Courtney Rowson and Amy Pastre are the creative directors and founding partners of Stitch Design Co., a multi-disciplinary studio of designers, developers and thinkers. As listeners and storytellers, they combine imaginative ideas with thoughtful design solutions to craft and cultivate brands.
We are grateful that they both were able to take time away from their full design schedule to share more about their decision to form a design partnership, what they love about working together, and how they've managed the growth of their team overtime.
Tell us about your paths to becoming the co-founding duo of Stitch Design Co. How did you decide to join forces and start a design firm together?
When we first moved to Charleston, the design community was relatively small. We met while working at an agency and quickly realized we shared similar interests both personally and professionally. We both had mutual respect for each other’s work and opinions. Over the course of the next few years, we continued on separate career paths but found ourselves bouncing ideas off of each other and talking about design and business. It was 5 years after we met that we decided to take the leap and form a company.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
At the time we started Stitch we had been independently working in Charleston each for 5 or 6 years. We both had fairly established networks, which we reached out to at the infancy of Stitch. We had a few key clients who put trust into our new company and we made sure not to let them down. We looked at the smallest job or client as a big opportunity and put lots of effort into every relationship and project that came our way. We started to share our work through submittals and our blog. Organically, people started to take notice and share. The more good work we were able to share the better our client base became.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
We have a daily job sheet which acts as a “to-do” list. This job sheet helps to keep the big deadlines in focus as well as the small tasks that pop up everyday on our radar. Identifying what has to happen each day vs. what we need to be thinking of a few weeks out helps us to create focus and priority within each work day.
What do you two love about working within a partnership?
There is always someone who can help solve a problem when the answer isn’t clear (which it rarely is in business). There is strength in numbers. We have found that two heads (and now 9 heads) are better than one.
What has been your greatest struggle as business owners so far?
We are fortunate enough to have a steady stream of inquiries. And while it would be very easy to say yes and quickly grow our staff and business, we are trying to grow in other ways. We have found that it is often times harder to stay small and be selective with the clients that we work with.
When did you two make the decision to grow your team and how has that growth been?
We have slowly added to our team overtime. Our first hire was a project coordinator. We were noticing that we needed help organizing our deadlines and keeping track of our projects so it felt like the first natural hire. It’s typically an organic decision based on our feeling about the work flow in our studio as well as any feedback that we are getting from our clients. We always try to look introspectively and find ways to improve our studio and client experiences.
As your team has grown how have your roles within Stitch evolved?
We still work similarly to when we started the company and are involved in all projects that flow through our studio. We work very collaboratively internally with our team, something we’ve tried to always make a part of our process.
Since you are both creative directors, how do you split up your work load?
Most projects begin with both of us heavily involved in the discovery and brand creation. As we mentioned previously, we work very closely and collaboratively, often times sitting together and brainstorming until we come up with a smart solution. Although we are in a much larger building, not much has changed since the day we opened our doors. We still share an office and sit side-by-side, working and re-working a design solution until we get it just right.
Do you have any advice for handling communication as a partnership and as leaders of a design team?
Communication is the key to a successful partnership. In the beginning, we talked morning, noon and night – constantly checking in to make sure we were handling a client situation correctly or checking in to make sure we were growing in the right way. Our husbands kindly suggested that maybe we had a problem! While we still constantly communicate, we have found a better work/life balance through the years and really try and focus on those types of questions while we’re in the studio. We also both try hard to make work as non-emotional as possible, which makes communication much easier.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating goals for ourselves as well as for Stitch. We work hard to make sure that our outward communication is in alignment with the clients that we are attracting. We believe in identifying future potential in Stitch and projecting ourselves forward in order to attract the client base we are most connected to. We have always believed that we are as good as our last project which constantly helps us do our best work. When we are focused doing our best work everything else seems to fall in place.
Do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
We’re lucky enough to have a job that isn’t life or death! Typically, graphic design can wait.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Time management, listening skills, problem solving.