name and was building momentum. I started with GoDaddy, followed our web developer around, and started teaching myself WordPress.
I also paid attention to our tech guy who’d set up our computers and work on our different software applications. I was just tinkering at first, but I started to feel a little spark that convinced me I could do it all myself.
Figuring It All Out
As I mentioned, I had friends who had a need for web design help. Instead of helping them find an existing web designer, I thought differently. I started Googling and figuring out how to do it myself.
Not everyone thinks, “Hey, I can do this! I’ll just figure it out as I go!” But that was me, hitting Google, watching tutorials on YouTube, and finding how-to articles. By sheer brute force, I’d figure out what I needed to do in WordPress, test it out, and make it happen.
From there, it was just rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. There’s a problem? Figure out the fix. We want to add something new? Let’s figure out how to do it.
Happy Birthday! It’s a Girls’ Website Business
In November of 2011, I registered my business name in Indiana and left my full-time job at the not-for-profit. I did still have a second, part-time job for a short while, but it wasn’t long before I left that, too. My boyfriend at the time – now my husband! – gave me the push to pursue RDD full-time. He said, “If you’re going to do this, why not? If you don’t try you will never know!” He assured me that if it didn’t work out, he’d be there for me on the other side to help me pick up the pieces. Knowing that I had his full support meant that I would at least know that I’d tried. I didn’t want to be the person who didn’t just go for it only to be left wondering later “what if?”
And that’s how I became a full-time business owner in July of 2012. From then on out, it’s been RDD all the way, baby!
Speaking of RDD, you know now that it stands for Raney Day Design. What you don’t know is why that’s our name. Let me explain.
Why Is It Raney and Not Rainy
Before I got married, my last name was Raney! I needed a business name, and I thought it made sense to incorporate my last name. I realized the spelling might trip some people up, but it was my own thing, and I’d just have to make my name known.
I also figured that if the name didn’t click with people, I could always rebrand or rename later. Act now and figure out the rest later continues to be my approach. I wanted to get this thing started…NOW.
And that’s pretty much been my philosophy since. Sometimes you just have to take imperfect action to get your momentum going and figure out the rest as you go.
And that’s why it’s Raney Day Design – R A N E Y – and not Rainy Day Design – R A I N Y! And even though it’s not spelled like precipitation, I hope how the umbrella logo goes with the name is obvious to you, too. I’m going to come back to my pink umbrella in just a bit!
“I Thought I Could” so “I Just Did”
So, what started as a side gig has become a full-fledged agency, which blows my mind every day. Sometimes people ask me why I took the risk to strike out on my own, and the best answer I have is: Because I thought I could. At the time, I didn’t have a single doubt that I could do it.
Looking back on that now, I think, “Man, I don’t know if that was arrogance or boldness!” But through a lot of grit and faith – plus the love and support from my clients and my team – we made it happen. And speaking of the team and our clients, I can’t express the gratitude I have for them or how rewarding it is to work with them. That our clients entrust us with their hard-earned money to help them market their business is such an honor to me.
As for the RDD team, I was a solo show for three and a half years before I added my first hire to RDD, but we’ve just continued to grow from there. The team has changed and evolved over the years, but every person who’s come through our team doors has made an impact. Being the leader of our “small but mighty” global team has been such a blessing, too. I want to be a good leader, and I hope people see me as a humble boss.
Early on, I made it a priority to develop an aspirational work culture statement, and I work hard to cultivate a rewarding work environment and to incorporate feedback from the team. Since early on, I’ve been striving to pour into the team because their comfort and commitment to the team gets passed onto our customers in terms of care and service.
So, How Did I Get to Pennsylvania?
Remember the boyfriend-now-husband who gave me the kick in the pants to go for it? Well, he was well-established here in Pennsylvania, and luckily I had just started a business where I could work from anywhere with wifi. When he asked me to marry him in August 2011 (one month after he convinced me to pursue my business full-time!), I said, “Yes!” and I became a PA resident just over a year later.
A Month of “Commuting” between Indiana and Pennsylvania
While we were planning the wedding, I was working on setting myself up for success in my future location. I’d hop in the car, sometimes with my cat, and drive to PA to network. I sought out (via Google of course!) the presidents of some local networking groups and managed to more or less bully my way into a few. (I was relentless!) One of the first groups I joined connected me with our audio/video productions consultant, Mark Levander (who’s also a local chiropractor!).
Connections within those groups helped me launch my business in my new state, and it just snowballed from there.
But there was this nagging feeling while I was networking that I needed to address. “Was anyone going to take my pink umbrella seriously?” I was preparing to change it all. Since Raney wasn’t going to be my last name anymore, I wasn’t even going to keep calling it Raney Day Design. The name was going to go and the quirky pink umbrella with it.
Letting an Umbrella Be My Smile
No, I don’t have that saying backward. My soon-to-be husband helped me hang on to my umbrella, and that makes me smile.
Just as I was plotting to change the brand name and give the pink umbrella the ax, once again that soon-to-be husband pushed through and asked, “But why? What does that stand for?”
I realized, and I told him, “Well, I’m that quirky, pink umbrella. And you know what. No one’s going to take my quirky pink umbrella!” Instead of getting the ax, the pink umbrella stuck (and eventually got a makeover years later).
Growing, Hiring, and Rebranding
As you know, after love and marriage comes the baby carriage. When I found out I was pregnant, I was even more determined to make this business work. I knew I needed to go from solo to real pro fast. Expecting to become a mom was the next push, and I hired my first team member after those few years of being a one-woman show. She did a ton of admin and support and was an integral hire from growing this business as I was simultaneously figuring out motherhood and RDD.
Next, I added a web developer, and from there, RDD just grew and grew, and we rebranded the business in September of 2018. Here’s our “before” branding.
It was cute, right – my fun, quirky, pink umbrella?
But I knew my brand needed to grow, so I planned to rebrand it.
It’s been updated and has evolved over the years. I loved hot pink and black, so that was the original color palette I adopted. When we rebranded, our wonderful graphic designer came up with a more sophisticated color scheme that incorporated bright green and dark blue.
As we grew, our brand, our team, and our culture grew up together. We were kind of cute. Now, we’re sexy and bold!
Do YOU Have a Little Business that Could? Keep Chugging On!
I turned a side-gig into a full-fledged marketing agency – while moving 360 miles from home, getting married, and having two kids! If you want to be on a similar track (See what I did there? Chugga-chugga, woo-woo!), here are my top tips for staying on course.
Eleven Years of Wisdom
- You don’t need a business plan to start. Oftentimes when you’re starting out as a business, you think you need to have everything mapped out, right? It was ingrained in me that I wouldn’t be successful if I didn’t write a business plan. Let me be the first to tell you, I did not have a business plan. I attempted to have a business plan. And over the years I had a document that was called “Business Plan.” But I never finished it. And I eventually deleted it because I figured, “We’re already in it, Let’s go!”
- Focus on goals and outcomes over the business plan. I did so coming into Pennsylvania and I figured what better time to start fresh?
- Align your brand and your uniqueness. I nearly scrapped the pink umbrella when I formed a business in Pennsylvania. When it comes down to it, I am that quirky pink umbrella and realize that we’re not for everyone. And if they don’t want to take us seriously or whatnot, that’s no problem because they’re not for us and we’re not for them.
- Fear is just a caution sign. Over the years I’ve learned that feeling fear isn’t a bad thing. It’s literally my brain telling me, “Stop! Potential hazards ahead.” Experience has shown me that fear does not need to be my stop sign but my caution sign. It’s a warning that I’m about to step outside my comfort zone, which is where the magic starts to happen….
- Big things truly do happen outside my comfort zone. If I would have played it “safe” in 20ll I wouldn’t be writing this (with the help of our team’s word scribe) today. RDD may never have existed.
We believe every business can use the internet to increase sales with the right strategy in place. We are on a mission to create the strategy, implement the tools needed, and make each client successful through lead generation.