As you like it

The other day, Cecelia Sveda spent the afternoon entrenched in the script for the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Our Town.” But she isn’t a theatrical director or an actor — she’s a graphic artist.

“I’m reading through the play because I’m designing a logo for it for the Weathervane Theatre,” she explains.

Sveda’s passion for her work is evident not only in her smile as she describes it but also in her thorough and inventive methods of creating graphic arts and producing printed pieces. Her freedom to devise her own methods of inspiration, set her own schedule and work in the setting she prefers pivots on her independence. Sveda, the owner of Minx Design Studio, celebrates her company’s 10th anniversary this month.

She doesn’t measure her company’s accomplishments through conventional methods such as the number of people she employs or the square footage her company occupies. When asked if she dreams of growing her studio into a full-service ad agency, she echoes the sentiments often shared by members of Generation X and says without hesitation, “The older I get, the simpler I want things.

She works solo in her studio atop a restored, century-old, three-story manor house on Akron’s near west side. Surrounded by a collection of antiques, including her conference table (a claw foot bathtub topped with beveled glass), eclectic posters and stunning views of downtown Akron, Sveda shares her ideas.

“I don’t have any aspirations to become an agency; less is more,” she says. “I don’t want to manage employees. I don’t want to be a one-stop shop. I try to do one thing and do it well.

“If a client needs copywriting or other things, I refer them to the other people I work with.”

Statistics show that Sveda isn’t alone in her quest for a simpler business enterprise. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women owning at least a portion of a business account for 33 percent of business owners in the United States. Among those, 79 percent own individual proprietorships — their businesses account for less than 1 percent of the nation’s annual revenue.

Whether a choice, as in Sveda’s case, or as a result of circumstances, the number of individual proprietorships offering services from Web design to engineering is on the rise. This provides a monumental advantage to Sveda and her colleagues by creating a vast system of referral opportunities.

She networks through business associations and has been able to escape expensive ad campaigns to generate new business, obtaining new clients through referrals from clients and other service providers.

The use of promotional pieces helps Minx Design stay visible, she says. Several times each year, Sveda produces colorful and often unusual cards or posters to send to clients, referral sources and prospects.

“I’m always amazed when I visit a business, they’ll have my stuff out,” she says. “It makes me feel so good; plus it’s free advertising.”

To stay within her budget, she trades services for the printing of her promotional pieces.

Bartering is a wonderful thing,” she says.

Sveda has clients work directly with vendors, which helps her avoid cash flow problems. If she designs a brochure for a client, she recommends a printer, and the client is billed directly by the printer.

“I don’t want to get caught in the middle — it’s too much of a liability,” she says. “It also helps with cash flow because I’m not sending money out the door to printers.”

Her artistic talent showed itself early in life. She recalls drawing butterflies and flowers in her grandmother’s garden in Coventry Township as a child. After graduating from Kent State University with a degree in graphic design, she spent a short time with an ad agency before starting her own business from home, focusing on nonprofit arts agencies.

“When I first started, I thought, ‘Who am I going to contact? Why not try the nonprofit world? They can’t afford agency rates and I’d be willing to do it for less.'”

After building a client base, she moved her company in 1993 from her home to the studio on West Exchange Street. She credits much of her success to supportive parents.

“If my parents had been different people, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.” How to reach: Cecelia Sveda, Minx Design, (330) 762-4126