Fuzzco duo create culture of fun at work

By Shelia Watson

Charleston Regional Business Journal, Nov. 8, 2010

Photo/Leslie Burden

Fuzzco might seem like a funny name for a company, but after spending a few minutes with founders Helen Rice and Josh Nissenboim, whose fun factor is to the 10th power, it makes sense.

Nissenboim played an April Fools’ Day joke on Rice with help from a client who was getting a logo redesigned.

They recently came up with a contest for the “worst logo ever,” complete with judges and prizes.

And when they got engaged, instead of traditional invitations, they designed a Web-based invitation (www.helenandjoshsittinginatree.com) that they e-mailed to friends and family — and it went viral, with 15,000 views in the first week.

“We really hope all those people don’t show up for the ceremony,” Nissenboim said, laughing.

So naming what Rice calls “a branding company that focuses on the Web” was an exercise in fun.

“When we started our business (in January 2005), it was important to give it a memorable and concise name,” Nissenboim said. “It was also important that we owned the name. It’s pretty cool that we have a trademark on a six-letter word.”

“We just made it up,” said Rice. “If you Google ‘Fuzzco,’ you’ll find only us.”

In the midst of the fun-loving atmosphere, Rice and Nissenboim have built a company with an impressive body of work, nabbing a couple of Addy awards, the advertsing industry honors, this year.

Among the company’s Web design work are sites for the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, the Coastal Conservation League and Westbrook Brewing Co. The client list is extensive and includes several pro bono clients, but the duo are quick to point out that Fuzzco is more than a Web design firm.

“We make a distinction about that because people assume we’re just a Web shop,” Nissenboim said. “We’re a branding firm; we develop identities. We create logos, brochures, all the collateral, and we manage photo shoots and video.”

“We’re a full-service creative company,” Rice said.

Nissenboim said he thinks what sets Fuzzco apart from other designers is the high level of intensity with which they approach a project.

“We translate services into something an audience can touch and feel,” Rice said. “What gets us excited is getting to know a business inside and out and coming up with creative ways of helping the audience understand it, too.”

Nissenboim said, “We’re small, and that makes us very accessible. But we also have a ton of energy.”

Most of the company’s clients are local, although a handful of them are in New York, and Rice and Nissenboim say they are not limited by location.

“We don’t do a tremendous amount of advertising,” Rice said. “Most of our work comes from word-of-mouth. That’s what Charleston is all about: You build relationships, and they become solid and some of that turns into work. We don’t actively go and seek business from other markets. We just stay busy by people knocking down the door.”

One thing keeping the pair busy for the past several months has been the renovation of a new office at 85 Spring St.

“It’s a great building, and actually it’s been so many different businesses over the years,” Rice said. “It was an ice cream shop, a church, a laundromat, a hat shop — and now it’ll be a modern design studio.”

Another busy endeavor was the idea of launching a logo contest, except — true to form — something fun and different.

“It’s a contest for designers to develop the worst logo they can possibly think of,” Rice said.

They designed the site www.howlowcanyourlogo.com and have secured several sponsors and high-profile judges. Submissions are being accepted Nov. 15 through Dec. 8, and prizes will be awarded for the best — i.e. worst — design. Rice said the impetus was mostly comic relief.

“We all work very hard for our clients, and we felt that it was important for us to work doing something for ourselves,” she said. “Something kind of fun.”