Member News March 21, 2014
Darcy Briks’ journey as an entrepreneur began with a monk. Leaving her corporate office one night (later than she’d hoped to, again), she encountered one of the smiling, orange-robed men so many New Yorkers recognize and accepted the ubiquitous gold foil medallion reading WORK SMOOTHLY, LIFETIME PEACE they are famous for doling out.
But rather than letting the card become a permanent fixture at the bottom of her purse, Darcy made it a point of reflection and took it as a sign that she herself needed to find a way to work smoothly — on the kinds of projects she’d spent a career coming to love, but with more balance and personal freedom. The solution: utilize nearly a decade’s worth of creative experience and form a collective of senior professionals to start her own design business, Second Language Design. We got to know this ADC Member a little better after meeting her at our StartUP series and learned more about the business model that’s been proving ideal for that ever-elusive smooth workflow. Lifetime peace? She’s working on it.
Photo credit: Laura June Kirsch
ADC: How did you go from being and English major to becoming interested in design and then marketing?
Darcy Briks: My parents didn’t want me to go to school for anything artistic so I went to school for international business management at Boston University. That fizzled out because I couldn’t pay attention to finance and things like that! I ended up an English major and then I got my first job in the nonprofit world where I quickly gravitated toward design. I ended up as a manger of communications at a nonprofit outside of Boston where I was managing all of their marketing and PR along with mentors and freelance consultants. I was the in-house person that managed the design for marketing materials. They paid for me to go back to school at MassArt for a graphic design certificate program.
I did that for two years until I got a job at one of the nation’s largest sales and marketing companies. For two years I was heading up Pons, Caress and Skippy’s shopper marketing efforts with a team of other art directors and that’s where I really got my solid design industry experience. Those campaigns rolled out nationally and we got to work with copywriters, illustrators, proofreaders, and the production team. Then I took a job at Rubenstein Public Relations setting out to develop their creative department, which was sort of nonexistent at the time. I supported all their internal creative and then I built out Rubenstein creative with the president. We took on more client projects and grew the department. I think the revenue was up 400% from the time I had started at the firm.
I thought ‘Wow, I’m in a managerial role, and I feel like I need to just take it to the next level and do this on my own.’ I had met all these professionals in New York who were experts at what they were doing, all in fields tangentially related to creative services. I thought these people could be my team and I could use them as needed for whatever project comes up! I went for it in October so it’s very recent, but it’s been going well. We’ve been growing and getting new clients every month and that’s a good sign for a fledging firm.
ADC: Do you think that establishing that kind of design branch within Rubenstein was beneficial to you going out on your own?
Darcy: It definitely gave me insight into being a small business owner because I was at the helm of that division. There was no one else other than the president. There wasn’t anyone else coming up with ideas of how to get new business for that department and how to make the department function. I was doing some hiring and some firing and some new business development and things like that and that’s when I really thought, ‘You know, if I can be at the helm of this, maybe it’s time.’ I found a lot of motivation from being at the helm and I felt like if I did that for myself it would only grow. I would only become more motivated and hungry.
Then I went to a StartUp event here not too long ago. Everyone seemed to feel the same way: ‘I don’t feel like I know everything, I don’t know what I’m doing in every aspect of running my own startup, but I’m inspired — and I’m going for it.’
ADC: We’re glad to hear that an ADC event of pushed you over the edge! Are there any other ways that being an ADC member inspires or supports you?
Darcy: This is only my second year of membership, but I definitely get a lot out of seeing a whole group of creatives in the same room who are sharing their ideas and are hungry for new ones. I can definitely appreciate that. I hope to meet more people!
ADC: What are the initial challenges of establishing this kind of company?
Darcy: I’ve been working a lot on new business development and trying to establish the company website and our processes for getting new clients that we want to work with. New business presentations, tightening up what we’re showing in terms of our projects, and figuring out out how to run all of our social media in a thoughtful way.
ADC: Is there a new project you’re most excited about?
Darcy: I’m very excited about a responsive website that we just did for our client Body by Simone, which has been a New York brand and just opened up in L.A. recently. We created a responsive website for them that took their brand to the next level. Their website was not as clean as they wanted it to be; it looked a little dated. Now it functions and it has a store and you can sign up for classes on it. It’s pretty robust for a personal trainer/workout class company.
A creative’s biggest ambition is to do what they most enjoy doing. Hopefully, I’m helping with that.
ADC: Is lifestyle your favorite kind of branding?
Darcy: I don’t know if I have a favorite! Right now we have a client in the real estate sector, we have a lawyer who wrote a book, and so many other different types of projects. I think that’s really good. It makes us an agile company that has that background and experience too. I don’t know if I want to play favorites yet.
ADC: How does the Second Language Design function as a collective?
Darcy: We have an online marketing manager, a business planning and strategy director, a copywriter, a publicist, someone that handles marketing and events, and then three web developers. The beauty is being able to choose who’s best for each project. It really benefits everyone. That person that I’m putting on the project appreciates it because it fits their skills and what they like to do most. And the client sees the benefits because it’s probably their best-case scenario, too, when everyone’s happy! A creative’s biggest ambition is to do what they most enjoy doing. Hopefully, I’m helping with that.
ADC: What inspires you? Why did you get out of bed this morning?
Darcy: Well, lately working for myself inspires me. I just feel like the reward is so much larger when you answer to yourself. It makes me want to grow my business. I love logo design and branding projects. Most recently I’ve been doing a lot of web projects that tie together branding, whether it’s existing branding or whether we’re giving it a refresh. I like to see companies grow.
ADC: What about personally? What does the inside of your apartment look like? Are you an art person?
Darcy: I try to paint. Sometimes other artists inspire me — and I don’t know whether it’s good or bad, but instead of buying their prints all the time, if I can’t afford their art I’ll try to replicate a version of it on my own. I have a lot of very different looking art projects depending on what inspired me that year.
I have a railroad apartment in Green Point and live with my husband who’s a booking agent, so we have a music and art room: one room filled with my desk, a lot of vinyl, my art table and some paintings that I’ve done. It’s interesting to think how that’ll translate when we have an office space.
ADC: What’s next? What are you most excited about looking forward to the next five or ten years of growth for Second Language Design?
Darcy: Giving people that freedom. One of the trends of the future is sharing. Shared everything. I think this collective model works really well with that. Hopefully its still relevant years down the road. And it definitely feels healthy for my life because it’s just so much more diverse. I feel more alive this way, not knowing what’s to come but knowing that it’s going to be different than what came before it. Hopefully everyone that works for my company can feel that way too.