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The SuccessLab Podcast: Where Entrepreneurs Collaborate for Success

Dec 10, 2014

Welcome to the SuccessLab Podcast Episode #27. I'm in the lab with Jaime Derringer, founder and executive editor of Design Milk and Dog Milk. She is also an artist herself.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

Design Milk began in 2006. We're going on nine years now, which seems so crazy to me! For the first couple of years, I was doing it part time and also working a full-time job. After three years, I decided to quit my job, just go at it, and see where it took me. Five years later, here I am. It's taken me on a really interesting journey. I was a project manager for about ten years in medical continuing education, and then marketing and advertising—a totally different world. Between doing that and being a manager of teams over the years, it's helped me run the site pretty efficiently. It's definitely helped a lot.

2. What led to the creation of Design Milk?

I don't have a background in design—it's a passion. Art and design has always been of interest to me, furniture in particular, from a very young age. For some reason, that's where my focus landed, and that's the majority of what I posted on the site in the beginning. It still seems to be the majority of what we write about today.

3. How did you get it off the ground?

There was a point when I said, "I'm going to learn as much as I can about design," but I also needed to learn website design and website programming. I had to learn all the new social media platforms. Every time something new came out, I'd have to learn how to do it. For a very long time in the beginning, it was only me running the site, so I had to jump in and wear as many hats as I could. It was a lot of learning on the fly, and lots of big learning curves. I think that's why I enjoy it so much. It keeps me on my feet. Every single day is totally different from the day before.

4. At what point did you start adding to the team?

I was forced to add to my team. I ended up getting pregnant, and I thought, "Hey, you're going to have a person to take care of now! You're going to have to figure out what to do." It's almost like I was put in the position by nature, and I decided to bring on multiple people. I always find it hard to delegate. At the same time, I realized in order to grow, I have to delegate. Having the right people is key to making sure things continue with your original vision, even if you're not the one doing them. I've been really fortunate to have a team that supports what I do.

5. You’ve spoken on a panel about hiring help. Do you have any tips you can share?

Managing people is not for everyone. Knowing your personality and knowing how you manage people is important.

Also, pay people what they're worth. Make sure you pay people, period. I love the idea of interns, but I also feel that people aren't as loyal to you if they're not getting paid. You're going get pushed to the back burner. It's important to hire people who have a similar passion. They tend to be driven and into what they do. For what I do, you really have to a have an interest in design. I've been lucky to have people that are super passionate.

6. What was one of your biggest challenges in growing your audience or driving traffic to your site?

It was so organic in the beginning because there weren't as many blogs. It was much more of a small community. People found each other that way.

We were fortunate, in the beginning, to have content that was interesting enough to get noticed. Google put us on their Staff Picks for Google Reader. They only had 15 blogs on their Staff Picks, and we were one of them. That's where we started getting a lot readers. Then Google Reader went away, and I was freaking out! Surprisingly, they had already migrated to another way of reading us. When Google Reader went away, we didn't lose much traffic; we just shifted gears and focused on other social networks, and we ended up gaining more traffic that way. Twitter put us on their art and design "Who to Follow" list, so we ended up getting a lot of Twitter followers early on.

Now, there are so many blogs out there, it's nearly impossible to weed through all of them to find ones that you really connect with. I think it's getting more difficult now, and you have to constantly be in people's faces. That's a lot of work. We've noticed we've spent a ridiculous amount of time on social media just trying to get people to our website.

7. What has been one of the most valuable things you have done for the business?

I think the best thing I did was hire people to help me. That's number one. I didn't think that I would do it as soon as I did; I was definitely forced into it. I don't know would've happened if I hadn't gotten pregnant and just kept doing what I was doing. Eventually, I was going to burn out. The blog needed to grow, and without me putting my energy into it, it wasn't going to grow. I had to bring people on to help—people who were experts in things I wasn't.

8. Do you have a tip or tool you can share? Something you’re loving right now?

We use Hootsuite for our Twitter, and I still really love that program. I think it's versatile and useful. We are looking into doing some Twitter automation, but it's still in early phases. We're trying to look at things that are going to improve our workflow. We're still doing a lot of stuff using old school methods—we still go into Facebook and post each Facebook post. Technology's changing so rapidly that you can't create something that's going to solve all the problems.

9. How can people connect with you?

We have a submission e-mail address and a contact form on the Design Milk website, or you can e-mail us at We're also on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and more.

For me, it's @JaimeDerringer on Twitter and Instagram.

This Week's Biz Hack

Google Analytics recently lifted the paywall from their Google Analytics IQ test. It’s now free to take. Previously, it was $50 per exam. With digital marketing becoming more and more important, having the certification can be good to have in your arsenal. Even if you don’t obtain the actual certification, going through the lessons will be a valuable practice. If you work in the marketing arena, it may prove essential.

You can access the exam now through the Google Partners program, but it does require you to set up a profile first. Then, you'll be able to access the exam from your dashboard.

To study for the exam, or simply get up to speed on Google Analytics, you can get everything you need in the Analytics Academy, where courses cover analytics fundamentals and platform principles. To give you an idea of the time commitment, there are 21 courses in the first block on digital analytics fundamentals, all consumable in about two to six hours, depending on your desired learning pace. The second module on platform principles contains 15 courses. There is also a study guide rife with information.

Again, it's a cool resource if you are in the market to learn more about Google Analytics.

Action Item

How are you measuring the effectiveness of your marketing or growth strategies and tactics? Today, set forth a plan to measure your activities, whether that’s by using something digital like Google Analytics or simply tracking them against certain benchmarks.

Quote of the Week

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” — Laird Hamilton

Next week we’re in The Lab with Chris Kontakis. He's the founder and creative director of LocalRevibe, a really cool publication here in Phoenix. He's also the art director at eeko studio. Needless to say, he’s a busy guy. We talk about time and project management, and how he brought LocalRevibe from idea to reality.

Don’t forget, for past interviews, biz hacks, action items and inspirational quotes, venture over to Until next time, have a prosperous week!