Pivoting from in-house design work to launching their own creative agency, Devyn Grammar and Dino Valdez have the antidote to branding woes.
Spotting the need for full-spectrum branding work for fledgling companies in and around Newport Beach, California, design partners Dino and Devyn launched the RSNL Creative agency three years ago.
Since then, the agency has grown to encompass over 20 team members serving as many different clients. With a huge emphasis on personalized service and high-quality output, RSNL Creative has become a trusted name for those looking for engaging, creative websites, branding, and marketing.
The Birth of an Agency
Dino started creating websites seven years ago when he started accepting side projects from friends. Having always possessed decent computer skills, and being an adept problem solver, he took to work with ease.
Although he enjoyed building websites, at first he wasn’t in it for the money. He remembers two client projects which stood out for the insanely low fees he brought in: “A 70-hour project for a couple of hundred US dollars – now that you look at it, it is ridiculous. But it was a learning experience.”
Some time later, Dino joined a team where Devyn was already working as a designer. When the need came down for websites to be built for a number of associated brands, Dino answered the call.
It wasn’t until the pandemic rolled around that Devyn and Dino branched off to create their own enterprise. “We understood that we could make websites for people on our own,” recalls Dino, “Everyone needs a website – each brand understands the need for an online presence.”
“That’s how our business took off,” adds Devyn, “A good 70% of our business revenue comes from website design creation.”
As with Dino’s early forays into web design, running a creative agency is proving to be an ongoing learning curve. “We try to slowly move from a day-to-day job to business management,” reflects Devyn, “It’s been a hard journey. Because we are designers, we don’t have business backgrounds.”
Organic Growth in a Herbal Niche
Given RSNL Creative’s location, the agency works with many brands which sit comfortably in the hip, Southern Californian zeitgeist. “Most of our clients land in cannabis, CBD, health, wellness, and eLiquid industries,” says Dino, “From branding to websites, we do a lot of cannabis-related sites.”
Given the emerging and highly regulated nature of the industry, the agency has to be highly aware of the limitations within the niche. “A lot of the day-to-day is to ensure our client sites are running optimally, that our clients have updated products,” explains Dino. “The marketing and design teams are in sync with what’s going on with websites to ensure we are doing our scheduled email campaigns, social media outreach – this kind of stuff.”
A typical workflow starts with Devyn and Dino checking in and seeing what they’ve got going on with their teams. They check in with the developers to make sure that they understand the scope of the new projects, and send some invoices off. Making sure that everything is in line is key so they can stay on track with any launches of products or campaigns.
“We have an indoor cycling client, a gym, aviation, polishing, transportation services, coffee, and a ton of different businesses,” explains Devyn, “So our day goes getting on the call, meeting a new business, figuring out the best way how to tell their story, then Dino goes in and tries to mind-map how the workflow of the websites is going to be, UI wireframes, everything.
“Then from there, we’re ready to send this to the respective places.”
Diagnosing and Delivering
The founders like to call themselves “Design doctors”, because of the process they follow when embarking on a new project. First, they listen to their customers’ design, marketing, and web presence pain points. Then, Dino and Devyn diagnose their customers’ needs, and prescribe a solution.
Then comes the division of labor. Devyn’s team handles everything from branding and packaging design to brand visuals. This then gets passed off to Dino’s team, which handles all the web UX/UI development, and from there, they launch the brand.
RSNL Creative now consists of around 20 people working together. Devyn and Dino work from their office in Newport Beach. The design team, 5 developers, QA, and the rest of the team are international, distributed all over the world.
Over the years, RSNL Creative has created websites for so many brands that the ongoing joke has become “we make your website better than ours”. Their promise is: “Our website looks like this so yours can look amazing.”
Owing to this heavy workload, Dino and Devyn are increasingly trying to step away from the hands-on creation of websites to take a broader view of their business. “As business owners, we realize that you hire those who are more capable than you,” says Dino, “There are still times when I like to work sites myself – it’s still a passion.”
Platforms Chosen for Performance
That RSNL’s website is hosted by Hostinger will come as no surprise; it is, after all, the very reason they’re featured on our blog. However, Dino and Devyn are so satisfied with their experience of building their WordPress website on Hostinger’s infrastructure that most of their clients now have the same setup.
“We are flexible,” says Dino, “If the customer comes to us, they usually want us to give them the best solution. When that happens, 99% of the time we build a WordPress site for them on Hostinger.”
When they first unofficially launched their business four or five years ago, Dino was deep in research on the best web hosting platforms. While their own website was always hosted by Hostinger, they experimented with other options – like Bluehost and Hostgator – for their clients’ websites.
“To be honest, I landed on Hostinger because of the price point, and after using it more and more, I’ve discovered the customer service is phenomenal. I’ve always been happy with how quickly and how efficiently the customer service responds and helps to solve things.”
Currently, it’s only Devyn and Dino who have access to the entire Hostinger platform. Despite having a background in design, the pair never struggled to get to grips with Hostinger. “I really enjoy the UI, it’s very intuitive. A web hosting platform has a lot of settings and functions to be aware of. I like how Hostinger arranges all that information. At this point, I am very familiar with Hostinger, and I can set up a client project and take it off the ground in 30 minutes.”
So why pair Hostinger with WordPress? As with their hosting options, Dino and Devyn spent time weighing up different content management systems too. They had experience using tools like Magento, but felt that WordPress made the most sense for their needs.
“I feel like it’s a good balance as it is very customizable,” says Devyn, “We can make the design changes, but it’s also user friendly on the back-end. Say you have a client in health and wellness, and she wants to write a blog – we can create her a custom website but then she can go and post her own posts because we’ve shown her how. So the clients are able to create their content as well.”
Building the Infrastructure for Future Success
Since mindful growth has always been a hallmark of the RSNL Creative agency, it’ll come as no surprise that Dino and Devyn have their eyes fixed firmly on the horizon and things to come.
At the moment, the main challenge facing the agency is the bandwidth of its founders. Devyn points out that she and Dino carry an outsized burden when it comes to the success of the brand; “We’re basically wearing a lot of hats day-to-day to try to make the business run smoothly.”
Plans are already afoot to augment their current team with new professionals who will grow their capabilities. First on the agenda is building their own marketing team to help boost the agency’s own profile, and onboarding a project manager to help with infrastructure.
“We are still working on infrastructure and building that bridge between us and the teams. That’s where we’ll have a project manager jumping on board,” says Dino. “We’re only two people.”
It seems these design doctors aren’t shy of a little self-diagnosis, and have a clear vision for their own course of treatment.