We recently connected with Alexa Brachvogel and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Alexa thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. We’d love to hear about one of the craziest things you’ve experienced in your journey so far.
I started this business in 2018 after a handful of years working in marketing for other businesses. Along the way, I built websites for family and friends, and the transition to working with clients was relatively seamless. Of course, there have been many things that I learned along the way and areas that I greatly improved in since starting Blüm Agency, but things were relatively smooth for about three and a half years. Then something happened that I never anticipated.
After finishing my coffee on a Saturday morning, I opened up my email to see if there was anything I needed to respond to. Waiting in my inbox were emails from three separate clients, saying that there was something weird happening with their websites. I powered up my computer to check for myself, and my heart immediately sank. There were pages of characters showing on websites that I certainly did not design – it was malware. I spent the rest of the weekend issuing quick fixes and trying to restore the original websites. I signed up for $1,500 of security software and spent countless hours on the phone with server support.
On Monday, I heard back that there were over 3,000 malware files on my server. It was a relief to have a list of corrupted files, and I immediately got to work on deleting them. At the end of the day, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that I did my best and the websites were back up and running.
And then the bot attacks started.
The next day, I received more frantic client emails saying that the websites were completely inaccessible and returning 500 errors… Something I had never experienced before with any of the sites I’d designed. Once again, I called server support and escalated tickets left and right. When I finally heard back, I learned that the bot attacks caused the server to crash. After a few more days of mitigating attacks, I noticed that the common pattern was that all IP addresses were coming from the same country and I was able to block all traffic from the country (which will not be named). Everything was back up and running, and with access restored, I took local backups of everything.
It was smooth sailing for a couple of weeks, and then all of the websites disappeared. The files were gone. The server was completely wiped.
I gave up completely on the former hosting provider and opened a new, secure account. And then I got to work on installing the backups. I worked through the weekend and rebuilt over 20 websites in 48 hours. Along the way, my clients graciously offered moral support and were incredibly understanding of the downtime. Ultimately, there’s not much you can do when something like this happens, and with cyberattacks on the rise, it’s better to be prepared for a worst-case scenario like this one. I certainly learned to take more frequent backups (as in every time I make changes), and to work with a hosting provider that includes advanced support. Now, with all websites back up and more peaceful weekends ahead, I can look back and easily say this is the craziest thing that’s happened since starting my business.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
My name is Alexa Brachvogel, and I started Blüm Agency in 2018 to support small businesses and entrepreneurs with web design and branding. I primarily work one-on-one with founders to create or revamp their business’ website, and I do a lot of projects with mental health professionals around the country (LMFTs). I love the intersection of business and design, and working with my clients to really understand their goals in order to create something that speaks to both them and their final customers or clients.
As opposed to the typical design school route, I went to business school, twice. I graduated from undergrad at University of San Diego with a BA in Spanish and BBA in International Business with a minor in Economics, and then went on to get my MBA at San Diego State University. I’ve since been invited back as a guest lecturer in SDSU’s undergraduate Consumer Behavior class and created and led a series of digital marketing workshops for small business owners. With my background in business, my approach to design is holistic and focused on integrating the overarching business strategy into a design that clients will love.
I immensely enjoy getting to know the entrepreneurs I work with and hearing the stories and passion behind why they started their businesses.
Are there any books, videos or other content that you feel have meaningfully impacted your thinking?
Throughout my formal education in business, I’ve read so many interesting books that were incredibly helpful. From what I’ve experienced, part of the journey of entrepreneurship is also tied into personal growth. Beyond the “just do it” mentality and learnings that go along with starting a business, here are a few particular resources that have been helpful for personal and professional growth and analyzing market trends.
– The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly
– Slicing Pie: Funding Your Company without Funds by Mike Moyer
– Lessons from the Edge: Survival Skills for Starting and Growing a Company by Matthews Dennis
– Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily & Amelia Nagoski
– Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
– Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawaab
– McKinsey & Co’s “On Point” daily email newsletter
What do you think is the goal or mission that drives your creative journey?
I started Blüm Agency in order to have more job flexibility while in my full-time master’s program, and my goal has always been to grow this agency enough to support other women creatives who want the same flexibility in their work to balance the demands of daily life. This is a remote agency that supports small and local business owners in our community, with accessible pricing and payment plans.