weThrive – Kim Dow

Kim Dow

Owner of Sass Studios and Sass Magazine

Kim Dow has combined her creative spirit with her drive to empower women with her love of animals to start three award-winning businesses. Her flagship company is Sass Studios—a boutique branding and creative design studio that specializes in supporting and empowering women-owned and pet-related businesses by helping them cultivate their visual “voice”.
 
An entrepreneur at heart, Kim also launched Sass Magazine, a women’s lifestyle and professional publication that celebrates real women. With both a regional printed magazine as well as a national online base, Sass Magazine serves up articles on a variety of topics including career, wellness, travel, style, beauty, home, (and more!), as well as special feature articles spotlighting women doing amazingly kickass things! Additionally, Kim launched EverydayDogMagazine.com, a lifestyle website for modern day dog owners and lovers. She serves as the owner, publisher, and creative director for both publications.
 
Kim is a past President of the AAF-Greater Frederick, former board director, and recipient of the organization’s coveted Crystal Prism Award. She was an Accelerator member of Her Corner and serves on the organizational committee for Women in Business, the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce’s program for women professionals. Kim was awarded the 2017 Entrepreneur Award for a start up business from the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce and was recognized as a 2018 Top 50 CEO. Most recently, she is a graduate scholar of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program in the Baltimore region’s Cohort 8.
 
When not at work, Kim can be found hanging out at home with her husband and high school sweetheart, Jimmy, who is a public high school math teacher by day and a fisherman by weekend. In her spare time, Kim enjoys reading, traveling, hiking and gardening.

Connect with Kim

weTHRIVE Episode 2 Transcript

Casey Clark (00:00):

Hi everyone. And thank you so much for joining us on the, weTHRIVE Podcast, a podcast where we share stories from entrepreneurs around the world. My name is Casey Clark, and I’m your host also founder and chief growth officer of C Clark consulting. And today I’ll be interviewing Kim Dow, who is the owner of Sass magazine and Sass Creative Studios. So thank you so much for joining us, Kim. It’s a pleasure to have you.

Kim Dow (00:26):

Thank you for having me. I’m really excited.

Casey Clark (00:28):

Absolutely. So tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kim Dow (00:32):

Okay. So I’m Kim. I have owned my business for almost 13 years now. I am from Frederick, Maryland, which is in Western, Maryland about an hour outside of Washington, DC in Baltimore. And I went to school. I, I was always interested in both math and art, which are like two totally opposite things. So when I went to school, I wasn’t quite sure which direction I was going to go in until I found it found and landed on graphic design, which kind of to me combined the problem solving skills of math and then the artistic side of art. So I got my degree in, in graphic design started out my, my career and as a graphic designer. And then after several years in working in a small company I kinda got to the point where there was nowhere left for me to go.

Kim Dow (01:30):

There was nowhere, there was no more growth in that company. And I had always had kind of an entrepreneur entrepreneurial spirit. And I knew that it was, it was time for me to really just take that leap and to start my own business. So about almost 13 years ago, I started my graphic design business which was then called Calico design, basically with my laptop and sitting on my couch and with my dog staring at me with no clients. I just kinda took a leap and that has now evolved into 13 years of business. We are now SAS creative studios. We’ve also launched five years ago. We launched SAS magazine, which is a women’s lifestyle and a professional magazine. I’ve had, you know, a flux it’s fluctuated how many staff that I’ve had, but we’ve kept it really small from anywhere between two to five people. And yeah, it all started basically with just taking that, taking that leap literally with a laptop and no, no clients and just building it into what is now you know, a business that I like to think is thriving and growing still

Casey Clark (02:53):

Awesome. Every time I hear you say that you’ve been in business 13 years, I’m like, what did she like, start this when she 15 or something like, it just, it’s hard to believe.

Kim Dow (03:13):

I love you. I love, yes. Let’s go with that. Yes. Okay. Got it.

 

Casey Clark

Awesome. So, you know, you mentioned that you feel like your business is thriving, so what exactly does that mean to you?

 

Kim Dow

So thriving to me means doing what you what’s in your gut, what you feel is your, I don’t even want to say passion, but what you feel is your strength and what you kind of were meant to do and doing it in a way that’s true for you. So thriving for me, you know, it also means continuous growth. It means never being stagnant, always, always growing, always evolving, always problem solving for a better way to do something. So that’s kind of what thriving means to me that it’s always ongoing in a good way, in a good way. Awesome. So what obstacles have you had to overcome while attempting to get you and your business to thrive? Oh, geez. A loaded question. I know, you know, I mean, for those of you, for those of you who are listening and who are entrepreneurs, it would have gone and started doing business. You can relate, there are a lot of obstacles for those of you who might be listening, who have dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. There are a lot of options.

Kim Dow (04:44):

It’s not, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not an easy path. It definitely isn’t an easy path, but for some of us, it’s the only path because that’s kind of just who we are and we have to sort of forge our own path. So obstacles that I have faced well, when I first started my business, I, I was a young, young female. I got overlooked a lot. I you know, had to sort of prove to people. I also tend to look younger than that,

Kim Dow (05:17):

But back then, I mean, I, some people like didn’t take me seriously as a, as a business owner and as a professional. So that was always something that I’ve had to overcome. I’ve also overcome obstacles. When I first started, I will always remember this story when I first started SAS magazine, which is a print print and digital magazine started out as a print. I remember talking to somebody in the community who was who had been in for a while. He was you know, pretty well known business person in the community. And he was just like, why would you want to start a print magazine Prince dead? Like that just doesn’t seem like a good business you know, smart business sense. And, you know, I explained to him, I’m like, well, I really feel like this is something that’s needed in our community.

Kim Dow (06:13):

There’s a gap. We don’t have anything that celebrates women in our, in our space. We don’t have anything that celebrates women entrepreneurial wears. We don’t have a place for them to share their stories. I really feel like, you know, this is something that our community needs and I’m just, I’m going to go for it. And he was just like, I can’t believe it. You know, I just and it was, it was a little discouraging for me because it was somebody who was well-respected, but I’ll tell you what that man. And it was somebody who I had also just met as well. So it wasn’t like somebody I knew that man actually came two days later to my office and apologized. And he was like, I’m, I’m really sorry. You know, that I, that I didn’t get your vision, but after hearing you talk, you know, go for it, like sometimes we need to just take a step, take a leap of faith and like do what we w what we feel is needed. And that was five years ago. And yeah, it was a hard time to start a magazine, especially in print. People thought we were crazy, but we’re so, you know, we’re still doing it. So that was an obstacle. Did that feel

Casey Clark (07:21):

Fire?

Kim Dow (07:23):

Yeah, it definitely. It definitely did. I mean, yeah, it definitely did. I have sort of, a lot of times have a fire where I’m like, I’m going to ask someone to prove you wrong.

Casey Clark (07:35):

I thought we had that in common. Yeah. Oh no, just wants me.

Kim Dow (07:43):

So I do have that little, little mentality in me, so yeah, that did fuel the fire a little bit. I also have some personal obstacles that I face. I, I struggle with anxiety. I have some anxiety issues. And about two years ago, I had went through a really, really bad burnout phase burnout and depression phase. And a lot of it was some of it was personal and but a lot of it was business related. We lost three of our largest clients in one year. I had just like brought on two new employees. So there was also that, you know, that financial struggle unexpected things like losing clients due to their budget cuts. While I had just literally just planned for a very large growth year based on, you know, previous years and it’s tough.

Kim Dow (08:51):

So yeah, so lots, definitely lots of obstacles. And there’s, there’s like daily obstacles. I mean, even today, like my computer was being a jerk, so like that, you know, that’s an obstacle, there’s, there’s things all the time that happened. And I think that that is in a way, what sets entrepreneurs apart? I always, what sets entrepreneurs are part is that we’re problem solvers and we get shit done. Like when it has to be done, we have a way when, when we are up against the wall and we need to, we have a way of prioritizing and knowing if, or figuring out I should say, not knowing, cause it’s not any, it’s definitely just problem solving and learning and experience to just overcome those obstacles in the way that we need to, to keep moving forward, to keep thriving. If you will, are there any

Casey Clark (09:47):

Any obstacles that you’ve faced that kind of stand out to you?

Kim Dow (09:53):

Other obstacles when you are a business owner and entrepreneur and you bring on a team there’s always a lot of obstacles there with finding the right people not just for your business, but also the right people who work together. So I’ve had some obstacles over the years of just navigating employees and finding that right balance of who, who we need to continue to grow. So I think that that’s also, and, and it’s also a mental obstacle for me as an owner, because I feel such a, such a responsibility for my employees that a lot that sometimes it’s hard to think business versus relationships. And it’s, it’s, it’s always that, you know, that fine line or that fusing those lines and figuring out where that balance is because as small business owners, I mean, you know, we’ve, I’ve had two to five employees. That’s not a lot of people like I’m close with every single one of those employees. And they’re not just employees. They’re, you know, they’re people like they’ve moved here to work for me. They, they bought, they bought a new house because they’re able to, like, I’m able to give them you know career, they planned families. Like it’s a really big responsibility. Yeah. It really is. It really? Yeah.

Casey Clark (11:29):

Sources, have you used to kind of help you overcome obstacles or even just help you thrive?

Kim Dow (11:37):

So the biggest thing that’s helped me overcome obstacles and move forward is having a, having like a tribe of trusted people. So I’m, you know, I’m very lucky. My is very supportive of me. My husband is my biggest supporter, biggest cheerleader. And that is great to have that on the, on the personal side. But I think as entrepreneurs and business owners, you also have to have people who are also in business who can relate to your struggles and your obstacles. So I’ve been lucky that for the past he’s, I don’t even know how many years I’ve been getting together. You know, monthly bimonthly with a group of other female business owners. We’re all in the creative space, but we all do slightly different things. And we just meet for lunch and like talk about our, our problems, help each other out our each other’s cheerleaders share resources.

Kim Dow (12:40):

And that has been invaluable. You know, to, to have that group who, who also after so many years, like they’ve seen me, they, they, we were meeting before I even started SAS magazine. I remember. And now I’m saying to them, this is what I’m going to do. They were the first people outside of my family, who I like set it out loud too. And likewise, I’ve been able to watch them grow their businesses from different, different parts and through, you know, different struggles through different staff, through different pivots and knowing each other’s businesses so well that that’s been an invaluable like asset and resource. So anybody who’s listening, I highly recommend whether you have a business bestie and it’s one person or a group of people that you can rely on and, and be really honest with. And they’re honest with you because you just need that support.

Casey Clark (13:37):

Yeah. And you can’t get the proper support if you’re putting on some sort of facade. Exactly.

Kim Dow (13:44):

So hard to get that support from people who aren’t also entrepreneurs and business owners, because it is a, you can talk about business with anyone, but you can’t really understand business until you’ve been in it. Yeah.

Casey Clark (13:59):

Yeah, absolutely. So any other resources that you feel have kind of just catapulted you or just been invaluable?

Kim Dow (14:12):

That is definitely the biggest one. I also think having, like I said, the right, the right team members finding those right people to fill those needs and, and having them be self-motivated and self-sufficient, and also problem solving on their own is a great it, you know, valuable resource. Is that kinda what you’re looking for? Or are you looking for like programs or, you know, like

Casey Clark (14:41):

No, anything that’s helped you. I mean, if people are your resource, then that’s great.

Kim Dow (14:46):

Yeah. I would say people are my resources, the best resources. Okay. Awesome. So let’s talk a little bit about the resources and kind of creating a legacy. So first, what exactly does legacy mean to your, what comes to mind when you hear that word? So legacy means to me, is leaving a mark on a community on people. So yeah, leaving that mark and, and having them remember something that you did or some kind of service you provided, or some kind of value that you provided that impacted their lives in a positive way. So are you doing anything actively, like, I know you’re young, like started to think that far ahead or thought like, this is what I’d really like people to remember me as.

Speaker 3 (15:52):

Yes.

Kim Dow (15:56):

Yes and no. And that’s a hard question, of course. Like I’m not ready to, you know, I don’t have any plans soon to like hand over a business or like leave my legacy. I mean, unless I got the chance to like move to the Caribbean or something and then I’d be like I’m out. So that it is hard to think about like what that end goal or that end game kind of is. I hope that SAS, my, my goal is that SAS magazine continues to keep going, even after I’m, maybe I’ve done my part for it, like, because it is a sole resource to empower women in business and in life and a way for women to share their stories, real women stories and everyday women’s stories. And it’s also created this this wonderful community that, you know, was kind of an unexpected, like side effect of, of the magazine that we, when we first planned the magazine, we didn’t really think about the community side of things, but it’s something that’s really, really grown and, you know, it’s so cool for me to hear stories of women who are like, Oh, I met, I met.

Kim Dow (17:25):

So and so at one of your girls night out events, and now we’re best friends and we meet for lunch all the time, or I met so, and so at this like a boss event, and now we’re working together or we’ve partnered together to start a business. I mean, we hear all of these stories, or I read that story in your article and it gave me the, you know, the, the strength to go ahead and adopt a child, like we’re talking like big life changes. So that is sort of amazing that those things that I, that not even me, but that SAS has had a small part in these changes for people’s lives. And I love, I want to see that legacy continue on.

Casey Clark (18:11):

That’s awesome. Yeah. I know I’ve gone to a few of your girls nights out and there’s definitely that sense of community there, so, yeah. Awesome. All right. So let’s talk about some golden nuggets. So what are some nuggets that you would give people who are either struggling, you know, to thrive in their business or who may be looking at starting a business? Like, do you have any tips for them?

Kim Dow (18:38):

I do. One, my biggest tip is you can’t do it alone. You need to find whether that’s, you know, like I said, a business bestie or a group of people who are also business owners just to start like kind of a support group or people that you can ask questions to, or whether that’s, you know, finding the right team members for certain aspects of your business. But when, whether you’re in business now, or you’re just, you’re thinking about starting, like, think about who those people are, who you need. And, and maybe, you know, you don’t need them right away, but just think about like what that looks like, whether that’s, you know, something as simple as everybody kind of knows that they need an accountant, you know, if they’re running a business but who is that like right. Accountant for you?

Kim Dow (19:38):

So think about who those people will be. So that’s my, my first and foremost one is you, you just can’t do it by yourself. Because that leads me to the next one. If you try to do too many things, you will get burnt out. And from somebody who had like legit burnout, I’m talking like couple months of physical and mental burnout is make sure that you do practice self-care and it’s hard as entrepreneurs to do that because we’re always, there’s no off. I mean, even when we, you know, there’s no, it’s not a nine to five job, like there’s no off switch when you own your business. Like, you’re always kind of on that doesn’t mean that you had to be checking your emails at all hours of the night, or, you know, doing work all the time, but your, your mind is always thinking.

Kim Dow (20:30):

So because of that, make sure that you practice self-care, you know, take vacations, celebrate wins, go get a massage, whatever it is, whatever it looks like. You take a walk during the day, whatever that looks like to you, just make sure that you are making time for yourself, even if it’s just small pockets of time. So that you don’t so that you are the best version of yourself to grow your business. Cause you can’t really grow it from a state of like overwhelm and burnout. Yeah, absolutely. It’s like your brain just like, sorry. I’m not working exactly. Any other nuggets. I think those are the two big ones. I guess the other one would be give yourself some grace especially, especially during now, you know, this is such a weird time right now, especially for small business owners. Everybody’s, we’re doing the best that we can basically.

Kim Dow (21:42):

So give yourself grace. And I, I told in another group that I was in I’m like, but don’t just say you’re giving yourself grace, like actually give yourself and know that you don’t have to get everything done all at once and really tried to prioritize what you can, what you can do in a, in a certain timeframe. And what’s most important was that email will still be there in an hour. Exactly. It’ll still be there tomorrow even to learn. I struggled with that myself. So I definitely can appreciate that feedback. Yeah. Yeah. So I think those are my big three. Okay, awesome. So, are there any other thoughts that you haven’t mentioned that you’d like to share with our listeners? I guess my one thought would be, and this is specifically for people who are thinking about going into business. And I always tell people,

Kim Dow (22:46):

Entrepreneurship is not, it’s not for everybody and that’s totally fine and it’s not easy. You, you know, you see things on Instagram or social media or things where people are like, Oh, you know, I made money overnight just when I’m sleeping. Well, that doesn’t happen overnight. And they’re not, you know, they might get to a point where they’re doing that, but they put in a lot of work and a lot of hours to get to that point. So don’t think that it’s, that it’s easy. But I will say if you’re thinking about, and you want to know whether you’re it’s time or not, what I always tell people is if it’s the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you think about when you go to bed and it’s something that even throughout the day is always in the back of your head, it might be ready for it.

Kim Dow (23:34):

Yeah. So, but having said that also make sure that you have a plan to go into it. So even though I, when I started, I had no clients and I had a laptop and my dog and that’s about it. I, my husband and I, we also had like saved up for a whole year. We knew that I, I had set the goal in January of 2007 and that by the end of the year I would quit my job. And then I would start my business in 2008. So we had a whole year where we, you know, we saved save money. We didn’t go on any trips. We, you know, we, we didn’t eat out as much. Like we were saving knowing that there was going to be several months where I would have no income. So I w I would also, you know, encourage people to plan and whatever way that means for you, for us, it was to plan financially.

Kim Dow (24:36):

It was also to plan, you know, getting things in line, like figuring out a name, getting, getting our name, registered, figuring out like website branding and like all of that kind of stuff and how it would, how it, how I would go about getting clients and what type of clients. So think about all of that stuff before you kind of pull the trigger on it in a, in a sense just so that you are really going into it with a plan. And, and knowing for me knowing that for that whole year, like that was the goal. And knowing that by the end of that year, I was, I was still all in, it was the time for me, so I knew it. So I thought it would be the only other thing that I would suggest to people is just take that time to plan.

Casey Clark (25:30):

Yeah. I love it. And I mean, like you said, if they’re waking up and going to bed, you know, not able to stop thinking about it. I think that’s a huge indicator, like as scary as it might be, take the lead.

Kim Dow (25:42):

Yep. You might be ready.

Casey Clark (25:45):

Well, I definitely appreciate having you today and all the nuggets that you have, and I’d also like to thank our sponsors, Steven Lamar Moore, who has produced

Kim Dow (25:54):

Our theme music for podcasts. So, yeah.

Casey Clark (25:58):

Thank you again, Kim and I look forward to continuing to thrive with you in the Frederick community and beyond.

Kim Dow (26:04):

Thank you so much if I may also just, if anybody is interested in SAS magazine, you can follow us on Instagram at SAS magazine.

Casey Clark (26:14):

Awesome. Yes. And we’ll be sharing the social media handles as well. So thank you again, Kim. It was a pleasure. Thank you so much, Casey. This was great.

 

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