HOW’s In-House Inspiration issue gives you a peek behind the curtain at NPR, the details on 89 award-winning in-house designs, and steps for preparing for the inevitable—change. Plus: How locking in an iron-clad infrastructure will strengthen your team.
Prior to launching her passion project, Bon Vivant Company, Tania Leach grew up eating a meat-and-potato diet in England. So when it came time for her to feed her own family, it was only natural that meat serve as an integral ingredient on the graphic designer’s supper table. That wasn’t a problem until Leach started looking for foods from local farms near her Washington, DC-area home.
“Living in Virginia we were very fortunate to be surrounded by farms of which most are farming sustainably and responsibly,” Leach says. “We found it relatively easy to find better vegetables but so incredibly hard to find properly raised, 100% grass-fed meats and dairy, which of course were a big part of our diet.”
And when they did, they discovered that the only option for purchasing the local meat was to buy an entire cow—to the tune of about $2,000. “What were we going to do with a whole cow? And we did not have that kind of storage; we lived in a one-bedroom apartment!”
Frustrated, Leach knew there must be another option—even if she was the one who had to forge the way.
By day, she is the freelance graphic designer behind Sapphire Blue Design, whose clients include Cristina Saralegui Enterprises, Korn/Ferry International, and Hilton Hotels Corporation, so she was already well-versed in running a successful business.
But, the timing wasn’t exactly promising, as the economy was still in the midst of recession. Plus, as it was, her design business had already taken a hit. Still, Leach thought a business that solved her local food-sourcing problems was something the community desperately needed, and so in 2010 with her husband, whose background was in the restaurant industry, they launched Bon Vivant Company: Fine Local Farm Foods.
“We realized we would never eat real food unless we came up with some solution ourselves,” Leach recalls. “As two self-employed people, we were suffering financially, but on the upside we did have time, so starting up another business seemed like a great (or really stupid) idea!”
But the community agreed that the idea was unequivocally the former.
Bon Vivant specializes in supporting small family farms in the local Washington, DC-area bring their foods into the city. They feature an online farmers market where customers can order everything from beef and butter to sausage and seasonings for local delivery. Recently, they also opened a brick-and-mortar café that provides a real-food menu for everyday dining from the company’s locally-sourced, farm-fresh ingredients and 100% grass-fed and pasture-raised meats and dairy.
In addition to helping run the business side of things, Leach also heads up the company’s marketing efforts and has created all of its branding, including its website, farmer’s market stands and café murals and signage—and with it, sparked her creativity in a way that ordinary design projects rarely do.
“While graphic design is a fun job for me, it’s not a job where I always feel I’m helping people with something substantial,” Leach says. But Bon Vivant is different. “It’s infinitely more inspiring when I get to see firsthand that people are excited about my products and business. That inspiration is always taken back to the drawing board for each new item I need to create for the company. This has been a whole new and exciting design project as it has given me more avenues for creativity than I usually have as a graphic designer.”
For instance, when painting murals for the café, she integrated chalkboard art, which she says “has brought out my inner typographer! These are things I would not have had the guts to experiment with for a paid job. For myself and for our café, it’s been fun to explore my creativity for my own business.” She adds, “Having that outlet with my Bon Vivant projects allows me to focus my creativity better with client work on solving the specific problem of the job.”
Still, the wide-open creative freedom that comes with being your own boss and client isn’t always easy. “As much as we complain about client input, not having a client can be just as frustrating,” she says. Whether it’s wanting to try every creative option or fighting the urge to keep honing until the design is perfect, Leach says her work for Bon Vivant has given her a new appreciation for her client work. “It also makes my client work seem simpler and more fun. Not being responsible for all aspects of a business allows me to be more creative with the portion that I enjoy most: the design.”
And in that way, Leach has found all sorts of sustenance in Bon Vivant, from the food itself to its catalyst for creativity and the like-minded, local community that has come along with that. “We have met so many people that feel the same way about food we do, and that has made the (quite rough!) journey that much more rewarding.”
Don’t miss all the latest issues of HOW magazine. HOW strives to serve the business, technological and creative needs of graphic-design professionals with a practical mix of essential business information, up-to-date technological tips, the creative whys and hows behind noteworthy projects, and profiles of professionals who are influencing design. And now you can get it delivered in print or digital format!