Fulfilling Digital Taste Buds: Interview with UnitOneNine Founder Lee Salisbury

by / ⠀Entrepreneur Interviews Entrepreneurship / October 2, 2013

Interview with Lee Salisbury about starting his business UnitOneNine.

Hiscox-Small-Business-Insurance-Logo-600This is part five of the ten part series. Follow the Starting a Business as a Young Entrepreneur interview series and don’t miss an interview! 

Interview Series Sponsored by Hiscox Small Business Insurance.  Hiscox  specializes in protecting IT/technology, marketing, consulting, health and beauty, photography and many other professional services businesses, tailoring coverage to the  specific risks in your industry.

Lee Salisbury didn’t feel like waiting tables while attending school, so he started a business instead.  After leaving Purdue University’s engineering program, Lee attended Ohio State University for design.  After finding his niche with design and ignoring people who told him not to do it, UnitOneNine was created.

UnitOneNine is a creative agency that specializes in technology and digital design.  The company was founded nearly 10 years ago through bootstrapping and has never accepted outside investment.

Although digital design is a booming and competitive industry now, family and friends were skeptical when Lee started planning to launch the company.  “When I got into this, everybody was telling me, ‘You’re not going to do that, the web is a fad, you went to design school – why don’t you do something in the big brand world?’ I just ignored every one of them, and now we have clients that are in the billions of dollars.” UnitOneNine’s clients include Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Ford, Google, Oreo, AOL and many others.

If you search ‘digital design’ in Google, your search will return over 940 million results.  Due to the mass amount of competition and available options, including crowdsourcing websites, freelancers, and other design firms, setting yourself apart in digital design is crucial to the success of your business.  Asked how they can set themselves apart from competitors, Lee used an analogy comparing their industry to hamburger restaurants. “There’s always the big chains that you can get a burger (from) for very, very cheap, and there’s the boutique places that you can get an actual experience from.  You can tell the digital taste.”

Q: What has been the key to your company’s success and growth so far?

A: “Being nice and doing good work.”

In addition to being nice and doing good work, Lee also pointed to their process of educating customers and making them part of the process as a key to success.

As the company continues to grow, UnitOneNine is working on several niche internal products, one of which Lee is planning on selling in the future for millions.  “We really want to sell that product for millions of dollars. Not hundreds of millions, not billions of dollars, just millions of dollars.  That just sounds fun.”

Lee’s advice to young entrepreneurs is, “Do something that you’re passionate about.” Friends and family told him that he was crazy and that the idea would never work.  If Lee wasn’t passionate about design and his business, he might have agreed with them.  Luckily, Lee ignored the doubters and continues to serve up delicious digital hamburgers for billion dollar brands.

Want the full hamburger? Listen to the full audio interview with Lee Salisbury below.

Interview Highlights

– Biggest challenge: “Hiring like-minded individuals.”

– The best way to protect your business: “Stay up with emerging technology.”

– Details on an instance where the company was sued.

– Why starting a business at a young age is a “total advantage.”

Listen to the full interview here:


Read more interviews from the Starting a Business as a Young Entrepreneur Series

About The Author

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.

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