From the desk of Deb Dulin.
When people told me that I should start my own business, I used to laugh it off. Early in my design career, I was perfectly content to be an employee and let higher-ups take care of the business side of running a business. But as time went on, going into business for myself became a realistic and practical option for me. There are many things that school doesn’t prepare you for, but life experience does—and playing rugby was part of the reason I gained confidence in going out on my own. In 2011, I took my side-hustle in graphic design into a full-time endeavor. Eight years later, Dulin Design is a full-fledged branding studio with a team of content experts, collaborating with businesses to develop their branding and accelerate their marketing efforts.
When I first started playing rugby in college, it was because of the encouragement of friends who were on the team. Like for all rookies, there was a steep learning curve. The support and patience of my teammates kept me coming back and trying harder. In business, there is no textbook on how to get started—you do your own research and seek guidance on how to set up legal and financial matters. And, having a supportive family is a tremendous asset for entrepreneurs as we navigate building a business.
I spent most of my time with Severn River playing second row and flanker, but in college I was a wing and center. My positions changed with the needs of each club and what our strengths were as a team. Similarly, as businesses grow it’s common for products and services to evolve with customer needs. When I started out, the design services I planned to offer were different from what I offer now. As I built a client roster, they kept coming back to me for additional projects that we tackled with gusto. In fact, one of the more popular services now is brand strategy--helping clients get comfortable with evolving their marketing and messaging to align with their current target audiences.
Being prepared for unexpected twists
Like any sport, rugby requires training and practice to be prepared for such a fluid game. Players can (and do) make mistakes, get back up again and charge right back into the action. Grit is a trait that rugby players gain in spades. In work, projects can take unexpected turns, the goal line moves, things happen outside of our control—we pound away and drive to done, trusting in our ability to do the work.
Building a team
It’s not news to anyone who has stepped on a pitch that rugby is a team sport—“15 as 1.” Dulin Design has grown into a virtual team—we are designers, writers and developers spread across the United States. It gives us the ability to take on a greater variety of projects and continue to collaborate with our clients again and again. Just like on a rugby pitch, there are times when certain players step up and shine and the team supports them. Each person has a specialty, so team members are chosen based on the needs of the project and our team members’ strengths. I truly enjoy working as a team and making the end results better based on our collective creative efforts.
There is no doubt that I bring what I learned in rugby to my business—and to my life. Would I have had the courage to make the leap without these skills? Probably not. I may have continued playing it safe. After eight years of being self-employed, I can say the rewards are worth it. Every day, it requires flexibility, tenacity, and the support of my team—but like in rugby—the feeling that comes from achieving something you’ve worked hard for, surrounded by those who are equally passionate and dedicated, is truly a victory.
For more information about Deb’s company, Dulin Design, CLICK HERE.
Deb Dulin has 15 years’ experience in graphic design, focusing on print design and environmental graphics. Combined with a background in project management and a passion for asking questions, she prioritizes clear expectations, schedules and budget to create solutions customized to meet the client’s needs.
As an alumni of Severn River Rugby, Deb continues to contribute to the club’s efforts to promote rugby in the mid-Atlantic region. In her spare time, she enjoys powerlifting, hiking and cheering on the Baltimore Ravens.