Bodega 22

Michael Solano-Mulling's work as a graphic and Web designer has given him the opportunity to combine his skills and expertise in art, design and programming with his interest in building a strong community of entrepreneurs and independent, locally-owned businesses.  

After years of working on a freelance basis, Michael decided to take it to the next level and start a full service design studio -- Bodega 22. Taking the first step, Michael set up a meeting with a small business advisor.  

Michael was already familiar with the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) through another business venture, an eco-friendly retail store (Equita) he owns with his wife and sister-in-law. Four years ago, they received assistance from the SBDC with the planning and start-up of their brick-and-mortar shop and online store.  

Their business consultant, Diane Sandstrom, had provided them with guidance and support throughout all aspects of the business planning process, including marketing strategy, financial planning and lease negotiations. Her support and assistance has been ongoing as they further develop their business goals.

Working with the SBDC was an invaluable experience for Michael, and the client was confident that his new endeavor would benefit immensely from their services.

During meetings for Michael’s design business, Diane and Michael discussed different business structures, contracts, record keeping and taxes. She analyzed the services he was offering at the time and worked with him to refine the offering so that it made sense to both the client and the business owner in terms of the pricing, workload and scheduling.

They focused on marketing strategies and explored ways to reach out to small businesses, nonprofit organizations and others who would benefit from affordable, quality design services. Diane also encouraged Michael to develop his own website showcasing his portfolio, a common practice that many graphic and Web designers ignore.

The SBDC meetings helped Michael clarify his goals and successfully transition from informal freelance work to an organized business venture.

In January 2010, Bodega 22 officially opened for business. Inspired by the ubiquitous convenience stores of New York City, the multi-purpose design studio delivers accessible quality, custom design services to the western Pennsylvania market and beyond. As a one-stop shop, Bodega 22 offers clients a variety of packages, each including the basic components necessary to maximize the effectiveness of a Web-based or print design project.

The marketing strategy that was developed with the assistance of the SBDC was put into effect and has already generated several leads and landed clients. The business start was financed with an owner equity investment.