Hustle & Creativity: How One Millennial Self-Starter is Building a Digital Brand

Simka Kostenko exhibits classic traits of her generation, especially when it comes to her career in digital media. She’s a millennial who’s largely driven by passion and working towards the betterment of society instead of making money.

So it’s no surprise that after less than two years of working in corporate America, she quit her good-paying job as a media planner to work as a freelance designer, building a career on her own terms.

“I was working with huge clients like Nissan, Lionsgate and Warner Brothers to advertise and put all these billboards up around the world,” Kostenko says. “But my heart wasn't in it. I felt like I wasn’t contributing impactful or positive meaning to the world.”

In 2012 Kostenko left her job in Los Angeles to move to northern California. She landed in Oakland, where she says she found “cool entrepreneurs” and a business culture with conscience centered around community, advocacy and the environment.   

This is where she put her graphic design and photography skills to work. Kostenko began doing freelance design, branding and social media campaigns for local Bay Area companies, action groups and activists.

A peek at Kostenko's work.

A peek at Kostenko's work.

By early 2014, she wanted a more formal way to package her work. She knew that she needed a website. But first, she needed a name for her brand.

Birth of a creative brand

After mulling over options for a few months, Kostenko came up with the name "ImageFlow." She says it represents the concept of fluidity in storytelling and the important role images play in branding and marketing.

“There's almost always an image needed to really get your story or your promotion across," she says, "and there's also an action that needs to happen." 

To reach an audience, the image must "flow" through social media, print posters, business cards, and even live events, she explains.

Kostenko immediately began designing business cards with the name, but didn't immediately build a corresponding website or give thought to the URL. In May 2014, with some skepticism about which URL options might still be available, she went online to purchase a domain name. She was pleasantly surprised.

While browsing available domain names, she stumbled upon a wide array of new options to the right of the dot. Kostenko learned that instead of using the typical 'dot-com' (.com), she could choose from a laundry list of descriptive words. From ‘dot-digital’ (.digital) to ‘dot-media’ (.media) to ‘dot-photography’ (.photography), and more, her URL could end with a range of extensions.

These options opened up new opportunity for Kostenko. She was drawn to the ‘dot-boutique’ (.boutique) extension and quickly secured this domain name for her brand:

“I love the way looks and sounds,” she says. “It’s really cool and unique and kind of avant-garde.”

Kostenko hopes to one day build her brand into a company that she operates with a boutique-like feel -- so the word "boutique" was a perfect fit.

“I like the idea of being a boutique,” she says. “It's small enough to be personable and to feel like you could just walk in there and get great service. It's not like some big, giant agency that is super-expensive where you don't really connect with the owners.”

Simka Kostenko

Simka Kostenko

A boutiquey name with clear meaning

That a ‘not-com’ domain name can perfectly match a business or a brand name makes them relevant to Kostenko's design work, she says, because she's always looking to edit and remove that which is not necessary.

“Design is all about simplicity and being concise with messaging ... to be impactful,” she says. “People have less attention span and less time to go through all the excess.”

In June 2016, Kostenko's freelance hustle took a back seat to a new, full-time role. She became the Digital Marketing Manager for the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco, where the mission is: “to inspire and enable all young realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens.”

It’s a job in which Kostenko can display heart and have impact; sounds like a path that’s right up this millennial's alley -- for now, at least. Her entrepreneurial spirit is still very much alive, she says, and so is the importance of her website.

"I still do design projects on the side," she says. "I point people to my site if they want to know about the kind of work I do and see my portfolio."

Her ultimate goal is to own a digital media group, offering services like: graphic design, branding, photography, and videography. She envisions keeping the domain,, and operating the site as the online front face of her digital boutique.

"There's almost an energy that comes with the domain," she says. "One that's personal and feels high-end, yet affordable."

She also gets a kick out of being a leader in the revolution of website naming. “You don't need a ‘dot-com’ anymore,” she says. “That's old-age."

To learn more about Simka Kostenko's work, go to: