Designing a not-so-dark business future

Starting out as a freelance web designer, 25-year-old Ryan May launched Plainfield-based Darksyd Designs a few years back and he is winning over clients from Hendricks County to Texas

By Richard K. Myers
Hendricks County Business Leader

RyanMay-CoverAsk Ryan May, president of Plainfield-based Darksyd Designs, what his goals are for the future and they flow off his tongue as easily as butter melts in a hot pan.

For starters he wants to make the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Top 10 list of web site builders; and then there’s a commercial spot during a future Super Bowl, and, oh, yea, he’d like to have a Skyscraper named after his business as well.

And by the way, one more of May’s goals: “I want lots of businesses.”

Are you tired yet?

One thing for sure: dreams are alive and well on the second floor at 201 West Main Street. And they should be. Because what May has accomplished at the age of 25, most entrepreneurs could only dream of.

“I would really like Darksyd Designs to be nationally known,” he says.

And at this pace the “hidden jewel” he refers to as his business is right in line to claim that type of notoriety.

What started out as a free-lance business in 2000 for May has turned into big business for Darksyd Designs. While he’s mum on what he’s billing, he’s quick to point out that Darksyd Designs, since 2004, will grow by 400-plus percent by the end of this year.

Darksyd Designs specializes in web design and development and has a client list that stretches from Plainfield to Texas. The company can perform a variety of services that include: web design, custom web-based applications for both Internet and Intranet; web hosting; domain-name registration and management; custom graphic for both web and print; logo design; database development; photography; and consultancy.

Simply stated, May says: “We’re problem solvers.”

And it’s that attitude that May attributes to the success of filling his clients’ needs.

May got into web design, development and maintenance by default. A life-long Plainfield resident, and 1998 Plainfield High School graduate, he wanted to display his talents in the video gaming and/or movie industry, but that would have meant moving from Plainfield, which was not an option for him. Web design, he says, was an easy way for him to stay in Plainfield and utilize his talents.

Darksyd Designs’ fees range from $1,000 to $50,000 or more, but there was a time early on when May was not billing the big bucks. In fact, one of his biggest clients, the chamber of Plainfield garnered his services for free.

“For a long time I did work dirt cheap to build a partnership and get my foot into other doors,” he admits. He also says that it was this strategy that has helped him grow by word-of mouth, bypassing – at last for the moment – forming a sales team. “We’re not out there aggressively looking for new business,” he says.

May says customer service is paramount to his success, and he’ll do what he has to do to get the job done. “There’s certain clients out there I will bend over backwards for,” he says. “I will jump through any hoop they give me.”

One of those clients is SaniServe of Mooresville, who has been working with Darksyd Designs since April. Mark Mischler, SaniServe’s IT director, says his company was dissatisfied with its web site and he just happened to find D2/ Darksyd Designs’ phone number in the phone book and placed a call – the only one he made. As it turned out May’s presentation was the only one SaniServe viewed and May sold Mischler and his colleagues immediately.

“He presented his concept to us and it met our needs exactly,” says Mischler.

Mischler says that May “… delivered what he said he was going to deliver and on a timely manner. “

Unlike his days as a freelancer, May now works with a staff – including himself – of four. With business growing, May is looking to put a dent in his payroll by hiring two additional full-time employees this fall. He has a simple human resources philosophy: make his employees happy.

“It’s our goal to make the clients happy but sometimes it’s more important to make the employees happier,” May says. “Because a client is, maybe three months out of the year. But at the same time our employees (are) as long as they want to be here.”

He wants to make them so happy, it’s not uncommon to see May and his Lead Applications Developer, Greg Grunschel, playing a floor version of ping-pong. “We work hard, but it’s a fun place to be,” May says.

In fact, human resources are no problem for May. What’s his biggest challenge? “Getting paid on time,” he quips. And with all of the business he’s getting these days that could be a real problem.

May holds several degrees and certificates, and he clearly values education, but says on-the-job training is the best teacher. “You gain more experience in one week of the real world than you do in four years of college,” he says.

So, what does he like most about running his own business at 25 and having success?

“I can’t really sum it up,” he says. “I just love it. I love this field.”