Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it? I do graphic design. I help small businesses and organizations communicate with their customers, using clear and catchy visual designs. That includes everything from branding to creating a business' identity, Web design and DVDs. I've been working as a designer for 13 years, and the company has been around since 2004.
Business: Align Visual Arts & Communications
Owner: Jeff Altemus
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I've been here 17 years. Before that I was in Portland, but I'm originally from Cleveland.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? I had been working in the publishing industry, and my formal education was in English Lit. I worked for a firm in Ashland called Portable Press. While I was there, I discovered I had a knack and passion for graphic design.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I would have garnered more business education before starting. The administrative end of the business is more intense than I would've imagined, and I don't have a natural business sense.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? The toughest decision was staying in business. When things got tight in 2008 and 2009, fewer businesses were spending money on anything but the basics. A smart move might have been to close shop and move on, but I toughed it out. I love what I do, and thankfully it's paid off.
Who are your competitors? Right now, there is no shortage of work. I think highly of Studio FuwaFuwa in Medford, Rogue Design Group in Ashland, and Ruby Slipper Design in Ashland.
What are your goals? I want to continue to grow the business but still provide my clients with the solid work and the personal connection they expect. I'm reaching out to other designers, to draw up a roster of talent to build on. Primarily I'm in the valley, but I do have a couple of national clients. I'm not thinking of expanding to Portland; I do have colleagues who have done that, but I'm looking to expand my presence in the valley.
What training or education did you need? I learned a great deal of what I know on the job with Portable Press. I'm self-taught, as different things were needed I winged it. After I left, I studied design on my own for a few years. I got my English literature degree at Kent State University. I continue to develop my skills online, or I'll go to San Francisco or Portland for workshops.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Find something you are passionate about. You better love what you do because you will be doing so much of it, if you are lucky. If you don't have a natural sense for business, get some business education. Some people have parents who were good business people and model that. Don't be shy about asking for help, learn as much as possible and be curious. The thing that has paid off for me more than anything is tenacity; it's invaluable.