Small Business Spotlight

Design Duo

These partners are growing their Web development company one client at a time.

By
From the August 2013 issue of Columbus CEO
  • Photo by Ryan M.L. Young

Clients who walk into k2dsquared looking for a new website design had better be prepared for some tough questions—ones that have little to do with domain names, widgets and theme templates.

They include:

If your company was a person, what kind of person would it be?

If your company could speak, what would it say?

If your company could pick out an outfit, what would it wear?

For k2dsquared co-owners Kiersten Turos and Kurt Knazek, the answers to these questions are at the heart of what they do: craft websites that reflect a company’s vision and voice, and create a development relationship that lasts far beyond a site launch.

“We are more of a process,” says Knazek. “We don’t jump into design and shove a visual presentation to the client. We try to understand the business and have a documented discovery piece.”

“We design for the user, not the client,” Turos adds.

Turos and Knazek are both graduates of Ohio State University—she in design in 1999 and he in computer information science in 2001. They began working together in the early 2000s when both joined Neulogic, where they specialized in building Web presences for nonprofit organizations.

After Neulogic was sold in 2007, the friends decided to start their own business, using the skills they had gained and their own approach to client relations and customer service.They named the company k2dsquared to represent the shared first letter of their first names, as well as all the “D’s” that go into the process of website creation: design, development and deployment.

They also developed a philosophy that their new company would provide clients with support at every level—from planning, designing and crafting a site to branding, hosting and maintenance—for an online identity that recognizes individuality.

“We look at it that once we finish a site, that is just the beginning,” says Knazek. “We grow and adapt with the business. We nurture the site. We feel like a website is a living, breathing organism. It has to grow and adapt as business model and clientele grow and adapt.”

In an age of seemingly countless do-it-yourself Web opportunities—such as content management systems WordPress and Squared and the hosting space Go Daddy—companies such as k2dsquared sometimes have a tough economic road.

Turos and Knazek, however, say they have seen a 50 percent increase in business over the past year and claim a “99 percent retention rate” by combining style, substance and a customer service philosophy that most companies can’t—or don’t—provide.

“We build website like houses are built,” says Turos. “We develop a blueprint. We deal with how the house will stand up and stay together before we ever think about how to make it pretty. … We are an old-school style of business; every client is a family member. If their site is not successful, we are not successful.”

That attentiveness is what hooked Mary Lou Blanton, director of sale and marketing at Wexner Heritage Village. Blanton says she sought bids for a new website and vited k2dsquared based on an earlier cold-call email.She says once she met with the firm she knew she didn’t need to look any further.

“They were the first group we interviewed, and they rocked my socks,” Blanton says. “They were so full of energy, so positive and so customer-oriented. They reassured me they would be there for me and not let me down, and that is exactly what has happened. I can call or email them day or night, and they will get right back to me.

“They told me, ‘We are here long term to build a relationship and be there for you,’ and that is the truth. They have been nothing but wonderful to work with.”

Although k2dsquared has created more than 50 sites for clients such as OhioHealth and the Chicago Zoological Society, Knazek admit the firm’s biggest challenge comes from the prejudice that the small business sometimes faces when compared with a large agency.

A lack of compartmentalization, which allows all employees to handle multiple facets of the organization, and a willingness to bring in expertise when and where needed, gives k2dsquared a greater reach, he says.

But the partners also recognize their ideal role in the design world and have little desire to move past it.“Our goal is never to be big,” Turos says. “We are not looking for next big thing. We want to stay small, solid and strong.”

Nicole Kraft is a freelance writer.