Starting a Design Firm
Interview with Greg Corey, Principal of Porch Light Studio
Greg Corey founded Porch Light Studios in Atlanta, Georgia in 2004.
Greg Cory has learned a lot of lessons in his role of founder of Porch Light Studios.
Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us, Greg. Tell me, what are you doing these days?
Well, in 2004 I founded Porch Light Studio. We are a full service firm that incorporates "smart creative" in every project we complete, no matter how big the client.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Prior to founding Porch Light Studio, I was working for Newell Rubbermaid as an Art Director. This is my first business.
Did you write a business plan?
No. I started out freelancing and the work poured in. By the time I could think about a business plan, I was already in business. I'm not sure that a business plan would have helped in this case. Mainly since I had been working in the same field and was now just doing the work on my own.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …?
Besides, additional freelance designers, the first person I hired was an accountant. As a freelancer, it just made sense to know how to manage my finances. To this day, I rely heavily on the advice of my accounting firm.
Would you suggest others do the same?
I would. Accountants exist for a reason. They can save you so much time and money. But, I would also advise people to learn what they can from their accountant, so that they can make the best decisions up front. That's what has allowed me to call myself a business person and not just a graphic designer.
Did you operate your business from your home?
Yes. One of the biggest challenges was realizing all the little things I needed to complete projects, things I'd taken for granted working in a corporate environment. When you're starting out, you don't always have the right paper, a good printer, or a backup can of spray mount. Those things add up and can hit you hard when you don't have infinite financial resources. Personally, I spent a lot of time running back and forth to Kinko's and Office Depot.
Have you hired additional staff?
Yes, we have four team members.
What is your greatest human resources challenge?
Striving to keep them motivated and happy. The staff here possess a lot of initiative, but they still need a little help to keep moving forward all the time. Hiring the right person is not easy, and learning to ask the right questions has been a process in itself. You may make mistakes or miss out on the perfect hire. I try to balance creativity with staff chemistry. After all, we have a small office and we spend a lot of time together.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I would NOT hire friends. I made that mistake early on, and I would advise business owners to keep your personal and professional lives separate.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Start small and grow at your own pace. It's not a race.
Pacing is everything, isn't it, Greg. Thank you so much for your time and valuable insight!
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