Wake up every day at the crack of dawn. Study. Work. Keep learning. Keep working… The description of Walter Keener’s daily routine makes a great list of useful mantras for the would-be startup founder, the most useful arguably being: Remember to have fun and appreciate the occasional (or frequent) joke.
Keener’s own startup is Web Design Studios (WW Design Studios). His family-run business builds professional websites. So far Keener’s team has created custom sites for companies working in a variety of fields, including realty, transportation, insurance, and home remodeling. He managed recently to step away from his bootstrapping grind to tell KillerStartups more about his journey as an entrepreneur. Hey, there’s another good mantra at the heart of that last sentence. Here’s what Keener had to say:
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
I wake up very early and jump to the computer. I like an early start. The more time I can dedicate to mastering my skills the better the outcome I’ll get…and that means customer satisfaction.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
I started the company with myself, my wife, and my brother in law. My wife is knowledgeable in consumer Psychology and Graphic Design. Lucky me, her brother also is a journalist in Spain and Peru, so he joined the team as a Web Script Developer, Blogger, and Sound Designer. Everybody’s talents and skills linked in such a way that our work is exclusive in a demanding market.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
I consider myself a lifelong learner. I push myself to the limit by studying the latest technology, even though I have too many things to do in a day. I stretch my days as much as I can by waking up very early and not sleeping until late.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
I’ll get frustrated if I don’t feel satisfied with the earlier stages of a web design project. That is because the earlier stages will help you develop a website in a smooth way where everything comes together at the end.
What’s your office environment like?
I prefer to work in a quiet environment, but now and then the music is all around the place. It depends on everybody’s mood and if the job requires more detailed attention. We take several breaks during the day, but all in all we seem to keep our focus on the goals and deadlines we have for our clients.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
I picture our company with 10 employees and enough designs under our belt to intimidate even the most experienced web design companies. I feel that a good foundation of honest work will inspire others to recommend our service and enable us to grow at a steady pace.
Who or what inspires YOU?
I’m inspired by the other designers who try to keep above the knowledge curve and sharp designing techniques. I always tell myself that there is always something new to learn, something new to improve on, a design to evolve. I exercise early every morning–it helps keep my head clear at work. I don’t necessarily have a role model, but I look to a few college professors for their advice since they’ve been in the design industry for decades.
How’d you fund this venture?
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Well…it doesn’t take a lot of capital; it takes a lot of time. You have to be devoted to the craft to make it happen. Starting off as a part time venture is the easiest way to get started, and once you are capable of marketing the websites and bringing in residual income, it gets a lot easier.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)?
I would use it to fully complete my masters in internet technology, take a nice break for 2 months in Europe, then start the next year fresh.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
I have a plan that I have sketched out in the beginning. Once I get there, I will feel successful. I am making money doing what I love, but I am working sometimes15-18 hour days. I could be pushing out the designs a lot faster, but every time I start a new project, I challenge myself to a higher level of coding and design.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Well…since the business started doing well…the website I enjoyed the most was Facebook, building the company’s appeal by keeping others in sync with our latest designs. I always enjoy seeing the new likes and comments, how others react to the designs I have been able to write. All this hard work to finish a design, and then to share it is great.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Most apps I like only for a few weeks, but I do enjoy Youmail, where I can give some crazy voicemail greetings to each and every contact if I want. It’s always been something that makes me laugh, especially when I do it to someone that doesn’t know about it.
Dogs or cats?
I have three cats, a Calico, The Grandma One, and Blacky.
iOS or Android?
I have been using android all along. I think both are great, but the android seems friendlier to my windows environment.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
I have a lot of countries I would like to travel to, but for now, I would like to travel through the many countries of Europe.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
The greatest thing is the service. I see so many people struggling with their designers and especially their SEO people (I haven’t personally found many that are straight shooters). Most will put very little effort into doing a project even half way. I may be putting a lot of extra hours in to make things right, but it’s the foundation that matters.
Where can our readers get a hold of you?