Interview With Rachel Bentley

Meet Rachel Bentley, one of my amazing business partners!

This is becoming one of my favorite things to do, interview people I look up to for different reasons. I realized how great of a designer this girl was 10 years ago now, when she was the designer for one of my television station clients. When business started to become overwhelming and I knew I needed help…I knew the first place to go. I didn’t put out a resume search on Indeed, I didn’t post a job on Facebook…I simply asked this friend, hey, you wanna partner our companies up? I’ll send you design work and keep you busy. That was over 7 years ago and this girl has become not only an integral part of 3Zero but one of my dearest friends. 

I want you guys to meet Rachel Bentley, the owner of RB Design, and frankly one of the best artists I’ve ever met. She’s been a stay at home mom business owner since 2014 and we’ve grown together since then. 

Thanks Rach for taking your time from our usual daily conversations for this special email conversation! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your start? When did you know you wanted to be some kind of artist? Tell us a little about RIT, your jobs and what made you start your own business? 

I grew up always drawing and doodling, it was my outlet and release. My mom is a graphic designer and had her own business when I was growing up so I would always watch her work while working on my own drawings, even if it was scribbles. My favorite subject in school was always art and as I got older and my passion for all art grew with me. 

When it was time to decide on a college I picked RIT to pursue a major in Illustration, concentrating in graphic design, animation and creative writing. I visited RIT with my parents at the end of my junior year in High School and I immediately knew I wanted to go there. It was one of those moments where as soon as I saw the school I knew it was the place for me; there was an instant connection. I applied for early action and was accepted in December of 2004.

Fast forward to now, I met the love of my life at RIT, we moved around upstate NY a little deciding on a little town called Marion, NY to settle and make our family. When I found out we were expecting our first child we were currently living in Waterville, NY where I met you. Both my husband and I felt like we wanted to be closer to family and didn’t want to settle down in Waterville so we picked up, quit our jobs and moved when I was 8 months pregnant. I don’t recommend this. It was a very hard decision to be a stay at home mom, I had been working since I was 14 and I didn’t know anything different than working during the day. Following in my mom’s footsteps, I decided to start my own business. My business started mainly when you proposed we work together. It’s been through your support and help that has helped me with the confidence to continue and grow my company.

I actually had no idea your mom owned a graphic design business! That’s awesome. Were you able to equate that your mom’s specific set of skills translated to being able to make your own money or did that come later on? 

And I didn’t even have to force you to say those nice things! You were the first person that I truly thought of. I believed I can help you grow, mostly because every situation and scenario that you encounter in the beginning, I’ve already gone through. The biggest difference with us was my sales experience. I was more or less forced to learn how to deal with all kinds of customers, especially unhappy ones when I was at the tv station haha.  

When you first got started was your mom supportive of your decision to start your own business?  

Also, I have zero clue what it’s like to be a stay at home mom (yet, cause it’s 2021 and I can do that), and try and run a business. Can you give some other stay at home mom’s some tips on how to differentiate between parenting and working? I obviously know based on our conversations, it’s sure as shit not easy haha. But I think we’re going to see a spike in the number of people starting their own businesses and being able to avoid the usual pitfalls, especially if you’re a stay at home parent, can be helpful for folks. 

I guess I get to put you on the spot and I can ask ya…what have you learned, good or bad from me? What to do, what not to do? I never thought of myself as a leader until recently, and it’s still strange to feel like I’m leading anyone…but it’s good to learn where your faults lie too.

As a kid I really didn’t realize that she made money or what it meant when she ran her business. When we moved from Colorado to Syracuse she started working at an ad agency because I was old enough to stay home and watch my sister after school so she stopped her business before I could really understand more about it. 

My mom was supportive of me starting my own business, but more worried about the struggles she went through as a business owner and a stay at home mother. She didn’t want me to have the same struggles she did, probably with financials and supporting my family, she never really explained her misgivings in detail however (she’s a worrywart). 

When I was younger though I was never aware of the struggles she went through, I loved that she stayed home and I was allowed to draw while she worked. I remember when she got the Adobe products and she was going through the tutorials, I would actually play around with the products too…at that point they only had Photoshop and Illustrator, so I’ve been familiar with the products since I was 8-9 years old. 

Being a stay at home mom and a business owner is a lot…you have to find a balance between getting your work done and being there for your kids. It was a lot harder when they were 1ish because there were less naps, still nursing and diapers. I would say work above the hard times, do what you can when you can without sacrificing your family’s happiness. I’ve changed my schedule many times. I’m not a morning person, so at first when my oldest was little I would put her to bed and then work until 12-1 in the morning and then take a nap when she took her first nap. Now though I have to get my kids to school so my schedule has changed to working in the mornings before my kids get home, so when they are home I can focus on being there for them. It’s about being flexible, working with how you feel at the moment, giving the attention where it needs it. Also reach out to other business owners, talk to them, become friends with them because the friendship and support I’ve had from you since I started out helped me more than you probably know. 

All small business owners are in the same boat. They feel the same struggles and hardships but it’s about how you rise above them and give each other support that can help you overcome them and be successful. 

What have I learned from you…how to run my business, how to work with sales and get clients. You’ve taught me to value myself and to not let people take advantage of my talent which has probably been one of the hardest struggles for me, since I don’t see my value or how talented I am sometimes. The bad…make sure I know exactly what my client is looking for before I spend a ton of time on something and it’s not even close to what they are looking for. Haha    

Haha yeah mom’s definitely tend to be worrywarts, right Stephanie Rauscher? Your statement about what you really remember about your mom’s business is awesome. That you were completely unaware of any struggles, you were just happy she was home. I think that statement should help a lot of people feel more comfortable in their upcoming choices of working for themselves or working for someone else under uncomfortable circumstances. Your kids care, they notice that you’re around more. Some of you know my lady quit her salaried 9-5 job 2 years ago. She now has full control over her entire schedule. The kids notice. She drops them off at school, she picks them up, they never see a babysitter, she’s around for every school day off, every holiday off…they will remember that stuff forever. Do your kids notice that unlike Daddy who does the 9-5 job, Mommy is home all the time? 

It’s wild to me that you’ve known about the Adobe products for 20+ years. I didn’t touch Adobe Photoshop until maybe my 3rd year in college. That was just one class. I didn’t really become fully comfortable with the main designing programs from Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign), until I started at Paige Group in 2005. I think that really shows the difference in our abilities and why I sought to have you as part of my team when I asked…you’ve had literal YEARS of experience over myself as a designer. It just made perfect sense for me to focus on other parts of the business. They say it takes 10,000 hours of “practice” to become a master of something…you are well on your way if you’re not there yet. 

Working from home, it’s so important to BE FLEXIBLE with yourself. Your first instinct is to continue working 9-5….which, if that is your best working time, continue it. For me, I’ve been the opposite of you, my mind is sharpest the minute I wake up for about 4-6 hours. After that it’s a complete crapshoot. My work speed ebbs and flows during the weeks/months and I’ve just learned to go with it. When my mental energy isn’t as sharp, I do tasks that are really mundane but need to get done. When I feel like my creativity is flying off the charts, I get as much stuff done in that time as I can. You’ve done a great job of trying to switch your schedule up based on the kids’ lives…I’ve finally gotten to a point here where I have a good routine for a long stretch. 

I hate tooting my own horn so it’s not easy asking a question to be evaluated haha…but my point really is, my business and honestly my happiness level started taking off when I learned that I was helping you. The more excited you got about your business, the more excited it made me. I really started to apply that to every client. I became genuinely more excited about their business, their goals, and doing whatever I could to help them move the needle forward. You’ve simply become my first “student” I guess in a mentorship type program that I’d love to establish for new entrepreneurs. Help people do what’s taking me upwards of 10 years to accomplish, and have them figure it out in a quarter of the time. Avoid my mistakes, do things the right way from the start, don’t cut corners, learn from others, then teach others. It’s why I keep saying to you that I think your next step in business someday will be to find the next “you” like I did. You’ll be handling the higher end stuff while your partner in crime starts off small and builds. What kinda goals do you have for yourself in the next year, 5 years, 10 years?

My kids understand that daddy does go to work and mommy stays home so she can be with them. I tell them that daddy works really hard so we can have this house, food, the toys you have. I hope they appreciate how hard he works, and I feel like they’re really happy mommy gets the opportunity to be home with them. 

Yes, having been around the Adobe products since they essentially came out has made the whole program really second nature to me.

I am trying really hard to stay Flexible and work when I can, you know I am not a morning person so I try to work in spurts and take breaks and I feel like I get more done that way than forcing myself to work for multiple hours. I feel like we’ve both taught each other a lot for our businesses to do well.

For the next 5, 10, 15 years I really want to grow my business, and focus more on sales and be the person people go to for their brand and design needs. I want to be the expert, the one people see as an asset to their company for it to grow. Who knows what the future holds but I’m hoping things will be clear and I can grow.

Well I guess my question on that first part becomes…would you want your kids to recognize your business success early enough that perhaps they want to become entrepreneurs themselves? These two over this house seem to have it in mind they want to start a pizzeria or something of the like in the future together…and as someone that’s an entrepreneur, I’d do nothing but encourage them to do that. 

With so many people looking to start their own business or side hustle…which of the Adobe products, if people wanted to start learning one, would you recommend they start with? I never really had any truly “formal” training in any of them. Couple of college classes, a couple of hotel type day seminars, but mostly everything I learned was through online tutorials, reading Adobe books, and more or less trial and error. I learned Photoshop first, then got most comfortable in Indesign through my agency days, but now probably use Illustrator the most. I actually find Illustrator to be the most difficult to learn though. 

So much of working for yourself is just learning all your own personal nuances of how you like to work and how you work best. I sometimes move from spot to spot after a couple hours if I can’t get any or keep momentum going. I’ve accepted naps as a way to rejuvenate on days that I’m struggling. Sometimes I play music, sometimes I have random tv shows on, sometimes it’s a podcast or complete silence. 

Sales is the one differentiating factor between free-lancers and actual businesses in my mind. Making sure you take an active approach to finding new prospects, working on building relationships, finding their pain points, coming up with solutions to those problems….that’s where people seem to lag a little bit. Doing sales work is uncomfortable. There are a lot of “No” responses, a lot of answers you know are bullshit but are just part of the game. Talking about money with prospects can be uncomfortable. But, the good thing to understand is, it’s all a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more businesses you interact with in some way or get to know the business owner…the more likely it is you’ll get new sales. Where do you find your biggest struggles to be when it comes to the sales process? 

Absolutely, if they want to be entrepreneurs, I would hope my experience would help them and I hope they could come to me with questions. Hopefully they are inspired and know they can be a stay at home parent and still work and it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I even feel like getting into trades and not going to college could be possible if they have a good work ethic and they love what they do. I would never tell them or make them do something that wasn’t for them.

As far as adobe products, I would say the easiest to learn is Photoshop, like you said. They are all so different though that you would have to take on learning one that would be most beneficial to what you are going to use it for. Illustrator is what I use most and there’s so many options in Illustrator it can be a little overwhelming, I still don’t know all the functions you can do. I use Illustrator to draw, design, play with text, logos, more creative artsy applications. 

InDesign is best for layouts, magazines, books, other collateral options that are very composition and word heavy that takes up multiple pages. 

Photoshop is strictly photo editing and free hand drawing, it’s great for digital artists that have Wacom tablets, that want to sketch, paint, etc.  There’s so many other Adobe products that you can get into and pretty much one for every facet of the art world but those three are the staples I use. 

I’m right there with you having to move around and taking breaks and I must have something on in the background. It’s mostly my kids’ shows but I cannot have a quiet house. Sometimes I’ll watch my shows on my computer while I work or have the tv on in the office. I love and hate naps, I love them because it’s so relaxing and sometimes I really need them and I hate them because I feel like a part of my day is gone and I almost end up more tired.

My biggest struggle in sales is clinching the deal. I can talk about my business to anyone but getting the logo or being confident in my prices and what I need can be hard. Putting myself out there is a struggle, when people say no I typically just walk away instead of following up and trying again.

At 38, college is still the worst financial decision of my life. 

I’ve kicked around the ideas of doing digital classes for those beginners in some of the Adobe products. But so much of it, and I think you’d agree, is simply trial and error. Don’t know what a certain tool does, well that’s easy…make a new document and use it, or download a template and alter it with tools. What most people tend to lack is just the knowhow of what certain terminology means, or how tools interact with each other. There are no less than 6 dozen ways to do the same thing with every Adobe product I’ve used.

As we finish up, what projects or work are you most proud of since becoming a “designer”? This can be anything from college through business ownership. Certain projects must stick out positively for you. And are there any clients that you’d like to make mention of that you’ve worked with along the way and are proud of what you’ve done for them? 

Thanks so much friend for taking the time to talk to me outside of our daily talkings. I’m beyond proud of what you’ve accomplished in the last 7 years together and so grateful for the partnership we’ve formed. Side note for folks, Rach and I hadn’t actually seen each other since I worked at the television station in early 2013. We finally got together and hung out in person outside of a client relationship for the first time….needless to say, even in distance, our partnership and bond is strong as ever. 

Yeah same here, I learned more experiencing and working with graphics everyday than I did in school. Although, I did love RIT and I would never take that experience back. That’s where I met Matt, and having RIT on my resume doesn’t hurt either but we will be paying student loans for a while. 

It’s funny you say that because yes there are a lot of different ways to do the same thing and even I don’t know everything the products can do which I feel is saying a lot. 

I think my biggest project I’m most proud of is illustrating a book for RIT. It’s called “ RITchie Finds His Stripes” and I am so honored to have been the illustrator for the book. Rick and his family are so amazing and we really brought RITchie to life. A copy of it even got placed in the RIT Hall of Fame, also some of the players signed a copy and sent it to Rick (Author) and were so excited to be drawn in the book, so that was pretty awesome.

I’m also proud of how far I’ve come as a designer. I look at my work from when I started to now and I feel like a whole different designer. I’m way more confident in my talent, yes I still have a far way to go but I’m starting to see what others see.

That book was such an awesome accomplishment…huge projects like that tend to be, with so much time and energy devoted to it…especially when it’s recognized by others. 

I would tell you how proud I am of you also, but I tell you that all the time! You’ve helped my company grow and also given me the confidence that we can quite literally do anything a client asks of us. I look forward to the next 5, 10, 20 years together and growing our businesses together. You’ve become a sister to me over the years and I’m beyond grateful for this partnership. Thanks for opening up a little about yourself and your business. 

If you guys wanna give Rach a follow head over to Rachel Bentley Design on Facebook.