Big Thinking In Small Business

“When you’re changing your life in such a big way, it’s emotional… and West Company was a voice of reason, which helped us to make good decisions. They kept us focused on facts.”

Jeremy and Aspen Logan with 4 staff members in front of a wall with the logo for the business, The Color Mill, in Fort Bragg, CA

Jeremy and Aspen Logan are big thinkers in a small town. When they were at a crossroads, having to decide if they should move or stay in Fort Bragg, they walked by The Color Mill and saw a sign that said the business was for sale.

Jeremy’s mom had been in printing for thirty years, so that was a quick personal connection which made the endeavor feel plausible. The sights and smells of a printshop were nostalgic and they knew they wanted to be in business for themselves. They’d already set up a corporation to do freelance work and were used to working on their own, which Aspen felt was too isolating. They were ready for a different lifestyle, so they took that leap.

They consulted with West Company to learn about their options and with their advisor they wrote a business plan, learned what their funding options were and dove into market research. “We’re quick learners and West Company gave us the education we needed to begin. Also, when you’re changing your life in such a big way, it’s emotional and West Company was a voice of reason which helped us to make good decisions. They kept us focused on facts.”

Jeremy and Aspen have grown the business, changing and expanding it in different areas. When they bought The Color Mill, it was only printing and copying, but they had strong creative backgrounds to bring to the table. They knew immediately that they wanted to expand into design work, which has proved to be successful and they’ve changed the structure of how their staff works. They almost doubled their revenue in the first two years.

Having previously worked for large corporations in Los Angeles, they were able to implement more efficient systems and streamline the workflow. The previous owners ran the business primarily on paper, so they’ve digitized everything and say that although the business was already doing fairly well, it’s been exciting to revitalize it. “We’d love to think about expanding to other towns and set up a system that can function in a modular way.”

They have grand ideas about where they’d like to go and Aspen says that where Jeremy can see the big picture clearly, she can manage the minutia to make it happen. They feel like Fort Bragg is going through a renaissance of sorts and hope to be part of a continuing trend of professionals bringing big city skills to this pristine environment. They believe in the power of a creative hub to lift the aesthetic and overall feeling of the town.

Their biggest challenge as small business owners is that they have to wear many hats. “We end up spending a lot of time in the trenches and can’t devote as much time fine-tuning or going deeper into focused work. We’re running the cash register and the payroll, but it is what it is. I don’t think any business owner doesn’t work 24/7.”

The Color Mill services many businesses in town, so Jeremy and Aspen feel very immersed in the community. They gauge their success by the happiness of their employees and the engagement level of the people they’re working with. They feel valued by their clients and have a good team.

Aspen is enjoying the social interaction that comes with running The Color Mill and Jeremy loves visual problem solving. They’re constantly learning and trying to expand or evolve their skills. “You can’t stand still. There’s always something new to learn.”

Having the business has made them more community minded. “The more we’re exposed to other people in the community, the more invested we feel in thriving together. You realize you can’t flourish where others are dying. All boats rise with the rising tide.”

Torrey Douglass