An Entrepreneur’s Road to Start Up: Oxbow Creative

Have you ever thought about starting your own business? Smaller studios are popping up everywhere and freelancers are bringing more and more work into Vermont with the ability to work online.



Karma Bird House Incubate Wednesday, September 23, 2014. 5:30pm-7pm

The Karma Bird House, a collaborative hub of designers, creators, programmers and forward thinkers. Take a tour of the workspace, meet KBH entrepreneurs, and hear about their innovative ideas and projects.

If you have any questions or would like to work with Oxbow, reach them or stop by and visit the Karma Birdhouse, Suite 332.


AIGA Vermont: How have you found the work you’ve had to date? Has most of it come from completely new clients, or companies you’ve worked for previously?

Evan: In these initial stages, we’re defining the right balance of taking on projects from current clients and exploring possibilities in different sectors. We’ve spent a lot of time during these first few months uncovering opportunities and forging new connections. It’s going really well.

Jon: Before Oxbow, I had been freelancing for over a year, so when we started out, we absorbed most of the client network that I had built. Direct work or referrals from these clients make up about half of our work right now, with the rest coming from completely new connections.

How many more or less hours are you working on a daily/weekly basis running your own business compared to working for a business?

Evan: As any business owner will tell you, you end up working many more hours than you would as an employee elsewhere. The level of personal responsibility and accountability is much higher, which is always a good motivator. Fortunately, we both love what we do! We try to keep our daily schedule pretty consistent and regular, but often we find ourselves working late into the night or through the weekend. That being said, if we’re experiencing some creative block, we can duck out for a mountain bike to get the juices flowing.

Jon: One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is separating work from our free time. When you work at a 9-5 job, as an employee its very easy to check out when 5:01 rolls around. You can go home, do whatever you want for the rest of the day, and not think about your job. When you run your own business, its very easy for your job to spill over into your personal life. Even when I’m out skiing or on a hike, I find my mind racing about next steps, design ideas, new clients, etc.

Who do you think will dominate the design market in the future, small studios or big companies?

Evan: There’s a reason why so many big design firms are downsizing as of late. As firms start to specialize, we are seeing more and more collaboration between smaller companies for design projects. The overhead costs of running a massive umbrella design company is a huge deterrent in an industry that is constantly self-reevaluating and trimming the fat. Do we want to grow? Absolutely. But we never want to reach a point where our creativity and flexibility are limited by our size.

Jon: Companies need to stay up to date with the newest technologies and re-train their staff accordingly. They need to be able to pivot when the industry inevitably changes course.

“I really think that smaller studios will dominate the design market in the future. The industry is moving too fast, and its not slowing down. In order to compete, companies need to be nimble.”

What is inspiring you at the moment?

Evan: I’ve been trying to make more of my own art actually. It’s easy to get stuck when you’re constantly working with digital media, so putting pen or paint to paper helps me change my perspective a bit.

Jon: I’ve been on an Andrew Bird bender recently, specifically his 2009 album, Noble Beast. There’s something mesmerizing about his odd sense of tone and composition. I feel like I’m in some sort of dream state when I listen to it.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about going out on their own and being a freelance designer for a living?

Evan: Organization is key. Having consistent systems helps us to free up brain space for more creative thinking.

“Be a sponge. No matter how technically-skilled or business-savvy you are, there’s always so much to learn from other people and resources. Soak it up!”

Jon: The most important thing I’ve learned, especially when you’re starting out, is not to be intimidated by the size or type of project you take on. It’s easy to shy away from people or projects who seem out of your league. They’re not! You’re awesome, I promise. No one has become successful without taking the leap into unknown territory at some point, and in design this often means agreeing to something you may not be totally qualified for. You’ll figure it out. Plus, the added pressure of your clients’ expectations will make you learn and grow much faster.

Visit Oxbow Creative at

By Alaina Castillo-Kunkle
Published September 24, 2014
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