Welcome to an update with Dan Sodkiewicz from Royal Deer Design in New York and also now from GeekSeller. Last year I commented that he came across as more confident than some of my UK interviewees, and I think that still stands – there’s nothing wrong with being confident in your products, services and offerings! We first met Daniel in January 2015. He’s been going for a year longer than Libro, and I always find it so interesting to see what my actual contemporaries are up to. Last year, this is where Daniel wanted to be by now: “I will continue to run my web design firm and grow my team. Creatively, I plan to continue my side projects and be a resource for technologists and entrepreneurs. I want to continue working with clients, setting goals and milestones that we work together to achieve.” So, let’s see how he’s doing!
Hello again, Daniel, it’s good to welcome you back to the interview series! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
This has been a challenging year, full of many adjustments and pivots. The online landscape is changing. There are many new technologies that now allow businesses to build their own websites without need of hiring a web development firm. We have had to make a few adjustments to our business and expand our knowledge base to adapt to the changing times. We have to be more specific with regards to our target market. We used to look for any clients, but now we are more focused. We offer our web design and development services to mainly two types of businesses: large e-commerce sites (see our offerings and portfolio at: www.royaldeerdesign.org), and startups – that need a simple informational website. We have separated our startup web design business, and keep it as an independent part of our firm, with a separate website.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Our main source of income is still web design and development, built from long-term relationships with medium and large clients. We provide them with ongoing website maintenance and consultation services. However, when comparing to last year, we are now much more focused on our side projects, which are slowly bringing in some income. We want to make our business more independent from web design, and gravitate toward our own SAAS (software as a service) products. One of our new SAAS business is a website called GeekSeller (www.geekseller.com). It was created to help merchants sell on the new online marketplace called JET.com. We are investing a lot of resources into this project and we are planning to expand it and start supporting more marketplaces — not just restricted to JET. Resulting from this project, there will be a system that allows sellers to maintain all of their online stores and marketplace accounts from one single dashboard. Merchants can see all of their sales and inventory in one place. It’s very exciting.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I have learned that in order to succeed, I need to be super focused and very specific about our target audience. At the same time, it is always good to have some side-income, independent from your core business, which can help you to survive when the main business is going through a tough time.
Any more hints and tips for people?
I would suggest to pay close attention to what is going on in your industry. We are living in a fast changing world. For many businesses in the web development and design industry, it is very easy for new competition to enter the market. To stay competitive, we have to utilize the newest technology that shapes our industry. If you are unwilling to learn and innovate, you will go out of business.
BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?
How are you staying up to date with changes taking place in your industry?
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I would like to see 80% of our income source to be from our newly developed SAAS products (mainly GeekSeller.com), and 20% from web design business. That would be the ideal scenario for my business.
I think it’s absolutely vital to both specialise and diversify when you run a small business, as it protects you. As an example, I do editing, proofreading, transcription and localisation – all about words but in different ways and with different markets. I do find that all four ebb and flow, so having all of these together (not exactly as a main and side-projects, but the idea still holds) keeps me with a fairly balanced workflow and hopefully protected from shocks. I hope Daniel’s new enterprises work well for him and show the growth he wants from them!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.