Website designer is Milford’s Local Business Person of the Year

MILFORD — For Tara Dawn Meeker, there is no higher compliment than the respect of her peers.

That is why, when she learned she had been chosen as Alignable’s 2022 Milford Local Business Person Of The Year, Meeker, the owner of North Star Design Studio, accepted the honor with even more pride. The winner each year is selected by the city’s local businesses.

“My immediate thought was ‘Wow, what an honor it is,’” said Meeker. “On TV, you see awards like the Emmys or the Grammys, which are by committee, but when you have the Actors Guild or the Screen Guild Awards, when you’re colleagues and peers think that much of you, it’s a nice feeling.

“It makes you pause and appreciate it all the more,” she added.

Alignable.com is the largest referral network for small businesses in the U.S. and Canada. With more than seven million members across more than 35,000 local communities, Alignable is the network where small business owners drive leads and prospects, generate referrals, land new business, and build trusted relationships.

“My mission is to help other service base businesses succeed and to collaborate with them because we are all in the trenches together,” she added. “The camaraderie that comes off and is shown in an award or a peer-review like that is amazing.”

On Alignable, Meeker said she dedicates some of her time to a blog she writes to explain complex web development and analytics concepts.

“I take these big broad terms and bring it down where it’s not so jargon-like and put it out there, so the average person can understand it,” she said. “I do it so a business owner, whose business is not web development, understands what analytics are, what Google business will do for you and how to navigate those really baseline foundations pieces you have to have as a business.”

Another way Meeker helps businesses is by having a free online audit tool on her business website that will review the site in real-time.

“As the good and bad points show up, you can hover over them, and it will explain to you what it means,” she said. “It also emails a PDF report so that the business owner can take that report and bring it to their web person.”`

Through branded website design and content development, North Star Design Studio helps service-based businesses attract better and more clients.

“We leverage keyword research with competitor analysis to develop a site strategy that resonates with both search engines and prospects. This includes the site in a way that allows uses to pre-vet,” she said. “We also offer logo development as a feature to businesses, typically that ends up being pared to web development, but they can be separate.”

After being in the corporate world for a long time, Meeker decided she wanted to launch her own business to focus on person-to-person collaboration rather than trying to solve the problem by the committee because ideas can get lost as they make their way up and down the chain.

“I worked at a marketing agency for 10 years where I worked my way up to creative director,” she said. “I wanted to niche down and focus on local service-based businesses and branded communication.”

What ultimately drew Meeker to want to work with small businesses is that ability to help it define its brand.

“I wanted to help small businesses and make sure they become successful,” she said. “It’s good that a company grows and gets bigger, but at some point, your client is the brand and not the business, and I like helping business define what their brand is, but I wanted to work with people and wanted to see people succeed, and I wanted to see that success raise the community around me.”

Meeker founded North Star Design Studio in 2016, and the idea behind the name also points to help businesses shine.

“I wanted to launch a platform for business owners, that if I’m not the right fit, I’m not the right fit,” Meeker said. “I have 20 years experience at minimum in the industry, so I can help point them in the right direction.

“The North Star is made of a group of stars called the Polaris,” Meeker added. “Two of the stars are in such close orbit that they feed off each other, and that’s why they shine so bright. That’s how I think about North Star, nobody hires me as an employee, and I don’t have clients. We collaborate and feed off each other so that we can all be successful together.”

During the pandemic, Meeker and her team at North Star Design Studio handled requests from various businesses across all fields to develop a website or improve an already existing site. Some of the designs were complete overhauls of the business website, and others were helping the business make their website more streamlined.

“Your website can be your best employee because it doesn’t take time off, everybody should take time off, but your website doesn’t,” she said. “It does exactly what you tell it to do.”

Not only does Meeker like to help business define their brand, but she is a fan of shopping local even when it comes to buying things on Etsy.

“Anytime I’m there, I change the location where I’m shopping to Connecticut because I’m looking for the face mask for my kid to wear that moms sewed, I’m looking for birthday candles that someone hand-dipped or the teapot that somebody made themselves by hand out of clay,” she said.

This isn’t the first award Meeker has received from Alignable. She has also received the Local Main Street Mentor of 2021, Local Businessperson of 2021, Local Main Street Supporter 2021 and is Highly Recommended by locals on Alignable.

“It’s a surprise each time because I’m not in Alignable to win awards. That’s not the purpose of Alignable,” she said. “When they send notices that voting is open, I quickly go in there myself and vote for my favorite local businesses. I don’t do it for recognition, so when it happens, it’s exciting.”