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As the year gets off to a snowy start, at least here in the Northeast, we’re celebrating our 12th year as Rahvalor and looking forward to a new start. Since we took a hiatus from our blog to rethink our business goals and work a bit on scheduling (the blog gods have seen fit to relieve me of a daily post in favor of biweekly, o joyous days ahead!) we thought this would be the perfect time to reflect on where we’ve been, how we got here and of course, where we’re going on our journey to help small businesses find their market niche and succeed.
So join us for a little bit of Rahvalor history and find out how we can help your business meet the new year with a brand new shine.
In The Beginning. Really.
If you know us or have read about us, you probably know that we build websites, market websites and provide other creative services generally around websites. But what you may not know is that our company didn’t start out doing that. In fact, if you’re older than 12, you probably also know that there was a time before websites.
In those Cambrian days of dialup and dreams, we were a multimedia company, creating computer generated animations, CD-ROM presentations and big-screen productions for trade shows and business events.
Ralph and I gave birth to our newborn company together and he was in charge of creative and production by day while I ran the business side by night. At the time I also had a day job as kindergarten teacher. We ran the company like lots of new parents… we coddled it and cooed at it and made plans for its bright and shining future.
Things went well and as technology changed we adopted it passionately and enthusiastically, transitioning from CD to web and from animation to design.
We also adopted two cats to help with the paperwork and were pretty sure nothing could go wrong.
Setbacks And Other World Events.
Suffice it to say that the years between 2001 and 2010 were a rollercoaster ride.
The terrorist attacks of 2001 threw everyone personally and economically into a tailspin. Businesses everywhere battened down the hatches and we rode it out grimly with the help of a few good and loyal customers who formed the heart and soul of our company then and now.
It was tough going for a while but eventually we got back on an even keel.
I quit my day job, studied project management, and went to work for Rahvalor full time – not so different than teaching. Turns out cookies can solve a lot of problems.
We supplemented our web work with print work to adapt to our clients’ needs and help them take advantage of a multitude of marketing opportunities. In the process we met and instantly hired Michael as our creative director (yup, he’s that good) and expanded our services to include all aspects of branding, print and marketing online and offline.
We also liked the idea of being a one-stop, full-service creative company. It relieved a lot of headaches and stress for clients who gratefully let us handle details from domain registrations to business card layouts while they attended to their businesses. And it gave us an outlet to engage our creative passions.
The middle of the decade was halcyon days indeed. Plenty of clients, plenty of work and plenty of cookies. The cats enjoyed an extra cardboard box or two and we were pretty sure that nothing could go wrong. Again.
Things That Make You Go… What The Hell Am I Doing?
Deep in the heart of the financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009, we were forced to rethink that conviction. In fact, in 2009 we were forced to rethink everything.
Our biggest client fought the crisis by cutting budgets across the board from toilet paper to us. Some of our longest relationships ended sadly as clients went out of business or were swallowed up by companies overseas.
Those clients who remained weren’t spending any money and suddenly a spendthrift global economy became a very closed-wallet local one. No longer could we bring on a new client from twelve states away with two phone calls and a good joke. Suddenly everyone wanted to know how cheaply it could be done – and they wanted to look into your eyes as you told them.
A glut of DIY tools and no lack of “web designers” and “SEO experts” made our job not only incredibly difficult (you try explaining why someone needs your $100 service when “my friend’s son” will do it for free) but unprofitable.
We spent the better part of 2009 watching our dwindling bank account and wondering whether we could – or even wanted to – breathe life back into our company.
I considered going back to my day job – assuming anyone was hiring. Ralph considered a salaried job – until he realized I wouldn’t be around to make him a sandwich. Michael poured us a lot of whiskey and the cats chewed on a couple of USB cables.
Putting Things Back Together With Sweat And Tears And Whiskey And Glue And Purple Ink.
After months of soul searching, we decided we weren’t ready to give up on Rahvalor. We loved what we did and we knew that there was opportunity out there somewhere; we just had to find it. So we rolled up our sleeves, refocused our priorities, took a hard look at how we could improve our business and planned for the future.
Along with “make lots of money” and “lease new BMW” we set a series of goals that included rebranding our company to fit with our vision as a creative web and marketing company, revamping our services to fit with a new economy, and learning new skills to better serve our clients’ needs.
We dove zealously into networking, into hand-shaking, into getting out into our local community to meet people and business owners who were suffering from a similar set of circumstances. We found people we could help, and people who could help us. We learned the power of collaboration and the value of good relationships.
For all of us at Rahvalor, 2010 taught us a lot, not least of which was how darn expensive it is to print and mail 500 brochures at a time, and that even when you’re dead broke, the cats still want to eat. We also came right up against our own fears and self-doubt and realized that we could conquer them.
And although this story doesn’t wrap up in a cliché “and they all lived happily ever after”, we’ve emerged from the maelstrom to fight another day.
Things Will Go Wrong. Bring It On.
As of the beginning of 2011, we’ve redefined our services, reworked our process and rebuilt our client list. We’ve got a plan for growing our business and a plan for helping our clients grow theirs. We’ve got 500 new brochures, lots of cookies and a well-stocked whiskey cabinet. The cats have stopped chewing the curtains and no longer stare at us accusingly.
Twelve years into the game, we’re pretty sure things will go wrong but we know that our success – and that of our clients – relies on our response to those things. We’re going to keep growing, keep learning, keep evolving and keep putting our heart and passion into everything we do.
Part of our plan is to offer this blog as a resource for small business owners and managers everywhere. We’ll be regularly posting helpful tips and information about web and print design, search, social media, email and all sorts of online and offline marketing.
Ralph and Michael will be joining me so you’ll get different perspectives from our different roles – Michael on the creative side, Ralph on the development side and me on the management side – not to mention a bunch of guest blogs from some pretty cool people we know and work with.
Our goal is to help you succeed, and of course if you want to hire us and give us lots of money so we can lease the new BMW, we’re ok with that, too.
While you’re there, join our email list because we’re also going to be sending out monthly email newsletters with updates and more good marketing information.
So here’s to a promising new year, and a happy, healthy, successful one for you and your business. As we journey along this road, let us know what you think, what you’d like to read more of (or less of, in the event of a 1500 word blog) and how we can help you meet your goals.
And if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by for some cookies.