This interview was conducted by Stephen Perkins and was originally posted on his blog.
Tony Smith‘s interest in graphic design began while he was still in school. Today, he has turned that interest into a wildly successful graphic design studio. On top of that, he also runs a branding company that is starting to take on some big names.
In this interview, Tony tells us about the time when he first discovered his passion for graphic design. He also talks about his new companies and future plans. This is one person that you definitely want to learn from.
Tell us about yourself and your background
My name is Tony Smith; I am a junior at The University of Tennessee –Knoxville majoring in public relations. I also am a young mogul with several businesses. I have grown up with a business mindset and strive to become more successful every day I am blessed to wake up. My businesses are I Am Tony GFX, which are my graphic design business offering services from web design to business cards. I also co-own a Company / Artist branding company known as IN-House Production. Along with my business partner Darnell Tennial that specializes in taking an artist or company name and making it greater than the consumer ever expected. My business partner and I have started a clothing line, which ties into our enterprise of businesses we own and work to achieve success in. The clothing line is called #WTS Apparel also known as willing to succeed.
How did you first get interested in graphic design?
When I was in high School I wanted to started a website and asked one of my close friends to teach me how to use Photoshop. He ignored my request, which gave me the ambition to learn on my own, because one way or another I was going to get my task completed. I am glad that he refused to teach me because it led me to be who I am today. (I Am Tony GFX)
What kept you motivated and driven while you were learning all of these new skills?
When I first started using Photoshop I was taking classes at a community college because I had graduated early from high school. I went to the school library and got on the computer to fire up Adobe Photoshop. I thought the program was going to be easy, but it turned out to be a science / math of its own. I was focused and determined to learn because it was an asset to my business.
How did you end up turning your interests into a business?
When I entered the University of Tennessee I was asked if I made flyers. I told the consumer yes. They ending up liking my product and paid me for it. Ever since then I knew I had a future in graphic design and have been bettering my skills each and every day.
Did you always know that you wanted to own your own business or did it just happen?
Yes, since I was younger I always said I was going to be a CEO, but wasn’t sure in what field. I always loved music, but knew I couldn’t rap or sing. Now I have been blessed to work with record labels, artist, business owners, and clients in every field because of my graphic design skill I have been blessed with.
How were you able to balance your business with school?
At first it was hard to balance school with business because I would be interested in making money so I would do my homework after I finished my work for the day. The ended up not being very beneficial when It came down to test time. After I figured out that my current studies weren’t where they needed to be I figured out that if I studied every day for one hour at least I would be prepared in my studies and not have to cram which has produced way better results for my education.
How is your business doing today and what are your future plans?
Business is great! It has expanded so much in a year. Last year was the first time someone paid me to make a flyer and now I make great money just by doing graphic design. I have been awesome at web design, which is a new service I offer. Web design has taking my business revenue to an even greater level and open doors with clients I never thought I would have came in contact with. I am now expanding my business into my Public Relation / Branding company which I previously mentioned. The business is going through a major expansion plan right now which means we are placing advertising portals in many businesses in the Tennessee area as our start, so any companies looking for a great budget advertising for any type of company contact me and I will make sure your product is seen.
What was one of your biggest setbacks and what did you learn from that?
The setbacks come when you are looking to expand and in need capital to start a business. I currently am looking for angel investors to invest into My Advertising Branding Company. The clients we are working with right now are major. I cannot release their names at the present moment until their projects are done, but my company has gotten to a celebrity status I must say. After I find the right Angel investor I plan to have my company as the largest advertising / branding in the south within the next year. After that the nation then the world. I have major future plans for my companies.
What was one of your biggest accomplishments and what did you learn from that?
My biggest accomplishment is when I send a customer their product and the fall in the love with the product that I created. The smile on their face teaches me that I can never half step my craft, because it is more than a skill it is a gift I was blessed with and I am thankful for the gift.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their business off the ground?
The biggest advice I would give to a young entrepreneur is to stay focused on your business if you want much success. Get rich quick schemes are not the way to success. Starting a business can make you feel awesome, but can also be discouraging at times making you want to give up. You have to have the ambition and willpower to keep pushing for progress in your success. Sometimes becoming successful means no sleep and no slacking. You have to work hard and if you follow through with this advice I guarantee you will have success. Let me be a living testimony, and I would love to consult with any business entrepreneurs that are looking to work with my company in the future on any business venture.