Ann Arbor business owner named to Forbes' "Next 1,000" list

Forbes has named Danielle Milner, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Ann Arbor-based brand design agency DO:BETTER, as one of its Next 1,000 for 2021. The list spotlights inspiring and resilient small business owners, self-funded shops, and pre-revenue startups that have under $10 million in revenue or funding.  

"I was really thrilled and delighted when I found out, because you always wonder if the work you're doing is making a difference," Milner says. "It's a great affirmation to all the effort I've put in."

Next 1,000 candidates either apply themselves or are nominated. The selection process involved a series of rounds in which a group of business professionals and specialists evaluated nomination material and answers to questionnaires over an eight-week period.   

Milner co-founded DO: BETTER with Jon Eslinger in 2017, specializing in logo and identity design for businesses of all sizes and kinds. Since then they have served over 80 clients, both locally and across the country.  

"We help them communicate their true purpose and what they truly stand for, and we help them bring that to life through brand work," Milner says.

She says that over the past year the DO:BETTER team has started to grow the company in a way that supports longer-term relationships. Whereas they were doing more project work in the past, they've been increasingly supporting clients through website design and content development. 

"This really helps stakeholders get invested and engaged with brands more so than what marketing might lead them to," Milner says. "Marketing is really a transaction between a brand and its customers, while the branding and the communication work we do is really about investments and an engagement of a shared purpose and impact."

Milner adds that DO:BETTER isn't focused on money so much as impact and relevance, and that perhaps that is what resonated with Forbes. 

"It's never about the price tag of a project and relationship for us. It's really about every single time that we go to work we're thinking only about making the greatest impact for the client," she says. "It's what makes me excited about going to work every day." 

While Milner is thrilled to be named one of the Next 1,000, she stresses that she shares the accolade not only with Eslinger, but also with DO:BETTER's team of freelancers and contractors.

"Over the years so many people have worked with us to make us great. This is really an honor that recognizes our entire business and the community who have supported us and lifted us up along the way," she says.

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at

Photo courtesy of Danielle Milner.