Learning While Earning
“West Company gave what I needed, at the time I needed it. I just had to ask.”
Kiersten Hanna craved a change and opportunity arose. Having designed and produced an exhibit for the County Museum, she’d hired Braggadoon for the production of panels. The owner passed away suddenly and when she called to check on her order, his widow said they couldn’t complete the job, but would she like to buy the business.
Braggadoon has two divisions: Signage and fine art reproduction, so they serve business owners as well as local artists. Kiersten’s background was only in fine art reproduction, but she took on the challenge of trying something new.
Kiersten had some savings, so she was able to take the plunge without a loan. Her first step was finding a place to live on the coast, which took four months and her commute was over an hour during that time. A lot of the equipment in the shop was outdated and slowly but surely, she began replacing it. She was also self training and learning how to use the equipment. “I worked late into the night, just teaching myself how to use the equipment. I had no one to ask. The signage community is generous, but I didn’t know anyone yet. I felt alone for a long time.”
Kiersten struggled on her own until tax time. That’s when West Company came into the picture. She didn’t understand Quickbooks and her books were a mess, just a bundle of confusion and mystery. “It wasn’t as intuitive as I thought it would be.” West Company provided a financial advisor, who worked intensively with Kiersten that tax season and continued to check in every quarter for a year and a half.
That got Kiersten though until a year ago, when she realized she was busier than she could handle. She needed help navigating her contract laborers and also with her website management. “I was drowning and it was so wonderful to have a knowledgable person to talk to about next steps and what my priorities were. It was grounding.”
They wrote a business plan and a job description for an administrative assistant. She was assigned a project manager for her website and and they did an intensive analysis of her books. They decided to raise her prices that year, as her costs for paper etc. had been steadily rising. “West Company gave me what I needed, at the time I needed it. I just had to ask.”
In her fifth year of business, Kiersten has achieved 20-30% growth every year. She says that for the former owner, this was a passion project and he worked at his own pace. Having brought two independent contractors to the production team at Braggadoon, they are now able to work at a much faster pace and offer a wider variety of service to a larger clientele.
Kiersten’s ambition is focused on a better quality of life vs profits. She says positive reinforcement from the community is her measure of success and she adds with a laugh, “I’ll feel more successful when I can step away more.”
Kiersten values the knowledge that all her hard work is for herself and the people she’s working with. “I have to be a little bit of everything, to everyone. It’s a sacrifice of time, but it’s worth it and having a reputation for quality makes me happy. That’s just huge.”
Change hasn’t been easy, but it has been fruitful. “I’m very thankful to the community. They’ve been very kind and patient with me. I felt they were happy I’d taken over and that this kind of business would continue on the coast.”