Dan Mall is the CEO of a design studio called SuperFriendly. They've worked with companies like Google, Apple, New York Times, Carnegie Mellon, About.com, O'Reilly, TechCrunch, Entertainment Weekly and many, many, many more.
Dan has been in business with SuperFriendly since 2012, and since then he's been the only employee of the business. For each project he gets, he hires freelancers and collaborators to work on that particular project, putting together just the right team for each job.
Dan says there is no set plan for how one becomes part of the SuperFriendly family. Instead, he keeps a list of people he finds interesting, and when the opportunity arrives, he invites them to collaborate. The best way to know each other is to work together.
For example, there was a time when Dan met a guy who really loves sailing. Sure enough, when an opportunity to create a website for a sailing pro came up, Dan called just the right person.
Dan Mall says that giving someone a project that they are really excited about is the best way to encourage great work.
Dan Mall is currently working on SuperBooked, a CRM that mimics his long-running Google Doc in which he was tracking friends and acquaintances for partnerships on SuperFriendly projects. Eventually SuperBooked should be able to help anyone find just the right person, however unusual the project.
Take somebody who wants to learn design and show them the ropes, but don't just teach them design, teach them how to be a professional. Show them how to do customers service, how to do the invoicing, their taxes, how to scope a project and meet deadlines, how to make a client happy without compromising your beliefs. Teach your apprentices everything they would need to strike out on their own.
Dan Mall does it like this -- Nine months total. First three months are completely unpaid, focused on learning. Next three months are paid, focused on practicing those skills on low-risk tasks. Last month, apprentices work on their master projects and look for their next gig. Dan does not employ them, but he helps to enable their next adventure.
When Dan was moving into a new house in Philadelphia, his brother in law offered to help with house renovations in exchange for Dan teaching him to design. Nine months later, Dan had house, and Greg had a new job!