Business development / Marketing / Workplace culture

Work Hacks: Nick Matarese, founder of The Barn

With The Barn Creative, Nick Matarese merges his two passions: sports and design. He chats with us for our "How I Work" series, dishing on why working in sweatpants is overrated.

The Barn founder Nick Matarese. (Photo courtesy of Nick Matarese)

As a student in the University of Delaware’s visual communications program, Nick Matarese dreamed of owning his own creative agency. Driven by a passion for masculine design and his love for sports (specifically, ice hockey), Matarese strived to create an agency that featured expert craftsmanship and acute attention to detail.
His first step towards achieving his dream was interning at Quaker City Mercantile while he was in college. After graduating, Matarese worked for Henson Group, where he acted as lead designer on several projects, including Adidas and Brute Wrestling.
Now, Matarese is living his dream as the owner and founder of The Barn Creative.
The agency was once based out of a small apartment inside a 100-year-old barn. It’s now housed at The Loft coworking space in Wilmington, but the name remains the same.
Here’s how Matarese works.


What’s the first thing you do every day at work?
1.) Check over my email/respond to the ones I need to. (I usually wake up to a handful on my phone, so it is really just going through the “real” emails.)
2.) Check through my sites. I have a couple of design sites I look through religiously every morning. It just gets my creative juices flowing in the right direction. I also save and catalog ones that really hit a chord with me. Essentially, I have my own Pinterest/Tumblr database broken down into things like layout, type, logos, etc.
3.) Look at my calendar/to-do list. I need my lists to keep me on track. I have a tendency to get lost in a project and lose all sense of time for what else needs to get done that day/week, so I find lists — either digital or physical — keep me organized.
How often do you check your e-mail?
I have a duel screen setup in my office and on my “non-designing screen” I have my e-mail, calendar and current open invoices constantly running. So, you could say I check my email constantly during my office hours and then about once every couple of hours while I am at home on my phone.
How have you matured from being just a designer to being a designer and business owner?

Working from home making business calls in a pair of sweatpants sounds great, but I feel it really gets you out of the professional mindset.

Understanding the worth and value of good design, and not doing business with people who don’t.
When I first started out I was very shy in business meetings and would pretty much work for anything people would throw at me. Now I know what the cost of things are, what kind of ROI companies get (or don’t get) from a good design, and have the will power to say no. This is not a hobby, this is a business — and The Barn doesn’t need to work with businesses who don’t respect that.
What is the most gratifying part of your job?
We work with a lot of sports teams, companies and events, so the most gratifying thing is seeing your design on a fan — especially when you least expect it. Seeing your designs in stores (whether that is packaging or merchandise is neat too), but I saw a guy wearing an [Arena Football League] All-Star game shirt not too long ago (we branded the event logo) and you couldn’t get the smile off my face for the rest of the day.
When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?
Usually something hockey-related. I played in college, still play today, and am an assistant coach for the University of Delaware, so it is something I am still in love with. On a grand scale, I like it because it is something physical and away from a computer, but it is also slightly still connected to work so I don’t feel like I am completely cheating when that break is a little longer than scheduled.
What’s your gear?
All Mac and all Adobe Creative Suite. I just recently switched over to Creative Cloud as I was not too crazy about the subscription-based plans, but I was asked to be a product tester for Adobe and they hooked me up with a couple months free for helping out — so it made the transition a little easier.
What’s one way in which you believe your day-to-day work is better now than it has been in the past? Is there something you do now (or don’t do) that has made a big difference?
Truthfully, getting office space/a desk at the coIN Loft (I have been here since it was still at 9th and Tatnall) has made a huge difference in my mindset. I worked out of my apartment (an actual 100-year-old barn) for the first year-and-a-half of the business and separating work life from home life was hard. When was I working? When was I not? It got really stressful, and honestly, I was losing money because I was not billing for those “Oh, I’ll just go check on this while my wife is taking the dog out” moments.
Getting my own space away from home helped me get more productive while I am at work and removing myself from it and recharging while I’m not. Getting out of bed and “putting your big boy pants on” and going to work makes me run my business more like a business. Working from home making business calls in a pair of sweatpants sounds great, but I feel it really gets you out of the professional mindset you need to be in to run a successful business.

Companies: The Loft

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