We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie Villeneuve and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, what do you want your legacy to be?
Legacy is not something that gets a lot of airtime in entrepreneurial circles, or at least in the ones that I’ve cruised through. Yet it is something that has been keenly in the forefront of my mind in the past few years.
Urtica Design is structured around two simple ideas. The first is raising up a stronger, more resilient community of businesses through strategy and design. The second is doing good while we do good work.
We have a program built into the business that gives back a portion of every client billable to non-profits who put on hot meals for hungry folk or help those who may fall through society’s cracks for any number of reasons. While it certainly doesn’t feel like small potatoes, it is also simply a stepping stone to something bigger and more meaningful.
In short, I would love to have Urtica outlive me, my son, and his children one day as a pillar in the communities we touch. I want Urtica to be synonymous with a life that is better not only for us, our staff, our clients, and their clients but for the community at large.
I’m not entirely sure, just yet, how this will all come together. But I have hope that by rolling up our sleeves and bringing together the right people, we can make it happen.
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.
This may be an unpopular opinion but bear with me. I believe that starting, maintaining, and growing a business is not for the faint of heart. Despite the notions that are shared around by internet gurus these days that make it seem like you have a six-figure business in two mouse clicks, I would say that Urtica Design has been one of my most beautiful and demanding endeavors to date… and we are just getting started.
We are a creative studio that serves clients around the world and as you might imagine we have a lot of spinning plates in mid-air at any given moment. We are a one-stop-shop studio that offers brand strategy, brand identity design, websites, e-commerce, copywriting, commercial food and product photography, and marketing.
While those things are what we do on the daily, I’d say that the two biggest hurdles that I have experienced in recent history have been around hiring & systems.
Getting from a place where you are the first (and possibly only) employee of your business to growing a team is something that I had absolutely no idea how to do until I was knee-deep in it. Having to think about things like skillsets, compatibility with company culture, keeping people accountable, and creating an environment where people feel valued, seen, and like they are doing meaningful work is simply not something that happens on its own.
My advice if you’re trying to figure this out? Find a mentor who is a few steps ahead of you and is willing to invest in your success.
Time for some real talk! Taking the time to work ON the business instead of IN the business is a huge challenge for me (and every business owner I know). Yet, if you don’t do it, you end up spending a lot of time repeating similar tasks over and over again, making sub-optimal decisions, and potentially not treating your clients or staff in the best possible way you can.
Enter systems. Here’s an example, recently we took the time to think through and implement a CRM with semi-automated touchpoints for every kind of package we offer. This has alleviated an unquantifiable amount of stress from our team and put us in a position to gather the right information and ask the right questions at the key stages of our projects. It feeds into our proposal process, our contracts, our invoicing & our client dashboard. Huzza!
I know it’s super nerdy, but my goodness, am. I. ever. stoked!! to have this piece in place to help us help our clients better.
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.
The perfect weeklong staycation with my bestie would include lots of meals in great hole–in-the-wall / mom-and-pop type places. They always have the best food, a great vibe, and talking to the owners over the service counter while we nosh is half the fun and two-thirds of the adventure. “Please make us the house special” would become the theme of our epicurean escapades.
Since we will be eating lots during the trip, having a handful of hikes, indoor climbing or other on-the-go activities would also be a priority. Something to help work the carbs off, you know?! Haha.
To finish off, we would likely hit all of the different farmer’s markets to chat up the vendors and discover the local and seasonal fare. Then pop into a local roastery nearby to hang out and soak it all in.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I always say “it takes a village”, and my story is by no means an exception. I’ve been blessed with friends, family & mentors who believed in me, egged me on, and helped me see things through. So, I would love to dedicate this Shoutout to Alysia, Holland & Tom because without this trio, I would not even be halfway to where I am today.
Instagram: weareurtica / melofurtica
All credits go to Urtica Design with the exception of the dinner one which goes to Sarah Jewell https://www.conceptmeasures.ca/brand-photography-halifax