Digital 55 recognizes the power of design to shape and transform the world around us. In this interview with Ownr, Chief Creative Officer of Digital 55, Lauralee Sheehan shares her entrepreneurial experience and advice, and gives insight into her company’s goal of purposefully harnessing the power of design for good, to bring about social change.
Introduce us to Digital 55.
Lauralee: Digital 55 is a collective of award-winning designers, developers, researchers, and content strategists working together to create unique, innovative, digital interactive products and learning experiences. Our work is defined by our rebel spirit, rooted in interdisciplinary arts such as music, film, and design.
We recognize the power of design to shape and transform the world around us– and it is our goal to purposefully harness that power to design for good. Because we are passionate about social change (we call ourselves “rebels with a cause”), some of our projects have included subject matters such as equity, diversity and inclusion, human rights, leadership, and skills training. Some of our clients include Athabasca University, Ontario Human Rights Commission, Ontario Arts Council, and Healthy Start.
Digital 55 is based in downtown Toronto and operates in a decentralized film-based model, booking and curating talent on an as-needed basis and with a focus on project specs and client objectives.
What inspired you to set up Digital 55?
Lauralee: My dad was an entrepreneur so I’ve always had an interest in entrepreneurship. Throughout my career, I have started a few small businesses including Digital 55 but had always kept a full-time job and never quite made the full time leap into entrepreneurship.
In 2016, I landed what I thought was my dream job running a design and dev team at a digital learning agency, but soon started noticing some red flags with the company. When they announced bankruptcy in 2018, I was crushed. But I made the decision to truly commit to my future. So the next morning, I put on my black dress and red lipstick and went into the office prepared to handle this experience with grace, class, and true leadership. I committed to wrapping up our clients’ projects in the most graceful way I could and made sure they felt valued and cared for, and sure enough, they began to ask me about my next steps.
From there, I knew it was time for me to move Digital 55 into full-time operations. I took the leap and never looked back.
What do you love about being your own boss? What keeps you motivated?
Lauralee: Being your own boss comes with higher risks and far less free time, but ironically enough, it also comes with more empowerment and a greater sense of freedom that you just don’t get in other settings. There is definitely more stressors, but still, a great sense of individuality. I love that I get to decide what I am investing in and which clients to collaborate with, which is very empowering.
I’m motivated by innovation and creativity and building the team with that in mind. Even if some projects are more challenging than others, there is something about being in a space of innovation that keeps everything exciting and interesting.
What has been your biggest success or earliest win?
Lauralee: 2019 was a big year in terms of getting a big contract with a major client that has become the pinnacle to the business and moved us into a rapid scale and growth phase. So that was a huge win! But we have also been receiving grants for innovation and funding to go global which has changed everything for us.