Three years ago, I co-founded a design agency with two long-time friends and partners. As of February 2017, Onyx will shut its doors. It has been an amazing, challenging, and ultimately fulfilling ride. I walk away with both a heavy heart and a fluttering spark of excitement about the unknown future.
Dissolving Onyx is a mutual decision between myself and my two partners. Our individual paths have taken us into different directions. And although there will always be deep love and support, it no longer makes sense to pursue a course that was intertwined.
It’s true what they say about a business partnership: it is truly a relationship. Like any relationship, it requires a level of compromise and constant evolution. At times, different values and journeys between individuals can create stark contrast, and that feeling of compromise is exacerbated. Sometimes resentment is created where it’s not deserved. That feeling can exhaust you. It forces you to look inward.
When looking inward, your inner voice can get loud and powerful. Now, my inner voice is telling me that the best way to unfurl the limitless potential of myself, my partners, and our employees is to walk away from it all and package the whole thing up like a streaky, glowing memory.
Starting my own business was a truly awesome experience filled with chaos, clarity, brutal truths, and moments of complete triumph. We began in our twenties with $300 bucks in the bank and no website. We leave having directly helped more than 20 startups who have raised more than 30 million in combined funding. We leave having built seven separate mobile apps, a ground-breaking cannabis brand, and more websites and visual identities than we can count. We leave as a member of Google’s preferred agency roster, and the full-time employer of seven different individuals who have truly inspired us with their talent, diversity, and attitudes.
We began in our twenties with $300 bucks in the bank and no website. We leave having directly helped more than 20 startups who have raised more than 30 million in combined funding.
However, as with Onyx and any colossal chapter in one’s life, the warmest memories surely emerge from the relationships that were cultivated during our time. For everyone who parked in the alley way, walked up our speckled, concrete stairs, and wandered into our strange settlement of an office atop a lingerie store filled with mannequins: I’m drinking to you. Perhaps the ghosts that allegedly haunt the conference room can finally come out and be at peace. Maybe they’ll miss us. I know I will.
My hope is that every amazing designer, engineer, and hustler who hopped on for this ride truly enjoyed the wind in their hair, the epic lunches, the deep conversations and loud music bursting from the speakers. I can only hope that they leave better, wiser, more rebellious, and ultimately more inspired than when they came. My heart fills when I see that there are people that would work at a scrappy agency with an attitude problem instead of a shiny company with a plethora of benefits. We drove this thing into the horizon with the pedal to the floor, and I have zero regrets.
Discomfort is key to growth. That’s what Onyx has always been about— challenging assumptions, constantly evolving, and never stagnating. And so it seems right to shake things up once again, after wrapping up our best year, and our best quarter. Because although it’s possible to continue forward, it would not be with the level of growth we all ache for. It would not align with our individual visions of the future.
When you’re faced with staggering responsibility, it’s easy to lose sight of what you loved about your craft to begin with. Being a manager versus a doer. Worrying about new business, when all you want to do is build something of your own. When seeking comfort and survival destroys your the fire, it’s time to stoke it.
When seeking comfort and survival destroys your the fire, it’s time to stoke it.
Another chase begins. New experiences, new adventures, bigger learning opportunities, and a chance to double down on my own crazy pursuits.
Now it’s 2017. I just turned 30. We have a new president who yearns to go backwards. I’ve got a dollar and some hard-earned wisdom. Emotions run high at these moments.
One thing I’ve learned about these hurricanes of emotion… is that it’s amazing for self-expression. Maybe life can be treated the same way an artist treats their craft— with focus, inspiration, and truth. So, as for my takeaway…
The only way to learn is through ongoing discovery, action, and authenticity. So whatever you do next, immerse yourself 100 percent… and make sure you make a loud fucking statement about who you are.
After all, what else is there?