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Meet Kelsy Stromski of Refinery 43 in Newburyport

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelsy Stromski.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a habitual travelholic, dog mom, foodie, former US biathlete, boss lady, brand aficionado, wife, farmer’s daughter, owner and Creative Director of Refinery 43. I learned the value of hard work having grown up in a tiny little farming town on the border of Canada in northern Maine. (About 7 hours north of Boston — yes, Maine really does go that far.)

After taking time off during and after high school to compete on the US biathlon team it was when I first started attending UVM when I realized I could have a career in design. At the end of the day I enjoy problem-solving through visual communication rather than creating something for myself so after studying abroad in Rome I transferred to Massachusetts College of Art & Design to pursue my BFA in Design.

After graduating I spent several years working at leading design agencies, internationally known companies and even teaching graphic design at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. On a whim and newly married my husband and I decided to move to Plum Island in Newburyport (just north of the city) where I decided to leave corporate and really have a go at working for myself and starting a design studio; Refinery 43. I figured even if I failed (which, according to Forbes was with 80% certainty after two years) I wanted to know I gave it everything I had.

I’m happy to report Refinery 43 is thriving and will be turning 4 this January!

Has it been a smooth road?
Absolutely not — but is anything worthwhile easy?

The biggest struggle, hands down, is running a business. I never intended to be an entrepreneur, I just wanted to be a designer — so going from one hat to doing the job of several has been an adjustment. Sometimes I’m in meetings, writing proposals or replying emailing, all day long, and just when I think I’m going to have a bit of time to finally design a bill comes up that needs to be paid, there’s an issue with an Adobe program that I need to address immediately, the wifi stopped working suddenly and I have to be on the phone with comcast for an hour, last minute changes come up for projects that should have been done or I need to track down clients who have overdue invoices, etc… Then I go home, eat dinner and finally get to design between 9 pm and 3 am when it’s quiet and calm so I can focus and create.

The best advice I was given before going off on my own was: ‘No one has all their shit together — everyone is just trying to figure it out as we go along.’ So, no matter how lovely and curated our Instagram feed may appear my business and design process is usually incredibly messy, rife with insecurity, performance anxiety and the unavoidable comparison to others (who always seem SO much more put together, talented, inspiring and more successful). There are plenty of shitty days, boring days, days where I want to quit — but then there are those days where I’m just so enthralled by the work I lose track of time and get so excited sleep can wait, which makes the struggle SO worth it, every single time.

Speaking of time there’s always never enough of it! Although I’m making progress on how to be more efficient, there are projects and certain designs I spend way too much time on making sure it is just perfect (even if my client may never be able to tell, I would know) and because of that I scrutinize everything that comes out of the studio. Every single design must meet my high standards because I would never show a client anything I would not be proud of.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Refinery 43 – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Refinery 43 is an award-winning, full-service boutique brand identity, lettering, and design studio proudly located in Newburyport, Massachusetts. We are boutique by choice — a small team doing big things — mainly crafting thoughtful brands for clients looking to stand apart from the pack and visually connect with their desired customer.

We listen intently, ask lots of questions and tell it like it is. We have an incredible team of professionals we partner with on a regular basis which allows us to scale up or down depending on a client’s unique needs. Everything that we create is completely tailored to those needs — and no two projects will ever look alike because no two businesses are alike.

Lead by simplicity, honesty and a passion for the design we strive to create purposeful work that we, as well as our clients, can be proud to call our own. From a global corporation to a local café, we put the same amount of genuine hard work into every single thing we create.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Best: The history, the food, the energy! I’m especially fond of the old neighborhoods I lived and bartended in (Beacon Hill and the North End).

Worst: Boston I love you, but you have to get your act together in the transportation department (the T, Commuter rail, driving, parking — all nightmares)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jenn Bakos, David Salafia

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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