You have a vision and now you want to see it come to life. Where do you start? How do you begin to help it materialize? I don’t know about you, but I am a visual person. My next step was reaching out to graphic artist, Vicky Gouge.
Vicky Gouge is the owner of Full Moon Design Group, a Texas based graphic design and print marketing company with a focus on small to medium sized businesses.
Spoiler alert: She is the brains behind the How She Got Here website and logo. She truly helped How She Got Here come to life.
A few of my favorite highlights from our conversation include:
– Don’t be afraid to utilize the knowledge of others.
– Know your financial situation. Budgets aren’t always fun to talk about, but they are necessary.
– Failure is inevitable. Learn from it.
– Even in todays digital world there is still value in networking and meeting people in person.
Welcome: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.
Intro: Hey Pod Sisters! I am so excited about todays guest. That is because I get to introduce you to one of the gurus behind the scenes at How She Got Here. Today’s guest is Vicky Gouge. Vicky is the owner of Full Moon Design Group. She is my graphic artist, website developer and basically all things web related wizard. I am so excited she was willing to come on and share a little bit about herself and her business. So without further ado, here’s Vicky.
Susan: Okay, Vicky, I am so excited to have you with me today. For my guests who have not listened to a podcast, who have not heard me talk about you before, you are my internet guru. You are the person I call whenever I have a website question, whenever I have a “how do I make this happen” question. And there is a lot of work that you do for How She Got Here behind the scenes. So it is fantastic to finally have you on. I’m so excited.
Vicky: I’m happy to be here and join you on this podcast today.
Susan: Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you got started, and then how Full Moon kind of came into being. That’s the name of your company.
Vicky: Yes, so my name is Vicky Gouge, I own a company called Full Moon Design Group. And we are a full service graphic design and web development company. We started April 1 of 2004—and that’s no joke, so recently celebrated my company’s 15th birthday. Prior to that, I went to college at Southwest Texas University and received my degree in art and journalism. And then also at the same time, got my secondary education certification with the idea that from college, I wanted to teach high school, which I did, directly out of college.
I landed my first job down in Austin, Texas, and I taught at a local high school down there. I taught art, yearbook, and photojournalism. At the time I was going to college, they didn’t really have any formalized graphic design programs. And I had always had a passion for art, which is why I got my degree in art. And one of the things that I learned quickly when I started teaching was the students in the yearbook and photo journalism classes were beginning to lay out the page designs on the computer using PageMaker, which I had very, very little knowledge about. And so I was kind of thrown into a gauntlet, so to speak, where I had to learn desktop publishing and design on the fly very quickly.
And I also utilized what my students knew, you know, I wasn’t afraid to ask them questions, how did you make that work on the computer? And so on. And then two years in the teaching, I decided that it just wasn’t a great passion of mine. But one of the things that I really enjoyed doing was graphic design within the yearbook and photo journalism class. So I sought out a career in graphic design and got an entry level position as an advertising coordinator for Henry S Miller Realtors for their Austin offices. And that’s really kind of how I got my start. Four years after that, we launched Full Moon Design Group, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Susan: That is really cool. I did not realize you had been in education prior to this. That’s really interesting. Before you got into graphic design, what was your favorite medium of art? Did you have one?
Vicky: Well, you know, when I was teaching art in high school, I had just about any medium available to me—we even had a kiln in our classroom for ceramics instruction and so on. I would say overall, over the years, my favorite has been acrylic on canvas, and just some pencil and paper, so to speak. I unfortunately don’t get lots of opportunities to do that type of artwork anymore because I am forced to creatively give everything I have during the day when I’m working. So at the end of the day, I’m creatively kind of pooped in a way and so I haven’t been able to paint in some time.
Susan: I think that’s so interesting. Stephen talks about that, as well. He was an English and government major in college and has since gone into law and is an attorney. But he writes all day long for a living. And he used to write beautiful stories and poetry and that kind of stuff and he finds the exact same issue that because he gives everything to his career during the day, which is great. He has nothing left for it on a more fun, creative scale outside the office. So that’s interesting and sad, in a way, I think.
Vicky: Yeah, but you know, I mean, given my profession and what I do for a living, I still feel like I haven’t abandoned my creativity, I’m just applying it in a different way, and I do that for my clients. There are some projects that don’t really require all that much from a creative standpoint, but then I work on projects that do, you know? So I mean, I still feel like I’m satisfying that natural urge that I have to be creative throughout the day.
Susan: Well, it seems like you found an interesting way to do it. And I think that’s really cool. I’m going to jump a little bit let, since we’re kind of already talking about it. Let’s talk a little bit about—without sharing any trade secrets, let’s talk a little bit about your process. And we can even use me for an example, if you want to, or you can use something you’re currently working on, I don’t really care. How do you get from A to B in helping a client figure out, maybe a logo or something?
Vicky: Okay, once I have a relationship with the client or I’ve been introduced and let’s just say they need a logo, I’ll use you as an example, you know, you came to me with this vision of what you wanted and we started with the logo design. And from a brand perspective, I always tell clients that your logo is ultimately the foundation of your brand, right. So everything that we do kind of bounces off what that ultimate like final logo design becomes, you know? And so that would be the…If I had a new client that was launching a new business of some sort, then we would initially talk about logo design. What I try to do is I try to just have a conversation about what they might envision their logo looking like, and I provide them a questionnaire to try to extract preferences and color options that they’d like to see incorporated, would they like to see any sort of illustration incorporated with their business name, and so on. And that’s really what we use as the launch pad for us to create the logo designs, and usually will provide a batch of initial logo designs, and then we’ll start the editing or proofing process from there.
And I found that overall, the processes worked really well. There have been a few occasions, I mean, I’ve done hundreds of logos over the years and I mean, there have been a few occasions where we didn’t knock it out of the park. But we certainly worked with the client as long as it took to get them taken care of. So my goal is to really try to help work with and guide the individual or business to try to steer them in the right direction. And be as helpful as possible when it comes to that. A lot of people don’t understand the creative process, what we need in order to get them taken care of and so on. But traditionally, from the logo development, once we have that in place, then it’s a matter of building out their brand. And that might look like, you know, us doing some business cards, us doing an informational brochure that they can use when they’re out, selling or doing their business development activities, us handling the development of their website and so on.
And I’ve found over the years that clients really start to see their brand come to life when we’re working with them because at the end of the day, I tell clients, you want all of your stuff, like if you laid all of your items out on a tabletop, you want everything to have kind of a cohesive look and feel to it and it needs to be professional as well. That’s our goal. You know, we want to help small businesses succeed and flourish. And you know, just me doing this for so many years, I’ve learned a lot along the way. So that’s pretty much how our process works.
Susan: I’m going to ask you, if you can just jump back in time a little bit, because I’ve heard this from writers and I’m wondering if from artists’ perspectives, if they have some of the same trouble. Do you remember what it was like trying to create this for yourself? Did you find that difficult?
Vicky: It’s funny you ask that because when we first started the company, I had a business partner at the time, and we started under a completely different name. And realized about develop the brand, develop the logo, develop the business cards, all the print collateral, and then realized about six months into it, we received a cease and desist letter that our name was too close to another competitor in the same market, she had had her name for quite some time. And so we really didn’t have any recourse to try to retain that particular name. But at the time, we didn’t have a tremendous amount of brand equity, right. And I talked to clients about brand equity all the time. You know, as your brand grows over the years, and your logo or whatever becomes— you’re putting it out there more, it becomes an asset of your business, right?
So at that time, we didn’t have a whole lot of brand equity and so we changed our name to Full Moon Design Group, which was extremely difficult because the hardest part was trying to come up with a new name because everything that we came up with was already taken to a certain degree. And one day I was sitting on the couch on a Saturday watching the weather report and the forecaster was talking about a full moon. And I was like, “Huh, that’s kind of…That works, Full Moon Design Group.” And that’s more or less how I came up with the new business name.
And then, of course, building our brand, I feel like it was probably one of the most difficult because you want to create something that’s memorable and professional. And so it was hard, you know, the process was hard. I think it was more we just had to get it done. You know, we were already six months into business and we had to get it done. So we were able to get it done fairly quickly so I’m fortunate for that.
Susan: Well, I’m fortunate to have had you help me through that process, because it is quite a process, and I think it’s easy as an individual getting started to get kind of lost in the weeds. Somebody used the phrase the other day, “You can’t read the label if you’re inside the bottle.” And I just wonder, was it just you and your business partner? Like, who was on your team? Who might have been in the background not officially on your team, but who was kind of in your group, your inner circle group that you were talking through this with to kind of help you navigate those challenges and just to kind of get above and see the big picture?
Vicky: I think that’s a great question. So how Full Moon launched, I was an art director for a title company, Real Estate Title Company and I manage their marketing division. At that time we offered pre 2004, we offered marketing resources and designs and just about anything anybody in a real estate transaction would need as a part of the service that my title company provided. In March of 2004, the Texas Department of Insurance said, “Y’all can’t do that anymore.” And therefore all the marketing departments within all title companies within Texas, literally kind of shut down their operations. So with the full blessing of my title company, as well as all the others, we launched Full Moon April 1, which was when the law took effect.
At that time, I had several employees working with me previous to that, but we were only able to bring over one full time employee. And then we quickly kind of grew kind of exponentially. I mean, I was very fortunate that in my world, I was able to bring over a book of business because these clients still needed these resources. It’s not like they could just stop doing what they were doing and stop marketing their own business, they still had to reach out to somebody to get these materials designed or printed or produced or whatever that looked like. And so I’m very blessed and still thankful today that I was able to start my company the way I did because I started busy.
But I did realize that it was important to surround myself around experts who could support me, right? So, not everybody can be great at everything. And, for instance, I knew it was important to have a good small business attorney that I could rely on when the business name thing came up, making sure that our business paperwork was structured properly with the state of Texas. I knew it was important to have an accountant that I could rely on when it came to making sure that my bookkeeping was in order. I knew it was important to have a payroll processing service to ensure that my tax withholdings as well for me, as well as my employees was correct. And I try to tell small business owners starting all the time that it’s critical that if you know that you’re not great at something—like for me, I don’t like doing the books, I’d rather pay somebody to do my bookkeeping. It’s critical that you surround yourself around people that can help you. But it’s also very important that you budget for that, especially when a small business owner is just starting out, they need a budget for brand development, they need a budget for the attorneys to get their paperwork set up properly, they need a budget perhaps to figure out their bookkeeping solution. And so I knew early on that I needed to surround myself around these different connections. And in many ways I did that through—I met a lot of people through networking too, you know?
Susan: I think that is so cool that you kind of had the blessing of the firm you were with to be able to walk away with some of that business. That’s not always the case, and that is really, I think, a really, really cool thing. They must have been, my guess would be they were a smallish business, maybe not small-small but small enough to where they could see the value and having you still kind of be an outside part of the team, but also wanted you to continue to succeed.
Vicky: Absolutely. You know, I mean, we did have more attrition than we thought we would when we first started Full Moon. But that was okay. You know, I mean, we still had to…And again, I think just from a blessed perspective, we didn’t need any more business at that time, we were still working out our operational glitches that, you know, because we shut down our marketing department on the 31st and opened Full Moon on April 1, so we had a lot of things that we needed to work out and figure out along the way. And then, you know, once we were able to kind of slide into an operational routine in terms of workflow and what all that looked like, I realized that we needed to get out into the marketplace and begin networking our own company. So my primary focus was to attend as many networking organizations that I possibly could; find the ones that I felt a connection to, and attend those on a consistent basis. And that is specifically how I’ve been able to grow our small business sector over the years is through primarily networking.
Susan: One of the things you mentioned that I wanted to touch on before our call was how because of your business, because of where it’s located, a lot of it is on the web. You compete also on a global scale. Can you talk a little bit about what that’s like? Maybe some of the challenges you’ve run into, maybe some of the unexpected joys that you’ve run into?
Vicky: Yeah, I have lots to share about that. Several years ago, somebody told me or I heard or I read, I can’t remember, that graphic design was one of the top five dying industries in the US.
Susan: That cracks me up.
Vicky: At the time I was kind of crying laughing when I saw it. But I realized even before I did see that, that we are ultimately competing, to some extent, on a global scale. And it’s kind of like, the iPhone, or you the smartphone, right? All of the phones, one of their primary goals is to make sure that they are providing a camera that takes the best photos possible because obviously, that’s one of the most important features to a phone, a smartphone. But it doesn’t mean that everybody’s a good photographer, right? Even though they have a great camera in their hand or their pocket or their purse all day, every day, not everybody is a great photographer. Actually, it takes a lot of knowledge and understanding to be a professional photographer. Well, the same can apply to my industry, where you have all of these online templated tools and options where a typical client or person or individual can go online and create like their own marketing postcard or flyer business card and so on, right? Or they can go on to these websites where you push out what you want, like in terms of a logo, “Hey, I want a logo, I’m willing to spend this much on it,” and you get 100 designs submitted from designers all over the world, right?
So that’s where we compete within a global market. I’m actually okay with that now. I mean, it’s taken some time, I was a little discouraged when I saw that because I’m like, “Oh, I’m in a dying industry.” But I did realize along the way that there’s still value to the service and the knowledge, right? So it’s somebody like yourself being able to pick up the phone, call me, talk to me about what you’re looking to do. Talking about marketing strategies, and how do you intend to market your business? So we create this, what are you going to do with it? And trying to help guide the client in the right direction to ensure they get the best bang for their buck? I mean, I’ve had many, many, many conversations over the years with clients who want to implement a direct mail campaign, which by the way, is still very successful, if it’s done well and correctly and frequently. But they were thinking, “Oh, I just want to mail something out every two to four months.” And I said, “Well, why would you even waste your money? Direct mail is about frequency and consistency, and if you don’t have the budget, let’s talk about another option that that you could do, or that you could use to market your business that might be more fruitful.”
And so I’m okay with turning business down. My goal is to build a healthy client relationship. I don’t want just one job from a client, I want to be able to work with them, build their brand, help them market their business, help them and support them in becoming successful within their company and I want to have relationships that last for years. I still have client relationships that I’ve retained since my corporate days. And I value those significantly, and they value what I do. And just to be able to know that they can reach out to me, make a request, and I take care of them.
Susan: Yes, you absolutely do that. And I will just say for listeners who are thinking about starting something or have started something, and you realize, like, maybe you did go out there and get one of those templates or do something like that and it’s not your forte, you can’t do all the things. I mean, I guess you can, but you can’t do all the things well. And I know we all have different budgets, and that plays into everything, and I get that. But you really do have to…It goes back to what you said when you started your business, you had your core group of “I had the attorney, I had the accountant, I had those things.” This is also a very, very important piece because it is what everybody sees, right?
Vicky: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.
Susan: I mean, I cannot say enough good things about how you have worked with me helped me when it’s even the smallest stuff like a stupid form on the website, and what a pain in the butt those can be. You’ve just been overly patient and overly helpful and I can’t say enough good things.
So you’re a creative, you have a business…You’re a business person but you’re a creative, I would guess that sometimes, maybe I have this issue, you might lose focus. Or you might lack the inspiration that you really need to get a project done. Or you might just be burned out from a project and you still have other stuff that has to get done and you’re like, “I’m out of energy.” Where do you go for inspiration when you’re just at rock bottom?
Vicky: That’s a great question. Not to be crass but you know, I’ve told people over the years, I can’t just poop out a great design right off the, you know, on a whim. And sometimes it takes time and energy to come up with something that I feel confident to pass to the client for review. And yeah, so I mean, there are many times throughout on a monthly basis, let’s say, where I’m just, you know, I’m dry, I can’t come up with an idea, it’s just for whatever reason, I’m just not creative that particular day. I mean, thankfully, I do have a full time employee; he also works out of Austin. And so whenever I’m feeling that way, you know, I’ll kick something over to Matt perhaps, or if I’m trying to come up with inspiration, then usually what I do is I’ll just start googling, like, I’ll just start googling all kinds of stuff, I mean, random terms. And it’s so funny because for remarketing, I’m constantly getting remarketed on for things that I’m googling for clients to clear my cache. That’s an SEO (search engine optimization) term, by the way…
Susan: That’s really funny.
Vicky: Yeah. So I jump online, I just start looking at different things. I might look at—and this is maybe where the creative piece comes into it, I might look at say, a painting or an illustration or something, you know, a piece of artwork or whatever and I might see a little piece of that that inspires me, right? That I’m like, “Oh, I really like kind of that texture that they utilize in the painting,” or whatever. And then I kind of get inspired. So I mean, I do resort to googling quite a bit just to try to help with inspiration.
And then there are other times when, I mean, it’s just I’m knocking it out of the park, you know? So it’s an ebb and flow type of situation. The nature of our industry, unfortunately, does require us to work fairly quickly from a creative standpoint. So we’ve trained ourselves over the years to work on these projects in a more expedited manner. And I think clients come to appreciate that as well.
Susan: One other question that crossed my mind—and I think I sent this to you. But you’ve been on your own now—and I didn’t realize it’s been 15 years. You’ve had Full Moon for 15 years? What are some things that you would go back and tell yourself then that you wish you had known if you were going out on your own? Because I think a lot of our listeners are at places in their lives where they’re making changes. And I feel like we’re in a time in history where there are a lot of changes being made. And I don’t know if it’s—it’s probably not all women, I would think a good number of my listeners are really thinking about where differences can be made in the world. And so if they’re thinking about maybe a career change, or they’re thinking about using the skills that they have and parlaying it into something else and going out on their own, what are some things you wish you had known then that you know now?
Vicky: So just to back pedal a little bit to your question, you know, I look at business owners in a tribal way, you know, you can’t have a tribe without chiefs and Indians, right? And my point is that not everybody is meant to be a business owner, right? It’s just that’s not what they’re cut out to do. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. And I would say if somebody were thinking about making the leap to do their own thing, it’s important, like I said before, to surround yourself with experts that can help support you. It’s important to have not only a budget to pay these experts to help you, but a budget to live on while you’re getting started.
I would say that I don’t really have any regrets because many, many, many, many, many failures have led to success. And so anybody that hasn’t experienced a lot of failures when they’re just starting their company, I would be surprised because those are the things that make the learning experience memorable, and so you don’t make the same mistakes again. And, you know, I’ve done operationally, I mean, I think about when we first started Full Moon versus how I operate my business now, it’s completely different. I’ve learned along the way to become more efficient. I’ve learned to ask my vendors, like what would be helpful to you to make your process more efficient, so we can keep everything streamlined? So I asked a lot of questions. And so I don’t really have any advice other than, you know, if you’re going to take the leap, go in off the high dive into the deep end and go full force. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row when it comes to getting your business setup properly the way it needs to be, make sure you have your brand developed, and just dive in, start meeting people. I predominantly meet people through networking, that’s my primary source for sales. But I would encourage anybody that’s thinking about it, do it, you know, what’s the worst that could happen? You know, they realize that that’s not meant for them, they’d rather go work for a company with benefits or whatever that looks like, then you can always go back to work for a company.
Susan: That is a really good point. And you were really instrumental in helping me finally jump. I mean, I think I was definitely one of those. In the beginning, I knew what I wanted to do, but I was scared to push it out. We had everything set up. I’ll never forget it. And one day you were just like, “Dude, it’s ready to go. Like, we can just hit the button now.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Are you…? Are you sure??
Vicky: Well, yeah. I mean, there are some people that fall in to the analysis paralysis situation. And I’m not saying that you were…
Susan: Oh, no, I totally did.
Vicky: It was just a fear of what people might think you were trying to do, which is a little bit different. It’s like, okay, you know. And I remember you and I had a discussion early on the phone, I think before I even developed a website for you. I was like, “Okay, well, you know, if you build it, how are you going to get people there?” And we talked about that and social engagement and so on. And I really just try to encourage clients that, you know, it’s not about being absolutely right, it’s just about getting it out there. And then if you realize you need to make some changes along the way, make changes. A business is a living, breathing, organic thing. And so if the pendulum stops, you’re not making any money. So sometimes it’s going to go backwards, you know, you made a decision that maybe wasn’t in the best interest of yourself or the company. And then sometimes you’re going to propel forward. You’ve aligned yourself with partners or networking opportunities that start feeding you additional business or referrals. So it’s a constantly moving organic thing. And that’s what I try to tell people all the time, “Let’s just get this done.” No one’s going to look at you and say, oh, you know, you’re horrible person because you made a mistake on something. I think, generally, it’s human nature for us to want to see our friends and peers and humans succeed by default.
Susan: I like that. I like that a lot. Well, I really appreciate your time today. Before I let you go, would you tell our audience—and I will make sure to link this in the show notes afterwards. Would you tell us where we can find you, online, if Full Moon has social? Where can we find you?
Vicky: Yeah, absolutely. My website is fullmoondesigngroup.com, and so you can check out our portfolio. You know, I’m kind of like a what? A cobbler’s daughter that doesn’t have any shoes, but I do try to keep our portfolio updated as much as possible. So most of the work that you’re going to see on there is recent work that we’ve done. And then as well as I do have a Facebook page, FMDG Austin. And let’s see, I do have a Twitter account, which honestly, for my business, I don’t use all that much. And one of the things that I talk with clients about because they feel like they need to use every tool out there that’s available to them, and I tell them they don’t, that they should focus on a couple of different things. And then start there and then maybe do something else, start layering in their marketing, networking and online activities, you know? So I’ll usually encourage clients to just start small and then start building from there.
Susan: That is such a good point, because we could spend a whole other 8 million hours talking about how much time social media takes up. And it’s a good thing. It’s a great marketing tool, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I really, really appreciate it. It has been great to talk with you not about craziness on the website, but just to have a good conversation with you and talk a little bit more about what you do. So thanks for sharing today, Vicky. I really appreciate you being here.
Vicky: Thanks so much, Susan. And I hope some of this information is helpful for your audience.
Susan: Aww thanks, friend.
Outro: Hey Pod Sisters, thanks so much for joining me today. If you’re enjoying this podcast, head on over to iTunes or your favorite podcast app and hit subscribe. And while you’re there, I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it in order to make it easier for others to find. We also have a private Facebook group, the How She Got Here community page and would love to have you join us there to continue the conversation on today’s episode, as well as any other fun How She Got Here content. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for listening. I’ll see ya soon.