Ann Willoughby, who founded Kansas City branding firm Willoughby Design in 1978, has sold the company to three of its principals.
Megan Stephens, Zack Shubkagel and Nicole Satterwhite, all currently partners with Willoughby Design, purchased the firm from Willoughby, who previously owned the company outright. The three have equal ownership stakes in the company, with Stephens taking on a managing principal role.
“It’s rare for a firm like ours to seamlessly transfer ownership to the next generation of employees,” said Stephens, who has been a partner at Willoughby Design since 2009 and president for the last five years, in a statement. “Together with Ann, we built a succession model that made it possible.”
The sale is a signpost in Willoughby’s successful run as the firm’s owner. Despite the firm’s relatively small size — it currently employs 17 — its reputation carries heft. It’s the nation’s oldest continuously operating design firm founded by a woman, according to Willoughby’s statement.
Shubkagel joined Willoughby Design in 2009 and moved to San Francisco in 2012 to open the firm’s satellite office.
Satterwhite has worked at Willoughby Design for 20 years, the last 10 years as its design director.
Willoughby will retain a consulting role with the firm.
“When I founded Willoughby Design, I was committed to creating a culture of creativity that would attract and retain the most talented designers to do world-class work that matters,” she said in a statement. “Megan, Zack and Nicole are committed to that same vision. I’m confident that the future of Willoughby is in great hands.”
The firm also announced new client engagements, which included AMC Theatres and Russell Stover Chocolates.