Hi. Jeff here.
About pages are always weird, aren’t they? Sometimes they feel like filler, or content we publish because we’re supposed to. The actual value, though, is giving people an honest look into what someone is like, in the context of what the reader is looking for. Meaning, I shouldn’t ramble about my failed basketball career. So that’s what I’ll try to do – be honest, and on topic.
I’m the child of two teachers – so, of course, I went and got my Education degree. Primarily because that’s what happens when you try to make life decisions at 17. Anyways, in my third year at University, I realized I actually didn’t want to be a teacher – but I finished up anyways. After that I ended up working as an Instructional Design Coordinator at a small OH&S training business in Edmonton, which is when I started working directly with graphic designers and developers.
Working with people carrying those skills reignited the design fire that had been smouldering within me ever since I was a kid in junior high drawing Starter logos and Chicago Bulls logos all over my binders. I quit that OH&S training job – right before that place went up in flames, so good timing I guess – and went back to school to get a design diploma.
Then I figured I could just start a design agency, because I was too dumb to think of all the reasons it wouldn’t work. So I did that in 2009 with my business partner Andy.
Growing an Agency
Now, I run that digital design agency – it’s called Paper Leaf. It’s hard. We started out in 2009 as a two-person graphic design shop that made $40k in revenue in our first full year. I did it all back then – from production graphic design to sales to web development and everything in-between. Over the years we’ve been in business, I’ve moved out of the production design role, then out of the day-to-day project work after the initial consult. Now I focus primarily on the up-front strategic portion of projects, leadership, operations and sales within the company.
In that time, as well, Paper Leaf has grown – in many ways. We’ve grown out of the house we started in, to a tiny office in the Garneau neighbourhood in Edmonton, to an office downtown, to our third office in 2018. We’ve grown from two people up to fourteen. We’ve grown from $40k in annual revenues to >$1M. Our processes have grown from a straight-up dumpster fire to systems capable of delivering highly complex, expensive, and risk-laden projects. We’ve won multiple awards from various organizations – and we’ve gone from basic graphic design projects to tackling six-figure enterprise-grade web applications and mobile apps.
This is all to say: I’ve learned a shitload in that time. I’ve failed a lot. I’ve made some bad decisions. But one thing I can say is I’ve consistently progressed, gotten better, and learned like crazy.
And all these parts of running a business I’ve learned about? It’s my time to give back. I do that through the in-depth posts on this site, and through my conference & event speaking engagements. Thankfully, the combination of an Education degree with an English major and all my technical, design, and business experience equips me well for this type of stuff.
If it’s your first time here – welcome! Here are some of the most popular posts I’ve written, so you can get right to the good stuff:
- Stop Networking: People hate networking. But if you change your perspective on it, and stop “networking” and instead start doing it right, everything changes. (1k shares)
- Your 60 Hour Work Week is Not a Badge of Honour: Enough with the humblebragging. If you’re working 60 hours a week, you’re ineffective – and it’s symptomatic of larger problems. (7k+ shares)
- The Blunt Realities of Running Your Own Design Business: Here are some of the blunt truths I’ve learned in running Paper Leaf for nearly a decade. (1k+ shares)
If these posts are striking a chord with you, join the newsletter and you’ll get them right to your inbox. You know how this works.