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Small Business Spotlight: Studio 318

The creative mind behind the graphics used to promote the upcoming 78th annual Academy Awards is San Diego’s own Joan Maloney, a small-business owner with a shop in the Golden Triangle.

Maloney, whose Oscar-worthy design dons posters, billboards, print ads and a host of other promotional items worldwide, said that the biggest plus of small-business ownership is freedom.

“I make the decisions, I drive the results and everyone here has to laugh at my jokes,” said Maloney, who is founder and president of Studio 318.

But Maloney also recognizes that there are drawbacks of being a small-business owner.

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“I can’t take much time off,” she said. “My clients expect me to be there for them and I can’t let them down.”

While Studio 318 remains her No. 1 focus, all the success has allowed Maloney to recently start another small business called +E, or “positive energy.” The company will sell “awareness apparel” in 100 percent organic cotton designed to remind people about environmental and social issues. For example, one +E shirt says “Hot” on the front and “Global Warming” on the back and describes how global warming is impacting our world and then what people can each do as individuals to help.

Maloney launched +E this month and eventually plans to expand the product line to include items other than apparel.


VITALS

Name: Joan Maloney.

Title: Owner.

Company: Studio 318.

Company address: 3421 Tripp Court, Suite 1, San Diego, CA 92121.

Company phone: (858) 259-1262.

Year founded: 1997.

Prior business experience: Vice president at Design Group West in Del Mar.

Average hours worked weekly: 80.

Source of startup capital: Myself.

2005 revenue: $1 million.

2004 revenue: $1.1 million.

Number of employees: 4 full-time, 2 part-time.

Web site: www.studio318.com.


BACKGROUND

Birthplace: Bellflower.

Education: Associate degree in graphic design.

Age: 46.

Current residence: Del Mar.

Family: Daughter Hollis, 16; fianc & #233;e and partner of 15-plus years, Jerry Olson (deceased Nov. 5).

Hobbies: Travel, reading, walking, music.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Reason for getting into business: Independence and financial security.

How I plan to grow the business: I’m not sure I want to grow. I tried a few years ago and it didn’t feel right. I like being able to work directly with my clients and I don’t like having to baby-sit a lot of employees.

Biggest business strength: I really love my clients and I really love what I do.

Biggest business weakness: I’m a soft touch. I don’t negotiate as well as I should.

Biggest risk: Letting one of my longtime employees go because of his lack of passion.

Smartest business decision: Letting one of my longtime employees go because of his lack of passion.

Biggest business mistake: I hired a traffic manager two years ago who was wonderful, but I didn’t transition her role with my clients and employees very smoothly and it caused a lot of tension and misunderstandings, including lost business. My employees felt threatened by her role and my clients felt like I had abandoned them to her. I take full responsibility. I had never had a traffic manager and I didn’t know the best way to incorporate her position into my company.

Toughest career decision: I can’t think of any.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Trying to find some free time and trying to find the right employees. I would like to have that other “me” who can handle the office, the work and the clients when I’m not there. I’ve been looking for years.

The most important part of my business: My clients.

My business works best when: I listen to my clients and feel exactly what they’re looking for. Then I express it artistically for them. It’s almost intuitive but I have to have their honest communication or it doesn’t work as well. Also, I need my staff to work as a team. It’s not about individual glory. It’s about watching each other’s backs and doing our best together. Also I absolutely abhor negativity.

Best way to stay competitive: Keep your clients happy.

How I measure success: When I can make my clients look better than they’ve ever looked, in front of their bosses, their competition, their peers and their clients.


GOALS

Goals yet to be achieved: Complete financial independence so that I can travel, pursue other interests (writing, charity work) and get some rest.

I would sell my business only if: I knew that the person/people taking it over would maintain the level of commitment to my clients that I try to give them.

Guiding principles I will continue to follow: We are all here to help each other get through this crazy life. Making others feel like they are special and are making a difference is the best we can do.

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