Robin Sherwood, Founder and Creative Director of ME2 Design Bistro, LLC, told Innovation Destination Hartford about the evolution of her startup.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: How has your background helped shape you as an entrepreneur?
ROBIN SHERWOOD: Let’s just say my career path took a circuitous path, so my ability to remain “flexible” has always been critical. Having the ability to switch gears, collaborate with people from all walks of life, and adapt to changing environments along with technological shifts has shaped my mindset and helped me to realize that I didn’t want nor need a boss, I just needed to find my niche.
I think all entrepreneurs are—by their very nature—worker bees. I started working as a babysitter at the age of 14, then worked my way through college in a nursing home, which in many ways was just as valuable, if not more so, than a college degree.
I’ve worked with the young, the elderly, and those with physical disabilities and mental health issues—all of which has taught me compassion, patience, and perseverance. My fair-minded, hard-working parents deserve much of the credit for instilling in me a strong work ethic, an independent streak, and the value of any type of work no matter how menial.
Post-graduation I worked as a typesetter, a beat reporter, and a group home counselor among other things, and each job shaped my ability to adapt to changing times and tides. Entrepreneurs by necessity wear many hats—so as nice as it is to have a fancy title, emptying the garbage and buying toner when it runs out are still tasks on my To Do lists and should be listed as skills I possess!
IDH: When and why did you start the company?
RS: I started my first company, Sherwood & Company, a graphic design and communications service, when the internet and desktop publishing were becoming kind of a big “thing.”
I had tired of working at dead-end jobs and for companies with no room for growth. I had a burning desire for autonomy and wanted desperately to eliminate time wasted commuting.
I started my own graphic design service not only to give myself a job but to give myself the freedom to make creative decisions and the flexibility to make my own hours—it’s not as easy as it sounds, but nothing beats being your own boss!
IDH: You recently relaunched Sherwood & Company as ME2 Design Bistro. How has the company evolved?
RS: My graphic design business has evolved from designing strictly for print media to designing for print, web, and mobile devices.
I started my new business venture, ME2 Design Bistro two years ago. The company name change was a significant decision based on the fact that I had trademarked two new services to better brand the company. To clarify, the new name was purposefully chosen. “M” = mobile. “E” = edition. And “2” = to the second power, more information, in essence, information is power. “Design Bistro” represents the fact that we are a small, friendly café-style design service. No fancy gleaming glass towers. We are mobile workers, content to work out of our homes, cafés, wherever there’s Wi-Fi!
After changing my business name, I decided to refocus on the clients and projects my design associate and I felt had the potential to grow—the hospitality, restaurant, and food and beverage side of the business. Although we still provide graphic design services for association clients among others, we developed two services, the ME2 Calendar® and the ME2 Menu® specifically geared toward the hospitality and food and beverage/restaurant industries.
The ME2 Menu is a digital design service we provide that includes printable restaurant menus along with companion mobile-ready menus that can be accessed and displayed on any device, anywhere, any time.
The ME2 Calendar is a printable monthly specials and events calendar that also includes a companion mobile-ready edition.
IDH: What’s the biggest challenge your company has faced as a startup?
RS: Funding or the lack thereof.
IDH: If you could go back and change anything, would you?
RS: If could do anything differently I would transport myself back in time to my early 30s and try harder to pursue small business grants and bank loans.
IDH: What advice can you offer other startups?
RS: Willingness to pivot when the timing or the product or service isn’t quite right is essential. My design associate and I have pivoted twice over the span of three years, we may do so a third time.
Be patient worker bees and never forgo bread-and-butter jobs or projects. Stick with what you know, what you’re good at, and keep going even if the new product or service doesn’t fly. Keep your day job or part-time gig to help you through hard times. Be prepared to handle disappointments, setbacks, and delays.
Lastly, it may be seemingly impossible to take a real vacation to completely unplug. That’s the downside to any startup venture or running a business. It’s a big downside, so long weekends have become my form of getting away from it all. And to fight burnout take lots of hikes, bike or kayak—get up and away from the computer. Fresh air works wonders.
Learn more about ME2 Design Bistro at www.me2designbistro.com