The Shopify Partner Program helps freelancers and agencies start and scale their businesses. Read on to see how Mote scaled their business as a Shopify Partner.
Sara Mote doesn’t consider herself an entrepreneur, so much as a pioneer in a new art form.
“There's a function to what we build, but eventually web design could become just as valid a fine art as sculpture,” she muses. “I believe in something greater than what we can really imagine right now.”
Web design could become just as valid a fine art as sculpture.
As a child, Sara was devoted to the haute-couture designs dripping from the pages of her Vogue subscription. She wanted to work in fashion; it was her singular goal. She also learned to code in middle school, piquing her interest in technology at a young age.
Eventually, she’d head to art school in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, where she met Rembrant Van der Mijnsbrugge, an export from Belgium fresh from his studies in software engineering, now ready to focus on the world of graphic design. Their bond was instant.
“We both grew up in hometowns where you went to school, found a job, and settled down. Everyone around us was happy staying where they were, and we were not,” Sara says.
We wanted to see the world, and I think that’s what we found in each other.
Five years later, following a successful stint as a fashion buyer for an upscale L.A. boutique, Sara began working full-time in corporate freelancing with Rembrant. Ecommerce projects — their chosen focus — was a natural fit for the pair’s combined expertise in retail and software engineering.
“What we love about ecommerce is the ability to push the envelope, close to the breaking point, on every project we do,” Sara says.
What we love about ecommerce is the ability to push the envelope, close to the breaking point, on every project we do.
Together, they felt that online commerce was the future, and they hungered to be at its forefront.
Enter Annamarie Orsi.
From a small town in Georgia, Annamarie’s background was in fine art and photography. But beyond her artist’s eye, there was something special about her that Rembrant and Sara recognized almost instantly: a fire to be avant-garde.
“What none of us ever looked for was complacency, actually quite the opposite. We thrive when we're just slightly outside of our comfort zone,” Rembrant explains.
What none of us ever looked for was complacency, actually quite the opposite. We thrive when we're just slightly outside of our comfort zone.
The excitement at finding another kindred spirit made all three crave a new collaborative venture. Sara and Rembrant shifted from corporate freelancing, and focused on working with Annamarie.
At the beginning, they often built bespoke ecommerce solutions, but working with Shopify allowed them to have an immediate impact on the growth of the creative brands they worked with.
We can focus on the art and engineering, rather than having to worry about infrastructure and scalability.
“We can focus on the art and engineering, rather than having to worry about infrastructure and scalability,” Sara says.
By 2013, the freelancing trio had joined the Shopify Partner Program, and niched down to focus on Shopify projects. Later that same year, they became Shopify Experts.
“It changed the trajectory of our business completely,” Sara says.
Shopify projects allowed us more creative freedom, which just made us happier.
The number and quality of referrals they received through their Experts listing accelerated the business, and gave them the confidence to go all in on Shopify. By the end of 2014, the friends had formally founded their design-driven software engineering studio, Mote.
Today, Mote is known for its exceptionally high standards in web design and development, but what truly sets the team apart has more to do with how they understand fine art.
“We understand the emotional response humans have to art.”
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“All three of us have an artistic background, so we understand the emotional response humans have to art, that less tangible feeling. We're looking for that emotional response to our work,” Sara adds.
They don’t believe in overwhelming users with ads and newsletter popups for a quick conversion bump. The team behind Mote masterfully crafts the joy people get out of using an ecommerce website.
“In creating an online experience that's engaging, there’s a lot of consideration put into how someone's going to connect with it. We feel there’s an art form in that.”
What’s helped Mote develop their craft is finding and working with the right types of clients, who appreciate what Mote is trying to accomplish.
Shopify really helped guide the way, and helped us represent our brand. From the very early stages, they connected the type of clients that were right for us.
The ability to build a business based on shared core values and interests, not to mention around the clients and projects of their choosing, has meant the world to the three friends. But what’s been even more valuable is their ability to have impact.
Nothing thrills them more than learning a client is growing post-launch — well enough that they can afford new hires.
“That means the three of us have created jobs for young, probably like-minded people, who might not have found their path in the traditional, just like we didn’t,” Sara says. “What’s extraordinary is that we're helping others achieve their dreams by living our own.”
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