Ari Krzyzek

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CulturallyOurs Podcast Ari Krzyzek Chicago Graphic Designer Interview

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CulturallyOurs
Ari Krzyzek
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Show Details

n this episode, we explore Art and Entrepreneurship as I chat with Ari Krzyzek who co-owns a design and branding studio in Chicago, Illinois. Ari is originally from Bali but always loved graphic design. She left a scholarship opportunity for a 4 year degree in tourism to study graphic design and eventually opened up her own business doing what she loved. Ari also is a huge proponent of community and leads Creative Womens Co, a creative women’s group where community over competition is highly encouraged.

Ari has grown her business to the point where they are now ready to expand internationally, and attributes a lot of her successes to the drive and passion to really pursue that what she has always loved to do – graphic design.

Show Notes

Karthika interviews Ari Krzyzek, the co-owner of Chykalophia, a graphic design studio she co-founded with her husband and business partner. Ari truly believes in community over competition and believes that everyone should do what they are most passionate about. There is more than enough to go around and clients will always want to work with people they like, know and trust. She encourages other business owners to stop thinking about completion and instead think of collaborating – we are stronger together than we are apart, especially as women business owners.

The Transcript

Karthika:  Welcome. Ari, thank you so much for joining me on CulturallyOurs today. I’m really excited to be chatting with you and I cannot wait for us to dig into your entrepreneurial journey.

Ari: Oh my goodness. Karthika this day is finally here. I’m super excited to be here as well. Thank you so much for having me.

Karthika: Absolutely. Now before we begin, can you just tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, just to set the stage a little bit for this conversation?

Ari: Of course. So my name is Ari Krzyzek. I know that last name is sometimes really hard to pronounce for some people. And the primary reason is because I married a Polish guy. I will talk more about that later. And I am the co founder and creative director of Chykalophia, a branding and digital marketing agency here in Evanston. And I’m originally from Bali, Indonesia, but now I’m here living the entrepreneurial dream with my husband and business partner in Chicago.

Karthika: So Bali, Indonesia and married to a Polish guy. Thats a very interesting dynamic. And I’m sure there’s lots of interesting stories too. Now with branding and graphic design, what is your business all about?

Ari: So a lot of the time in my earlier days when we started the company, we did a lot of the graphic design work, website work and making sure that we can help business owners with their logo, with their visuals and their website and get them up and running. Now these days, in the past year or so we have pivoted a little bit more into providing something that’s more practical I guess in a way. So that we help the business owners or entrepreneurs who want to take the leap and making it their side hustle and working to their full time an actual business. We want to make sure that we provide them with a strategy on why are we doing these visuals, why are we coming up with this logo design? And it’s not going to be just about the visual. It’s going to have to relate more in terms of how are we aligning their goals with their vision and then what are we going to do with the strategy so they can approach the right customers before we even like flush everything into the visual, into the website and making sure that they are using their website in the right way so that they can attract the right clients, the right audience, and making sure they get the results from all of those hard work they’re putting into the business.

Karthika: That’s very fascinating. I mean, being  a visual person, I can completely relate to the strategy portion of it. So it’s not just a pretty picture or a pretty logo but there is also some depth and there’s some meaning to it. Right? Now is this something that you went to school for or did you always kind of have this affinity to graphic design and how did it come about?

Ari: This is going to be an interesting long story. I’m going to try my best to make it short. So I’m living in Bali and with everybody’s doing all the things in tourism industry. I just thought that I would going to be one of those people in the tourism industry and my parents are both in the tourism industry as well. So being raised in Bali and literally everybody in my family are in the tourism industry and I just felt like, okay. All right. I’m just going to be like one of them in the future. Maybe like working at hotel or maybe like becoming a tour guide or all those different things. But then something cool happen. My mom was just like, Ari, you’re going to go to college and because I was in the last year of high school and undecided about what I wanted to do, she said that there was a scholarship program that she wanted me to enroll in for tourism school. So I thought why not. I got to the last round of interviews and I realized that actually I don’t want any part of this tourism industry stuff and I was like, you know what, I’m going to be a graphic designer. I want to learn all about print advertising and all that different cool things. And I just like told the judges right then and there, ‘actually I don’t think I want this scholarship. I think I want to go to art school and becoming a designer.I remember their faces like, are you kidding me? This girl is insane. And they were asking me, are you sure you don’t want this? You’ll literally already got the scholarship and now you want to drop out. What are you going to do? I told them that I wanted to be someone who learned a little bit more about how do people buy things from advertising and all the commercials that we watch and all that different things because I feel so intrigued to learn all of the numbers and they’re were just like, okay, and where are you going to go to school? And they apparently didn’t know that there is an institute for arts in Bali. And I told them and they were like, all right, that’s fine. We are glad we got to know you and about your dream. My parents obviously get furious about that. But I got a phone call from one of the judges, that I talked to earlier on and they invited me back to introduce me to their in house graphic designer. And I was like, oh my God, this is so cool. So that was my very first introduction to meet an actual graphic designer and it was a woman. It was even like better because I kept thinking of how can I can see myself in her shoes in the future? She did warn me about the deadlines. I did not know what that meant but I knew I was going to love it. It comes with the job, right? So that is the quick story of how I decided on graphic design and came to be what I am today.

Karthika: Oh Wow. I mean, I’m speechless. I can totally imagine the look on their face while you’re doing this interview. Oh guys, you know what? I don’t want it. Thank you for nothing. That must have been epic in my opinion. Now what made you decide to become an entrepreneur? You could have just taken a job in any other sort of agency, right? Doing graphic design, what sort of made you decide to do this on your own?

Ari: This is also happened in Bali. So I graduated from the Institute of Art in Bali, I got my very first official job as graphic designer assistant, in one of the entertainment company in Bali. And this one company is actually a huge deal for me because they handle a multiple resorts, multiple hotels, even cruises and all that different stuff. And it was kind of a big deal for me that I got accepted to be one of the employee at that company. But then I realized that I just didn’t really feel fulfilled and that, I got to work with a lot of different design for print, which is awesome. But I feel that my heart I needed to digital stuff and I didn’t get a chance to play around with any of those projects. And then my fiancé, now, my husband, he came to Bali to visit me and asked me one day, I know you love your job, but how much do you actually get paid per month? And then I told him, its around $250 per month. And he was like, Whoa, hold on. You mean you add an under zero at the end? Right. And I know it was no just two, five, zero. So he was like I don’t think this is going to work going forward. How about we start thinking about a different approach for you or maybe try freelancing and that kind of stuff. And I was like, I don’t know what freelancing is. And he just like completely opened that world to me. And I learned more about freelancing and felt like I could do this. So a few weeks later I quit my job and my parents were furious. At first when I quit my job, they didn’t take it seriously. And then for a few days I didn’t go to work. And they were like why are you home? and I told them I quit my job. Oh my God, this girl is serious. So that’s my quick intro from me taking the leap from having to work for a company that paid me only $250 a month into realizing that I wanted to pursue freelancing. And then because my husband is here in Chicago, I was in Bali at the time, so we kind of agreed that we’re going to build a company here in Chicago. So I made the leap from Bali to Chicago and build a company with my husband. So that’s the quick story.

Karthika: I absolutely love it because not a lot of times we do this. We are so generally risk averse that we want to take a safe path and we want to have all our eggs in one basket or you know, have something lined up before we sort of quit our full time. But you broke all those rules and you kind of did things your own way, which is absolutely amazing. Now you’re here, you co-own a business with your husband. It’s graphic design. A lot of things are now visual. So I’m going to ask you a question, which perhaps I already know the answer, but I want to kind of get your take on it from an industry perspective? How competitive is your space and with all the different players, how do you guys talk together, play well in the sandbox, if you could call it that?

Ari: I think that would depend on the context. Sometimes I feel like, when I first started the business, obviously everyone else that’s doing something similar to us, I would say, oh my God, that’s a competitor. But as I start like learning more about how do I build relationship with other people and you should not see your competitor as an enemy rather you should see them as somebody that do things differently than you are. And they probably have completely different approach to getting their customers, like who their customers are or even their values for their own company. So I think that as a company of our own, we are a husband and wife company at the core. And even though we’re slowly growing and having a little bit people coming into our team and be part of our team, we feel that our approach is completely different than other people. And the way we see projects and how we want to build a relationship with our clients is definitely different. So a lot of the time I see other people who are in the same industry as ours and I’m doing a similar thing that we do. It’s just like another different company with different approach. And we would sometimes actually would collaborate with those type of people because maybe there are some thing that they are doing we don’t do at all. And we understand that we do have some weaknesses as well and they have some strengths. So collaboration for us it’s like a strong tie and vice versa for them as well. They sees that we have a strong skills that in brand identity and they feel like, okay, we do brand stories but we don’t really do brand identity. How can we work collaboratively so that we don’t see each other as enemies because we’re technically just want to make sure that we bridging the gap and providing the best solution as possible to the client.

Karthika: Absolutely. I mean community over competition is extremely underrated. I think more people need to follow or adopt that mindset because like you said, we all have strengths, we all have weaknesses and what’s our weakness could be somebody else’s strength. Right? So why not work from them?

Ari: Yeah, and I think another point to also mention is that there are enough fish in the sea. Right? And I feel like a lot of time people are like, oh my God, I don’t want to be a graphic designer because there’s too many people are doing. Well, to a degree maybe. But if you have a very unique skills, very unique approach and very unique style on how you’re creating your design. There are people who are looking for that specific style if you were to design the look and feel so you can work collaboratively with other people because not everyone are having the exact same style.

Ari: Absolutely. Now that you brought this up, I want to ask this question. What is unique about what you guys do? What is unique about your business?

Ari: I was actually talking about this. We had a couple of different people  recently because for a long time it was something that I personally struggle the most and sharing with other people, I feel like the uniqueness is something that it has to be like completely a hundred percent like unique from different people. And I feel like that was the hard time for me to explain because I couldn’t find it on my own. But recently a lot of the other people have told me, Ari you the way you approach your client, where you even talk about your process and how you bring it to life is just like completely different than other similar companies out there. So I feel like a lot of time we value the relationship the most. So if we feel that by talking on the first intro call with a lead that we feel, okay, maybe the tone that they’re using is, it does not sit well with us or just doesn’t create that vibe. We immediately feel like they are not going to go with us because that gut feeling kind of tells you like this is just not going to be working. Even though we can confidently feel we’re going to be able to complete the project, but if the other person  doesn’t feel like it then they are doing it differently or not different stuff. Then I don’t feel like there is a point in working together. So our approach is that we want to build a relationship with you and we want to work towards this together to create success for both parties.

Karthika: Thats a very good point. Now, how many years have you been in business and how has the ride been so far? Was it all that you expected when you moved from Bali?

Ari: Oh Man. Okay. So I got here in 2011, so that probably has been about eight years now. And for the overall journey, I would say it’s completely different than how I had imagined it when I was in Bali. So in my mind when I was in Bali, I was thinking I’m going to build this awesome business with my husband and we’re going to rock it and we are going to be doing amazing stuff. And everybody who has dabbled in entrepreneurship or build their own companies probably already know this. Like first two years of business is literally the hardest part of your journey. And for us, both of us were working all the time for the first 2 years.And obviously that wasn’t really ideal because we were trying to get our bearing right and trying to see who we were trying to attract and everything else and we don’t have enough funds to cover all of those marketing efforts and then the networking events and all that different stuff. So I had to take on an actual job at Sears. I was working as a digital design for Sears for about three and a half years while also working on our company throughout the time I working for Sears or so. It has been a really challenging time for us in the first few years of our business because we have to make sure that we have enough funds to pay the rent and other amenities. And then we also had to have some sort of funds that we can channel to market ourselves and then network and all the other organizational stuff. So the first, I would say four years of our business was pretty hard on us. But when I feel that the hard work is like catching up. Once we hit the five year mark I slowly started seeing the growth and I felt confident that I could leave Sears and I could focus all of my attention more on our company full time and be able to execute all of those business development even better.

Karthika: I want to say thank you for being so honest. A lot of times people don’t share the struggles and there are struggles. And we have to do multiple things. We have to freelance, we have to take on projects that bring in the money because money is important. I mean you need to pay the bills, we need to put food on the table, we need to support the family. But a lot of people don’t talk about that. So I really appreciate you being honest with us and saying yes it was hard and look I had to do this other thing to keep it going. But now I feel like I’m in a good place. Now I feel like as a people and as a culture sometimes we don’t celebrate our successes. We are so focused on like the next goal, the next task. So before we go any further, can we take a moment and can you share with us on what has been your proudest accomplishment so far with your company?

Ari: I can think of a couple of different stuff, but number one is definitely leaving the nine to five job at Sears. That was my biggest proudest moment because not only that, I was able to leave that position and pursue my business full time. It also gives me flexibility and the freedom to also watch my kid because I think the first time that I learned that I was pregnant and I know that I’m going to have a baby and it’s like, oh my God, what am I going to do? I have all of these things at work at Sears and I’m going have more work from my own company and I have to also care for the new baby. How am I going to balance all of those? So I was like really trying to figure out is there such a thing as a work life balance with all of these crazy things happening in my life? And at at one point I realized I have to let go one thing and it has to be the serious job because I can’t see myself, keep going and going and working for them while having all of my mind on my own business. And also I’m thinking about my son and I was just like, okay, I have to let this go. And that was like the biggest position in my life and also in my husband’s perspective because for him to really have that stability of income coming in was really important, right? Because as a guy, he is definitely wanted to make sure that we have enough financial security so that he can sleep better at night. So that was like a big moment for me to realize and letting go the Sears job and letting go of that paycheck. And it just like slowly going back up again and figuring out, okay, how can I make this work now I have to make it work because I want to make sure that I have the flexibility and the freedom to watch my kids grow in the office and then catching up, if he actually needs my attention and things like that. So I would say that was my biggest, proudest moment that I let go the Sears job and making the leap to going back into our own company and doing it full time.

Karthika: Awesome. That’s amazing. Now as anything in life, we have ups and downs and you’ve shared some of those already, but I want to know how you sort of overcome the downs, like what is the mindset that you have when you have these challenges and you have to face them? How do you overcome them?

Ari: Well, that’s a big question. And I think there’s so many different ways on how I approached them depending on what I feel on certain days. Because, as you said, it’s not always like unicorns and rainbows every single time, especially when you run your own business and knowing that there’s a possibility that you’re not going to have any work  some weeks and all that different stuff. So I start to just really looking at the previous work I’ve done and all the testimonials that I got from our clients and really trying to looking at the bright side, and remind myself why I’m doing what I do today because this is the risk that comes with it and this is the life that I chose and for me to just keep talking it in and then just like complaining on things that doesn’t work. So how can I make it work and how can I plan for something that can help me move forward? Even though it’s going to be small steps, but at least it’s going right. I feel like we never really think about keeping those momentum. And when you lose it, you feel, oh my God, nothings working. I’m a failure and all that different stuff. And the imposter syndrome dislike creeping into you and you need like either a support system, like a partner or whoever that can help you get backup again, remind you all the great things that you do. So luckily I have my husband who also my partner and he always constantly support me in terms of, Hey, I know you’re feeling down now right now, but let’s look at the bright side and then see what we can do better in the next goal next week or whatever. So I would say, and having a good environment for you to strive, it’s really important and identify a couple of people that can support you is also key. So if let’s say that you are a solo-preneur and you feel like I don’t have a spouse that really support me the way I did that, what you can do is like have some sort of community that are maybe a couple of women or organization that you are part of. Or maybe like you are in a local chamber and you have couple of other business owners who really understand who you are or your business. And you also do the same for them. Like ask them, Hey, can I call you like once a once in a while when I feel like I really need support and, I will do the same for you. So I think kind of offering those type of mutual benefit in a way in the business and helping you to see that you’re not alone in that situation is really key.

Karthika: I absolutely agree. We cannot do this alone and we shouldn’t do this alone because as people we’re born to kind of interact with other people and communicate and why go through life alone? Why go through business alone when there are  support systems there. So talking about support systems, can you share a little bit about what the business and sort of entrepreneurial landscape looks like now you’re based in Chicago in the city. So perhaps in that context are there like organizations not for profit sort of entities, government institutions for support. How do you find go about finding the support system?

Ari: Google is my best friend and so is Eventbrite my best friend. And before that meetup used to be my best friend. Not so much anymore but so I was actually relying a lot on those three different platform when I got here to Chicago. I don’t know anybody else aside from my husband’s friends and family. So it was kind of hard and scary for me to just like going out there and just like talk to like random new people. Believe it or not though I was a super shy girl. But now that I’m 30, I don’t really care about that anymore. So I would just go into meet ups at a time and I would find like Oh, a couple of groups that I’m doing cool things and I feel like I’m interested to learning more and maybe participating in and all that different stuff. But meetup got super overwhelming for me because I would just like trying to join every single meetup group and I didn’t really go to enough of them. And then I start looking at Eventbrite events and I think a lot of the events and organization that I’m part of today, I found out through Eventbrite. And I would just say though after experimenting with so many events and our organization for about I think four years or so, I realized that I have a different way to approach people and different way to network. So I would avoid going to big networking events now because it just doesn’t really make me feel good in a way that it really overwhelms me to see and talk to so many people. And I just get the sense that people are just shuffling their business cards. So it was just, I don’t get that depth of relationship and I don’t want to spend my time like getting to know other people and network with people that way. So I would go to like smaller events to networks that I can really learn from. Like if I can just like meet one person and really learned our story and their struggles are and how can we maybe support each other in the future. So when I would go to all those big events I would always come back feeling exhausted and I would complain a lot. And one night my husband said to me, Ari you are complaining a lot about these events. But you know we still need to go and network. And he was just like, I have an idea Why not create like your own events? And I was like, are you kidding me right now I am doing so much work and I am not going to add more especially not creating events. And then he was like, okay, it was just an idea. But then like couple, couple of weeks later I feel like, hmm, you know what? why not? So I did it on meet up and it was like a really interesting, I guess good experience because I thought, okay, now I’m going to create this awesome event. People are going to come and there’s going to be like amazing events and all that different stuff. But it was only three people showing up at my first event. So I was definitely disappointed. But I felt like the thing is  that I tried, right? So I tried, I did it again. And people did show up at least two people, including myself. So that was three. And these two people who show up, these women told me a really important things. Ari, you just started it don’t act like it’s going to be like popular in the next week. It is valuable. There is value that you bring in, we see that we see the potential. So as long as you don’t stop, I’m pretty sure you’re going to be okay. And that was my very first motivation hearing from these women who really value the idea that I have for this event. And I think I just keep on going. And I also wanted to keep it small. So I would cap it to about 10-12 people. It’s a lot easier to manage and it is very intimate. So I think that a lot of people who came to our events, they feel that it’s a lot easier to handle. They don’t feel like they’re overwhelmed. It’s easy to talk to other people and really learn about each other and not really like, okay, here’s my business card, take my business card. It’s more about like, hey, tell me more about you. Like how did you like get to this event? what’s your story? Is there a way that I can help you? So the conversation is a lot different than going to those random big networking events. And at the end, if they do really want to connect, they will connect. And it’s not because that they want to like trade business cards because I really truly want to connect with you and support you in a way that I can. That’s another thing that I fee was really important having the community, the people that you trust in your circle that knows who are you, and how they can like support you whenever you need them.

Karthika: Okay. I’m just to take a moment here because I am floored. I mean spoken like a true entrepreneur, you saw a problem, you didn’t like the way it was being handled. So you said I’m going to do something about it. That is such an amazing thing. And you’ve talked about this sort of intimate feel where you really get to know a person because you’re right, it is not about the business card. It is not about what can you do for me it’s more about who are you? I wouldn’t know what is your story? How can I relate to you? And then how can I help you? And then it’s like, can we do business? Yes. So you’re connecting at a personal level. At a level. You really want to get to know the person and business comes in but it’s not the first thing. Which unfortunately is a lot of the mindset when you go to these bigger events. What is this event called now?

Ari:  So the original meetup name was Creative Conversations and soon I realized it was really hard for people to say what it was and it was a long name. So we rebranded it to now Creative Women Co. And then we left the meetup platform because I realize people just like going in there and joining in as a member on meetup, but they don’t actually go to the events. And then we switched from meetup to Eventbrite right away because we realize when people actually go and they see an event that really speak to them. They’ll purchase a ticket and then they’ll go. So I think conversion was just like really different and it’s like a lot higher compared to meetups. So we become a lot more, I guess not exactly profitable in a way because I feel like all of those profit that we get is actually going back into building the community itself. So a few months ago now become its own entity under our own company. It’s our community project. And now after like four years, here in Chicago, we got a couple of interests from outside of Chicago. So we’re building a chapter in San Francisco as well as in Los Angeles right now. And I actually had to step out from manning the ship because people started seeing me as the face of the chapter and not as just the facilitator and that I have another business that is my own. So I had to really step back and understanding, what can I do now? Because now people start seeing me as the face of Creative Womens Co. And my intention was that we’ll highlight the faces of the community, not my face. So I had to step back and then create an actual team that handles all of the event coordination and then content, all the different things so that I can focus more on my own company. It’s like all of you.

Karthika: Wonderful. It’s amazing. Now through this community project you are sort of in a position to connect with other women entrepreneurs, right? Mentor and speak. Can you share what some of the themes, and issues are that seem be arising from these conversations? I mean, what are entrepreneurs struggling with? What are women entrepreneurs struggling with? What do you see coming out of these discussions and these conversations?

Ari: So throughout all of the events that we had in the past years and so, and even like in this year event of programming, I feel like people constantly wanting to connect with other women who have achieved a goal. Let’s say that one company , one woman has successfully built a company and they got fundings and they got a chance to build their own team and all that different stuff. And for the other women who are thinking about doing the leap from their day job right now as an employee into an entrepreneur, seeing this woman approaching these women was really hard for them. And it’s not like they can say, Hey, I saw you on x, Y and z event. Can you be my mentor? It’s just really hard for them to start and slowly connect with them. So a lot of the time when we asked all of our attendees, what’s really valuable for you? And they mentioned mentorship was really a big thing for them. So we started doing a signature events where we would connect like 15 mentors with 15 mentees where they can at the same event, they will connect with not one mentor, not two mentors, but three mentors at a time. So we give them the opportunity to connect with these women, these amazing women who have like amazing insight, amazing experiences so that they can talk to them like at the very personal level, about 15 minutes each. They get to really ask all of this question, not do really want to know is like, how did you get to where you are today? Whats the best way to do certain things or any other stuff revolving about their career or maybe like their professional development or where does the journey take them, what options do they have? So I think it was like really key for us to give those facilitation because every single time we did it, everyone just feels so empowered to one another. Not just the mentees get empowered, but the mentors feels like, oh my God, I made an impact to someone. And I had that experience before because one of the lady who attended the signature event for speed mentoring, she has her own shop at the 900 Michigan Avenue. And then whenever she sees me and she’s like, Ari, I cannot believe where I am today. And it all, because I attended your event hearing from these amazing woman and they inspire me to do things that I can’t even believe that I am doing it today. So it just takes something that gives me a goosebump because imagine if I have something like that when I was growing up, how different would my life be? So I think making an impact to these women was just like one thing that make me feel I’m doing good every day. And I don’t know, it makes me feel really good to give such amazing feedback to this woman so that they can see their true potential.

Karthika: Right. Well, I do not mean to belittle this issue because it really is important to realize that what we do makes a difference. And even if it is one person, we made a difference in one person’s life. We need to keep going. It’s really hard. Like you’ve talked about being bogged down by the details and how is this going to work? What am I going to do? But when you look at the positive side and you see that, okay, that one person who just said, hey, thank you for the conversation. Oh, hey, thanks for cheering me on. It just makes you feel good. Let’s talk specifics for a change. And the reason I ask these questions is because a lot of times people are in similar situations and they want to know details. So whatever you’re comfortable sharing and I will just ask you a series of questions and we can kind of go. Okay. How long have you been been in business and how many of those years have you actually been profitable?

Ari: So, okay. I think I’ve been in business for a little bit over eight years now. And profitability I would say only in the past three years. And in terms of like our community project, it has some profit in it. I think I already mentioned that earlier, but all of those profit doesn’t go to me, it goes to the team and the community that we’re building. So I guess to answer your question in a short way, we only been profitable in the past three years.

Karthika: Okay. Now have you pivoted in your core business as the graphic design company or even in creative women’s co? Have you guys pivoted in what you do since the time you started it and how does pivoting sort of look like for you? What does the process look like because a lot of times we have all these ideas, we want to do all these things, but we really don’t know how to kind of attack all of them and approach.

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Ari Yeah. And I think you asked a question at the really good time. We are actually in the process of rebranding our company and really trying to pivot our approach on business and of course there was just that we have, so we don’t want to be seen as much of a graphic design company or like just a website design company anymore. We want to approach things at a higher level where we actually start everything with strategy first before we go into everything else. Anything that’s pretty looking or just a website thing that would come later after we actually diagnose all of the problem and prescribe the right solution for the clients. So that they don’t just come into us blindly and think that we don’t really diagnose the actual core problem for them and they think that okay, I’m just going to need a website, but why do you actually need it? And then I think our approach would definitely be different compared to like other companies that just started their career because we want to solve a bigger problem so that we can make sure that we make a bigger impact there in their business and help them grow as we grow together and build this relationship together. So that’s our pivoting and how it looks like right now is this a lot of strategy on our end to just really map how are we going to talk to our customers, like these new target audiences that we have as our persona. How are we going to talk to them going forward? And then how are we going to display our approach and ideas on our website? Because a lot of the time I don’t feel it’s being captured on our current website right now. So we definitely want to revamp our website and making sure that it’s not only a branding tool, but it also acts as our marketing tools and populating it with like real relevant content so that we can at least get those relevant searches on Google and maybe rank better, not necessarily in the first page because I don’t think we’ll ever make it to the first day unless you type in our name specifically, but at least we’re getting closer to the point where we also want to be seen that we are a leader in this industry, but we’re not like the number one expert where I don’t think we want to ever get to those point because we just feel like we want it to be friendly. So we just want it to be true to our core still, but I’m slightly getting to the higher level where we feel like we are now. I’m more comfortable with the skills and the approach that we want to bring for our clients.

Karthika: Now, where do you invest most of your time? is it in marketing? Is that in sales? Is it an actual design, ideation, financial space or all of the above

Ari: I’m really trying not to do everything. And I feel like having a partner in business, it comes really handy because, my husband handles most of the financial stuff for our company and some of the client facing discussion and communication while a lot of the time you would see me at networking events, making connections and things like that, but also speaking and building our teams. So I would say a lot of my time are now between number one going to events, and then approaching leads and stuff like that. And the design and working with our team.

Karthika: Okay. Now, this is a fun one. How important is social media for you? That’s when you kind of connecting with your clients. How important do you feel as social media in today’s world and your space and your industry? Or do you still feel like traditional forms of marketing are king?

Ari: This is a really hard question to answer because I told you it was a new way. I see social media today compare to how I see social media in the past few years is different because I think now that we are truly embracing the fact that we value a relationship the most. So for us like going to events, building relationship in person was the big thing that drives our business and creating this connection. And in the exact same moment where you attend this event, like there’s no such a thing that can really replace that connection that when you have to meet when somebody, and then you say like, oh my God, I also feel the same thing and you see the face in person and it’s just like completely different experience. Even though you have the zoom calls, all of those video calls online, it just like completely different. I guess I like marketing’s approach that we valued the most, but not also to say that social media is bad for us because we never really get any clients coming from social media to be honest. So a lot of the time we got our clients and leads from referrals or from people that we met at an event or where I’m speaking and things like it. So I think for us using the social media is not really for selling purposes. It’s more just like, hey, take a look what we have. Like behind the scenes, couple of things that we’ve done for our clients and things like that. So it’s more like a showcase and a behind the scene experiences for us to show to other people that is not in the Chicagoland area,

Karthika: No, I couldn’t agree more. I think there is a lot of value and a lot of weight that we can put on actions. Not just business, just life. I hate being on the phone and I hate, constantly looking at social media. I would much rather sit down with somebody and have a cup of coffee and connect. Yes, it is important. Social media. I mean we would be fooling ourselves if we say it’s not, but it shouldn’t be the be all and end all of. So I’m glad that the answer, kind of what I was thinking too. Now you wear a lot of different hats. You are a business owner, you have a community project, you’re a mom, you’re a wife. How do you balance all these things?

Ari: Okay. So I’m just gonna say it work life balance is a myth. I know a couple of people truly believe that it is possible and that’s fantastic. It’s great that you guys are embracing it and make it work for you. It just doesn’t work for me honestly. So  I’m kind of sad actually because I thought I could make it work. But having a kid, especially a toddler in our current stage of business, it’s just always unpredictable for me and the way we have our project structure, even like as hard as I can. Figuring out my schedule, like weekly team meetings, scheduling my days and all that different things, you know, shit happens. It does and you can’t predict that. And I feel like for me to embrace work like balance is just not something that I’m true to myself. Right. It’s not something that I completely believe in because I need to adapt to every new situation all the time. Like, what are my son gets sick? What if my husband may be like needs extra hands on projects or different things or maybe like I suddenly got a bunch of project coming in. I don’t know what to do or I’m not like all different things that you just like don’t foresee. So for me having some sort of balance, sure there are some guidelines that I set for myself like okay maybe everyone’s day. I only use that day for meeting with people in person and and the rest I use for like actually working on the projects and stuff. So there are some guidelines where for me to completely 100% sticking to it and say that it’s my balance, I don’t think that’s how I want to use it as a work life balance. So I don’t necessarily say it to people. I have a work life balance. I have an adaptable way that I balance.

Karthika: Yes. And I think a lot of us are in that stage, whether we want to admit it or not, it is being flexible. It is adapting and it is just going with the flow. Sometimes that’s all you could do to keep your head above water, especially as a mom and a business owner. It hadn’t just a person who wants to have a good life. Now going back in time, if you knew all that, you know, for these past eight years or even before, right when you were in that interview room, would you do all of this again and would you change anything? And if so, what?

Ari: I don’t think I would change it anything and to be honest, if I would do it again, yes, I would totally do it again. And if there are things that I can change, it would be like to find mentor in my early days. Even when I graduate from high school or something, I feel like I didn’t get enough support or I don’t see enough women role model that I can see when I was growing up in Bali. And I think that is part of the reason why I feel like I’m attracted to build a business here in Chicago. Better compare then building the business in Bali because I see that there are way much more resources here and programs and pretty much all the support that you need is literally at your fingertips. So if I can change one thing, definitely finding a mentor as soon as possible or as early as I can in my life, that would probably make the biggest impact for me.

Karthika: That’s awesome. And I’ve heard this from a couple of people, so there is sort of truth to this, I’m sure. Just to try to wrap this up. Just to interest of time. I’ll ask you just a couple more questions, if I may. So what do you do for fun outside of work? What is fun for Ari?

Ari: Oh my goodness. Okay. I actually love reading fantasy novels. So I used to love like reading bunch of dose when I had a lot more time. Now I have like a very little time on my hands, but whenever I can I would try my best to find what’s new and, and what’s interesting novels are out there. And I actually had been reading a couple of books that I got from the library. And they actually came in all at the same time. So now I have about two novels that I have to finish in one month. They go on, I’m going to do now. I also like spending time with my husband and my family, my dog and my son. So I’m trying my best to keep my Sunday to be free of works at to at. I can spend time with them. I’m experiencing something or like going somewhere or like watch something together. Just in a way to spend that quality time so that I don’t get burnout and I know that they get my attention.

Karthika: Sure. That’s very important. Now, what lies ahead for you? Are you sort of fully living your dream or kind of what comes next? Can you share with us?

Ari: Ooh. Let’s see. I’m actually looking to expand our company to Southeast Asian market and Australia market. So we started building a team in Bali so that we can slowly get that going. So hopefully we have a good resources and the right opportunities to do that. And another things that I would definitely see we’re doing in the next couple of years is to start doing more education events for business owners and small companies, literally. And we want it to approach that differently because we’ll be creating a platform where they can learn anything about branding and digital marketing knowledge so that everything will be at their fingertips and then they can learn as they go and grow.

Karthika: Fascinating. And it sounds really exciting. Ari. Thank you so much. This has been amazing and I love that you are combining a business with community and having the mindset of helping people because you know, I mean, you’re an expert in all these things and why not share that knowledge? So I really applaud you for them. Thank you so very much. I wish you all the best. And we definitely going to be keeping our eyes open to see you guys in Southeast Asia and Australia.

Ari: And if anybody wants to send us good vibes or like know somebody who has done that before for their companies. I would love to just hear some insights because we are literally lost right now. So I would appreciate just like a couple of tips here and there that would be like really wonderful to hear. But Karthika thank you so much for having me on your show today.

Karthika: My pleasure. Thank you.

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