In other news: 2019 RLCF Legacy Show

Happy October!

We’re slowly making our way into the fall (weather permitting) and Dylan couldn’t be more excited that the summer heat is hopefully behind us.

Anyone who knows us knows that Dylan and I are involved in variety of projects and organizations. While UpAhead is a passion project for both of us, we actually spend most of our time during the week working for a North Louisiana nonprofit.

The Ross Lynn Charitable Foundation (RLCF) was formed after the passing of an incredible Louisiana native named Ross Lynn. Ross grew up in Gilliam, Louisiana but knew there was a greater world outside Caddo Parish to explore. He attended college at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana and developed a strong passion for mountain climbing, specifically alpine climbing. Coupled with his alpinist aspirations, Ross always carried a camera and kept a mind for self reflection. RLCF works to embody Ross’s legacy in North Louisiana.

Dylan functions as the Associate Director working to ensure the continuity of the foundation and seeing that it fulfills its mission. This work includes an array of tasks, such as marketing and awareness, fundraising and development, and leadership of one of the Foundation’s programs, The Exchange. My position is as Programs and Events Coordinator, developing and implementing foundation work as directed by our mission and areas of focus.

One of the newest programs for RLCF that both of us are super pumped about is the Legacy Show. As part of the 5th year of the RLCF, the foundation decided to create an art show to publicly display Ross’s photography for the first time since his passing in 2013. Over the past year, we worked down Ross’s library of 42,000 images to the 23 in this year’s 2019 collection. It took a lot of time and we had a ton of help from friends of Ross, the foundation, and our board.

Here’s a little graphic I made showing the process we went through and the difference in scale between Ross’s 42,000 images to the 23 image 2019 Legacy Show.

I really encourage y’all to see the show before it ends (October 30th) at Main Street Exchange in Ruston or Bossier Parish Community College (Donna Service Gallery in Building A) in Bossier City. The best time to see the show will be this Friday October 11th during the Main Street Exchange reception for the show which also coincides with Ruston’s first Downtown Wine Walk!

Come join the fun in downtown Ruston on Friday evening sampling wine, enjoying our beautiful city, and of course viewing the incredible scenes that Ross captured during his travels!

-Ryan

P.S. Dylan and I maintain RLCF’s website (naturally) so check it out to see some of our work!

Offshoots by UpAhead No. 2

For our second Offshoot we’ve decided to go a slightly different route than Offshoot No. 1.

We want everyone to see the beauty of our little corner of the world. So, it’s been frustrating seeing people only having access to blurry and poorly composed images that look like they were taken with a 2008 cell phone 3 years ago, at night. To help remedy this pain, we decided make some of the photos we have of Ruston and the surrounding areas publicly available for anyone to use!

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The images are stored on Wikimedia Commons so that anyone can access them. We have put them in the public domain (using CC0 license) so they are completely free to use however you like.

Go to our Offshoots Page to see the photos!

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We can’t wait to see what y’all are able to do with these images! Let us know if you use one (you don’t have to if you don’t want to, we just want to see how people are using the images). Additionally, you may have noticed how we don’t have a specific name for this projects, right now it’s just “Offshoot No. 2”. Honestly, we haven’t thought of one we liked so we decided to let y’all come up with one! If you have an idea for a name for this project, write it in the comments or tell us on Facebook/Instagram!

Check back everyone once in a while too, because we’ll continue to update the photos as we take more shots for the websites we design!

-Ryan

Team Spotlight: Ryan 'Stirling' Botts

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This week, I wanted to take some time to introduce my counterpart at UpAhead, Mr. Ryan ‘Stirling’ Botts. 

Ryan and I have known each other for several years, first becoming friends in the Fall of 2015, eventually moving in with each other in the summer of 2016. Our relationship has taken on many different forms in all those years, none more adventurous than launching UpAhead, LLC. 

In the fall of 2017, Ryan came to me with an idea and a vision — we would improve the economic strength and vitality of the region through good, accessible design. This idea would ebb and flow somewhat over time, eventually emerging into the business model you see today.

Ryan’s desire to make North and Central Louisiana a better place to live and do business was (and is) monumental. In the places that I lack vision, Ryan sees and beautifully communicates a clear path forward.

Our strengths complement each other in the best ways. While I often think in small manageable tasks, he is a dreamer — a visionary who has the wherewithal to turn a small idea into one of grandeur (a quality of which I greatly admire!) 

Take a look at my interview with Ryan where we discuss what he’s learned, his challenges, and our vision moving forward!

Dylan: So, what was your original vision for UpAhead?

Ryan: The precursor to UpAhead was actually presented to me from a friend in Alexandria, LA who wanted to provide websites for artists in Cenla (Central Louisiana). We initially started on that idea, bringing Dylan in to help with the visual design of the websites and exploring if the concept was even feasible from a business profitability standpoint. After a few months of looking at what the market in Cenla could support given our target group of artists and the existing web design companies I realized we weren’t in a healthy position. While we had been exploring Cenla, I had been dreaming of a version of the business covering all of North Louisiana in addition to Cenla and servicing more than just artists. And so, after realizing we needed to either expand our target audience or region (or both), I made some organizational changes including purchasing what was now known as UpAhead from my friend in Alexandria and bringing it to Ruston with Dylan where we could focus on small businesses, non-profits, and anyone needing an online presence (including artists!).

Dylan: What has been your biggest challenge?

Ryan: The biggest challenge has probably been maintaining momentum in the daily operations of UpAhead. With most of our business being project based and on a relatively small scale right now, there isn’t always pressing administrative or big picture work to be done. Of course that doesn’t mean that I have nothing to do; this is a business, there’s always work to be done. I’ve had to work on better encouraging myself to just work on something, so that I'm engaged with the business daily. I know at some point UpAhead will reach a level of activity where I’ll need to be intimately engaged everyday; the sooner I practice that, the more prepared I’ll be when that time comes. 


Dylan: Which of your skills do you think has helped you the most here?

Ryan: While I was a student at Louisiana Tech, I started a student organization and a few projects on campus. Every time I began my work on these endeavors I encountered a lot of ambiguity. I often didn’t know exactly where I was going, if what I was doing was the right method, and if I was setting myself up for success. Navigating ambiguity always makes me feel exposed and vulnerable to failure. But while living in that ambiguity was a mighty stressful thing as a student in undergrad, it was incredible practice for UpAhead. When we’ve run into situations like not knowing what to do or where to take the business, I’ve found that my stress hasn’t gotten too high because I've been here before, in a sense. I guess the actual skill at work here is that I have developed some level of maneuverability and discernment with making organizational decisions. It came from years of making decisions that had good outcomes and bad outcomes. I celebrate the good outcomes and learn from the bad outcomes. 

Ryan and I have always believed that the impact good design could make would be life-altering for nonprofits, small businesses, and those who looked to have a presence on the web.

I am forever grateful to be partnered with a visionary, a bold leader, and a passionate advocate for creativity. Ryan truly is the heart and soul of UpAhead, LLC, driving us towards a better and brighter Louisiana!

-Dylan

Offshoots by UpAhead No. 1 - BowTies

A few of the different designs and patterns we are starting with.

A few of the different designs and patterns we are starting with.

We’re doing more than websites! Our Offshoots section on our website will be where the team at UpAhead gives a home to our creative adventures outside of designing websites. We named the projects Offshoots because these ideas branch off from our central purpose of designing a better future for Louisiana.

Offshoots No. 1 is our laser printed wooden BowTies. Both Dylan and I are fans of wearing bow ties and so we decided a while back to see if we could make wooden bow ties with unique patterns using Dylan’s laser cutter and my 3D printer. After many prototypes and revisions, we ended up simplifying the design and scrapping the use of plastic in our bow ties. Using a variety of wood types and sourcing fabric from local thrift stores for the neck straps our BowTies are always part of a limited run and each is unique from the other.

BowTies are for sale in Main Street Exchange at 122 S. Trenton Street Ruston, LA and online in our brand new Etsy Store, OffshootsbyUpAhead.

-Ryan

Client Highlight: Elisha Ministries

The home page before we started.

Our first client of 2019 was Elisha Ministries, Inc in Ruston, LA. Elisha Ministries is a nonprofit providing permanent supportive housing options for individuals in need of home placement in rural northeast, LA.. Their support is relational and spiritually fueled to see the renewal of each person they come into contact with.

They came to us with an existing website full of great information about themselves and what they do. Their site was also filled with plenty of pictures and a ton of color. It gave us at UpAhead a good starting point.

When beginning on the website, we took all the graphics and information they were already using and packaged it into a new, fresh design. We worked with Elisha Ministries to decide a baseline color set for backgrounds, fonts, and graphics. We may be biased but the site turned out great- clean, reassuring, and informative.

Elisha Ministries’ home page on their new site!

Elisha Ministries does an incredible service for Northeast Louisiana and we are fortunate that they choose to serve those who are in need of support. Please visit their site to learn more about them and see how you can support the good work.

So, What's This About?

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At UpAhead, we’re very much about contributing to the communities in which we live. Both Dylan and I decided, separately, to remain in Ruston after graduating from Louisiana Tech University. We stayed in Ruston because we recognized that this was a community that was fighting to become an example of what the future of Louisiana can look like. By creating attractive and effective websites for businesses and nonprofits alike, UpAhead adds to this fight through increasing the ability for our clients to engage with the community. They can better serve their populations whether that’s selling a product that improves quality of life or providing assistance for basic life needs to the underserved.

But we want to do more than simply design websites for our clients. We want to champion them! We want to celebrate the successes and teach from the lessons we encounter as UpAhead grows. And the vehicle we’ve decided to do this through is our blog, aptly named “Up To Something.”

With each post, we’ll let y’all know what we’re up to. Whether it’s running through a recent website we designed, a spotlight feature on one of our designers or clients, a behind the scenes of our work, or something else entirely that we just really want to share. Up To Something will be another way that we build up the communities that UpAhead is and will become a part of.

Join us on this grand adventure as we embark into the future of Louisiana. Who know’s what waits for us UpAhead?