Annmarie Sirotnak is a Connecticut based-freelance graphic designer and owner of AG Design. During National Women’s Small Business Month, she shared her entrepreneurial story with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price.

NAN PRICE: Tell us a little about your business and describe your process.

ANNMARIE SIROTNAK: AG Design works with women entrepreneurs to increase their perceived value and expand their business’ reach.

I use my 20 years of graphic design experience to create cost-effective logos, print collateral, and social media designs for my clients. I help my clients transform their ideas into visual communications by navigating them through my design process of creating their design projects such as proper use of color, typography, design software, and final file formats.

My goal is to guide and educate my clients about proper design techniques by sharing design tips to save them time and money. I additionally help clients who may be experiencing challenges while designing their own projects with Canva or other software.

NAN: How did you get the background and skills necessary to run your business?

ANNMARIE: I graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic/Information Systems. My eagerness to be a graphic designer brought me to a small print shop in Farmington, CT in 1996 where I began my career as a graphic designer/production assistant while attending CCSU to obtain my bachelor’s degree. I understood the importance of working in the print industry while going to college. I saw the advantage and experience it would give me to grow as a print graphic designer especially after finishing college.

In 2000, after graduating from CCSU, I worked for Brian Havard Associates, a small packaging design studio in Norwalk, CT, designing point-of-sale displays, shelf danglers, product sell sheets, and packaging. In September 2004, I moved to upstate New York, where I continued to freelance for Brian Havard Associates and build on my design skills.

After the birth of my first son in 2006, I stepped away from the corporate world. I had launched AG Design in 2004 and continued as a freelance graphic designer and the owner of AG Design. I returned to Connecticut in 2008.

NAN: How has your business evolved since you launched?

ANNMARIE: Fast forward to 2013—both my sons were in school full-time and I began to get involved with small business networking groups to grow my design business and client base.

Today, AG Design has evolved to expand the design services we offer our clients. Just like the print industry has changed, the graphic design needs of clients vary to meet the demands of a changing business world. For this reason, AG Design offers the digital design business needs to compete and promote in our world. I now offer a range of social media management services.

NAN: What does being a business leader mean to you?

ANNMARIE: I believe a business leader needs to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and work on their weaknesses. A good leader accepts challenges and is flexible to make changes for continual growth.

Growing up as an introvert, being a leader has shown me the importance of being a strong communicator and an active listener when collaborating with clients and other business professionals.

Most notably, being a leader means I’m supporting those who support others in the community. I feel my role as a leader is to listen intently and transform my client’s ideas into visual communications. As a leader, my job is to be honest and utilize my experience and knowledge to help my clients.

NAN: To what do you most attribute your success?

ANNMARIE: I attribute my success in my business to being consistent and determined to not give up, even when personal challenges presented themselves. I’ve learned to take risks and step out of my comfort zone by developing new confidence in myself through the help of other female entrepreneurs. One in particular is Julie DeLucca Collins, Founder of Go Confidently Coaching, who has taught me to find my confidence and continue to take risks to grow my business.

I believe the most important part of my business success comes from my commitment to building trust and relationships with clients and colleagues. One aspect that has been an important learning point for me in my business is not to be afraid to say “no” and also not to be afraid to hear “no” from a potential client, which might mean they may just not need my services today.

NAN: What role do women play in leadership?

ANNMARIE: Women play a large role in leadership as they have more emotional empathy to help them build strong connections with other women through business networking. I believe women need to develop the confidence to leave their comfort zone and overcome their self-doubt.

Women leaders need to encourage other women to take risks to grow personally and professionally. The mindset that women can pursue a career and also be an awesome wife and mother needs to be celebrated. I believe women have a natural tendency to want to help others.

Women value meaning and purpose within their personal life and professional life knowing the importance of creating a balance. Women in leadership need to establish a support system to continue to learn and share with like-minded entrepreneurs for continued growth and success.

NAN: What advice do you have for others?

ANNMARIE: My advice for others starting a business is to continue striving for excellence in your life and business understanding there will be times you will fail. Don’t underestimate your creativity. No matter what challenges or hurdles you may face to persevere, you’ll grow stronger with time and effort. Be a learner looking for new ways to grow your skills to market to your niche.

Being an entrepreneur takes patience and a willingness to fail in order to learn. Success is a journey not a destination and is not an overnight success.

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