Spencer Fry: Talking business with the co-founder of Carbonmade

heads_bg-spencerSpencer Fry of Carbonmade was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions I had for him about his business, and they’ve been plenty busy lately with the relaunch of their flagship website carbonmade.com.

What is your company called and what do you do?
My company is called Carbonmade and we help creative people display their work online in a simple way. We have over 200,000 members consisting of photographers, web designers, fashion designers, concept artists, and lots more. You can see a more complete list of the types of people that use Carbonmade on our portfolios listing.
 
What was the “big bang” that lead you to start your company?
My business partner and Carbonmade’s designer, Dave Gorum, created it as an easy way for him to display and manage his online portfolio. After a few months his designer friends asked him if he’d share the tool with them. So with Jason Nelson, my other business partner, they built Carbonmade out a bit and created a sign up form and the word began to spread.
 
What makes your product or service stand out in the crowd?
I think what makes Carbonmade special is that it’s such an easy tool to use, displays your work very well without getting in the way, and has a beautiful aesthetic. All of our design decisions are made with simplicity and ease-of-use in mind.
 
What was the single biggest hurdle to getting your company launched?
We were running a design-consulting firm when Carbonmade was first built back in the day as a little side project. We never really had a big hurdle to get over as we just allowed things to grow naturally while we were still taking on consulting gigs. After Carbonmade had been out for a few years, we were able to stop consulting work altogether and focus on Carbonmade full-time and we haven’t looked back since.
 
What has been the best method or tactic for marketing your company?
I think the best tactic for marketing your company is by providing excellent customer service and making a great product that people will talk about. If you do these two things exceptionally well then you’ll start to grow a loyal following and the word will spread. Advertising is something you’ll want to delay as long as possible (money is tight in the beginning). But it all depends on what type of company you’re trying to create. Some need advertising to jumpstart things.
 
What advice can you give for new entrepreneurs who are gearing up to produce their big idea?
My advice would be to come up with a good idea and execute really well on it. A lot of people say everything is in the idea, but I think that execution is a lot more important. If you can’t execute on a great idea then you’ll never get anywhere. Besides execution, I’d recommend focusing on simplicity in your product. Avoid feature creep at all costs and think more about stripping out features than adding in new ones. Carbonmade has far fewer features than other portfolio apps out there and that’s a big thing that separates us from the pack.
 
Who is your favorite musical artist (or What musical artist are you listening to the most right now?)
I have a few, but I’d be remiss if I wasn’t to mention a great new band named Wakey!Wakey! who recently released their new album Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You.. – I’m actually listening to their music right now while I type this. Wakey!Wakey! is under my friend Wesley Verhoeve’s record label Family Records. Another great band of theirs is Pearl and the Beard. Both bands play a lot in New York City if you live in and around here.

About Carbonmade:
In 2007, Spencer joined the team at Carbonmade and started spending more than their off hours tinkering with Carbonmade and began working full-time and haven’t looked back since. With feedback from their ever-growing community and lots of nerdy elbow grease, it has become something that they are quite proud of.

Be sure to check out Spencer’s blog and follow him on twitter @spencerfry

Author

Gene Crawford

With over a decade of experience in the industry he has overseen the design and architecture of hundreds of web sites and applications. An active member in the design community, he's the editor & producer of unmatchedstyle.com, the ConvergeSE, ConvergeFL, ConvergeRVA and the Breaking Development conference series.

  • http://spencerfry.com Spencer Fry

    Thanks for interviewing me. If anyone has any questions about Carbonmade or about web startups, please ask in the questions. I’m happy to answer anything!

  • http://michaelduanemooring.com/ Michael Mooring

    Hey Spencer,
    Thank you Gene for interviewing Spencer. I do have a question for you. I have a web design/development start-up that is currently running on a broken system. My team gets websites out too slow and I haven’t had the guts to charge any client more than 500 USD, so this is a system of failure.

    We know that business is a system of systems. I am on the hunt to find a example of a web design business that runs on such a successful system and to begin having my business mimic that system and tweak it into an even better system. My strategy is to find such a system and then gobble up all web work in my local area, even going to town hall meetings and Small Business Development events to brand my company as the local “go to” company for web design and development. I’m shaping up my business plan now to shoot for a SBA micro loan for my business. I’m finding it hard to find a web design agency who has their system out in the open as a business system is always in the background and sometimes is never even acknowledged acting as a invisible silent guiding hand in a business. I have a business module/model I call Absolute Transparency which I am eager for my company to implement once we reach an appropriate point. Check it out and let me know what you think: http://michaelduanemooring.com/absolute-transparency/

    But even more than checking out my AT outline, if you know any successful web businesses that design for multiple small projects, not so much like a Razorfish giant agency, then please link me to them so that I may study/ask them how they run their successful web design business.