We’re not going to sugarcoat things, so let’s just say it–relationships are hard. Some days, you never want to be apart from your love muffin, but on other days, a 10 ft. space is needed. But what about couples who run a business together? Is it harder, easier, or like everything, a little bit of both?
Meet Ashley & Malone Design–a hubby and wife duo that makes us all want to get hitched & start a business with our loved one! This creative couple comprised of Ashley (the designer) & Dallas (the developer), definitely knows what it takes to run a business with your spouse and are sharing the tips they use to work–and excel!–together!
Where did the concept of Ashley & Malone Design come from?
I completely fell in love with the wedding industry when I was planning my own wedding. After spending over a year interacting with so many incredible vendors, there was a beauty in the creative industry that was hard to ignore. Dallas and I had been running another design agency that catered to large corporate clients, we were doing this while also working full-time jobs. Shortly after our wedding, I missed the vendors, I missed being immersed in the beauty and I was unhappy spending my evenings designing for companies I wasn’t passionate about. I approached Dallas with an idea to abandon the company that we had spent 8 years building and create an agency that catered to the wedding industry. I had done my market research and found very few businesses that combined branding and web development under one umbrella. I talked to some friendors and each time, I heard the same problem. Either no one understood the industry or they had hired a designer and developer separately, only to run into countless delays, poor communication and non-functional websites. We wanted to build a company that gave small business owners peace of mind, control over their business and beautiful design work that they felt confident to work with their dream clients. Alas, Ashley & Malone was built on the love of servicing owners who were also cultivating creativity.
What are some challenges when working with a spouse in a business? How do you overcome them?
We often get told we’re “brave” for working as a husband and wife team. Well, that might be true, but to us, it’s also incredibly rewarding. I can confidently say I believe we struggled more prior to starting our company. We’re both driven and as joint business owners, the conversation about who makes more or who got that promotion completely disappeared. We make an awesome team because we admire and respect each other’s unique strong points. Dallas is the ying to my yang 😉
On top of this, we’re also master communicators. When we see a problem, we fix it together. One item that kept coming up over and over again was my pixel to pixel eye for detail. We decided to hire our first employee, Caryn, as our project manager to take care of website testing and client relationships. With Caryn, Dallas and I can focus on our design and development roles. It’s been a blessing for our office operations!
How do you keep the professional and personal aspects of your partnership separate?
For starters, we began renting a commercial office space. This really allowed us to focus on work at the office and hang out with our dog or have marathon-viewing sessions on Netflix at home. Getting out of the house and interacting with other business owners in our building has been a great opportunity to talk-shop in the studio too. We also have lunch together every day and chat about clients, deadlines and future business ideas. When it’s time for dinner at the house, we can focus on what’s going on personally with each other and just laugh together.
How do you manage & maintain your business’ brand?
I try my very best to practice what I preach! The number one thing I tell my clients is that in order to have a successful brand, you need to be consistent! A brand won’t work itself and to build the brand of your dreams, you need to have consistent graphics, imagery and communication. Basically anything your brand touches needs to be infused with consistent personality. Whether it’s your Facebook cover photo, an email, or your font choices. Creating a brand guideline is the easiest tool to allow you to do this well. Every item someone sees or feels within our brand is created with our ideal client in mind.
What does both of your day-to-days look like? Are you both in charge of different tasks & departments?
We start out each morning with a brief 5-10 minute meeting going over what we have on our plate for the day. We’ll look at our client schedule, review deadlines and assess our day so we’re both on the same page. After this, we tackle our inbox and flush out any urgent requests. Then the fun begins and I start designing and Dallas develops websites. My tasks including designing a brand strategy, sketching ideas, creating wireframes for websites, and designing beautiful stationery. Dallas ranges his day from developing custom code, email newsletters, SEO, and maintaining our clients’ WordPress websites.
How do you make sure all of your clients’ websites are specifically catered to their own style and brand?
This is something Ashley & Malone is SO passionate about. We don’t want you to look like your competitors and we certainly don’t want you looking like our other clients. It always amazes me at any given time when we’re working with two photographers or two event planners in the same location, how different their branding and websites turn out. I believe this has to do with our tailored process that really addresses three major aspects of their company: their business goals, their ideal client, and their personality. We get to the root of their vision and align the brand strategy with a combination of these three things. When you ask enough questions and dig deep, it’s impossible to intentionally end up with the exact same creative solution. A basic idea or principle can be pushed in many different directions and still meet the same goal.