Abell Smith’s Journey from (almost) Lawyer to Cartoonist to Webmaster – Grow Your World Web Connections
The Island Wanderer loves sharing the stories of local creatives and businesses, and quite often you can’t have the latter without the former. When we do share these stories, the subject isn’t always an islander, but they definitely have strong ties to Bainbridge. Web Developer Abell Smith is one such creative and businessman.
Web Developer Abell Smith lives in Canada, but has deep ties to Bainbridge Island and Kitsap County, including designing The Island Wanderer web site. With the help of Zoom, Facetime, email and other social media platforms, he’s able to work remotely and run a successful cross-border business from his cozy condo in Vancouver, B.C., that he shares with his wife, Aubrey Lough and their pup Tucker.
Abell grew up in Seattle and in 1995 moved to Kingston, where his parents still live today. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington, and then headed to New Orleans, where he attended Tulane Law School. Although he eventually decided the law wasn’t for him, he did say that he had a great time giving it a go. “I had the time of my life living there, I’d highly recommend it for any young person looking for an unforgettable experience,” Abell said. “I’d also strongly advise against attending such an expensive school for a career you’re not a good fit for. But all life lessons like this are valuable,” he noted.
After Tulane, he came back to the Pacific Northwest and decided to draw upon his natural talent, cartooning. For a short time, he worked as a semi-professional newspaper cartoonist, with his work appearing in the Kitsap Sun. However, his true calling turned out to be website design and building, and so he headed back to school, this time attending Seattle Central College.
Abell spent a great deal of time during his “cartooning experiment” exploring and enjoying the North Kitsap area, including frequent visits to Bainbridge Island. He met the love of his life, Aubrey Lough in Tacoma while she was attending Pacific Lutheran University for her master’s degree. Aubrey grew up on Bainbridge, her family having lived here since the 1980s. After they married, they settled in Suquamish to be closer to both their families.
When the Pandemic hit, they decided to relocate to the Vancouver, B.C. area in 2021 to be closer to Aubrey’s son. Despite the distance, their connection to the island remained strong and they returned (and still do return) as often as possible to spend time with both their families. In addition, Abell has maintained his business connections, and Aubrey’s own business (a therapy practice) is still deeply rooted on Bainbridge.
However, it isn’t just family they miss about Bainbridge, they frequented many of the island’s culinary gems, such as the Streamliner Diner, which is owned by a friend of Aubrey’s. They “had the best takeout menu we tried during Covid,” Abell recalled, “Another one of our favorites was BaSa on Winslow Way.” Abell highly recommends the Chicken Buns, Banh Mi, and of course their signature Basa catfood dish. “During COVID they were one of the only restaurants where you could dine in thanks to their covered patio…(during) our last meal in Bainbridge before moving up to Canada, a deluge of cold rain was hammering the Puget Sound area, but we were perfectly comfortable thanks to the heated outside dining area. It was a memorable dining experience for both of us.”
Abell has been in the web building field for about 10 years, initially in a staff position, and as his own boss since 2019, when he launched Abell Smith Design. A large portion of his clientele is located in the general North Kitsap area, with many on Bainbridge. He specializes in creating effective web presences for small to medium-sized businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. Services include website creation and design, digital marketing, hosting migrations for various industries such as retail, travel, sports and athletics, food and dining, home renovation and inspection, community news, senior care, therapists, artists, photographers, authors, bands and more.
He’s especially passionate about small farms, agritourism, farmers market vendors, healthy local food and farm-to-table restaurants, as well as nonprofits and economic and environmental sustainability in the Pacific Northwest, which inspired him to refocus his business model to support those industries, converting Abell Smith Design to Grow Your World Web Connections.
What makes a good website? “This is an important question that will get you different answers depending on who you ask. If you ask an experienced web developer, they might tell you it is one that uses flawless code and gives unmatched performance, using the latest technology. If you ask a designer, they might say something that thinks outside the box, pushes the envelope, and is pleasing to the eye in every way,” Abell explained.
“What I’ve learned as a business owner is that a great website is not necessarily something with super-cool functionality that no one else has (but sometimes it is), not necessarily something really pretty that looks like a piece of art (but sometimes it does), it’s simply something that gives the client a good return on the investment they are making in their business,” he continued. “If your new website helps you increase revenue for your business, improves your reach and visibility with your target audience, gives you a modern and professional look that your clients or customers expect, and/or saves you time and labor and helps your business run smoother – it is a great website!”
Moreover, he continues to work part-time for WSU Kitsap Extension, where he’s been able to support local agriculture, Regional Small Farms, Master Gardeners, Water Stewardship and SNAP-Ed Nutrition programs. “In addition, one of my best clients has been Kitsap Conservation District, which includes helping to run the online part of their yearly Plant Sale. I’ve learned a lot about the pain points for small business owners in agriculture,” he said. “But mostly, I’ve learned that the people who work in this space are very often the TYPE of clients I like to work with—people who are not only honest and hard-working, but who are keenly aware of the world around them and want to make it better… People like locally-sourced food producers and professionals in personal health industries, who are committed to helping make the land, their communities, and the people who live there healthier and stronger…This kind of mission aligns very well with my own.”
Abell is also very supportive in sharing stories we’ve done on The Island Wanderer, such as our Friends of the Farms series* with his agricultural connections throughout the PNW.
Like many entrepreneurs, Abell continuously works to provide high quality products for his clients and continued support for each website he designs and/or services. Keeping his connections alive in the industry is also important to him, as he noted, “Being successful at it is another ball game, something I’m still trying to improve at and probably will be as long as I am doing it. But my first taste of success came when I started face-to-face networking with fellow small business owners, and Bainbridge Business Connection (BBC) has always been my favorite group. Thanks to the now-ubiquitous Zoom, I am able to still be a part of the group, though I will always miss being there in person.” The BBC meets every Friday morning at 8 a.m. at the OfficeXpats conference room at The Pavilion on Madison Avenue.
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