PrestoBox ~ From Big Budgets to Very Small Ones

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How one agency owner decided to change her path.

I’m sometimes asked how PrestoBox, an online company that automates the design of logos, business cards, and websites for small business owners, got started. Like many entrepreneurs, I saw a pain point in the marketplace and decided to take action.

I had the fortune of running 14 Hands Agency (originally The Shop Advertising), a Bend-based branding and advertising agency, for 12 years. Over the years, we had terrific clients: Bend Memorial Clinic, Deschutes Public Library, COCC, The Shops at the Old Mill District and Partners in Care, to name just a few. In 2008 we opened an office in Portland and expanded our client base to include Ellington Handbags and Portland Dermatology Clinic.

What a ride it was! As our agency grew, our goal was always to get bigger clients – and bigger budgets. It was the only way we could fuel the increasing overhead costs for the talent and time it took to create these carefully crafted brands. We were on a hamster wheel that was getting trickier and trickier to sustain.

In the midst of this exciting yet precarious growth, small business owners would sometimes show up on our doorstep. They’d say, “OK, I’m ready to get branded!” And we’d say “Great! It will cost you $20,000.” And not surprisingly, the small business owner would leave as quickly as they had shown up.

As much as I loved my life as an agency owner, something just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right that small companies were denied the chance to build a brand that could generate real business results. And yet my hands were tied: I simply couldn’t afford to take on a branding project without charging a substantial fee to cover my baseline costs.

That got me thinking: What if I took the best practices of design and branding and married them with technology? Could I then provide agency guidance and better design – at affordable prices?

I gathered a team of designers, engineers, e-commerce experts and business veterans. Working closely together, we fused our years of branding experience with the latest in technology, resulting in an online company called PrestoBox that automatically matches the customer with a brand recommendation, including colors, fonts, and images. PrestoBox simulates what an agency does: namely, helping a customer make design choices that will help them stand out in the marketplace.

We then created our three core branding products: logos, business cards, and websites. We plugged in a high-powered technology to beef up our logo builder so that customers could instantly have access to over 50,000 unique logo possibilities. We created playful and colorful patterns for the business cards to give customers the chance to express their personal style. And we partnered with a major website-builder company to create state-of-the-art websites that are mobile-responsive and easily updated through a user-friendly content management system.

In 2013, we started testing our products in the marketplace. Keeping in close touch with our first 100 customers, we’ve learned what’s working and what’s not. Based on this input, we’ve been refining our products every day. In keeping with our motto to make good design affordable, most of our branding packages cost less than $100.

Word about PrestoBox has spread. We now have customers in England, Australia, South Africa and France. We’re working on partnerships with an international office supply store, a worldwide website company and a global business planning e-commerce company, in an effort to bring automated branding to their millions of small business customers.

We still have a long way to go, but we’re thrilled to be making a difference in the lives of small business owners. As Dar Macy, owner of Encompass4U, a Bend bookkeeping firm, shared, “PrestoBox is simple, fun, and affordable. Now I have an online presence so I can really grow my business. Thanks, PrestoBox!”

And big thank you to you, Dar – and to the rest of our amazing small business customers.

Elicia Putnam, CEO, elicia@prestobox.com, 541-610-9727

(Photo above courtesy of PrestoBox)
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Elicia Putnam of PrestoBox

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