Five years ago today, my life changed forever

My first child Amelia was born five years ago today. I still find it hard to believe that it was so long ago now, and I’m amazed at how our family has grown with the addition of Imogen (3+) and Kiernan (14+ months). In a rather direct way, Amelia’s birth was more or less the impetus for the creation of Brightwhite Design.

When my wife and I found out we were pregnant, we evaluated everything about our lives. Our home, our careers, our lifestyle, everything. We wanted to make sure we were as prepared as possible for what was to come. At the time, I had been working for four years at the small design agency Allura which is now a (very successful) part of Bristol. I had concerns about the future of our department and decided to look for work at an agency that might be larger and (I thought) more stable.

My manager from my days with XWave/MITI, Marc Cyr contacted me about joining him with a new team he was putting together at an Irving affiliated company, Fleetway. Fleetway designs ships for the Irving Shipbuilding companies and had a small design department of four people that used to handle manual design for the vessels they built. I figured that with a baby on the way, a large, slightly boring company was just the ticket for stable income. After eight months of Marc trying to hire me and going through all of the Irving red tape, I finally came on board, barely three months before Amelia was to be born.

We spent the next few months letting people know about our offering, meeting potential clients and promoting the dept. It wasn’t very exciting, but I was pretty sure it would get better the more we got to know Fleetway’s clients and made a name for ourselves as we had years before at XWave/MITI.

I had arranged for a week off when we had the baby. As any parent knows, those first days and weeks with your new baby are wonderful, trying and difficult at the same time. We had feeding issues, reflux problems and lots of other stuff to contend with. Truthfully, I’m so glad we’re beyond the infant days now! I returned to work on the 12th. My boss said hello and asked me to follow her to the conference room. At that point, she let me know that they were laying me off, along with the rest of the department except for one designer who had been there for over 20 years and would stay on for support. She told me that they had actually wanted to call me on the very day my daughter was born, but Marc had stopped them. I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly think that was a good idea, but anyway.

I was floored, to say the least. I got in my car, called my wife and told her I was coming home. If you’ve ever met a new mom, you know that news like this doesn’t go over very well. I told her not to worry and started making some calls.

I was scared to death, but had wanted to start my own company for years, and what better time than the present? By the time I had arrived home, I had lined up a couple gigs, talked to an old client about business financing and started to do some more research.

I wrote a business plan and received a few grand in financing from CYBF to get my software and hardware up-to-date. I rounded up some old clients and let them know I was available. Best of all, the clients we had been dealing with at Fleetway still wanted me to work on their stuff, so I did the work through Fleetway and billed them far more per hour than I ever would have made on salary.

Brightwhite Design launched officially on February 1st, 2004 and what a ride it’s been. We’ve had a ton of successes, made some amazing friends and partners, grown the company, taken office space downtown and won a few awards in the process. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but I’m infinitely more happy today than I was working for someone else. I’ve learned so much and had a great time doing it.

Here’s to 2009 being as great a year as the last five have been for us. I wish everyone the best.

Previously posted on brightwhite.ca

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