Krista Pellow - Refine Digital Media

Tell us about yourself

Thank you, London, for taking time to learn more about me and Refine Digital Media. 

My Name is Krista Pellow, and I was born and raised in the Forest City. I’ve been a professional Graphic Designer for 15 years working for various printing and design firms, freelancing design, content strategy consulting and management. I graduated with an advanced diploma in Graphic Design, a post graduate in 3D Animation and most recently studied my Bachelor of Professional Arts. I am also a mother to two incredibly sweet, funny and energetic children. My Daughter is 10 and my Son is 3. 

Throughout my working career, I have gained a wide variety of experience in many applications of media, design, and client relations. This cocktail of skills has allowed me to successfully work hand in hand with clients to properly determine the needs of their business with a people driven focus. My vision has always been people-focused and directed by my own personal standards of what I would expect from a service + product lead business. I have built a wide variety of leadership skills, time management applications, as well as teaching and training programs in various capacities, which allow me to adapt to many unique situations in business. I am driven and motivated by my children and supported by my husband to set an example for our kids that hard work pays off.

Tell us about your business

Refine Digital Media became a full-time business in 2018, under the name Refine Design • Creative Content Strategies and has recently taken on a new name inspired by refining the streams of services we offer our clients. Refine Design was originally named and registered as my freelancing design business name in 2010, the year my Daughter was born.

Refine Digital Media is a creative design and digital media agency. Our core services pillars are: Custom Graphic Design, Brand Development, Digital Media & Marketing, Content Strategies, Web Development and Digital Advertising Support. 

Refine Digital Media focuses on the unique digital marketing, design and media management needs of our clients. Our foundation and primary focus builds solutions as a partner to our clients to foster those relationships and services. We help guide strategic support across a variety of marketing platforms and remain engaged with clients, providing accountability in the process. We are dedicated to building trusted relationships and business growth with ongoing support and operate as an extension of the businesses we serve. 

Has your business been impacted by COVID-19? If so, how have you adapted?

Leading up to Covid-19, I had begun working with my junior design strategist and planning internship positions to develop and launch marketing initiatives for the business, creating new division planning and streamlining our client onboarding process. When Covid-19 shut down everything but essential businesses, I had to lay off my dedicated employee and pause internal growth planning. All the focus was directed 100% on supporting the client base to help them weather the storm the pandemic was serving up to their businesses. Some clients were forced to close the doors and some were able to operate as essential businesses. One thing they had in common was that they needed to drive their online presence more strongly than ever.  Web development, paid advertising and digital presence as a whole was paramount.  Launching all my focus into supporting those needs allowed me, in the process, to refine client support and made it clear where the direction of the business was headed. It was before the reopening phases of Covid-19 that, while I had to put the development of growth for my own business on hold, I was able to determine the needs and future direction of Refine. This included clients and the services we can provide for them. I dialed back down to the core of what this business model is: An extension of the client’s business first.  Refine Digital Media was a natural evolution from Refine Design - Creative Content Strategies. It’s been streamlined with additional areas for support and production. 

What led you to start this business?

Before I completed my first diploma in Graphic Design, I was already working part time in the industry as well as freelance and volunteer design jobs. These were great ways to grow my portfolio with a goal to achieve a full-time position as a Graphic Designer.  I worked for PinPoint Publications in London, and Sun Media in Woodstock both before and after my Daughter was born. When she was two, I returned for additional schooling and then began teaching at Fanshawe. Additionally, I was managing at GT’s on the Beach in the summer months along with designing their menus and promotional materials.

It was when I was on maternity leave in 2017 after having my Son that I decided it was time to think about what it would take to turn my freelance ‘side job’ into a ‘real job’.  So, with a 7-year-old and a new born at home, in the summer of 2017 I began surveying existing clients and friends for what it was about me that they valued most and keep coming back for; what were the main skill sets and services they had received that made them realize the value they found in what I provided. I then began building upon this feedback, in review of my skill sets, to determine what would translate effectively into a sustainable business. I also spent a great deal of time considering what it was I wanted to focus on and where I thought I could lead the business. I felt many times that summer like just throwing in the towel at the whole idea. I even told my husband I was ready to look at a different career stream all together! To his credit, he pushed me farther and encouraged me to see what I could make of this business first.  (In my defense, I was sleep deprived with a 3-month-old at the time and still trying to work on other jobs.)

Was there something that pushed you into being an entrepreneur?

I suppose it would sound cliché to say that it was something I had always planned for and/or conditioned myself for business, but that’s fairly accurate.  I began selling (not giving) my drawings and paintings to my family members at the age of four, with a full sales process including payment receipts. I then moved onto the digital platforms and coined the title “Working with Computers Pellow”.  To be fair, I was under the impression that everyone used business title since my father was a dentist: “Dr. Pellow”.

Fast-forward a few decades to juggling a young family and three jobs all in different business streams: management, teaching and design.  I knew that when my maternity leave ended after having my son, I wouldn’t be able to focus my attention on all three as well as my family.  I needed to have more control over my schedule, family time, childcare, school, after-school sports and overall family-work-life balance. Having developed this range of skills, it was finally time to see what I could make of it. I was already working all hours of the day, weekends, nights (you know the drill…), so it was time to do it for myself!

What is the #1 small business book/blog/website you would recommend?

Traction – Get a Grip of your Business. It’s incredibly insightful for any size of business. It’s personal and direct, and gets you thinking in all directions of business, independent of the industry you’re serving.  The systems throughout the book are so bendable for any style of business and management focus.

What advice would you give to someone starting a small business today?

Know your worth and the value of the services and products you provide. It’s very easy to get into a pattern of giving discounts, providing lower rates or doing extra work for free.

Don’t undervalue your skill set, abilities and unique offerings. Focus on your business model and niche areas of expertise. Trying to do everything that even slightly aligns with your business can easily get out of control.  Know what you do, and what you don’t, and what it’s worth. Always strive to work to your highest level. Hire skill sets that you lack so that you can delegate or defer the rest, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Click here to learn more about Refine Digital Media.

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