How We Went From Side Hustle To Profitable Agency

Published: August 15th, 2019
Mimi Council
Above 8000 Creative
from Mammoth Lakes, California, USA
started July 2017
Discover what tools Mimi recommends to grow your business!

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Mimi, and together with my husband Delaney we started Above 8000 Creative.

We were already small business owners of my bakery, Dessert’D Organic Bake Shop. And over the years we realized there were many services that we needed for our bakery, and had a difficult time finding for a reasonable price. So we started doing them ourselves.

Luckily, Delaney went to FIDM for graphic design, so we’ve always had a designer in the house. Above 8000 Creative brewed naturally from other friends of ours that wanted help with their small businesses after seeing the success of ours, and we realized we really love helping other people’s visions come to life with creative branding.

Above 8000 Creative is a creative firm, specializing in graphic design, website design, photography, content creation, and Instagram marketing. We mainly work with small businesses from conception and also can help with rebranding. We are your full service creative agency doing everything from logo design, business cards, branded merchandise, website design, e-commerce sites, product photography, content creation, and we bring it full circle with Instagram marketing.

We started Above 8000 Creative as a side hustle to help save money for our dream home. It’s only been two years since we started and we’ve already broken ground on our brand new home. Not only that, but we found another passion and we love helping small businesses stand out from the crowd.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I realized that Delaney and I were constantly getting asked by friends for “help” or “advice” when starting a business or side project. We realized we were helping out friends and doling out advice when we could be getting paid for it.

Our friends noticed the success and great branding we had at our bakery, Dessert’D Organic Bake Shop, and asked who we were using for certain things. When we said “us” for all those frequently asked questions, I realized we should be doing this for other people’s businesses.



Over the years we realized there were many services that we needed for our bakery, and had a difficult time finding for a reasonable price. So we started doing them ourselves.

Delaney has a degree from FIDM in graphic design. And before we owned our bakery, we both worked in action sports at Roxy/Quiksilver. So, we have a lot of experience with designing and getting products made as we both worked in Merchandising & Design. So, branded merchandise has become one of our specialties.

I found my love of photography after hiring multiple photographers at the bakery only to come up underwhelmed each time. So, Delaney bought me a camera and taught me how to use it and now he’s my second shooter. We love creating content for brands within the food, apparel, lifestyle, and outdoor industries, that’s where we specialize. Having good photography has proved to be a huge asset to my bakery business, and now we help other businesses see the benefits of having great content.

We started out with a few clients, and now we have many, and we also are getting new clients all the time. We end up getting referrals from current clients, which is great! When we started this, I was trying to make a little extra cash for our dream home that we were planning to build. Now that we did that and are building our home, we found that we love working with all of our clients. Some of them have become our friends and we love seeing the success of their businesses, just as if it were our own. We are honored to work with so many small businesses and help them with creative branding to stand out from the rest.



Describe the process of launching the business.

Our business started by word of mouth. People who knew us from the bakery, reached out and asked for our help. Once I realized we could have more clients, we built a website. Delaney is a designer so designing the website was no problem for him. Within a couple weeks, it was up and running.

Luckily, we didn’t have to finance anything for this business as we are a service business. After already owning another business where we sell products, I saw the advantage we’d have by being a business that sold services. This allowed us to not have to put any money into the business - well except for a few hundred dollars for our website. We already owned cameras and computers, we don’t really need much else.


We started this business in the living room of our condo, and guess what - it’s still there! One of the best things about this business is that we can work from home. After owning another business, our bakery, where in order to make money we need to be there; having this one be more flexible is amazing. We can spend more time working together and hanging out with our dog while we work. It also gives us the opportunity to have fun during the day, and we can come home and work into the night. When you’re editing photos or working on a website, you can do it any time of day. And we live in an outdoor playground, so we love to be outside as much as possible and this allows us to do that and work as well.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Most of our business comes from word of mouth, or from potential clients that we’ve reached out to.

When we have down time, we reach out to potential clients (usually found on Instagram, locally, or word of mouth from friends). We send an email with a brief introduction that outlines what we do why we think we can help them, specifically.

Here’s a screenshot of my most recent “reach out” email. I found this company because someone DM’d me a screenshot on Instagram of their page. I don’t even know the person who sent it to me, but it made me click. I noticed they have a cool product, a good website but are lacking on the social platform. I also believe because I am a huge dog lover (I love dogs more than people) that I could help brand their product and market it in the best way. If this was a cat company, it wouldn’t be for me. You gotta stick to what you know and what you’re passionate about sometimes for results to be there.


We also do Instagram marketing, obviously, it’s a service of ours so we do it too. We get inquiries from that social platform. But, other than that we don’t do any ads or anything else.


For us, we post many things on Instagram because we have many different clients and we’re showcasing our work. While we take note of posts that don’t perform as well, we also want our content to show potential clients what we could do for their brand.

Retaining customers is keeping them happy. We frequently give current customers discounts, free design work, and other perks to keep them with us. Having clients that have been with you for a long time is a benefit to you and to them as well. So, giving them a little something extra to stay is a great idea.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We are profitable today and plan to be in the future. We are gaining new clients all the time and if we feel we can help someone’s business grow, then we take them on as a client. That is our mission now and in the future.

One of the benefits to us is that we work from home, so our overhead is really low. We can also write off certain things and that helps as well. If you don’t need an office, why pay for one? Some people need to get out of the house to work and if that’s you, then you need to do what makes you productive. But for us, we work just fine at home and actually love it. Once our new home is finished being built, we’ll have an actual office (instead of the dining room table right now :)

We also plan on buying some new camera equipment and things within this year. Purchasing new equipment and tools are necessary when those tools help you make money (and you can write them off :)

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Because this is my second business, I feel I have already learned many lessons from my first so I wasn’t as much of a beginner in this business. I will share with you the things that I knew going into this business.

I knew that we weren’t going to have employees at Above 8000 Creative. There are many businesses where employees are essential. But, employees also cost you so much money and usually a lot of headache. I know from my bakery.

So, for Above 8000 Creative, I have always known not to take on more work than we can handle. We’re a small firm, and we want to keep it that way. I’d rather make a good amount of money that I know is all mine, than try to make more than I need order to bring on employees.

If you have a business that you can run yourself and employees are not necessary, I would advise you to think twice before bringing them on. It depends on the business, but sometimes a small business is best left small and that’s how we feel with Above 8000 Creative. It also lets us be totally hands on with all our clients to truly give them the best experience.

I also know that word of mouth is huge for any business. We will gift clients free services when we get referrals from them. We know it’s a big deal to advocate for us, and we want them to feel appreciated as a client and to be able to tell their friends that we do a great job. Giving away small items for free can really help boost referrals.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

As a creative business, we rely on many tools.

We have the Adobe Creative Suite and we use InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator on a daily basis.

We also have Nikon cameras and a tripod. We use our iPhones daily, I can’t even say how much - with Instagarm!

We build all of our websites on Wix, they are an amazing web platform for almost any kind of site you need. The backend is user friendly and we can easily show our clients how to navigate their blog or sales orders.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I love books and I am an author myself (a cookbook author) with my first book available now, Cookies for Everyone. You can find it on Amazon here, and when you preorder you get a free gift with purchase.

Cookies for Everyone has 99 recipes for cookies of all kinds and the book goes from easiest recipes to most difficult. My book also includes recipes full of butter and gluten, with a full chapter dedicated to vegan, and every single recipe can be made gluten free with one simple adjustment.

Not only that, but every recipe also has one simple adjustment for high altitude or sea level baking. No matter where you live, what your lifestyle is, there is a cookie for everyone in my book - even your dogs!


But to be honest, I haven’t read much lately as I’ve been so busy! But, right now I am reading my friend Bobby Hundred’s book, This Is Not A T-Shirt. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that is creative and has a dream of starting their own business within a community.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

If you’re just starting out, you should hire us! We’ll design you a logo and build you a website, which is key to starting a business. You can do your side hustle after your day job. That’s what we did. Obviously, we still own our bakery, Dessert’D Organic Bake Shop. And before Above 8000 Creative, we made our living solely from Dessert’D.

We started Above 8000 Creative as a side hustle for extra cash, and now we make as much if not more than we do at the bakery. If we were working for someone else, we probably would have quit but since we work for ourselves, now we just own two businesses and have many benefits from both.

You never know what will happen, but if you truly love what you’re doing then it won’t feel like work. And one client or one sale, can turn into many without you really realizing it at first. Before you know it, you could be doing what you love full time.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!