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Midnight Meets Emma's Universe

In August 2022, I had the pleasure of speaking with Emma DiGallo and being on Emma's Universe. Her podcast is about life, spirituality, business, and fun stories. Something we can all relate about. New Episodes are released Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. She also has collaboration with other podcasters and guests; those episodes are released during the week as well. She started a new series called Business Breakthrough which is focused on CEO/business owners that will share their insights. That is where I come in. I hope you enjoy watching it and below are some excerpts.

Hello and welcome to Emma's podcast. In today's podcast I have someone amazing and I love. I will let you know why. You're going to discover why in the name of her company. Oh my God, I would wish to have that name. Seriously. So we're gonna get started by saying this is Kristin Kodenski started as a designer first, then she moved on to sales and marketing administrator, then marketing director. Very nice. Then moved to be a manager, trainer, webmaster and print designer. Which is pretty cool because when you're thinking about the webmaster and print designer, it's like oh my goodness, creativity at this best. Then move to be a pre-media director and then a director of positive thinking. I like that. To finally what she does today. She is the owner of Midnight design and Promos, LLC. That's what I said, Midnight Design. I love that name. It's beautiful.

How did you came up with the name Midnight Design?

Well, I have a thing for the moon and the Renaissance personally. But I went to college for Communication Design and I got a job in a big ad agency in Baltimore called Axiom Communications. They were nice enough to give me some of their smaller clients. So I freelanced at night and so I was like Lady Midnight working at Midnight Design. Even when you have your own company, I still work late at night. It was basically burning the midnight oil. And I put my love for the renaissance and the night in the name and Midnight Design came about.

I like that. You could have called it burning midnight oil. People would probably say, oh, so you're working for the oil and gas company.

A lot of people think I do lingerie and I'm like no, no.

To be honest with you, I love it. If you want to do a lingerie thing, it would be nice. Midnight Design is a beautiful name. I don't know why, but it's a gorgeous name. So that's why mine is pretty much boring, is EDG and Associate with EDG are my initials.

I do apparel and a lot of t shirts, polos and stuff like that. But maybe I need to dip into lingerie.

Did you always wanted to be a designer, a creative person or how did you get started and why did you take that path?

Well, some people change their minds and don't know what they want to do. But I've always loved the arts. In the high school I went to had a very special art program. I saw extra outside art classes at the Maryland Art Institute and then I went to Syracuse which has an incredible art program. And I knew I wanted to do communication design, but just in case I decided to do surface pattern design or illustration. There was a world of other choices in the art field. I got an airbrush kit from my parents when I was really little and I was selling airbrush t shirts to my swim team, I was very young. Some of my family is artistic and a lot of them are entrepreneurs, they own restaurants and their own business. So I got both the entrepreneur business gene and artist gene. A lot of time people are surprised about me, is a lot of artists don't have the business or sales sense along with the artistic talent.

There's nothing against someone who's just purely artistic and there's artists that can do stuff that I can't do. So I admire all types of artists but that is one thing that makes me unique and a combination of the marketing side with the artistic side.

So you started basically where you need to start, where we always said at the bottom of the ladder, like everybody else's they should, because that's a great experience. And that opportunity started just after you were done in school, or did you start it while you were at school? Did you have any side jobs that got you there, or did you just finish your school and went directly to the first company where you started at Axiom Communication.

Syracuse is very grueling. It's not an easy program. They were actually thinking about making into a five year program in communication design instead of four years when I was there, because it was so difficult. I did little freelance, but nothing really, and I did internships. I now train interns who college credit for working with me. So I think internships are really, really good. I really took advantage of the internship. When I was in college, I knew I needed to get agency experience, so I work for an ad agency. Another really good thing when people are starting out, and I strongly suggest is in the SBA Small Business Administration. They have a program called Score, and I got a mentor and a business loan. People don't believe in having a business plan, but it's really good to have a business plan because even though I did everything right... I think it's good to talk about failures.

So one of my failures was my company started out as Midnight Design Incorporated. I did not squander my loan money, but I was running my business as a big agency, but I didn't have big agency clients. So that's when I went back into the real world and I worked for real estate brokerages and I had my son, so I wanted to I say the real job, a steady job.

I was in the real estate brokerages for a while, and then I got laid off from a couple of jobs for financial reasons, because the economy wasn't good. The first thing they lay off is the marketing department. And then once you own your own company for several years, it's very difficult for people to hire you. It's also very difficult because people want to hire you if you know one thing. And I knew this broad spectrum of stuff. So then I moved seven years ago from Maryland to Delaware. I was like, no one's going to hire me. I'll just start this all up again. I mean, I've always been freelancing and moonlighting in the evening, but I closed down the incorporation and in tax free Delaware, Midnight Design and Promos LLC was started. This time, I ran the business much more frugally. I learned a lot of lessons like working on a bootstrap budget doing things differently. Even with Covid hitting I was able to pivot the t-shirts and social media marketing, while still offering my many other services.

I do direct mail, websites and a whole spectrum of services. My social media is exploding. I have a platform and I have added digital holiday products. So you just learn from your failures. It wasn't a huge failure, but yeah, that's why my company has changed. You got to be able to pivot in life.

Well, that's good. It seems like you learned a lot. So through the years you work with agencies. So you got and had traction and learned more stuff. But when you decide to get your own, you get what like I call a toolbox. Then you get your skill set. But how did you get your clients too? Because you mentioned that some agencies gave you some smaller clients to start with. How did you start to get everything you needed when you started all of that? Or did you have to improvise or what did you have to do for yourself to make yourself more clients coming in, did they know you were brand new business or not?

I do awesome marketing for my clients. And I have the shoemakers story, where the shoemaker has holes in his own shoes. I'm finally dedicating time to my company and it's getting better. I've never really paid for marketing. It's all been word of mouth. And another thing is mindset, I had to get over. I always thought I was not as successful because I didn't have a zillion clients. But it occurred to me in the last year the clients that I do have, I've had for ten to 20 years. Not too many people can say that because I do so many things. I might start with a person and they just want a logo. And then that logo goes to business cards and then it goes to a website, and then it goes to social media marketing. They also need polos and apparel and they just call me up for whatever they need. I do everything for them and they become long term clients and relationships. So I honestly can recommend lot of great marketing, but personally, through the ups and the downs I have this advice.

Even when I was in the real estate brokerages, when I left places, I also kept my clients. People followed me and people referred me to other people. People think they're unsuccessful. And I'm one of them too. If you don't have the cash flow or you don't have a lot of money, but if you can just stay standing, if you can stay in business, longevity and stability means so much. You're going to get clients through that. I just have a new client that I'm working on right now, but I actually I met this man like maybe twelve years ago through another job. I used to do trade shows in Vegas and for an appraisal company, and I was instrumental in doing the marketing and working the event. I haven't talked to him in twelve years and now he's back and he's like, I need some help. Word of mouth is amazing. I know it's not an exciting answer, the Buzzwords, SEO, social media, Google Ads, but my success has been really being stable, consistent, and creating quality for my clients over the years.

Well, that's good because it's always a good time when you have somebody who you did something at work for them twelve years ago coming back and just asked for more. To me it's a compliment because it really shows that you had left them with a positive impact and they would be customer for life.

Well, he wasn't even my customer. He just was at the event and he remembered me.

I love it. I love the fact that people can remember you twelve years later and figure out your name and just say, okay, I need to talk to her.

I like that. I have a variety of clients from real estate to healthcare and even rappers. This one rapper, OMW, he remembers my last name, he's always like, "KODENSKI!" Nobody calls me by my last name but he remembers it and does. So I'm very surprised that people remember me. That's an awesome feeling.

So it's leaving a print or a footprint, that's very helpful. You have been doing this for a very long time. You're basically veteran in your own field. What has been the most challenging part. Like you said, you're not a million dollar agency and you have to be really cautious on how you're spending your money. What other challenges have you found through the years that really make you think twice about the business you're running?

Well, anyone who thinks that when you run your own business it is easy. It's not. I keep saying it's my goal to work nine to five, five days a week, which I don't yet. You work more. Keeping the anxiety at bay, finding the balance. And in marketing, I can't just create a pretty picture, it needs to produce results. This is the problem with social media. Everyone's happy and everything's great on social, but that's not the way it is. I have been working on my inner self for the last six months. Actually really working on my inner self, my inner peace, my inner happiness, I'm already finding more success. I'm still working hard. But it's just a different way of working. You really got to prioritize things and keeping that anxiety in check and work on yourself. I like the story someone said of a guy who would not take a break when sawing ten trees. The other guy stopped and he worked on the blade. And he's like, no, you can't stop, you can't stop. You can't stop. But the guy that resharpened his blade actually got the job done faster.

So sometimes we just need to step back and sharpen our blade. And sharpening our blade might be I live near the beach. It might be like going to the beach. Just to get some sunshine. I'm on the computer way too much. I represent a lot of brands and labels of a lot of people. Everybody wants to have their own brand these days. So one of the brands are Honest8 or Family First. It occurred to me, I can wear their stuff and go out. I'm not a videographer, but I'm admiring the videographers and their YouTube channels. That is not my realm, but I can do a little bit of it. So I've been going out and I've been promoting their apparel and their brand. I'm doing it for them, but it's more me doing it for me because I have to get away from the computer. This is an excuse. Honest8 has an eight ball on the logo. I'm like, I going to go to a pool hall and take a picture of me in the shirt there. I do do a lot of that so I can get away from work. I am a workaholic and I'm really trying to break it. But now I mix pleasure and work.

Exactly. I think you know what, I like the way you touch that point because a lot of people don't understand. Unless you're a business owner that nine to five, Monday to Friday, great when you work in corporate, but that doesn't happen in retail. And a business owner, it's a baby. It's twenty four seven and you want it or not, it's 24/7. Like you said, you found a way to mix fun with work, which is nice. I spend my time 10 hours on the front of my computer every day. I cannot help myself actually. So I understand. But I think there is a perspective that even if you got the best ever you still will think about work. It doesn't matter where you are, what you do, it's your business. And no matter what you always gonna have your thoughts on there. So it's a matter of knowing how to balance it.

So that is fantastic. So finding the life and balance for you but are there any exciting project you have done that you're just like oh my God, I would never thought I would done that. Do you ever have any of those projects?

I just did a soft launch, but it's out there and I'm putting the finishing touches on it. It is a holiday project, I do a Christmas presents every year and last year I created a print social media calendar. It has all these holidays that are from Christmas and Easter to Margarita day, and Give a Hug day and Tell a joke day. Yeah, there's a day for everything. And there's a lot of food days like croissant day. It's interesting how things evolve, I was like, what will make my social media platform different? Midnight Social makes it easy to post social media everywhere. I was like, well, you can get these holiday posts for free. And then I was like, I've never done digital products. A lot of time and effort actually has been spent in creating all of these the holiday posts. I've been working on it for two years now. I noticed many people sell template designs. And I'm like, I can just sell the holidays itself because that's a lot of work right there and would save people time. So if someone wants 240+ holidays they can get them for free on the platform or purchase them as a product.

This is the personal part and how it all comes together. I was just thinking about why our holidays so important to me. My family was very close growing up and we even had some made up holidays. Like right in November we had tree chopping day. We use to chop down our own Christmas tree. But we also celebrated my grandfather, my cousins, my sister and my Birthday all at the same time. So it was like a combined Birthday party and tree chopping day. So it makes me realize, how holidays and also being a workaholic, sometimes I just need Margarita Day to say, stop, Kristin and have a Margarita. Sometimes I need something like a holiday to say, stop, and get with your friends. And someone told me once, on 4th of July, haven't you seen fireworks before? I'm said, it's not about the fireworks, it is about getting together and spending time with your friends while watching the fireworks. So I've realized that this holiday thing has become my sentimental pet project. Is it making me a million dollars? No, but I really am in love with it. I also like positive quotes. So I have my plan for this year's holiday gift. It will not be a calendar it will be something else. I do Motivational Monday social posts and I want to turn these positive posts into something, but I don't want to reveal my holiday gift. That's what's fun about promotional items. It's more than just pens and koozies. There's a lot that you can do and you can find an interesting promotional product for what you're trying to communicate as well.

I like the idea. There are 200 holidays we can celebrate them. Like, man, I need to catch us on some of them.

That's also on the marketing side, you really shouldn't just want to do sales, sales, sales. You should have a sales campaign with your call to action sent to your landing page to generate leads and get people's attention. But some times you just need to post some fun stuff. You need to post personal stuff. This retains people and creates brand loyalty. It's all about balance, and it shouldn't be always something like 50% off.

Exactly. Well, first of all, you don't do discount people. You do bundling. Don't discount. That's the worst sale technique you can do. I teach that I can talk about sales forever, people. But no, you do not do this. No, but I like the fact that you use a creative way to do something different and that really attracts people. Like we said, it's not about selling it. It's just show the customer prospect what you can do without giving them self speech. I don't like sales pitches.

I've been just recently doing an extreme amount of networking. Sometimes you need to let go of control and put faith in the universe. The jobs that are meant to work out will. I feel bad, like, trying to set all these appointments, but then I also have to do the work as well. And sometimes I feel like I'm going to miss somebody or miss an opportunity. But if an opportunity is missed, it's okay. You've got to always remember to pat yourself on the back. I'm telling you, these things only because I've just recently learned what is them? I mean, I have not given myself enough grace or pat myself on the back. Leave it up to the universe. What is meant to work out is going to workout? I will get more staff to handle more business and I'll be able to network and get even more people and more clients that I want. But there's no rush. It's all going to happen when it's meant to happen. And the universe doesn't give you anything you can't handle.

Absolutely. But I love what you said because I have a vision board. I can see it from where I am sitting. Basically, I use a groceries list, but there is one part of it too. At the center of the vision board is the universe. You have to relinquish the control because and I teach that too, actually, on wisdom, talking about relinquish control, because you have to let the universe play spot. Otherwise if you try to control and be worried, then you're sending worried into the world where you're not getting the clients because now you're sending, you know, negative energy that will block the flow of bringing you to the right people, the right prospect, the right clients. So you have to have faith, which is the hardest part. And let go and really push the control. It's the hard part.

Another tip, I recently got a business coach and I'm learning about myself. I already knew I was controlling, which is why these are things that are important to me and relinquish control, but really diving deeper into that and finding out about these things about yourself, which is going to make you a better entrepreneur, make you a better leader.

Especially when you're working with other people and you own the business. It's your baby. However, you have to learn to have a little faith in people and try not to control over them, let them use their skills when they got the best to help you. And that's the hardest part for most business owners because you want things done a certain way, because you think you know better, you know better to a certain extent. However, when it's on you, it's fine, but when there are more people coming towards you who are the right people, you don't want to chase them away because it's my way or the highway, that should not be. But I think it's a very good thing to hear from you saying that because it's a wake up call as well for people to realize that I need to let go of this, let that person do the way they're doing. It is not my way, but there is something I can learn from it and if it suits and make them successful for me and my company, so be it. That's hard. They are hard. So I'm glad to hear about the you got a business coach and you come to some very great realization and great moments for you to help you to grow and your company to grow as well.

Because at the end of the day you grow with your company. So it's up to you to decide which direction you're going to take for your company. At the end of the day, you're the one in the driver's seat. But you need to keep an open mind. So good things happen for a good reason and that helps you to elevate who you are and your company. So that's awesome. That's great. I think those are great insights. See that's why I wanted to talk to you because there are great insights you can share to people and whoever is going to be listening to you around the world is going to realize that if I want to start something or I'm doing it, I may be too controlling that I need to remove one finger. Start with one finger. Don't say take all of your hands off because I will last for 5 seconds, right. But just have to loosen up a little bit and see how it's going to go and have faith in there because you grow with your business, it's how it's done. So I think it's fantastic. I think it's great.

What else do you have in mind you want to do for you and your company?

Well, I mentioned the team. I'm just like really trying to build this creative team. I do want to take on more work, but finding the right people and having that quality is so important and is easier said than done.

I know.

It just takes time. And it's a process.

Yes, it is.

And it's coming together. So that's basically everything that I'm doing. Tenfold. I just want to do more of it. I have no dream of retirement at all. I want to do is be able to take vacations and enjoy life. But I love what I do, and I will be working forever. I have this dream of finding my second in command, like a Star Trek number one. Number two, so that I can relinquish a little more control.

Where can people find you?

I have lots of websites for different reasons.

But all you need to know is which will take you everywhere. If you want to know more about the holiday social posts go to or click on the Get Social link in the header.

Another thing I struggled with for years was like oh my gosh, I feel like a schizophrenic. I got so much going on and I just love my it's simple Midnight Design homepage now. It's just a list of stuff, but it's organized and you can see all the different divisions in my company and all the different services that I offer.

I have that does the apparel side because there's so much when it comes to apparel alone. They're all their own little worlds but all the worlds come together at MidnightDesign.

Thank you so much. Do you want to give one more advice for anyone?

Don't give up, don't let how much money is in your account make you feel unsuccessful, there's just so many other things behind success. Hang in there and don't give up. And as long as you can stay in business, it goes up and down like a roller coaster. I'm a roller coaster fanatic. I love the saying feast or famine. And people are like, why are you working so hard? Because even during the feast, there's going to be a famine and something's going to happen and it's going to be really slow and really bad. You just got to know that when it's really slow and really bad to keep working. Because a lot of times that's when all of a sudden a great idea comes.

Yeah. And you can always take another job on the side if it's needed. Like we said, think outside of the box, but don't give up your baby. It's worth the pain, the stress, the joy. It's worth it. So all of it is worth it. We all go through it at one point in time or not or several times, but it's worth it to keep it on going. I agree. So thank you so much. Have a good rest of the day.


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