We had the good fortune of connecting with David Duffee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Before I go into a field of business, the first thing that I think of is, “how can this product/service help someone?” To me, the most important thing that I get out of any job is the positive effect it has on others. Whether it’s designing and building a web experience for someone with an incredible idea, giving business advice, or cutting the neighbor’s yard, my biggest payment is a happy customer. The second thing I do is ask myself two questions. The number one thing I always ask myself is “Is there a real demographic in this field with a real need?” and if there is, the second question is, “Is this product/service scaleable and obtainable?” If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then I dive in. In this instance, I’ve started a web development and product design company. I know I can dive into this area based on the answers to the two questions I asked myself. “Is there a true demographic with a real need?” Absolutely. People come to me weekly, if not daily, with a crazy cool app idea that, in their eyes, could “change the world,” but they’re just the idea guy. So who is going to design their product? And what about web development? Every single business on the planet, especially in 2020, needs a website! But some people don’t know what a good design looks like, or they don’t know what needs to go on the site or even where to start when it comes to actually building a site and getting it live. So boom! There is a problem that needs to be solved. So is it scaleable and obtainable? I think so! Like I said, every business needs a website and there are an endless amount of businesses that have incredible supply to demands, but they don’t have a website. And just because others do have a website doesn’t mean it couldn’t use a little (or a lot) of work! I’ve seen some big companies with a web interface that’s still stuck in the dot-com era.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
So I’ll just give a brief (or I’ll try to be brief!) run down of my work thus far. So like I stated earlier, it really started when I was 8 years old. My friend and I had been cutting grass for friends and family and were ready to start getting real clients. So that summer we went door to door and started rounding up clients. I believe we had about 25 clients that summer, and we continued to cut grass for the years to come. Before we could drive we would walk our lawn mowers down the street, loaded up with weed-eaters, leaf blowers, and gas cans. But once we could drive we really split up the clients and started doing it separately for more money individually and because of schedule conflicts. As I got older, I would also take on odd jobs like taking out shrubs or hauling away tree limbs; anything to make my work day more interesting, gain new experience, and make extra money. So the summer after I graduated high school I had a guy ask me if we could fix a place in his yard. It was all dirt and needed grass. I had a guy working with me at the time and highly recommended sod. So we ordered some sod and went to install it (knowing nothing about sod at the time) and realized quickly that it did not match. Understanding you couldn’t return sod, I tried selling it on Facebook for a little more than I had paid for it, and offered delivery. To my surprise it sold in under 5 minutes. That’s when I realized the demand and started playing with prices. Once I found the price points for sod, I stopped cutting grass completely and started delivering it. That’s when I really broke through and started making a real amount of money. So the business grew and now I have a routine and during the spring I actually still sell sod for now. I don’t think it’s bad to make a little extra money during the week. For college I went to a tiny Christian college in Pasadena, CA called Providence Christian College. I had a 4 year goal to get a full-time paying job in marketing by the time I graduated. So after my first year I asked for an internship at Brighten Labs, LLC in Santa Monica, and they brought me in! I worked directly with the Director of Marketing there and he actually taught me tons about customer interviews and how to get the answers you really need rather than the answers you want. As time went by and my direct boss left, they asked my to take his place. I was learning a lot more at this job than I was in school; so after 3 semesters in college I decided to leave and work at Brighten. A little later, I met a guy from London who wanted to start a record label, and he had an incredible model for the company, but after I had already moved home to refocus on sod and save up for the move to London, some key pieces fell through and I decided to back out. I turned to really focus on the sod company, but eventually got pretty burnt out there. I wanted to get into a creative field where I could learn more about different types of people and how to create products for their individual demographic. I eventually heard about the UX/UI Bootcamp Professional Education program at Georgia Tech decided it was something I would really enjoy, so I went for it! I was accepted into the program, and after finishing, I’m so glad that I was able to take that course. I made incredible connections and learned so much. I was actually really fortunate there because my class size was only like 12 people by the end of it, and we had a main professor with 2 TAs who were all very invested in us. Right after this I actually partnered up with a classmate from the program and we designed and build our first website for a company out of Birmingham, AL. From there I’ve started getting clients through word of mouth and client recommendations. Moving forward, my current plan is to build up this web design and development business, and hopefully get more into application product design, and use that to fund my own App ideas in the future.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Honestly I’m not too sure! I know we would probably hit the malls and definitely snag a Braves game.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Absolutely! I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind set. I remember when I was like 8 years old, my best friend down the street started a lawn cutting business. If he hadn’t wanted to start back then, I’m not sure if I ever would’ve started other businesses. So shoutout to him and his parents for forcing us out of the house every summer to go make our own money! Also, someone who truly changed the way I view entrepreneurship and business development is Austin Kevitch. I worked for him a couple of years ago and the way he runs his office changed my entire lifestyle. He taught me to always stay positive and never shy away from an opportunity. While I was there we were trying to create a new app. He had founded Brighten, which is an app based on spreading positive vibes, which boomed back in 2015. When I got on board they were looking for something else to build. So he taught me how daily scrum meetings work, and how when we work together we can come up with some really cool ideas! He actually just launched a new dating app called Lox Club, and I would highly recommend checking it out! And if you want to know more about him or Lox Club I know The New York Times (Voyage should do one too. For real he’s the coolest guy ever, if you want his info hmu) just did an article on him!