By: Mark Thomas
"When you have a name like this, my dad drilled that into me as a kid, always use your middle initial."
Stephanie S. Smith orchestrates two businesses. Her primary company, S&Co. Design, provides graphic design and marketing. Her second company, Beauty of Life, is a line of apparel and gear "designed to inspire", with the trademarked theme "Be Who You Are". The idea for the line was hatched in 2007, and was launched at Kansas City Pride in 2008. She has traveled to multiple states, working primarily Pride events, but sells the clothing online as well.
Her latest piece for the collection is a shirt with "Be Who You Are" translated into 43 languages. " In the course of finding the translations I discovered in the Finnish language (the phrase) "be who you are" is one word. How progressive is that!"
"I had been designing for years for clients, and just decided to start this little t-shirt business to see what would happen and it just ballooned from there." She has since seen her shirts sold at previous events all across the country.
S&Co. Design (that primary business) was founded in 1986. Smith's company offers a wide range of services. While developing logos is her favorite specialty; her expertise includes brochures, catalogs, direct mail, packaging, trade show displays and web design.
Smith graduated from Kansas University with a BFA in Visual Communications and worked for several advertising agencies as an Art Director before stepping out on her own. "I've always free lanced, and had my eggs in more than one basket." S&Co Design focuses on design, but can quickly assemble a team of writers, PR specialists or other skilled members to suit the client. Still, with a changing business environment, Smith does have to wear "a number of hats." She finds that actively reaching out for clients, not just waiting for referrals, is essential.
Smith joined the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, "pretty early on". "The Chamber has helped." "I have developed clients because of it."
Regarding Chamber resources and programs, "I've done the Masterminds program, I really like that...in a nutshell you get different perspectives, based on their business, their perspectives. It's always enlightening!" "I can't speak for other people on what they want or expect from the Chamber...I go to really connect and not just walk away with a pocket full of business cards." She notes that she finds it very valuable to reach out to new faces at the Chamber of events.
When asked what she would like to see or change regarding the Chamber: "I'd like to see more women." But she also disclaims, "If we want to grow this we need to be inviting people. Not just women. Not just business owners."
When not working her two companies, Smith has a passion for water gardening. "What gardening does for me, because I'm passionate about color, color is so important to me, the design carries over to water garden, the timing of blooms, and the textures speak to me."