Get to know: Meredith Cancilla from Quixotic Design Co.
Meredith Cancilla is committed to building brands owned by women. Her company Quixotic Design Co. develops bespoke brand identities and web designs to help companies acquire customers and increase brand awareness. When Cancilla started her company in 2017, she wanted to build a web design company that was completely remote and not tied to a specific region. However, her perspective changed when she saw the strength and proliferation of women-owned businesses in the capital region. “It was the Sacramento community that actually got my business going and helped me get that first customer base,” says Cancilla, who grew up in Sacramento.
Meet the founder of @quixoticdesignco in ## Sacramento.
♬ Darling – Trees and Lucy As CEO and Creative Director of Quixotic Design Co., Cancilla oversees the content, brand and website design. In addition to client work, she runs Quixotic’s social channels and website as resources for branding and content marketing tips. She leads a team of four who help with the implementation of ideas and production for customers and Quixotic’s own brand. Now that she has a team, “I’m much more focused on the creative direction than the actual details of the design, which is a cool new role for me,” she says.
Filling the role of CEO and Designer comes as a surprise to Cancilla as her early career goals were deeply rooted in the academic world. During her student years at UC Santa Barbara, she worked as a senior research fellow on a study examining the effects of stressful situations on couples and planned to earn a PhD and become a professor. But after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications, she started designing for fun. While working in a restaurant “to pay the bills,” she designed a menu for the owner that led her to design branded materials for all of his restaurants. “That sparked the idea that this is actually a career path. I can be paid for that. ”
To “get the basics”, Cancilla relied on digital tutorials on platforms such as Lynda.com, Skillshare and YouTube. She began freelancing and working in a few agencies – both remotely and in person in Sacramento offices, such as Propaganda Design Studio – learning from other creatives. “I’ve worked with some amazing creative directors who made me the designer I am today,” she says. She believes her experience working under a Creative Director has enabled her to go beyond her self-taught basis to learn “intelligent design”. Networking and attending mini art exhibitions and pop-up events allowed her to build a list of freelance clients and start Quixotic.
Cancilla says she loves that Sacramento is “super small business centric”. “There are so many thriving small businesses in Midtown,” she says, “and you just don’t see that everywhere. The food, the culture, everything is so authentic and it’s somebody’s business. ”Quixotic built the brands of women’s companies like Arvo Floral Studio, Mist Body Bar, Joyeux Events, Becca and Co., Village General Store and KM Design Co. fits well.)
The founder attributes her urge to support women-owned companies to her own family dynamics – she says she comes from a “family of self-starting women”.
Cancilla worked at Sacramento-based agencies, including the Propaganda Design Studio, before founding Quixotic Design Co.
The value of a good website:
People want information to be as quick and digestible as possible, and a website is a great way to give them a quick overview of your activity. For a small business owner, having a great website is all about attracting customers and finding organic new lead pools. Not only creating personal customer relationships but also through SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to reach new types of people that you might not have had contact with. It’s a digital place where you can be reached 24/7. So the beauty of the website is that everyone can go to your website at 2:00 am and find out everything you do, your full story, how to get in touch with you, and what your product process is like. And you don’t have to have sales pitches to get them there. It is this amazing piece of your presence that allows you to take your own time out of the equation a little bit.
I make it my business to support women in business: With both my agency and my freelance work, I’ve found that my preferred types of clients are small businesses run by women. And I come from a family of self-starting women. I mean, my mom had three jobs when we were little and then she started this career that really got off the ground. It really inspired me to focus on women. Not only are these the customers I love to work with best, but I also feel the need to represent women with my own business.
Why I advise customers to stay agile and up to date on social and content trends: Something I see in a lot of small business owners that I think is a mistake is not to change with social trends. I was guilty of that too. When TikTok came out, I thought: I’m not doing this, I’m not adding any more work. … But I think for the most part the most important thing is to be flexible and pivotable when you can because it really pays off when it comes to driving traffic and finding new lead pools. And of course, make sure there’s a strategy behind everything.
Cancilla attributes her desire to support women-owned businesses to her coming from a “family of self-starting women.”
My recommendation for experimenting with trends in branding your company: I think you want to stay away from incorporating trends into your branding foundation. We want to avoid that. Because you don’t want to look like everyone else doing the same thing. It’s about taking a little more time and effort and creating something completely unique.
Not all trends are bad, but if you look at the trend concept as a whole, it will eventually go out of style and everything is temporary. I think trends can be really cool for temporary content. Things like Instagram stories or social posts, anything that isn’t going to be super evergreen or the cornerstone of your brand. It’s fun to experiment with trends through typography and use of color. And I think apps like Canva do a great job of bringing such trends to light.
Looking for creative inspiration for your brand outside of the usual places: My assistant Kendall (Baylor) is a big vintage fashion buyer. She made this great point that if you find a really special piece in a property sale, it is your unique piece. And that really convinced me. I feel like it’s the same with branding.
Instead of paying attention to what everyone else is doing, look outside of your industry. Look for inspiration everywhere. Whether it’s a sign or a billboard, consider all kinds of branding and style outside of your niche.
Take notes because I think all forms of art are created by replication in our brains. We take and edit pictures all day and sometimes we see something and it inspires a work of art. We just want to make sure we draw from a lot of different sources so that it isn’t an actual replica.
Supporting an influx of small businesses started during the pandemic: Being a remote designer is one of the few areas that actually did pretty well during the pandemic I think because of our ability to support small businesses that are starting up.
When a lot of people lost their 9-to-5 or were on leave, they finally had time to tackle this side-hustle project that they had thought about for years and never got around to. So we worked with a lot of business owners who were just getting started which was really cool. I’m really grateful that I could do that last year.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct Meredith Cancilla’s last name.
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