New Year, New Chapter for Bright Umbrella

Emily Lewis

Partnership is the cornerstone of our business. Web design and development is what we do. Being partners with our clients is how we do it.

It’s also the foundation of my relationship with Lea. Every single decision about this business is one we make together. Every client project is planned together. Collaboration and communication are what makes us, “us.”

But the reality was, Lea wasn’t — couldn’t be —  my business partner. That is, until today, when Lea became an equal owner in Bright Umbrella, LLC!

This partnership has been years in the making, though we didn’t quite realize it at the time. Six years ago, Lea invited me to co-host EE Podcast with her. We loved the podcast and working together so much, we doubled-down and rebranded as CTRL+CLICK CAST two years after that.

When Lea decided to move to the States three years ago, employment with Emily Lewis Design was the only option. But partnership was on our minds and continued to drive our decisions … leading to our Bright Umbrella rebrand.

Looking back, each step led naturally to the next. Lea and I simply evolve well together, bringing us to today and our 50/50 partnership!

What This Means for Our Clients

Not a single thing.

Everything about how Bright Umbrella operates will stay the same. Lea will continue to lead our design work. I will continue to lead our front-end. Together, we drive our CMS dev. We’ll continue to deliver great work, provide forward-thinking advice and be trusted partners to our clients.

What This Means for Us

Everything.

When Lea had to dissolve Lealea Design to come to the States, it was a sacrifice. Lea is fiercely independent and a true entrepreneur. I think she was born to be a business owner. Giving that up — while moving to a new country! — meant having to redefine herself professionally. It meant having to become an employee, something she didn’t think she’d ever return to after venturing out on her own.

Meanwhile, when Lea joined Emily Lewis Design, my responsibility doubled. I was responsible for her employment and that employment was keeping her in this country. I had to keep the business afloat, and I wasn’t even 4 years in at that point.

Today, Lea is a business owner again (and a permanent resident of the US!). Today, the responsibility for Bright Umbrella’s success is shared. This fundamentally changes how we both view ourselves and our business.

What This Means for Me

As much as this partnership was a business decision, it has been an incredibly personal experience for me. Once Lea got her green card, she could’ve gone back to working for herself. She could’ve accepted a job from pretty much anyone. But she’s committed to this business. She’s committed to me. And she’s my perfect partner.

She’s ambitious and thinks big. She’s as loyal as I am. She and I share the same driven work ethic. She takes criticism like a pro (because she is). She offers criticism without judgement (again, a pro).

I’ve felt confident in our working relationship every day since we joined forces. But now that we are true partners, I feel an even greater sense of optimism about our future. We’ve been through ups and downs, and we come out better and smarter each time. We count and lean on each other. And now it’s official.

A Few Thank Yous

There were several people who helped us get here. I must thank them for their generosity and overall awesomeness.

Rachel Kefauver has been my accountant since I started the business in 2010. This year, she also advised us on the tax implications of a partnership, staying an LLC vs. other options, and even the other types of professional advisors we should talk to. If you need an accountant who is also a trusted business advisor, talk to Rachel. You won’t be disappointed.

We also each had our own lawyers. I worked with Keith Findlay of Findlay & Dziak, who has helped the business with our contracts over the past few years. He was patient and really took the time to explain legal issues, while ensuring Lea and I each got the things we wanted in the operating agreement. Bonus: He dealt with the Secretary of State entirely … if you run an NM business, you know that’s a bonus.

Lea worked with Zainab Hussain of the Foundry Law Group in Seattle. She was fast. She was also accommodating to answer lots of last-minute questions, and even was able to draft another legal document for Lea in a short turnaround time.

Casey Reid took time to share his experiences forming Clearfire with partner Chad Crowell. They actually shared quite a bit about their merger on our podcast, but Casey took it deeper. He advised us on questions to ask our lawyers and the things to be aware of with a distributed partnership. Thank you for being so open, Casey!

I’ve known J Cornelius even longer than I’ve known Lea, and in that time I’ve discovered that he knows how to run a business. He also spent some time talking with us about what’s involved in forming a partnership and the importance of an operating agreement that outlines all the worst case scenarios. Thanks for sharing your business acumen, J!

And lastly, Lea: Thanks for believing in me, us and our business!

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