Leaving Product Design and Actually using my skills to start a business

4 years ago from , Web Designer

Hey everyone! So I’m usually known on here to bring up debatable issues, but today the topic is about moving away from the design industry…

Little background. I run a design agency with my partner at Knife and Fox - Dribbble. Come follow us. :)

The agency has been running now for about 7 years. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest names in the game (Toyota, Fox, Olympics, United Nations.. etc), and it has been some of the most amazing years of my life… but here’s the catch. There’s a glass-ceiling in the agency world. A limit of how much you can charge and how much you wanna scale; your time becomes an abused commodity without expanding your workforce.

It’s almost like opposing linear lines plotted against the value on your time, number of employees, and your overall stress levels.

Running an agency at the highest rates, with little retainers, is the riskiest form of business out there. Now there are other ways to run an agency and scale, which I totally support. I have tons of friends who’ve scaled 50-100-200+ employee agencies, but that’s never been my jam. I always wanted to build a product, something that has scalability in mind, and that’s revenue isn’t predicated directly on me or my teams time.

Spending several years building other companies products, solving complex problems, creating better idea incubation processes, gave me the tools and know-how I needed to make moves on my own. 1.5 years ago, I made the choice to start allocating more time on a side project. It wasn’t an industry I was super familiar with, but I saw an opportunity I couldn’t let go by.

Today, we brought to market a new software for fitness influencers, trainers, and coaches to offer an online subscription service. It’s called Dash. 4-months ago, we ran a beta version with an up-and-coming influencer and it’s currently on the way to make $400k in the first year.

Based on that success, we built a version that can be templatized, and reconfigured to align with any personal brand. This development process was complex and cost next to a fortune, but it taught me that just because you’re a product designer doesn’t mean you have to learn how to code. Learn the lingo, make mistakes, and better your communication skills. It will help in numerous areas of your life.

Our agency, Knife and Fox, is still crushing it, and we’re excited about the clients we’re currently working with. Obviously its still our top line’s bread-and-butter, but I personally can not wait for the future journey with Dash.

You can check out our landing page here: Dash


  • Albert David, 4 years ago

    Much obliged to know this! Congrats, wish you to reach extra miles!

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  • KJ Prince, 4 years ago

    I felt that. Highly relatable.

    Good luck on your new journey.

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  • Christopher MurphyChristopher Murphy, 4 years ago

    Congratulations, Shea. This is an inspiring story to read and really underlines that you can make the leap from service-focused work to product-focused work, but it takes drive, focus, determination, perseverance and an infinite supply of courage.

    Having made this journey myself I know how nerve-wracking it can be, so this is all the more impressive for it.

    I share a studio with a small (×4) studio in Belfast who are just about to embark upon this journey. They have a great idea and the talent to build it and my fingers are well and truly crossed for them.

    Anyhow, again, well done!

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    • Noelle StranskyNoelle Stransky, 4 years ago

      This is great! Congrats on your journey. Great timing too, my husband is a personal trainer and is looking for a platform exactly like this. I'll share this with him and see what he thinks.

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  • Dan BDan B, 4 years ago

    Congrats on the transition. I'm already perceiving a lot of passion in your words so I'm sure you'll learn a ton. Enjoy the ride!

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  • Randall MorrisRandall Morris, 4 years ago

    Congratulations on this success and for sharing here.

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  • Paul Bunyar, 4 years ago

    Without even looking, this sounds like a Basecamp sort of idea. Scale a team to keep improving and supporting the product. Build the business, but not too big. So, I think the question is, can this product be sustained by a team of X number of people for five, ten, twenty plus years?

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    • Shea Lewis, 4 years ago

      Yeah we are already able to support a full time developer. :) Just need more clients haha!

      1 point
  • Jon .Jon ., 4 years ago

    Good luck!

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  • Mauricio Paim, 4 years ago

    Simple website, idea is good, feel like this could be easily applied in other markets as well, specially in countries that value a lot fitness such as: Brazil.

    All the best, great work, thanks for sharing your thoughts on agency biz.

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    • Shea Lewis, 4 years ago

      Oh yeah for sure Brazil. If you have any connections, we are all ears :) haha

      1 point