Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in web design but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Andrea Shirey, Founder of One Nine Design, located in Vienna, WV, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Throughout my almost twenty years of experience in design, fundraising, and marketing, from a newspaper advertising manager to a higher-education fundraiser and non-profit executive, one thing has been consistent - I understood the value of making a great first impression.

During my time as Executive Director at our local United Way, I began to see a disturbing trend in the community -- non-profits who were compromising on professional and critical marketing elements because of limited resources - either time, money, or both. As I tried to teach them about the importance of a mobile-friendly, well-designed website that would help them raise more funding, I kept hearing the same responses. It was either "we don't have access to edit our own site," "we don't know how to use it," or "we can't afford to pay someone to fix it."

So when I started toying with the idea of starting my own company, I created a business to help "the small shop" find the balance between professional branding and breaking the budget. Due to demand, I eventually started including small businesses as clients. Six years later, One Nine Design provides non-profits and small businesses with custom website design, non-profit templates, and digital marketing strategies.

Tell us about yourself

I chose to create One Nine Design out of the desire to do good work for the non-profit community on my own terms. I wanted the ability to make my family a priority and give them the best part of me, not what was left at the end of my day. I launched One Nine Design in 2017 after leaving the full-time workforce the previous year. After working with and leading non-profit organizations for the previous 17 years, it was odd, to say the least, to be without a job for really the first time in my life. Though my exit from the full-time, outside-the-home work world was necessary for my mental health and my desire to be more present with my family, I knew I still had something within me to contribute to the community where I was born and raised.

I'm motivated by the work 90% of the time. I have interesting clients who are doing incredible work, and I truly enjoy seeing the return they receive when they invest in professional digital marketing. Reading the testimonials my clients leave for me after a successful project keeps me going - I know I brought value to their organization which is immensely gratifying.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner was leading an initiative to build a vaccine-scheduling website in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with our local health department and United Way, I built the foundation of a website portal so that our local community could schedule a vaccine appointment online. The project resulted in over 20,000 members of our community getting vaccinated. As a result of the collaborative nature of the project and the tangible result of saving lives through vaccinations, this project was immensely rewarding.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The most challenging part of running my business is ensuring I stay true to why I started it in the first place. In this culture of hustle and do more and be more, it's easy to get caught up in trying to fit into that mold. But that's not why I started, and that's not why I choose to do the work. I have to keep myself centered on the work and enjoy the process. I am a perfectionist and tend to fall into the trap of wanting to please others. I've learned (and am still learning) how to let go of that. I am not the right fit for everyone, and that's okay. I try diligently to stay in my own lane, take the projects I think I'm suited best for, and let the others go. More and more, I say no to things that do not bring me joy. I realize that's a privilege, and I'm grateful for that.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Don't assume business ownership is out of reach for you. Almost every community has resources to help potential entrepreneurs get started.
  2. Don't be afraid to fail. In the words of the wise Brene Brown, "There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period." If you are afraid to fail, you're likely to hold back on many great ideas that could transform your journey.
  3. Embrace the process. When you get caught up in the outcomes, you miss a great deal of the joy of building and growing a business.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.