Clutch MOV is proud to sponsor this year’s Mid-Ohio Valley Entrepreneur of the Year. We envision a community where citizens can take risks on the promise that success would uplift the residents of our valley. Artists, creators, makers, and small business owners strive to build something anew, something worth putting their stamp on – to promote and share with each other – and entrepreneurs are on the edge, finding ways to build in a way that hasn’t been done before. This year we received dozens of nominations for innovative, forward-thinking, community-building entrepreneurs from the Mid-Ohio Valley. The panel believed six individuals stood out for the impact they are making through their work. We are sharing their stories in this series.
Andrea Shirey launched her business, One Nine Design, in 2017 out of the desire to do good work for the nonprofit community on her own terms, wanting the ability to make her family a priority and give them the best part of herself.
“Throughout my almost twenty years of experience in design, fundraising, and marketing, from a newspaper advertising manager to a higher-education fundraiser and nonprofit executive, one thing has been consistent – I understood the value of making a great first impression,” said Andrea. “During my time as Executive Director at our local United Way, I began to see a disturbing trend in the community – nonprofits who were compromising on professional and critical marketing elements because of limited resources – either time, money, or both.”
As Andrea tried to teach them about the importance of a mobile-friendly, well-designed website that would help them raise more funding, she kept hearing the same responses. “It was either ‘we don’t have access to edit our own site,’ ‘we don’t know how to use it,’ or ‘we can’t afford to pay someone to fix it.'” So when she started toying with the idea of starting her own company, the idea occurred to her to create a business to help ‘the small shop’ find the balance between professional branding and breaking the budget. As the demand for her services increased, she eventually started taking on small businesses as clients, as well.
I knew I still had something within me to contribute to the community where I was born and raised.
“I launched One Nine Design after leaving the full-time workforce the previous year. After working with and leading nonprofit organizations for the previous 17 years, it was odd, to say the least, to be without a job for really the first time in my life,” said Andrea. “Though my exit from the full-time, outside-the-home work world was necessary for my mental health and my desire to be more present with my family, I knew I still had something within me to contribute to the community where I was born and raised. Running One Nine Design with those priorities in mind has become the accomplishment I am the proudest of in my professional life.”
For Andrea, the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur and running her own company is the example she is able to set for her children. “They see me using the gifts God gave me for good, running a company that helps me contribute to our family financially, and they see my doing good work for organizations that are out there changing people’s lives.” She tries to talk with her children about the organizations she works with because so many of them inspire her through the work they are doing, and she knows that is a valuable lesson to pass on. “Of course, they also see me struggle,” she said. “They see me trying to balance my priorities of being a supportive wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a good citizen, and a good friend. I don’t hide that part from them because I want them to know I mess up and get frustrated and get it wrong sometimes. They can learn just as much from seeing that side of entrepreneurship as they can from seeing my success.”
Andrea also gets great joy out of using her businesses to give back. From the beginning, she chose to take a portion of every dollar earned and give it back to a female entrepreneur in a third-world country through Kiva, an organization that does microlending. “I know that when I finish a project, I get to go online and read incredible stories of women running businesses with fewer resources than I have. When I make those loans, I know I am empowering another woman,” she said. “I have also started giving each client a $30 gift card to make their own loan via Kiva and I love seeing clients get excited about that.”
The most challenging part of being an entrepreneur, she said, is making sure she stays true to why she started One Nine Design in the first place. “In this culture of hustle and do more and be more, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to fit into that mold. But that’s not why I started and that’s not why I choose to do the work.” She instead centers herself on the work itself and enjoying the process. “I am a perfectionist and I tend to fall into the trap of wanting to please other people. I’ve learned (and am still learning) how to let go of that. I am not the right fit for everyone and that’s ok. I try diligently to stay in my own lane, take the projects I think I’m best suited for, and let others go. More and more, I say no to things that do not bring me joy. I realize that’s a privilege and I’m grateful for that.”
There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.
Despite the inevitable challenges along the way, Andrea would encourage others who have that seed or idea to explore their options, especially with the abundance of resources available to local entrepreneurs here in the Mid-Ohio Valley. “We are so lucky to have such a great community of entrepreneurs locally and every single one of them can provide a perspective or insight that might help you move on to the next step of your dream. You may not be able to up and quit your full-time job right away, but if you make time for it, you’ll be able to see progress.” In the wise words of Brene Brown, Andrea shared, “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”
Without a doubt, One Nine Design is making a positive impact on the Mid-Ohio Valley. With each website she designs, Andrea does more than help a client improve their marketing – she empowers nonprofit leaders and teams to move their mission forward, which in turn help make the Mid-Ohio Valley a better place. “If they have a website that clearly communicates what they do, how they do it, and how others can be a part of it, then that mission is going to be closer to being fulfilled. So if I can empower them to do their work more effectively, then more people in our community are being served in the ways they need it most.”
Andrea also tried to set a good example for other entrepreneurs, modeling the idea that you can do good work, make a good living, and pay it forward. In addition to giving back through Kiva, Andrea serves on the Board of Directors for a local nonprofit, supports events whose mission she believes in, and makes donations through her business regularly. “The more we as business owners set that example for others, the more we can create a community full of generous people.”
The name One Nine Design is intentional and though Andrea is often asked where it comes from, she said it takes a great bit of vulnerability to tell the whole story. “One Nine” comes from Joshua 1:9, which says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
“This verse became a lifeline for me in 2012 when I experienced a time of severe depression and a mental health crisis. It was the darkest and scariest time of my life and by the grace of God and my incredibly supportive family, I was able to survive it. A therapist shared this verse with me and I began carrying it around on an index card every day,” she said. “The stigma around depression and the need for therapy is a tragedy and I decided that if I ever had the change to have a platform to share my story, it would somehow incorporate that verse so that I could be reminded of how far I’d come and the progress I had made.”
Andrea still battles some of those mental health issues, but no longer hides it or feels shame. “I simply choose to feel the feelings, try to understand where they are coming from, and practice gratitude in those moments. If we look around, there’s always something to be grateful for.”