Couple builds brand for themselves, other businesses

R-Digital-Rob-and-Mary-80EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. – If not now, when? That was the question that finally prompted Rob Lewis and his wife Mary Big Bull-Lewis to open their own graphic design firm, R Digital Design.

Though neither had owned a business before, Rob had been working as a graphic designer for nine years and knew the creative and administrative part of the business. Mary was working as a project manager and estimator at the same design firm.

“We always knew we could do it on our own and be successful,” Mary said. But the problem was how to get started.

Business course a springboard

Rob and Mary Lewis.

Mary, a member of the Colville Tribe, had heard of an entrepreneurship program led by Lew Blakeney, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Okanogan. Blakeney has been instructing a 10-week course, “Indianpreneurship: A Native American Journey into Business,” twice a year since 2003.

Since the Lewises were working in Wenatchee, Blakeney referred them to Jim Fletcher, the SBDC certified business advisor in Wenatchee.

The Washington SBDC Network includes more than two dozen certified business advisors working in community-based offices across the state. The network is supported by Washington State University, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other economic development agencies and institutions of higher education. The office in Wenatchee receives additional support from the ports of Chelan and Douglas counties.

Starting strong

The Lewises started working on their business plan in early 2012, Mary said, and met with Fletcher several times over the next year to make sure they were creating a solid foundation.

“We learned what not to do,” Mary said, which was a huge benefit. “Failure was not an option so we wanted to make sure we were doing things right.”

They worked with Fletcher on everything from creating a company vision to setting up QuickBooks.

“He has directed us in the right direction for each step it took to start, and he is always willing to help.” Mary said.

Unique branding a specialty

Originally, she said, they thought they’d need several investors so they could buy equipment and rent a commercial space. But in the end they decided to create a home-based business and use service providers for work that was beyond their capability.

The Lewises have ambitious plans for the business, but starting small and lean has allowed them to find their niche and build brand recognition, even while they help other companies do the same.

“We really specialize in logos and branding,” Mary said. “We like to work with new businesses in town and help them create a brand identity.”

“When starting your company, an important key is to start with a unique logo and build your brand identity from there,” Rob said. He cautioned against using clip art or other off-the-shelf design elements because the goal is for your marketing materials to stand out, not blend in. Ready-made design templates will only confuse your audience, he said.

“Consistency and repetition, paired with a unique design and color scheme, are important aspects of being remembered,” he said.

Planning to grow, centralize

R Digital Design does website design, too, but specializes in print work including business cards, letterheads, programs and brochures.

R-Digital-Design-Inspirations-300Their five-year plan includes opening an office in downtown Wenatchee and hiring additional employees, but for now they are enjoying the satisfaction of being sole proprietors, meeting each client one-to-one and seeing a project through to completion.

Some of their recent clients have been Inspirations Ceramic & Art Café, Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort, Weeks Mechanical and Castle Rock Heights Music.

“The satisfaction of helping others and being able to produce quality work makes it all worth it,” Mary said.

For more information about R Digital Design, see

For more information about the Washington Small Business Development Center Network, see



Mary Big Bull-Lewis, R Digital Design,, 509-421-0887

Jim Fletcher, Washington SBDC,, 509-888-7252