Saskia Ketz is the founder of Mojomox, a modern logo builder that allows startups and creators on tight budgets to create dynamic, professional-looking brand identities.
No stranger to starting companies, Saskia also runs MMarch NY, a branding agency that’s worked with world-class brands like Netflix, Ikea, and Timberland. She loves analyzing design decisions and analyzing target audiences to set up the perfect brand strategy while maintaining her spot for typography.
She’s also the founder and editor-in-chief of A Women’s Thing, a publication dedicated to reshaping society’s ideas of “women’s things” within arts and culture, and is passionate about helping women get featured and show their work.
Photo by Lauren Damaskinos.
Where did the idea for Mojomox come from?
A couple of years ago, I started offering free “office hours” calls through my agency to connect with potential customers. I had a lot of small startups sign up for slots to get my thoughts on ways they could get stunning brand designs on their meager budgets. I’ve always admired startups and wanted to find a way to support these incredible founders—but I didn’t want to downgrade the value of my work. Moreover, I didn’t feel like startups should be paying expensive agency prices for early design work, given how often they have to pivot as they grow (and their designs have to pivot along with them).
So, I decided to distill my years of design knowledge into an affordable tool to help startups create their own logos, brand kits, and other design assets. The idea is to allow them to create something simple and professional that will carry them from a design perspective until they really hone in on product market fit and are ready to invest in more expensive, custom designs.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
When structuring my days, I’m constantly balancing business needs and design work (plus my personal life), so try and divvy things up accordingly.
I usually wake up between 5 and 5:30 and start with some time for my personal life: My husband and I have a morning tradition where we spend an hour talking about life and work while having our morning coffee, and I’m a new mom so have some baby duties every morning.
I dive into work, starting with low-hanging fruit tasks like checking Google Analytics for new data insights and quickly getting through as much of my inbox as possible by responding to anything that will take less than two minutes to deal with immediately.
Three times a week I take a quick break to do a one-hour workout with a trainer via Zoom, and then I do focused work until lunch. I like to use this morning time on achieving big wins for the business—scheduling important meetings, responding to emails that will take more of my time, doing cold outreach, reading user feedback, etc.—so it feels like I’m done with most of what I have to do on that side of things before lunch.
That’s because design work takes long stretches of time. So, after going on a walk and eating lunch, I like to sit down for at least three hours of focused design work.
After doing family stuff until 7 or so, I may do a little more fun design or business work if I’m feeling energized—or may just read until I’m ready to call it a day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I swear by data to decide which ideas to focus on, and which path to follow as I bring them to life. You can have all the theories you want about what will work and what won’t, but you don’t really know anything—you’ve got to back up your decisions with data.
Of course, that’s really hard in the beginning when you have almost no users to gather data from. For instance, you need a sample size that goes into the thousands in order to create a meaningful A/B test.
So I try to start by working with microdata: A valuable piece of feedback from one user, a problem that three different people are reporting, etc. It might not really be representative of the best solution for everyone, but it’s representative of what my users need right now, and I think that will help me get to a larger amount of users in the long run. That said, I can’t wait until I reach a scale where I can work with really meaningful data to drive my ideas.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Given the company I’m building, it might be obvious that I’m excited about design automation (which is when designs are created automatically by software). So many people think that design automation is going to put designers like me out of a job, but I actually think it’s going to help amplify our skills to help more people and ultimately result in a better-designed world.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I like to build and launch quickly so I can gather information quickly. And by build quickly I mean thinking about the version of something you can build in a day, maybe a week at the most. If you’re spending more time on something than that, it’s going to take you longer to get information on whether it’s working. Given that the majority of things you try when getting your ideas off the ground aren’t going to work, you want that information quickly so you aren’t wasting your time.
For instance, I’d been thinking recently that I wanted more ways for users to easily give me feedback, since it’s so instrumental to my business growth. I could have spent days or weeks agonizing over finding the perfect solution—instead, I spent about an hour implementing a simple solution where users could text or WhatsApp me directly, and within a few days already had a lot of interesting feedback.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Related to the above, I wish I had learned earlier in life to share my work early in the process, rather than waiting for it to feel “finished.” I can’t count how many times I’ve had to remind myself of this along the entrepreneurial journey to drill the concept of failing fast into my brain (which is truly essential to finding success with whatever you’re creating). Remember: You’re not building something for the product to be final—you’re building so you can get enough feedback to build the next iteration.
One thing that helped me train this muscle is that I try to create one new font every day, which I could typically spend weeks doing. It’s kind of a painful exercise, but it really reminds me how fast I can move things forward if I let go of perfection.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I don’t think there’s any idea in the world that nobody will agree with you on—I think it’s just all about finding the right people. For instance, I strongly believe that tech startups shouldn’t spend a lot of money on distinctive branding, and that, instead, they should aim for “black dress” design: something that’s professional but simple enough to leave flexibility as the company grows and pivots.
When I talk to other designers about this, I face a lot of disagreement—they think everything should be considered, that a company can’t succeed without professional branding assets. But then I started to really embrace the whole Lean Startup movement, a group of people who absolutely align with the idea of launching the most basic V1 as quickly as you can and then pivoting from there. By finding people who were thinking about building companies differently, it freed me up to think about design differently, too.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I feel like I’ve already said it over and over again, but it’s because I do it over and over again: asking users for feedback! Building your idea alone in a room is simply not productive—you’ve got to build it iteratively with the people you’re trying to help so you solve their actual problems and therefore make them excited to pay you for your product.
Some people are nervous about this process, but I’ve been so heartened by how generous users are with giving feedback—a lot of them are excited to even be asked and feel like they’re actually being listened to. Finding multiple ways to source feedback, from simple apps that allow users to text me to setting up longer user research calls, has been paramount to the successful growth of my company.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Besides, asking users for feedback, cold outreach has been the number one strategy to help my idea grow.
This happens in two ways. One is cold outreach to get help with roadblocks I face in building my idea. For instance, I spend a lot of time on startup forums like Indie Hackers, Product Hunt, and Reddit, and whenever I run into something I’m stuck on, I ask the group for help. Everyone is always happy to throw in their two cents, and it’s been amazing to find this group of people who have served as kind of fractional cofounders for my company.
Cold outreach has also been important for finding promotional opportunities for Mojomox. It really is more about quantity over quality in everything from pitching myself and my company for press, finding partnership opportunities, and looking for new marketing channels. When reaching out about these opportunities, I really try and find win-win situations. For instance, I’ve found partnerships with app marketplaces like AppSumo to be really beneficial. They get to offer my app at a discounted price, and I get access to their base of existing users.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think the only failure would be if I wasn’t failing enough because that would mean I wasn’t taking risks, wasn’t experimenting, and wasn’t launching things quickly enough to learn and adjust course. I’m a huge proponent of the “fail fast” startup mentality, so I’m failing in small ways nearly every day—which means I don’t tend to have major failures that stick with me very long.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I was thinking recently about how there needs to be a better alternative to Amazon: Something that is well-curated, with a smaller stock of items but somehow everything someone like me needs. I’m thinking of the online version of your one corner grocery store that is super small but manages to have 99% of the things you’re looking for—versus Amazon, which is the grocery store that has 50 aisles and thousands of products, 99% of which you’d never buy.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’m always looking for new design inspiration, particularly sources that are outside of the mainstream to help me come up with ideas that are different than what everyone else is doing. I recently bought this cool type book called Formenwandlungen der Et-Zeichen (Shape Transformations of the Ampersand) by Jan Tschichold from an online antique bookstore in Germany—I think shipping actually cost more than the book itself, but it was completely worth it. It’s filled with 288 different ways of writing the ampersand symbol along with some history of it, and has given me so many new ideas for ways to create distinct but modular character designs on Mojomox.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I absolutely love Trello for so many things: project organization, product planning, task management, feedback and idea tracking, etc. Everything can be put in it, and it helps me tackle so many birds with one stone. It has just the right balance of structure and flexibility that it’s easy to set up and start using it but allows me to tweak things to my needs. It handles notifications in the right way, always making sure I see what I need to but never over-notifying me. It has a search function that really works so I can always find what I need quickly. I can’t sing its praises enough, and I wish everyone I work with would use it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It’s not business-related at all, but the one book that never leaves my nightstand and that I revisit regularly is The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli. It’s all about the physics and philosophy of how we experience time. I’ve always been super interested in physics—my dad was an electrical engineer and it’s something we connected on—but it also helps me deal with the stress of being an entrepreneur. In the moment, I always want to make my ideas happen faster, want everything to happen sooner, feel like a challenge I’m facing is the biggest thing in the world, and the ideas in this book really help me remember that all of that is relatively small in the great span of time. It’s kind of antithetical to all my “move fast” advice above, but it helps me find balance.
What is your favorite quote?
I read a lot, so the quotes and ideas that stick with me are constantly changing. I love to highlight passages that catch my eye in books and return to them regularly. For instance, one that I highlighted in The Order of Time is:
“How long is forever?” asks Alice. “Sometimes, just one second,” replies the White Rabbit. There are dreams lasting an instant in which everything seems frozen for an eternity. Time is elastic in our personal experience of it. Hours fly by like minutes, and minutes are oppressively slow, as if they were centuries.
This helps ground me when I feel like things are moving too slow or time is moving too fast or I just generally want to try and control time (which I can’t).
- Always be getting feedback
- Follow the data in decision making
- Ship fast and fail faster
- You don’t need expensive professional design to get your idea into the world
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.