Kerry Tustin, Founder and Creative Director of St. Augustine’s Hybrid Design, moved from New Jersey to Florida to study Business, Graphic Design and Fine Art at Flagler College. After graduation, she worked with a local advertising agency before earning her Master’s Degree at Syracuse University, where she notes that her program’s curriculum was based in Graphic Design but also heavily focused on agency operations.
“Our professors were from all over the world,” she said. “They ran huge successful advertising agencies in places like Chicago, New York, Toronto and London. These were people who ran ad campaigns for global companies like FedEx, Bud Light and Starbucks. It was an incredible experience.”
Tustin then returned to Flagler College and completed an eight-year term as Assistant Professor of Graphic Design. “I took a sabbatical with plans to come back to Flagler,” she said. “But when I had my third child, my plans changed. I really wanted to get back into the field, but I also wanted more flexibility. That’s why I started my own business.”
Since 2002, Hybrid Design has expanded to include a team of eight professionals who provide an array of advertising, marketing, design and web solutions. Tustin explained her thoughts on her team and how Hybrid Design sets itself apart. “Some studios are just design studios and focus only on design work,” she said. “An advertising agency, like ours, will focus on the big picture for our clients. We look at how all forms of media contribute to the entire campaign. We finesse each campaign with appropriate advertising to meet the demands of our clients while staying within their budgets. Our work environment is also something that sets us apart. Our people love what they do, and we all work really well together. We have different talents that all complement one another. We’re truly a team—and this philosophy includes our clients. They’re part of the team as well.”
Like any business, Hybrid Design has its challenges, but the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 provided an unlikely boost. “The recession actually had a positive effect for us,” Tustin said. “For those who can afford it, advertising is great during a recession. Many businesses will cut their ad budgets, but that’s detrimental to their future sales. The businesses that have money actually put more money into their advertising budgets when times are hard. They’re able to rise to the top in a market where competitors who can’t afford to advertise are losing market share. We actually grew our business during the recession.”
Over the next five years, Tustin anticipates adding one or two more team members per year. With technology constantly changing, she expects to invent new and creative ways to advertise and drive more business toward her clients. “The bottom line is that more advertising equals more business,” she said.
Tustin offers up some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “Thoughtfully build a strong and talented team,” she said. “And make sure your team includes both internal and external players. The banks you work with and the vendors that help you get your product or service out are just as important as your internal team. Also remember that customer service is most important not when things are going well, but when problems arise. That’s when the power of great customer service comes into play.”
Interested in more business-building tips? Tustin recommends a podcast called “Building a Business That Lasts” by Jay Owen.
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