This Design Business Doesn’t Monkey Around

Jennifer
May 4, 2011

Eryka Quintero

It can be a jungle out there when you own your own business. Eryka Quintero boldly entered that jungle, looking to her cat as her muse, and co-founded with her husband the graphic design company Monkey Business. Monkey Business, like PsPrint, is an Oakland, Calif.-based company. What caught my eye was the set of postcards Monkey Business printed with us that are for an upcoming benefit concert hosted by The Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Quintero consulted with the society about which printed product would be the best marketing tool for the concert, and as a result, the finished postcard turned out beautiful! Quintero took some time out from her day this week to chat with me about how she chose her career, where she finds her inspiration, and how clip art and Publisher are not replacements for professional graphic design. How did you choose graphic design as a career? It chose me. I had no idea what I wanted to do or what I was good at. A friend introduced me to computers years ago, and when I met my husband, he started doing a little bit of web design – before there were all these rules and the web was still footloose and fancy-free. When I started doing graphic design for websites, I thought, “This is fun!”

Postcard design by Monkey Business.

I always drew, but I was really anal-retentive about it, and when I discovered Photoshop and Illustrator, I realized I could be anal, so I migrated toward there. It was a hobby, and my husband and I called it our Monkey Business – until it wasn’t just a hobby. Because then my husband, who was a real estate broker, said a vice president with Prudential Real Estate wanted me to meet him and do work for him. My husband was a part of Monkey Business for the first five years. He was the website side, and I was the graphic side for commercial print media. We were doing OK: no complaints and working from home. We had a steady clientele. Then we started feeling the economy through our clients – they were having a hard time paying and wanted to use Publisher to cut corners and do things in-house. So my husband and I needed 9-to-5 jobs. I worked for a startup that went under, but my husband went in a different direction: green energy. So now it’s just me and Monkey Business doing graphic design. How did the Monkey Business name come about? My cat. [Laughs.] She’s my muse. Her name is Orion, but we call her Monkey for various reasons. Who are your clients? I like the clients that I have: independent or nonprofit, entrepreneurs. I really enjoy them because I have a lot more freedom and creativity than with corporate America clients. I’ve had a couple of those who were pretty flexible, but it’s the smaller businesses who still understand that concept and support it.

CD cover design by Monkey Business.

What are your favorite design projects to work on? The projects I enjoy the most are the business cards or the postcards. They’re simple but challenging. You don’t have as much space to work with and have to be that much more creative. Clients will give you a lot of stuff to put in there. It poses more of a challenge. What have been the biggest challenges in building your business? Getting the clients – getting them to understand why they need a professional graphic designer and why they need to budget for this type of marketing. It’s challenging to get them to understand, but I’m pretty frank with clients. I’ve had clients show me their business card, and the quality was fine, but the design was clip art. And they were so proud of it! One of the things I have in my portfolio is a collection of business cards that all have the same image – that child handprint that’s red, yellow and green. I’ve got about six different examples of this same picture used on business cards for six different businesses.

Monkey Business card.

How do you promote your business? Social networking and word of mouth. Not to discount advertising, but there’s a lot more credibility – it has its own standalone credibility. I use Facebook like a crack addict. I just resurrected LinkedIn – it really is about connection and more about who knows you and not whom you know. And I’m still learning Twitter the best that I can. I’m not a writer – I’m an artist, and with Twitter, you really need to be precise and creative in what you say. So I need to figure out what to say. For me it’s not about competition but camaraderie, so I’m always looking to connect with other designers. Where do you find design inspiration? My cat – kidding! One of the things I’ll do is go online and Google something like “classical concert flyer” and see what’s been done. If I like it, I’ll put my own spin on it but be sure that what I’m doing is absolutely unique to what’s been done. I like to put a new spin on old classics. One of the most important things I do is consultations because getting to know the client is one of the best ways to get the inspiration. Right before I’m about to go to sleep, I’ll come up with an idea. The inspiration flows naturally. Sometimes it’s not always immediate, but when it happens, it’s pretty awesome.

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About Jennifer Moline

Jennifer Moline writes for the PsPrint Blog as well as maintains its Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Pinterest presences. She also guest-blogs for such notable graphic design blogs as Fuel Your Creativity and Inspiredology. She’s previously written about technology and small business for news websites, magazines and newspapers. In her off-hours, Jennifer can be found roughing it in the mountains or tucked away in a movie theater.

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