Merit Lee, CEO & Founder
Digital Design Solutions as featured in Old City Life Magazine
To say that Merit Lee has led an interesting life would be an understatement. Whether it’s skydiving, living on a Chinese sailboat in San Francisco for a decade, hosting a radio show reviewing wine, or modeling for Levi’s jeans, Lee is always on the hunt for adventure.
So, when an opportunity arose in the mid-1990s to get ahead of the tech boom, Lee jumped onboard.
“Living in California at that time was so vibrant and exciting,” she says.
“A friend suggested that
I get into multimedia, so I went to San Francisco State University and graduated with a degree in Internet Technology & Design in 1996.”
That same year, Lee founded Digital Design Solutions, a full-service digital marketing firm that specializes in web design, e-commerce, digital marketing, branding and graphic design, and mobile apps.
Today, as CEO and creative director, the Renaissance woman and relative newcomer to St. Augustine (she’s lived here for three years) has worked with hundreds of clients all
over the country, including local businesses like The Kookaburra, Meehan’s Irish Pub, GoFresh Farm Market, and Simply St. Augustine.
“I’ve been in this business for 21 years, and I have a different vision for each of the companies that I work with,” Lee explains. “I like to say. ‘We don’t just build your website, we position you for success.’ We can really help small businesses not just build their site, but help with marketing and make it profitable.
WHY ST.AUGUSTINE? My husband and I got married in Key West at Ernest Hemingway’s House. We have always loved the Keys, but moving there wasn’t a reality. We have lived in Pennsylvania, New York, all over Florida, Asheville and Lake Lure, North Carolina and San Francisco, California, but nothing truly felt like home. Three years ago, we attended a wedding in St. Augustine and immediately knew we had found our home!
St. Augustine has all the “key” points for us…boating, beach, history and the charm of this beautiful little city. We packed up and moved here within a few months. We wouldn’t change it for the world!
WHAT KEEPS YOU HERE? The people. We have met the best people here in St. Augustine. I met my best friend, Cristan, at Meehn’s Backyard, the day we closed on our house – how’s that for fate! We have had so much fun ever since, enjoying the city and finding new adventures. I never take St. Augustine for granted. Every time we drive over the Bridge of Lions. I always take a moment to appreciate the beauty of our town.
This is truly our home – it was never more evident than after the hurricane. It was beautiful to see how the community really pulled together. St Augusine is truly a wonderful town, with a beautyful spirit, and we are lucky be able to call it home.
WHAT MAKES YOU TICK?
Oh my, there are so many things. I am a web developer and I love helping my clients take their ideas and turn them into a reality with good solid results… that feels really good. I love the water. My husband Russ and I lived on our sailboat (a Chinese Junk) in the San Francisco Bay for 10 years. So, living here in St. Augustine and being able to spend time on the water tryly makes me happy and feeds my soul. I love to share the weekends with friends on the boat or take a break in the middle of the work week to have lunch on the beach – that always makes me smile. We also have a lot of parties in our backyard, which is encompassed by bamboo plants and a tiki hut on the deck.
HOW DO YOU HOPE TO MAKE AN IMPACT IN OUR COMMUNITY?
I started a charity with three other ladies called Saint Augustine United. We are a 501c3 nonprofit and we strive to give back to the community by raising money for small, but specific, causes and charities that need our help Last year we raised $40,000 for a single mom who was in need of a heart transplant. This year we are raising money for Swamp Haven Animal Rescue which saves and rehabilitates death row dogs in St. John’s communities. We raise money via donations and sponsorships and last year held our inaugural 5K race called Feel the Love. It will be held this year on Sept 9th, 2017.
WHAT IS ONE PROBLEM YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE SOLVED?
WHAT DO YOU FEEL NEEDS TO BE SAID IN TODAY’S WORLD? Don’t feel that you can’t make a difference. We can all make a difference, even if it is a small thing, a random act of kindness can make a huge difference in one person’s life. So don’t wait and don’t feel powrless… take the time to make a difference by helping those you see around you.
Merit Lee has been building lucrative internet companies for over 21 years. She has a degree in Internet Technology and Design from San Francisco State. She is the CEO and creative director of Digital Design Solutions Inc., a full service web design and digital market solutions company. See more at www.digitaldesignsolutions.co Merit is also Vice President of Saint Augustine United, a nonprofit organization which forcuses on giving back to the local community. www.staugustineunited.com