The Spotlight: Chillibreeze

Joanna Budelman with Kong Tmung, master spinner and dyer.

We recently asked Morning Report subscribers to introduce themselves by sending in a photo and answering a few questions.

Name: Joanna Budelman

Position: Co-founder

Name of business: Chillibreeze

Location of business: Shillong, Meghalaya, India

Nature of business: Chillibreeze is a 15-year-old graphic design company that specializes in overnight graphic support for PowerPoint presentations. We provide this service to large companies and consulting businesses predominantly located in the USA and Europe. For the last six years we have been taking our profits and investing in local start-up businesses. Zizira sells hard-to-find potent spices and herbs. Muezart sells Eri silk yarn, an indigenous fiber that comes from the locally farmed silkworm.

Number of employees: 196

One key decision that helped you get where you are: Initially, we sold one-off graphic design services direct-to-consumer. This is a difficult business because our team needed to understand each new customer and their design preferences for every project. It was hard to get it right the first time, especially with the cultural differences. One day, a consulting firm that needed graphic support for PowerPoint presentations contacted us. They had a specific style and approach. But more importantly, they needed this same type of graphic support over and over again. The key to our newly discovered niche: repeat business. We started saying no to one-off customers and positioning a focus on overnight PowerPoint graphic design services for consultants (McKinsey type) and Fortune 500 companies.

If you had it to do over: Be more decisive and quicker to increase our hiring funnel and select the right fit for the culture we were building. Be more faithful to our beliefs. Early on, we kept skilled people over people who were a bit slower but had the right values. This slowed down building our culture of service and care.

What you get to do on the days you enjoy most: I have embedded myself in various teams over the years. I like to engage with our staff or team and hear their stories of stepping out and making things happen. This could be in operations, product ideas, sales, service, people. This gives me energy and hope.

One aspect of running a business you have yet to master: Content marketing in this new era. In 1999 we were king and queen of marketing. Today it is another world, and we have not been able to master organic marketing.

My employees are: Excellent at going the extra mile and caring and serving our customers with overnight graphic design support. Our NPS at Chillibreeze constantly hovers at 85 percent.

Most successful form of marketing: Word of mouth from our customers. These large companies and firms need fast iterative work. We can do this super fast because we work while our customers sleep! Consultants tell their clients about the “Chillibreeze Magic” because their customers often ask, “How did you make this look good overnight?” Word-of-mouth references from consultants gave us entry into some large companies in the tech, food, and pharma industries. We have not had a fully focused sales role for over four years. Our marketing focus is predominantly on recruiting.

Problem you would most like to solve now: Marketing our Zizira and Muezart products without being addicted to Facebook and Google ads. We have already left the Amazon trap. For Chillibreeze, our problem is we don’t have a succession plan. My husband Ralph and I are the founders, and we need a more robust business leadership team to take the company forward into the future. Also, PowerPoint will not be around forever. We need to be ready to innovate what that next thing will be in visual communication.

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