by Haele Wolfe
Kim Strother was unsatisfied working as a print art director for a big company. Seeking to both cultivate skills to help her stay relevant later on in her career, and find a way to do more meaningful work, she chose to leave her job in 2016 and pursue a career in tech and digital design. A few years later, she’s the co-founder of a cutting-edge new branding business that seeks to help marginalized people get elected to office. She told her story to Haele Wolfe.
For years I was an art director in print at a big catalog company based near Madison, WI. While the job did make use of my creative skills, I found it to be soulless work—there are only so many ways you can sell a polo shirt. There was just no way at my old job to segue from the print side of design to the digital side, but I knew that if I planned on working in the design industry for at least 20 more years (which I do!) I would also need to know digital skills in order to stay relevant. Eventually, I became so frustrated by being pigeonholed into one medium of work that I quit that job and decided to learn tech skills on my own.
Initially, I began learning web development through a free class in my town but was dissatisfied with both the slow pace of the course and the lack of focus on practical application. Also, it was a full-time gig! I was on the course from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every weekday for 16 weeks. I began researching other ways to learn tech skills and quickly happened upon Skillcrush. Every day after doing my courses in town, I would come home and log on to the Skillcrush courses to teach myself more. I ended up taking almost all the online courses because I loved the way the material has been laid out to learn.
Progressive activism has always been a big part of my interests and how I define myself. I had promised myself after quitting my last job that my next position would in some way help people. So it was natural that once I started thinking about a career change to the digital design, I also wanted to fold in my political interests. My close friend (and future business partner), Jenny, shared these interests—and was equally discontent with working alone as a freelance graphic designer. One evening over dinner we realized that the best way to serve our respective creative interests, preferred working styles, financial needs, and goal of helping to get more women elected to office were to simply start working for those women. Thus, Changing the Face of Politics was born!
Our company is a for-profit small business that works with progressive candidates to build assets and branding to convey their message to voters. Clients can choose from three different packages we offer, ranging in size depending on the scope of the campaign they are running. For example, though I’m totally willing to build a personalized WordPress—not everyone needs that kind of white-glove service. We’re ready to make everything from a few logo designs to a whole kit of branding for items like paper products (including yard signs, handouts, flyers, and business cards), social media, and a personal site. We also offer training services for email writing and list growing and for social media consultation. My business partner and I work with two other digital branding strategists to make sure that all elements, from copywriting to logo design, are covered in this range of services.
Right now we’re working with local and regional politicians, but we’re excited about the possibility of branching out to clients all around the United States. The great thing about being a digital company is that we could potentially work on any campaign that feels like a good fit for us, and we’re passionate about seeing how far our reach can be.
We launched our company in January of 2018 and have been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve gotten from people. It took us a few months to put our brand together and figure out exactly how we wanted to talk about what we could offer political candidates, but the challenge has been totally worth it! The terrifyingly awesome job of building this business has been an amazing journey so far. And it’s really rewarding to see the results our candidates are making in their communities. From helping a local farmer become a contender for a state senate seat to creating a clean, clear website for a community activist to run for school board—this is the kind of work I have always wanted to be doing.