Casandra Bryan hopes potential clients don’t mistake youthful exuberance for inexperience.
“People sometimes think I’m a little bubbly when I show up for a meeting,” says the 27-year-old head of Cassandra Bryan Design.
The enthusiasm seems to be paying off with a client list that’s grown to include Standard Beverage, Yingling Aviation, Cheri’s Baker, All Paws Center and more than a hundred others since Bryan started the company in her basement five years ago.
Bryan, a Wichita native, quit her job as a Web designer with an e-commerce company to open CBD, which brands itself as a website design and branding firm.
Programmer Levi Mabe, a friend from Bryan’s days as an art student at Friends University, was her first hire, while designer Sarah Poinsett came on board shortly afterward.
Bryant said her husband insisted she pay off her student loans before starting the company and also let her know when it was time to take the next step.
“He made us leave the basement once we had three people working in a walk-in closet,” Bryan said.
Last year, CBD moved into a 1,000-square-foot space in the Zelman Lofts building at Douglas and St. Francis, becoming that renovated property’s first commercial tenant. Exposed bricks, stand-up desks, big Macs and a floor-to-ceiling mural urging onlookers to “Practice Aloha” complete the look.
In a market seemingly full of Web designers, CBD tries to set itself apart with customer service and sites that offer more than just eye-catching graphics.
“The joke is that you hire somebody and you don’t hear from them for months,” Mabe said of the reputation shared by many designers. “We try to think, ‘what is the opposite or your worst nightmare?’ and do that.”
For Cheri’s Bakery, CBD designed an online ordering system that helped the business land on the cover of Bake, a national industry magazine. Standard Beverage’s site allows customers to access Standard’s beverage delivery schedule, which facilitates ordering from the company. For Heartland Research Associates, CBD built a site that allows potential research subjects to see what kind of research is being done and contact the people in charge.
“We actually try to help businesses do business better,” Bryan said.
The company strives to build sites that customers can maintain and add content to themselves, with technical support from CBD if needed. “The biggest thing we hear (from clients) is that they can manage and update them themselves,” Mabe said.
While CBD does maintain sites for about 15 clients, that is not the firm’s focus, Bryan said.
Instead, she wants to work for as many different types of customers as possible.
“New challenges are what we’re looking for,” she said.
To date, CBD has built sites for 120 clients, including 48 this year when it added three more employees. After working for the local franchise of Renewal by Anderson, CBD recently was hired by Renewal window replacement operations across the Midwest as well as those in Phoenix, Portland and Las Vegas. And CBD plans to unveil a new site for another client, WDM Architecture, before the end of the year.
The firm won the 2013 Innovations in Business Award from the Young Professionals of Wichita organization.
Bryan says she wants her workplace to be fun and collegial. There are gym memberships for employees, along with occasional trips to the Anchor for creative block-breaking beers. But Bryan said she’s a “very detail-oriented” boss who holds her employees responsible at meetings every Monday morning.
Bryan’s growing business has left her less time for designing as she focuses on the business side of things. Despite her lack of formal training in that area, Bryan said it “just sort of comes naturally. It’s fun. I like talking to people, so I just kind of go with the flow.”