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Founders

Company

DesignHub

600 W Michigan Ave
Saline, MI 48176

Chris Kochmanski

What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
I have attended many, many professional conferences and seminars during my 30-plus years in the marketing and advertising businesses, mainly in the areas of business-to- business marketing, direct marketing, and interactive marketing. I have also taken the Solution Selling and Sandler Sales Training courses.

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
DesignHub's first client of note was Thompson Associates, an Ann Arbor-based location intelligence company, mainly serving retail and restaurant chains with software tools and consulting. DesignHub's co-founders, Karen Ragland and Ted Chesky, were introduced to Thompson Associates while working together for another creative services and marketing firm. When that firm folded, Karen and Ted formed DesignHub (I joined them in the business a couple of years later), and Thompson Associates got in touch about working with them. We did much for Thompson Associates over the next decade, even after they were acquired by MapInfo Corp. of Troy, New York. However, we have largely lost touch with the Thompson Associates crew since the company was acquired again, by PitneyBowes.

Where did you find your first employee?
Karen Ted, and I are partners and equal co-owners of DesignHub. Our full-time employee, Jason West, approached us about doing freelance work for us about three years ago. We liked working with him so much, we offered him a job, and he has been with us since.

Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
We've had a couple of interns, but not for a few years, and each intern was with us only for a few months in the summer. We found we're not a particularly good fit for interns. We're small, and we're always cranking so hard on deadline work, we couldn't pay much attention to them.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We established DesignHub with our own funds, and we remain entirely self-funded. We bank with Bank of Ann Arbor, and have a line of credit with them. We run our finances very conservatively. We rarely go very deep into the credit line.

What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
We're all Michiganders and Midwesterners at heart, and we love doing business here, even if the regional economy has its challenges. Fortunately, Washtenaw County, where most of our clients are based, is relatively healthy, economically, and our tight, long-lasting relationships with a number of regional clients has helped to keep our business steady and, with a few not-too-jarring bumps along the way, growing.

If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
What I'd like to see change in the region: more sun in the winter (I don't mind the cold). More seriously, I'm convinced that Detroit will eventually enjoy a vigorous revival, and become something new, even more interesting, and cooler than ever. I can see it starting to happen, and I hope it gathers momentum, because I'm worried that some very beautiful neighborhoods within the city and close suburbs, with great potential for renewal, could slip beyond a point where people are willing to invest much in them.

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