The following was featured in the Business North newspaper on April 5, 2012.
It takes most entrepreneurs years to build up the confidence to strike out and start their own business. One young person, Peter Merrill, decided there was no time like the present to reach for his dream.
At just 20 years old, Merrill opened Design Us All LLC, a web site and mobile app development company based out of Duluth in February.
“I always dreamed of having my own company and I guess I just decided to do it one day and that’s that. I know there is a need for honest web services that aren’t charging $1,000 – $2,000 for a simple web site,” he said.
Already an experienced developer, Merrill started his business by freelancing his services through web sites that connect developers with companies looking to create new web pages. Through his previous experience working with local web developers, Merrill said he found the confidence he needed.
“I taught myself how to build web sites and code mobile apps, and I’ve been doing that for about four years. I just gifured that was good enough to go into it for other people,” he said.
It was through that confidence that he sold his web site “Thirdie,” a social media site like Facebook, for $1,500. Merrill also decided that despite being a sophomore at the University of Minnesota Duluth, the time was right to take a break and stop taking classes.
“Right now I’m taking it one day at a time. I really want to build my business and return to school, but depending on how well my business does in the next couple of months, I’ll decide whether school is in my immediate future or if I’ll have to push it back. Really, I am dedicating my whole self to this business at this point,” he said.
It hasn’t been difficult to find work. Merrill began under the Design Us All moniker in December, and was able to launch his business’ own web site in March. Since the launch, the web site has attracted the attention of online web site design contests receiving nominations for “Best Website Design” from CSSWinner.com, “Best Designed Website” showcase from CSSBased.com, and was featured as “Best Website Design” by CSSDepot.com. Despite a slow start to getting some local business, Merrill has been able to find work across the globe.
“Its weird how that works. I’ve done work for people in Switzerland and all over the world and even though I’m based in Duluth, it’s been a challenge to get into the Duluth market. You would think it would be the other way around, start local and work your way around, but I’m narrowing it back to Duluth,” he said.
Angie Allen from the A.G. Thomson House Bed and Breakfast was happy to choose Merrill to design some of her company’s web content. While Angie likes to keep up with changing technologies, having a young perspective was a breath of fresh air.
“I see Pete as a wealth of information not just for computers, but he has a vision for where things are going. He seems to have a great vision for creating new technologies and new apps,” she said.
Allen said that for her, just being able to bounce ideas off of Merrill and use him as a soundboard for new concepts has been extremely valuable for her small business.
Merrill hopes that by catering to small business needs, he will be able to break into that market. He said that by doing his research and taking the time to understand his clients’ wants and needs really sets him apart.
“One way I’ve been combatting my young age is just being there for my clients and explaining every process and how it is being done and through quality work. Let my work speak for itself,” he said.
So far it has. Since Merrill began working, he has seen a 57 percent increase in sales each month. The pace has allowed him to finance the company directly using just his own funds. Merrill hopes to one ay expand his fledgling business, eventually hiring more employees and renting an office in Downtown Duluth.
“I’m taking Duluth by storm; you have to be aggressive in this type of business,” he said.
Allen also believes that Merrill’s vision will lead him to success.
“He’s just one of those kind of guys whose mind if always working like ‘what can I create next?’” she said.