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Charity D'Amato of Chartreuse

Meet Charity D’Amato, founder of Chartreuse, a design studio.
What is Chartreuse?
is a boutique design studio with the specialty of making a visual splash for a wide variety of businesses and products. We run with the big dogs yet with the scrappy spirit of the underdog. From small solutions to large campaigns, our “little-something-extra” approach is applied to each and every aspect of your business.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I didn't set out to be a small business owner, but instead follow my head and heart. I attended Syracuse University and after 9/11 all of my peers were being laid off and everyone was reevaluating their careers, life and how important the idea of "happy" was. At the same time I was working at a great Cleveland firm, but my day-to-day projects were uninspiring and I wasn't passionate about my work. I thought if there was any time I could try to freelance, what better time than now. I started freelancing and the work started rolling in. I really enjoy the people aspect of design "sales" and was able to grow my client base within in months. From there the rest is history. Projects became too large to be meeting in my home attic, I leased a space, hired my first employee, bought a building, hired a second employee and currently the three of us are happy.
What resources/organizations here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I am a big "joiner." Not only do I join but I participate in many community organizations which have helped get our business name out there in the community. I am a 2009 graduate of the Cleveland Bridge Builders leadership program, which allowed me to make many entrepreneurial-minded connections. I am a member and trained volunteer of the Junior League of Cleveland which initially expanded my network across the river to the East side of Cleveland and now continues to develop me as a leader and as a business owner. As a younger designer I was an active member of the local chapter of American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) which positioned me among a wonderful class of other young designers new to our city and eager to jump on board. Currently, as a business owner, I am a member of the Arts Network for COSE as well as the Rocky River Chamber of Commerce. Let's just say there is never a dull moment and seldom a free evening.
Where did you find your first employee?
I met Michelle Zelasko through the portfolio review portion of the AIGA website (our professional design organization). At her interview I learned she was graduating from the University of Dayton, her style was aligned with the studio aesthetics, she had a great sense of professionalism to her and I knew we would work well together.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
As a big cheerleader for Cleveland (I also write the blog iheartcleveland.com in my spare time) I am constantly telling people that if you have a great business idea or a fleeting passion to open a small business Cleveland will support you, move you forward and then pick you up even if you fail. In no other city do you have the accessibility to press, volunteers, affordable resources, etc. We as Clevelanders want you to do great, making your success a win for our city. Our city is filled with creative thinkers, investors, other people willing to take risks and chances. In Cleveland the skies the limit you just have to go carve out your niche and do something!
What inspires you?
Vintage shopping and travel. Literally, when I am scouring the shelves of area thrift stores I am taking in the use of color, the subtle textures and patterns, the old labels and ways of communicating to your customers. Historically vintage design was simple and stunning and I like for that to reflect in my personal design approach. Also travel -- as soon as I hop on a plane or pack up the car for a road trip the adrenaline fires my mind and I better have a notebook in hand. Some of my best ideas have happened up in the sky. Plus, rejuvenating in new places, seeing new types and forms of design is thrilling, the inspiration only moves me forward and brings new life to our clients’ projects.
What companies or founders do you admire and why?
Well besides the few “mishaps” along the way, and I can't speak to her less that shining personality, you've got to admire the Martha Stewart Omnimedia empire. From her start as a community caterer to her vast impact on home crafting, entertaining, good design for the masses and now even influencing how we view media through technology, the woman/the brand is something I admire. As far as design companies that I admire, I do have a slight girl crush on Kate Spade, from her effortless retro flair to her bold patterns and cheeky messaging what started as a plain black bag has evolved into a large company that I reference almost daily!

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