Winnipeg graphic designer Matt Veith stepped out of his comfort zone last November and helped develop a business idea at Ramp Up Manitoba, an entrepreneurial festival. It paid off. He and his project partner, Chris Karasewich, were presented with a provincial tech award worth $7,500 by the province’s minister of jobs and the economy.

Veith, 25, attends Jubilee Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, and is a graduate of the communications and media program offered by Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). Together, he and Karasewich, a local entrepreneur with ASAP Marketing, developed an app called InstaTemp,  a low-cost alternative to the typical temporary worker agency.

“It reduces the middleman fee and creates a platform where you can hire someone temporarily, and potentially keep them permanently,” Veith says, noting that temp agencies typically charge a large fee and keep workers from being hired on permanently.

The Ramp Up festival spans 48 hours, during which time entrepreneurs develop ideas and business plans with the support of experienced business people who are there to give advice.

Veith helped design the InstaTemp website, logo, promotional graphics and the mobile platform. He hopes to continue working with Karasewich on InstaTemp in the future, but on a freelance basis.

Opportunities at CMU

Veith is a mostly self-taught graphic designer, but says he gained a lot of the core principles of design and communications from his time at CMU. Some of these lessons took place in the classroom, others came through experience.

Veith says doors began to open at CMU that helped foster his love of design, noting that the school’s small class sizes allowed him to get involved with projects that interested him, including the school magazine, The Doxa, and rub shoulders with people who fostered important qualities in him. He believes he wouldn’t have had these opportunities at a larger university.

“Ultimately, graphic design is communications work that’s visual,” Veith says. “You have to be able to work with the organization or institution and understand how they tick.”

Life in Macau

He also says that his early years as a “missionary kid” informed his love of design. Veith grew up in Macau, a region of China, where his family worked as Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers for most of his life.

The family recently settled in Winnipeg, but Veith says he spent his childhood admiring the rich design ethic of the Portuguese colony that was repatriated by China in 1999.

“Design-wise, Macau is full of material to inspire visually creative people,” he says. “There are a multitude of colonial buildings alongside traditional Chinese dwellings, temples, buildings and gardens.”

Veith says the Macanese artistic style has emerged after centuries of intermarriage between the Portuguese and Chinese, but Macau’s growing casino industry is displacing a lot of these traditionally designed places.

Although he isn’t really sure how life in Macau has affected how he designs, Veith says it has caused him to question what his work is contributing to. “Design has the power to preserve, celebrate and further develop a culture respectfully,” he says. “But it can also destroy, abandon and devalue it. But design is supposed to make the world better, empower people, bring people together.”

That’s Veith’s goal as he works to make the world a more beautiful place.

Back to business

Veith says his experience at Ramp Up gave him some insight into the business world that he hadn’t seen before, even working as a freelance designer for businesses. He observes that many Mennonites work in the non-profit sector and tend to steer away from profit-driven careers in business.

“There’s a lot happening in the business and entrepreneurial spheres,” he says. “Joining those circles can be kind of bizarre. The conversations are different, but it’s a sphere where a lot of things are happening that influence society. There should be places for Mennonites in the business world,” he concludes.

Although the business world wasn’t what Veith was expecting, and it was a little out of his comfort zone, Ramp Up helped him understand that more Mennonites need to enter into it.

—Posted Jan. 14, 2015