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Business Spotlight: Take it as a Sign

A layoff is the impetus for Rogersville design firm, Slingshot Creative, now 10 years old

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Losing his job in 2008 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Joshua Hill, owner of graphic design business Slingshot Creative LLC.

The Rogersville man had been working at Nixa-based A & J Printing Inc. for around two years when he became a victim of the recession.

“I was making more money than a lot of the people that ran the presses who had been there for 17 years,” he says. “So they had to let me go.”

Hill was at a professional crossroads, but the 2004 Missouri State University graduate decided to make the best of his unexpected situation.

“I had always toyed with the idea of starting my own company,” he says. “I was like, ‘Well, this kind of pushes me into it.’”

Setting up shop
Starting in December 2008 as a home-based business, Hill offered graphic design services, such as business card and logo creations, along with photography. He already owned camera equipment from his time in college, and really got to work after purchasing a $2,000 Apple computer.

“I don’t think I even bought a desk,” he says with a laugh. “I just made due.”

Just as he was then, Hill remains a one-man band at Slingshot Creative, expanding its services in 2013 to include custom signs and banners, murals and web design. However, he does get the occasional helping hand from family members as needed.

In 2015, the business set up shop in a two-story, 6,000-square-foot building at 104 N. Main St. in downtown Rogersville, where Hill shares first-floor space with Restorative Touch, his wife Deinna’s massage business. They live on the second floor of the building with their four children.

The building required quite a bit of work, Hill says, with the new roof alone setting them back about $30,000. The couple set out to work on the building’s interior, adding insulation, repainting, tearing out carpets and refinishing wood floors among the projects. All told, the six-month job cost around $80,000, he says.

With a couple of years in operation at the Main Street office, Slingshot Creative’s work is now close to a 50-50 split between sign production and graphic and web designs, Hill says, resulting in 2017 revenue of roughly $85,000.

“I like being able to switch gears and do something different,” he says. “With the signs and stuff, it’s totally different thinking on the design element. A lot of times, you get to go out and install them, so you get outside.”

Hill says he picked up some of his sign- and banner-making skills from his time at Signs Now in Springfield, where he worked in college.

Creating a clientele
Starting out, Hill garnered 20-30 clients in his first year, relying on word of mouth and networking in Business Network International. Today, that client list is in the 150-200 range, Hill says, with about 100 considered regular clients on a weekly or monthly basis.

One of those reoccurring clients, Ozark-based Heather Hill Farms LLC, was one of Slingshot Creative’s first customers.

Heather Alder, owner of the cheese, wine and gift shop, says when she met Hill in late 2008, she was looking to rebrand her store. Hill produced new business cards and brochures, as well as a logo and fonts.

“I even liked it so well that I changed my billboards on the highway to match,” Alder says. “The brand identification shows the billboard, my business card and my brochure.”

Hill continues to produce Heather Hill Farms’ brochures, business cards, inside store signage and ads sent to publications, Alder says, estimating he’s done dozens of projects for her over the years. Alder’s uncertain how much she’s spent with Slingshot Creative during that time, but she works with him exclusively on brand image projects.

“There’s no reason for me to go anywhere else because I’m satisfied with what he does,” she says.

Hill’s hourly rate is $75, and he typically charges $300-$450 for logo work and $1,250-$1,500 for website designs.

He’s designed the websites of Horrmann Meat Co., Ozark Abstract & Title and Fahrlander Custom Homes, while also recently creating logos for Rogersville Pharmacy and The Pet Cottage LLC. And Hill’s mural work can be seen on the press box of the Willard High School stadium and on the walls of the middle school, giving positive messages to the students, such as, “Refuse to Sink” and “You will rise by lifting others.”

Building up his client list wasn’t easy, Hill says, as the weekly meetings at BNI required him to get in front of people and talk each week – the No. 1 thing he hates.

“I was like, ‘If I’m going to make this business work, I’m going to have to suck it up and do it,’” he says.

Hill doesn’t forget the struggle just before and after starting up. That memory informs him when it comes to the occasional clients beginning a new business opportunity of their own.

“It was tough getting started out,” he says. “I kind of have a heart for people when they come into my shop and are wanting business cards and that kind of stuff when they’re just starting out. I try to help them out as much as I can because I remember how hard it was when I got started.”

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