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Names: Sheila Burkett and Julia Koelsch
Business: Spry Digital, a web design agency for small businesses
Industry: High Tech
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Reason for starting: We worked as independent contractors when Julia’s husband suggested partnering might provide the basis for an innovative and unique small business that could reach underserved markets. We founded Spry Digital in April 2010 with Julia’s husband, Ken, and another friend, Stacey, as the four original partners. Spry is a certified women-owned business that was completely self-funded.
We were excited about the emergence of free and low-cost technologies (like open source CMS platforms, Google Apps for Business, and cloud computing) that were becoming widely available to help small businesses with their web and IT needs, and saw an opportunity to help businesses and organizations take advantage of these platforms. We were both excited to help make businesses and organizations successful.
How do you define success? Sheila: “By growing as a person and making a difference in what I do each day.” Julia: “Building solutions for our clients that help them grow and be successful.”
Biggest Success: Forming Spry Digital is our biggest success. We’re really proud of starting it in the first place, and how we have grown and evolved over time. We put in a lot of sweat equity to get it off the ground and to become successful! Part of the reason we have such a heart for startups (and women-led endeavors) is because we know firsthand just how tough it can be, even when you have a solid business strategy.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Sheila: “Growing the business while not diminishing our customer service and quality.” Julia: “We usually have a few current projects going at one time, and we also provide support for many of our clients after the initial project is complete. So, time management for myself and my team is a big focus for me. Also, being married to one of your business partners can be a challenge. We have learned how to balance our work relationship and our personal relationship over time, but it’s always going to be a work in progress. For instance, we have learned how important it is to keep our professional relationship separate from our personal, which is good for our business as well as our marriage. In practice, this means that we try to maintain personal time, where we do things together outside of work, and don’t discuss work.”
Who is your most important role model? Sheila: “I seem to always jump to Margaret Thatcher and Eleanor Roosevelt. Both women were pioneers in my mind and set the stage for what is possible.” Julia: “Grace Hopper was a pioneer in computer programming. She is known for many “firsts”, such as building the first compiler, and for coining the term “computer bug”. But she was also a great mentor and teacher, and saw that role as just as important as the role she took in pioneering modern computing. And she was a riot to boot.”
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Edited by The Story Exchange