We recently connected with Karsten & Belinda Ivey and have shared our conversation below.
Karsten & Belinda, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Are you happier as a business owner? Do you sometimes think about what it would be like to just have a regular job?
We are very happy as business owners, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any ups and downs when it comes to that emotion. When you own a business, all of the responsibility and pressure for the company being successful ultimately depends on the decisions you, your partner, or your team make. That can be very stressful at times. So much so that there are times we think it would be easier to just have a regular job.
Almost immediately after we have those thoughts, we think back when we had a regular job and one of the reasons we started our company. The newspaper we both were working at the time had just announced more layoffs in the coming months, and we felt we needed to have more control over our family’s future as we were expecting our first child. We discussed the idea to freelance while sitting on on a bench next to a river, contemplating our options while on break from our regular job. That discussion prompted us to start our own graphic design company. We were fortunate enough to make it through the layoffs; but then two kids and three years later, we were able to resign from the newspaper and work for our company full time.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
We are truly artists at heart. Both of us have been drawing and creating for as long as we can remember.
Karsten began his career as a freelance graphic designer, then got a job as a graphic designer for the Florida Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville, Florida. In 2001, he moved to Fort Lauderdale to work for the South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper as a senior graphic journalist, and eventually was promoted to the assistant graphics director. In that time, he’s won a few awards, taught a few workshops, and was a member of a couple of professional groups.
Belinda also started in the newspaper industry. She has been designing newspaper pages since high school and had her first internship as a Chips Quinn Minority Scholar at the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper in 1999. After college, she worked as a page designer at the Baltimore Sun, and did a two-year professional internship to learn more about graphic design at the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix. By 2003, she moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to work at her dream newspaper, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel where she made her way up to a senior graphics reporter. It was at the Sun-Sentinel where they met. Today, Belinda is also an adjunct professor at the University of Miami’s School of Communication teaching multimedia design, web design, and infographics. She also holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Motion Media Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
In 2008, while at the Sun Sentinel, we began freelancing to earn extra money and founded our creative agency, KarBel Multimedia the following year. We started with a few clients and focused on offering infographics at a time when they were becoming very popular on social media. But our big break came when one of our clients asked us to create over 50 infographics for their new software application. This project catapulted us out of the newsroom and into running a full-time small business.
Today, our company, KarBel Multimedia, has expanded its services to include graphic design, infographics, motion graphics and data visualization. We have created visual solutions for brands such as Google, Fortune Magazine, Stand Up To Cancer, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Microsoft. We pride ourselves on being a one-stop shop and offer more than traditional graphic design services that span across multiple platforms. Our journalism background also allows us to offer research, data analysis, data visualization, and writing services as well.
Our motto is to engage, educate and grow the audience, and we’re certainly capable of helping our clients visualize design solutions to fit any project, goal, or initiative. We believe our clients should maintain a voice in the design process and make sure they’re part of the brainstorming and development stages of each project. We try to be flexible with our clients’ needs and do what we can to ensure the success of their project.
How’d you meet your business partner?
We met when Belinda was interviewing for a job in the graphics department at the South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper in January 2003. Karsten was a senior graphics reporter who took her to lunch as a part of the interview process. On the last day of the interview, Belinda chose to sit with him to learn more about the department before heading to the airport to return home. We quickly bonded over a shared love of superhero movies, Krispy Kreme donuts, and Publix subs. We were laughing and joking so much that the rest of the department slowly gravitated towards us to hear what we were saying. Belinda recalls being afraid she was talking too much and in danger of not getting the job. In truth, Karsten is typically quiet and reserved at work, so that conversation was out of character for him. Needless to say, she started about two months later.
Karsten became her unofficial mentor and taught Belinda the ins and outs of infographic design and how to navigate the department. Their bond continued to grow professionally and personally for more than four years, until that cold February day at the St. Augustine lighthouse when Karsten asked her to marry him.
Funding your business – tell us the story of how you put together the initial capital you needed to start your business?
We used our savings to start and maintain our company. Our plan was to use any money made through freelance projects to slowly get our business off the ground. Having personal computers helped funnel money to upgrade software, buy servers, purchase advertising, join professional mentorships, and even pay the legal fees to incorporate an LLC. We utilized as many free or basic accounts as possible to save money. We knew a website was critical to the success of our business. Thankfully we had website design skills that enabled us to build a WordPress site quickly and cheaply. We needed to build our clientele, and quickly learned through research that the best way to advertise was through social media and Google. But more importantly, we needed to build a large financial cushion in hopes we could be able to leave our newspaper jobs and work full time on our company. As the clientele grew, so did our savings.
It took three years of hard work and long nights, often finishing a 10-hour shifts only to come home and stay up nights or work through weekends to find new work or finish projects. But when the day came to resign from our regular jobs, it was the most freeing experience and made the hard work worth it.
- Website: https://www.karbelmultimedia.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karbelmultimedia/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karbelmultimedia
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/karbel-multimedia/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/KarBelM