I had the pleasure of sitting down with Austin & Monica from A&M Digital Design who run their own web and brand design agency and do it in style by traveling the world. We discuss the advantages and challenges of running an agency while on the road, and what to think about before considering the lifestyle.
About Austin & Monica:
Austin and Monica are college sweethearts who built a design business centered around helping creative online business owners and couples find the confidence to show up authentically through strategic branding and websites.
To them there is something magical about building a brand. Once you have a brand and a website that represents your business correctly, nothing can stop you. They love watching business owners bask in the newfound confidence their brand and website provides.
Austin and Monica always joke that they are hard to keep track of because when they aren’t designing, they’re traveling the world in constant search of adventure, good food, and new friends.
Learn more about Austin & Monica at: A&M Digital Design
Jason Yormark: Hello, and welcome to another episode of anti-agency stories of doing business differently. I’m Jason Yormark, your host. And today I’ve got two folks with us I’m excited to talk to. They do some really cool stuff all over the world. We’re going to dive into that. We’ve got Austin and Monica Mangelson from A&M digital design. Welcome to the show.
Monica Mangelson: Thank you so much. It’s good to be here.
Jason Yormark: Awesome. So why don’t you both tell me a little bit about yourself, your story, what you’re doing, and we’ll go from there.
Monica Mangelson: Yeah, of course. So, we our business journey started in, of course the pandemic. I feel like that’s the same story for a lot of people. Austin, and I sure actually had jobs with the peace Corps, and we were getting ready to head out to Mozambique Africa. And then two weeks before we left everything shut down. And so, when it shut down, we didn’t have a house, we didn’t have a car, we didn’t have, well, our car, we ended up being able to keep our car, but we didn’t have jobs. We didn’t have anything going for us. So that’s when we kind of, that was kind of the kick in the butt We needed to start a business. Since then, we’ve been designing websites and brands and traveling around the world.
Jason Yormark: What, so did you have that experience in terms of designing websites and brands previous to launching this business? And if like, where did that experience kind of come from?
Austin Mangelson: That was all we kind of learned along the way, honestly. We did not have any previous experience in graphic design or web design or anything. Monica especially had always wanted to start a business. And so that was like she said, kind of the kick in the butt to get it started. And we started as virtual assistance. And so, we worked with kind of under the direction of other business owners for a while before we felt like we were comfortable enough and had a grip on things enough to jump into it, our own. So that’s kind of where our background and our, our learning and education came from before we started our own Design business.
Jason Yormark: Okay. So, you guys started this business. What were some of the biggest challenges that came with, you know, starting a business and getting some momentum that could create, you know, a sustainable income for you and your life?
Monica Mangelson: Yeah. There were a lot, neither one of us come from families who have run businesses or that was never like on the table for anyone we knew. I think one of our biggest hurdles with that was just a mindset that we can actually run a business and we can be successful in it. And then of course, pricing, I feel like is that really hard thing that everyone struggles with over and over again. So, I feel like those were two of our biggest hurdles.
Austin Mangelson: Yeah. I think, I think there’s a big learning curve. Because of that reason we didn’t have any personal or familial background with entrepreneurship. And so, there’s a big learning curve, not just in the industry that we’re jumping into, but running a business in general. And then with both of us going into it, you know, there’s a balance of interest and what business do we want to start that we’re both happy with, that we both enjoy doing. But with lots of really good deep conversations between the two of us, lots of YouTube, lots of online courses that we’ve purchased, we’ve been able to get the education that we need and align our interests, and align our skills so that we now have a business that we both enjoy, that we both feel like we can divvy up the responsibilities in a way that matches our skillset. And that allows us to run the business and create an income that we both, that can work for both of us.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. How long have you guys had the business now? How long have you been in Business?
Austin Mangelson: So, we officially launched it as a website in branding business in November of 2021, So last year. But then we were working as virtual assistant since 2020, I think, springtime-ish summertime.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. So, you guys are, I mean, relatively, you know, new into the business in terms of the history of it. How have you, what have been, how have you gotten clients? You know, when I think about when I started my agency, that’s always the big challenge, right. You know, carp before the horse, like, you know, people want to see that you have this portfolio and all this experience, but you need to get that too, you know, to win it. So, what’s been kind of some of the strategies that you’ve had to kind of get clientele for the business.
Monica Mangelson: Yeah. So specifically talking about when we relaunched as web design and branding, we went to all of our family members who either had some kind of business dream or had my brother started a nonprofit. So, we went to all of them, and we designed their websites for free to start giving a portfolio to start understanding what we were doing. And then from there, it’s just been word of mouth mostly. We’ve also done a lot of Facebook networking. And so, we’ve gotten a lot of clients from Facebook as well.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. Are there particular industries that you’ve kind of fallen into more so than others over the first couple months of the business?
Austin Mangelson: This is probably one of the funniest parts of our business is with all the clients that we’ve ended up having so far, we have not had a client in every, in the same industry as another. We’ve worked with clients in the pet industry. We’ve worked with clients in health and wellness. We’ve worked with clients in a real estate, in therapy and coaching and music education. And so, we’ve had, it’s been kind of fun to get a kind of a broad spectrum of different industries and different types of work. So, our niches that we’re working on is kind of narrowed down towards the type of person. And specifically, we like working with couples and people who are running a business together. And so that’s kind of been the niche that we’re trying to home in on rather than the specific industry that they work in.
Jason Yormark: Interesting. Yeah, no, that’s really smart. I never anytime a business kind of picks a really specific lane, I think they their setting themselves up for success. Cause I think a lot of business owners, new and old kind of get scared by the idea of kind of going too narrow because they’re like, oh, well then, you know, we’re not, you know, we’re saying no to all these things. But what you just said is really interesting. Like I mean, I don’t know the numbers around how many couples there are that start businesses, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any that I’ve ever heard of that have a business that focuses on targeting that situation, which I’m sure has its own unique challenges. So that’s a really cool angle to take that I had never really thought of. So, it would be interesting to see how that plays out for you. But what I’m really interested in talking about today is this whole idea of, you know, running a business and living in multiple places. Our agency has folks that do that. You guys are obviously nomads, you are not in the same place for, you know, extended periods of time. So that inherently brings lots of challenges I think to running a business. And, but I think that more and more people are living that type of lifestyle. So, I think I’d love to hear a little bit more about how you run a business when your address changes pretty frequently and what are the challenges that come with that and what are the perks and advantages to it.
Austin Mangelson: This is, first of all, this is Monica’s dream come true to be moving around and working online and have the freedom to live in different places. It’s her dream come true. I’m along for the ride and I’m enjoying it. I don’t know what came to your mind at first Monica, but when you talked about the change in address that sparked that’s, it’s one of those things that you don’t really think about being that big of an issue, but it’s been a big challenge because with our situation, we’re saving up to buy a home, but we don’t have a home right now. And so, what we’ve been doing is we’ve been exchanging house projects for friends and family who let us live at their house. And so, we’ll be moving between Oregon, which is where we’re at right now. Sometimes we are in Idaho, sometimes we’re in California or Utah. And so, we’ve had to figure out which address to use for which situation like when we register our business or when I don’t know why different examples aren’t coming to mind, but there’s different scenarios that you need to place your address for. And then you know, not having a specific address that’s our homestead makes that a little bit challenging.
Monica Mangelson: Yeah. If you were to look at like our recent purchases, it’s all over the place. So, like our car registration and my license is in Washington state, Austin’s is in California, our insurance, our medical insurance is in Utah. Our business is in when’s [09:36 inaudible]?
Austin Mangelson: Wyoming.
Monica Mangelson: Wyoming, there you go.
Austin Mangelson: I guess this is registered to Wyoming.
Monica Mangelson: So, and then, you know, we have been, we’ve lived in Guatemala, we’ve lived in all of those places. So, it is just, it’s a little bit chaotic on paper. But in the day to day, I would say it’s really fun. Like Austin said, this is my dream come true though.
Jason Yormark: Do you guys feel like you ever miss out on any opportunities because of that lifestyle in terms of the business?
Monica Mangelson: Yeah, I would say the biggest thing that’s hard is the networking events, because networking is so key in a small business and they’re all location dependent networking. You can have some, we’ve been to lots of virtual events, but it doesn’t really seem to have the same effect as in person events do. So, we try like we’re in tele market, Oregon right now. So, we try to go to networking events in Portland, what we’re here, but we’re only here for a few months. And so, we don’t have the ability to really make and maintain good friendships. I think that extends beyond just within the business. I am hundred percent agree with that. And outside of the business world, sometimes it’s difficult when you don’t live in one community for, you know, years on end, it’s a little bit harder to form those relationships with neighbors, with community members because you’re there for a few months or half a year or even a year. And then you leave. And so, it’s harder to keep that up and technology and social media and stuff has made it a lot easier. But that’s still been a challenge, I think for us, to build and nourish friendships as we’re moving around to different places.
Jason Yormark: Yeah. Obviously when, one of the things that I like about what you guys are doing, and I just recorded another episode with somebody where we were talking about authenticity. And one of the things I did that I think was a mistake when I started my business was trying to appear bigger than what we were, because I thought, oh, you know, we want to attract good clients. They got to, you got to look the part. And then I realized eventually that, you know, being true to yourself and what you are, you know, what your perceived weaknesses are, they’re actually strengths. You know, being smaller, you’re more nimble. Maybe you’re more, you’re more affordable. So, there’s a lot that can be gleaned from that. And when I look at like kind of your guys’, the landscape of your digital brand, you’re embracing that nomad lifestyle, you’re not trying to hide it. You’re not trying to appear that you’re like in some big city and I think that’s smart. So, one, I guess it’s a two-part question one I’m assuming, but I want to ask the question is that by design and two and maybe it’s too early in the business to know one way or another, do you feel like taking that approach has benefited you or held you back in any way? I’m just kind of curious about that.
Austin Mangelson: Yeah, it is by design. I think in addition to targeting people who are couples in business, which is something that we really love talking about and sharing our insight with as a couple ourselves. We also try and target people who are similar to us in that regard, as far as people who travel or people who live a little bit more location independent. And so, we’ve kind of built that into our branding to display. This is who we are, this is what we enjoy doing and attract those people. And we’ve started notice, when we started implementing that into our branding, we started noticing that payoff pretty quickly. We had people reach out to us who are big travelers who like moving around and they would talk to us about it. And so, it’s been fun to see how being true to ourselves in that way has started connecting us with people who are similar.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. Well, so what’s the future for your business? What do you hope to see? What do you want to do with it? In terms of the next couple years? Where do you want to see it go?
Monica Mangelson: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So, we talk about this quite frequently. We would love to see it grow and become a little bit more booked out, I guess, is a common term people use, but also to be able to employ other people. I mean, there’s several instances where my brothers have been like, man, I really just need a job for a couple of months and we would love to be in a place where our business, we can offer that to them, but as well have other employees, other contractors under us as well.
Jason Yormark: Yeah. No, that makes sense. I mean, do you see you had mentioned you kind of like saving up for a house, so at some point it sounds like there’s a finish line for this lifestyle, you know, wanting to settle down. Do you think that, or maybe not, but if that were the case at some point.
Austin Mangelson: I think the timeline…
Jason Yormark: If we were to go in that direction. Yeah. Well, I mean, is it safe to assume at some point that’s going to happen? Maybe not as soon as somebody might like?
Monica Mangelson: So, our end goal for that is we would love to have a house that’s our home base and then be able to take off for a couple months of the year and go explore the rest of the world cause, really, there’s so much beauty and so many cool things to learn outside of your comfort zone. And it’s really easy to get, in my opinion, it’s really easy when you’re in a single location to get stuck in that comfortable zone because you’re comfortable. But when you go out and explore the world, there’s so many people who have stories that can touch your lives and just change everything about how you view the world. So, I don’t think we’ll ever stop traveling. I will never stop traveling.
Austin Mangelson: You made it sound like I’m anti travel.
Monica Mangelson: I mean, I think you made it sound like that yourself.
Austin Mangelson: Yeah, I think it’s been, this is one of the things where our values and interests aren’t a hundred percent aligned or I guess our personalities is the better way to say it. If it were up to Monica, we would live this lifestyle till the day she dies, and she’d be totally fine with that. I do really enjoy it and I love it. And I love moving around and meeting different people and living in different places. And not only do we travel around in the states, but it gives us the opportunity to travel to different countries, which I love. But I mean, we do have plans to start a family someday. And so that’s going to require at least a little bit more settling down or a little bit more stability for raising kids and stuff. And so that is in the eventual timeline. And that’s the eventual goal of our business is to be able to grow from supporting the two of us to supporting a family, which is granted that it is several years down the road, but that is in, you know, in our sites down the line.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. No, that makes sense. So, for those that are listening that are thinking about starting your business and are world travelers what are two or three things that you’ve learned or tips or strategies that you would suggest to help them navigate that decision and what they’re in store for?
Monica Mangelson: Yeah. The biggest tip that someone gave us when we started traveling full time is to slow travel. So, a lot of times we kind of have this mentality that, you know, we have to fit in our travel in our PTO and we have to get it in a week. And so, then you have a week of yeah, action packed vacation, and then you go back to work and need life is just normal, but when you are working for yourself and traveling, you can’t take off a week. Well, I mean you can, but you can’t hit as many places if you are only taking off a week at a time. And so, one of the beautiful things about having our own business is that we can go, for example, we moved to Guatemala, and we were there for three months. And so, we were able to go and see all the things we wanted to see while still maintaining our business and building our business. Because we took more time living in Guatemala. So, we didn’t feel like we always had to be leaving our business if that makes sense.
Jason Yormark: Yeah. You don’t feel the pressure.
Monica Mangelson: Right, you feel like you’re going to miss out.
Jason Yormark: Well, I was going to say you don’t feel the pressure of feeling like you have to get so much in a short period of time. Like if you’re wherever you’re staying, if it’s an Airbnb or whatever, you know, you don’t feel so bad if like you have to work and you’re inside for most of the day, because you have plenty of time to experience things. So that makes complete sense.
Austin Mangelson: I think in addition to that, I would recommend to this person that they sit down and spend some time, you know, in their own head and evaluate their goals, their desires kind of what they want their business to look like apart from the other businesses that they’re associating with or apart from other businesses that they’ve seen and really think to themselves, what do I want my business to look like? What do I want my life to look like. Because you, I mean, you started talking about this before, we have a tendency to try and make our businesses look like other people’s or look like what they actually aren’t. But if we can create a business that supports the lifestyle that you want, it doesn’t matter if you’re not making $150,000, 200,000 a year. Like other people are because you might be making less money, but you’re also enjoying life more because it’s more aligned with what you want to do and with who you are as a person. So that would be my recommendation. I don’t know if I articulated that super well, but find out what your values are, what you like doing. And then build your business around that.
Jason Yormark: Gotcha. What are you guys most excited about when you think about where you’re at right now in the next kind of evolution of your company?
Austin Mangelson: Whew, we’re excited about a lot of things. One thing that we have been talking about a lot is actually starting our own podcast. And so, we’ve been tossed around ideas about the type of people we would want to interview and what we would be talking about and ideating some names around the podcast and how that whole process is going to work. So, we’re looking forward to getting that going thinking probably within the next year, we’ll have a podcast going and we’re both really looking forward to that.
Jason Yormark: Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. I mean, I think, and you’re probably already thinking about this, but, and I don’t know if one exists, but just having a podcast about, you know, mobile business owners or business owners that travel, you know, I think that would be, I’m guessing maybe there is something like that, but I mean, that would practically, you know, I’d be effortless cause all you’d be doing is really talking about what you’re experiencing and certainly there’s an audience for that. So that’d be pretty cool.
Austin Mangelson: Yeah.
Jason Yormark: Awesome. So great. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you guys that you think might be helpful to the audience around what you do or what people should be thinking about when it comes to the, the type of work that you do and how you do it?
Monica Mangelson: I think just my final words is that travel is only possible when you allow it to be, there’s always going to be things that come up. There’s always going to be difficulties in planning in your arrangements, in your business. But if you make travel a priority, if you make your business a priority so that you can travel, you can totally do it. It’s totally possible. There’s a whole world waiting for you. It’s so fun.
Austin Mangelson: Amen to that.
Jason Yormark: Yeah. That’s great. Awesome. Well, where can people find you to learn more about your travels, your adventures, your business life, all that good stuff.
Austin Mangelson: We are on Instagram. Quite a bit. Our handle is @aandm. digital design, or you can visit our website, which is also www.aandmdigitaldesign.com. Those are the two places we have the most and we have a contact page If you want to reach out to us, send us a message and chat.
Jason Yormark: Excellent. We will make sure that we get those in the notes. Thank you, guys, so much for covering out some time and you’re busy, but awesome mobile life. But thanks for covering out time to be on the show today.
Austin Mangelson: Thank you, Jason. It’s been super good. It’s been a good chat. Thank you.
Jason Yormark: You got it. Awesome. Well, that’s it for this episode, make sure you check out these folks and the links in the show notes. And for those of you listening, like share, subscribe, all that good stuff. We will catch you at the next episode of anti-agency stories of doing business differently.