Looking forward and backward

TLDR: We’re reinventing everything. It’s time for joy.

LimeRed has been in business for 20 years, and the journey has been a rollercoaster — sometimes, one without seatbelts. From the exhilarating highs of creating some of our all-time greatest work with the best team to recessions, a pandemic, and lots of uncertainty, we find ourselves again in another season of profound change.

Can anyone relate? 

I thought it meant we “made it” when we hit $1 million in revenue in the last two years and had a growing team. But then everything crashed —  partly because of the state of the creative market (it’s terrible), an election year (notoriously rough), some of my decisions (I should have known better), some of the team’s decisions (expensive ones). A perfect shitstorm leaving no one untouched.

Most of the production team had to move on. I tried to make it not suck, but it did anyway. After 12 years of partnership, Demetrio has looked at his own life and has decided to pursue other things — like his music, it’s really cool.

Usually, I find change exciting — an opportunity to update, make something better, take a hard look. But this one — holy hell — it was a little too much to handle. There were a lot of big emotions and big decisions. But when the chaotic dust finally settled,  I had to embrace transformation.

Chaos demands courage, even if it’s shaky. It also demands forgiveness because we’re human, and sometimes, we don’t know what we should’ve said or done differently because we’re all just trying to survive. Life and small business is hard AF.

So, I had to press a hard reset and change everything. And I decided that I wanted everything to be easier and more fun. 

After doing this for 20 years, I realized that growing in revenue and complexity is a bullshit goal. If you want to do that, one or more of these three things has to happen:

  1. You have to squeeze yourself dry
  2. You have to squeeze your clients
  3. You have to squeeze your staff.

All of those options are terrible. Someone is always going to lose. And at the end of the day, all of the risks, all of the blowback, all of the debt is MINE. There are no safety nets for small business owners. Constant growth at someone’s or something’s detriment is what capitalism demands. I don’t want anything to do with it. It’s a trash way to treat people and the planet. 

Capitalism is the absolute worst. It runs with its buddies, white supremacy, and Christian nationalism and doesn’t give a rip about any of us. My goals for my life and work are more joy, freedom, love, beauty, and fun. These are opposing forces! And you know I’m always down for a good fight.

To get there, I am pushing a hard reset at LimeRed: 

  • I’m rethinking everything: how we sell, what we do, and how we do it.
  • I had to lose the old branding and make something new. There was too much attached to it, it was designed by consensus, and I wanted it to be mine again. 
  • I love the design and everything we do, and I’m good at it. So I’m back at it, doing what I love.
  • I don’t want to do any more long, complicated web builds. They are complex, expensive, require too many cooks, and aren’t profitable. The biggest one we can’t talk about anyway, so that’s a big bummer.
  • I want to be small and do the branding, messaging, consulting, and manageable web projects we nail every time and love doing. That’s it.

So LimeRed is now me, Lina, and Laura, and a handful of alliances with other small agencies. We can be flexible, scalable, profitable, and not burn out again.

We’re designing our work lives around our lives, not the other way around. We only get this one life.

We’re taking on a handful of clients and rediscovering our love for design. We all need more beauty and joy in our lives, and that’s what we’re making. The subject matter might be challenging, but it can be gorgeous. 

We have other interests, too: Lina runs Cove Chicago; check it out. Her work is unmatched. I am busy teaching home improvement workshops and with a team of women at Even Made. And Laura has a teenager! 

Thank you for being here with us and getting this far. It’s been a big, wild ride since 2004. We’d love to hear what you’re up to, too.

I’m excited to meet who we become next. 

Emily

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