This year I started a program with the Topanga Messenger, our local paper, meant to beef up their online edition and give them material for their Business section. It’s a “Business of the Month” where Chamber members vote on a randomized list of businesses (200 or so) and then I write up a feature article for the newspaper.
Well, as luck would have it, my business was voted in for November, and the editor of our newspaper interviewed me and wrote up the feature article. Feels pretty personal but she did a nice writeup.
Bonnie Morgan is the founder of Design Like it Matters, which is a boutique marketing and web design firm that aims to improve the community through socially responsible design and successful marketing techniques. When longtime Topanga resident and avid technophile Bonnie Morgan, brought her website design company, Design Like It Matters (DLIM), to the Canyon, she also volunteered her business acumen and a variety of transferable skills and experience to benefit community organizations.
DLIM is a boutique marketing and web design firm that aims to improve the community through socially responsible design and successful marketing techniques. Morgan’s approach is “whole business strategic analysis” that is hands-on and personal for small businesses. She harnesses the power of technology in the belief that the internet is one of those gifts we frequently take for granted.
Business coaching is not unusual in Morgan’s client relationships and often reveals new horizons. Her first work with a client is to uncover what they aspire to be and reveal what they believe they are now. Frequently, a new client might feel they need something like a Twitter account when what they really need is a business plan to sharpen their message or to polish their website.
“DLIM will inventory what you have, review your market, your clients, analyze your competition and work up a plan of action that will have you focused on what is best for your business,” Bonnie explains. “If you feel that you already have a handle on all that, DLIM will come up with a way to do it better.”
Powerful tools are available in the small business-marketing arsenal—social media, e-mail marketing, search engine optimization, analytics, etc. Every successful small business and community organization needs a website, at times a Facebook page, e-mail marketing, perhaps an Instagram or Pinterest account.
Bonnie has been a lifelong student of technology and its applications. Everyone has a story of their first introduction to computers but, for Bonnie, it was life-changing She had three nearly teenage girls and was working as a “terrorism” researcher at the Rand Corporation building searchable databases of worldwide events on a Unix system (anyone remember green codes on a black background?) when she went back to school. She earned two BAs in History and Political Science. In 1986 her father gave her a MacPlus for getting into UCLA graduate school. Writing a paper in Word required saving the document to a diskette every few pages.
She used Hypercard to organize notes for her exams and dissertation, probably more fascinated by the program itself than by the content of the notes on Rousseau, Smith and Weber.
She discovered herself unexpectedly pregnant with her fourth child just as she attempted to take her exams. She left the program with a Masters earned, a new one-year-old and, as a single mother raising four children, her marriage a casualty of the changing times.
Subsequently, her five-year foray into a corporate and very foreign environment of high-end real estate, found her promoting the benefits of going beyond email to investing in an internet presence and a company intranet to maintain consistency in their brand and messaging. In charge of “professional education” she became the first in the company to have a “portable” computer, a 25-pound behemoth that she carted all over the country for educational seminars. She was also the first one in the company to open up the computer, explore its insides, and integrate a sound card to create multimedia presentations.
When she and husband and architect Janek Dombrowa moved to the Canyon nearly 20 years ago with their mutual children–Misia, Stefan and Robin–they lived as many families with young children do today: commuting and driving miles to coordinate school, work and children’s activities.
As a Topangan, Bonnie works with several of Topanga’s non-profit organizations, managing their social media, re-building their websites and streamlining their membership processes.
Her service to the community began in February 2013, when she was looking for ways to broaden her expertise and get out from behind the computer.
She spent nearly a year “interning” with Topanga Catering Company to get some background in the catering and event planning business. Michael O’Rourke subsequently invited her to develop a business around his property (the Institute of Courage) that she re-branded as Rosewood.
The intense experience and success of event planning reflected her management skills and love for throwing a party, so she scratched that off her goals list and added it to her résumé. That’s where Dorothy Reik discovered her. Reik invited Morgan to apply for the position of Rental Coordinator for the Topanga Community Club where the unassuming Morgan now works her magic behind the scenes.
While no one was looking, she designed and built a comprehensive WordPress website that covers all aspects of memberships, events and rentals. It is updated daily, and is the source of information for the Club and includes a live, up-to–the-minute calendar packed with classes, community events and private rentals.
As a result of extensive marketing and promotion to film location crews and other special event venue companies, rental income for the TCC has tripled and rivals the income brought in by other main fundraising events.
A weekly newsletter called “Happenings” is issued to all members and other subscribers every Monday morning that has enhanced the TCC’s reputation for responsiveness and accountability. The Club also communicates weekly and sometimes daily through social media to its members and other interested parties.
Membership is purchased online as are all other events requiring ticketing or purchases. The rolls are up-to-the-minute correct and membership has increased to nearly 600.
Morgan, along with waste management expert Victoria Charles, instituted a program of “Zero Waste Topanga” with TCC as a pilot project, which the TCC Board has enthusiastically embraced. The Zero Waste facility will soon be enhanced by their upcoming solar roof installation.
Launched in April 2014 at Earth Action Day, the Club now avidly recycles, collects and provides compost for its on-site gardens and works to educate membership about zero waste practices. Zero Waste will be incorporated into all the TCC events, moving from purchasing disposable products to using and reusing non-disposable ones. The Sages Social Supper no longer uses paper plates or plasticware, but relies instead on real flatware, glasses and plates.
“What really makes it happen is everyone’s efforts,” says Morgan.
In January 2014, Morgan introduced a strategic planning effort. As part of the Community House Improvement Committee (CHIC), TCC instituted a community-wide survey of Topanga residents to understand what the community wanted of TCC and incorporated the responses into the longer-term planning of the Club.
Finally, when TCC took over management of the Sages programs, an anonymous donor approached Morgan to build a similarly functioning website for the Canyon Sages. They, too, now have a live calendar, weekly newsletter and a new Facebook page.
Because of her social media expertise, she was asked to become Media Chair on the Topanga Chamber of Commerce Board in early 2014, and took on management of the Chamber’s website. She built a separate blog called “Chamber Talk” so the Chamber could communicate with their members and others. She also developed a new, organizational Facebook page.
Earlier this year, she worked with the Messenger to develop a win-win advertising program with the Chamber. By taking on the sponsorship of the Messenger’s online Business section, the Chamber developed another platform to present its activities and a better advertising opportunity for its members.
Bonnie started her business, Design Like It Matters, because of her strengths in communication, management and technology; but she is also a tireless advocate for trying to better her community through socially responsible design using technology. When used correctly it has democratizing processes that can have wonderful and far-reaching impacts on communities.
She sees the Messenger as the cornerstone of community information and communication. She applauds the Topanga Canyon Town Council’s (TCTC) OneTopanga.com as the community website and HUB of Topanga, the wonderful idea of Bruce Royer, owner of Tuscali Inn, and Stacy Sledge, president of TCTC, that brings together all the non-profit and special interest organizations of Topanga together.
Design Like It Matters is a full-service marketing service that ranges from logo design, branding, print collaterals, website design and social media integration. Specializing in working with small business entrepreneurs, community and membership organizations.