Women entrepreneurs sew up success with local graphic design firm
Diners at Fat Hen, Wild Olive and FIG will probably never realize all the work that Amy Pastre and Courtney Rowson put into the restaurants' signs, menus and logos.
At a glance
Company: Stitch Design Co.
Address: 9 Cannon St., Charleston
Owners: Amy Pastre and Courtney Rowson.
Ages: 33 and 35, respectively
From: Pastre is from Starkville, Miss.; Rowson is from Hickory, N.C.
Residences: Both live in Charleston.
Pastre family: husband, David; two children, Otto, 4, and Lillian, 1.
Rowson family: husband, Carter; two children, Bea, 3, and Ben, 1.
Pastre education: University of Miami in Ohio, degree in fine arts with emphasis in graphic design, 2001.
Rowson education: University of North Carolina, degree in journalism with focus on graphic design, 1999.
Pastre work experience: Charleston City Paper, 2001; Rawle Murdy, two years; Gil Shuler Graphic Design, 4.5 years.
Rowson work experience: Graphic Design firms in Telluride, Colo., and San Francisco, 1999-2004; owner of the former Gunter Design Co., 2004-2009.
Latest award: 2012 first-place winner of Your Best Work Design Awards in the category of freelancers, small firms and small in-house groups from trade journal How.
Their three-year-old company's name doesn't appear on packages of Callie's Charleston Biscuits or King Bean Coffee Roasters.
The same could be said for Canvas hair salon, with its iconic paint brush sporting a curl of hair on its logo, or the annual Spoleto Festival.
Pastre and Rowson develop the images of other companies or events that the public sees at their graphic design studio called Stitch.
Located in a former shoe shop beside Charleston Fire Department on Cannon Street, Stitch came into being when the two women, both graphic artists for other firms previously, decided to form their own company and use a name that evoked a custom fit or items tailor made.
“Every solution is different because every customer is different,” Pastre said.
Admittedly, they say some people seem to think Stitch, because of its name, is a clothes tailoring shop.
It does perform a version of tailoring, but it's all about making other companies happy with a graphic image.
“It is representative of the two of us coming together with our ideas,” Rowson said.
Their first client when they started out was Stems flower shop in downtown Charleston, which came to Stitch for branding.
They made the logo, sign, stationery and business cards for Stems. Now they are working on a brochure for the florist.
Along with Stems, they have about 30 ongoing clients and have probably created a brand or developed a logo for about 150 different customers altogether.
And they've done all of that without ever having to go looking for customers.
“We have never gotten to the point of calling anybody,” Pastre said. “It's basically word of mouth.”
National clients include Eberjay, a women's lingerie and swimwear company out of Miami that sells its products in upscale department stores in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan, and Chronicle Books of San Francisco.
They've worked with the Blue Moon Hotel in Miami and Portland General Store, a wholesaler of men's skincare products in Maine.
They tie their success not to any competition with other graphic design firms in Charleston, but to offering something a little different.
“We have a good sense of the bigger picture, but the small details are very important,” Rowson said.
For instance, the business card for Rewined, a candle maker in Charleston, not only employs a clever corkscrew shape for the “i” in the company name, but it also sports a wood-like texture with a wrap-around label incorporating the first-name signature of candlemaker Adam Fetsch.
“It has been successful for him,” Pastre said. “Having a small part in making somebody else's business a success is very rewarding.”
In addition to making logos and graphic designs for companies, the two women also design websites and share a separate business partnership with Virginia Gregg, who runs Sideshow Press, a letterpress business located directly behind their shop.
But Pastre and Rowson almost didn't go into the graphic design business.
Pastre knew growing up that she liked arts and crafts and enjoyed working with her hands, so she ventured into art education at the University of Miami in Ohio.
“I knew that wasn't right for me, so I took a graphic design class,” Pastre said. “That felt right, and I liked the business side of it.”
Rowson grew up aiming to be an architect, like a close family friend, but the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill didn't offer the program.
She studied graphic design instead with the intention of going back to school to get her degree in architecture.
“I ended up loving it,” Rowson said of graphic design. “It's enjoyable and I could see myself having a career in it. I couldn't imagine myself leaving it.”
The two, who are each married with children, appear to fit well together in the business partnership, too.
“We complement each other well, but there are things that she sees that I don't see and vice versa,” Rowson said.
“I don't think we have ever had a major difference. If there is a difference, it's never about us. It's always about the client.”
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.