a Role Model for Small Business Owners
By Audrey Harman, Contributing Writer
Rebecca Vaughan-King and her husband Patrick King started their full-service design and marketing ﬁrm ImagineDesign in 2004. At the time, they lived in Fair- fax, Virginia. As the business began to expand and mature, “we were looking for a business community that would nurture us,” Vaughan-King said. They relocated to Prince William in 2007. According to Vaughan-King, they found “A local baker is going to be more aware of the area around his or her shop, and can change the company to adapt and better serve customers as their needs change. Large businesses aren’t so nimble, and can’t mold to their communities as well.”
To support small businesses, Vaughan-King suggested, “People can support small businesses best by giving them preference. Consider a local computer repair shop before calling a national chain.” She added that often these smaller businesses oﬀer less expensive services than national companies, so you will keep your money within the local economy while saving some, too.
The business community they were looking for and “a neighbor- hood full of warm and welcoming people.”
Vaughan-King’s business savvy can be traced to the tender age of seven, when she launched her ﬁrst business venture: selling Christmas cards door to door. “I quickly learned that I love people, and I love sales,” she said. “I now have over 20 years in sales and marketing, but won’t say exactly how many.”
You could say entrepreneurship is in Vaughan-King’s blood. Her grandparents ran a pub in Wales and her father started a manufacturing plant in Maryland. According to Vaughan-King, she and her husband are now carrying on the same independent streak. King started the company after working as a freelance graphic and web designer for most of his career. Vaughan-King came aboard full time in 2011. “I was growing tired of commuting,” she said. “And I wanted to help Patrick on his journey of building ImagineDesign.”
According to Vaughan-King, small businesses are a driving force in our economy and within the community. Entrepreneurs understand the culture of the community they serve. She explained,
Though Vaughan-King said she is a “work in progress” with much yet to learn, just being an entrepreneur makes her a great role model for other aspiring women. “I feel that it’s just as important as having a diverse range of ethnicities as business owners,” said Vaughan-King. “Solving problems, handling interpersonal conﬂicts, remaining innovative and competitive and building corporate culture are all served well by diversity. Quite frankly, I think that a lack of women business owners on a local and national level is depriving our business world of some much-needed perspective. I think that’s become evident as we see this diversity increase.”
To give back to the community, Vaughan-King and ImagineDesign work with several nonproﬁts and charity events. “Growing up, I noticed that nonproﬁts are often taken for granted until the need arises, and then they’re important for a short while,” said Vaughan- King. “I’ve always believed that we all need to do our part to help, at the very least, to thank them for being there.”
One of the ways that Vaughan-King gives back to the community is working with the American Red Cross National Capital Region. ImagineDesign designed the website for the organization’s “In the Bag: Purses for Preparedness” fundraiser, a silent auction of designer handbags. In 2012, the event raised $66,000 for the Red Cross, with 125 bags sold.
This year, Vaughan-King is also chair of the Prince William County Leadership Council of the American Red Cross National Capital Region. In this role, she is busy planning the ﬁrst “Red Cross Prom,” a fundraiser that will include live music, a silent auction and, of course, prom-themed decorations and activities. It takes place April 26 at Heritage Hunt Country Club in Gainesville.
Linda Mathes, Red Cross, National Capital Region CEO, said the Leadership Council raises funds that “provide emergency food, shelter and supplies to families uprooted by home ﬁres and other disasters … teach ﬁrst aid, CPR and AED training, swimming and lifeguarding to businesses, schools and individuals and … provide assistance to the men and women of the military and their families here and abroad.”
Each year, ImagineDesign also donates a website redesign to a worthy nonproﬁt group through its “We Fight Ugly” competition. Vaughan-King said that at any time, ImagineDesign is doing at least one pro bono project.
“It seems like if there is a worthy cause, Rebecca is involved in some level. Whether it is helping other small businesses grow or supporting community nonproﬁts, there she is, lending her expertise and energy,” said Andrea Whaley, events director at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. ImagineDesign has donated a number of services to the chamber, including a website redesign and event marketing materials.
This combination of community involvement and business savvy has proved a winning formula. Accolades for the ﬁrm include recognition as “Business of the Year” at the 2012 Prince William Chamber Business Awards, international recognition at the Hermes Awards and winning the 2011 Platinum MarCom Award. In 2012, Vaughan-King was awarded the Young Professionals of Northern Virginia (YPNOVA) Scholarship, which provides partial tuition for Leadership Prince William, a nine-month program that nurtures emerging and existing community leaders.
“The times I see the most success with business owners is when they’re enthralled in their work, and are enthusiastic about what they have to oﬀer,” said Vaughan-King. “I guess the best piece of advice I can oﬀer is to love what you do. It’s the only way your business will survive through the not-so-fun stuﬀ.”
Author Audrey Harman has a B.A. in English and Spanish from Hollins University and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Publications Design at the University of Baltimore. She resides in Woodbridge and can be reached by email at [email protected].