I’m often asked how I got started in design, what classes did I take, what school did I go to, what programs do I use, etc. Some are often surprised to find that I don’t come from a design background. It was several fearless choices over 10 years that got me to where I am today as a designer, mentor, and now podcast host! In this episode, I dive into my story of how I got here and how it wasn’t an “overnight” occurrence. I go over the highs and lows and how I’m planning to grow and move forward.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is run a business. It stretches me every single day. And I think that I’m not alone in that.
I think that in the age of social media where we only see people behind the scenes it can get really discouraging. we think everyone has it figured out.
Surprise! I have no idea what I’m doing so, step into clarity with me as I keep figuring out this online business thing and record it for you on the podcast! So far, I’ve had a lot of highs, a lot of lows, and weathered a few shit storms and I’ve learned a lot along the way.
When you see others touting the dream of traveling around the world, working 5 hours a week, or growing their 7-figure business while sipping cocktails on a beach – it can feel a little or a lot a bit, lonely.
So, I want to take you along on my ride, where I’ll share as candidly as possible about this wild ride of entrepreneurship. I hope that you’ll learn alongside me as I share about things as I’m learning them and as I navigate the things that come up with me.
It feels crazy to start this story over ten years ago when I was in college, but I think that every single stepping stone in my journey has taught me something really invaluable and led me to where I am now.
I went to college for communication arts (design meets illustration and advertising).
My junior year I changed my major to crafts. Not like the gluing macaroni to paper plates kind of crafts – although that sounds fun. I learned metalsmithing, ceramics, and fiber arts for example.
It taught me a lot about creative problem-solving. With crafts, you must work within the constraints of the medium or material. It forces you to think creatively about how far you can push them to get to your desired product. I think it also taught me how to break down big projects into smaller doable tasks.
I then worked for a fine jewelry artist. My job was to set teeny tiny diamonds into gold and platinum. I was still learning and would lose those teeny tiny diamonds so often!
It’s honestly amazing that I didn’t get fired.
My boss was so patient, and she would always be like “well they’re still in the building somewhere”. I really admired her both as a leader, an artist and as a human.
So, after I graduated college, I sold everything I owned, which really wasn’t much at all. And decided to move across the country with my then-boyfriend. We packed up his jeep with our two dogs and drove across the country. I remember pulling up to our rental that we had only seen from Craigslist photos.
At that time, I started my own business making jewelry. I sold my products on Etsy and in some little boutique shops in the area on consignment. I also did craft festivals like Renegade Craft. This time in my life I started to learn about branding. I really had to hustle hard to make products, booths for craft shows, sales, and branding my own small business.
I took a month off from working my day job to travel and do craft fairs for my jewelry business. It was a lot of fun but so much work and by the end, I think I ended up losing money from the travel, hotels, and food.
Looking back, I can see that I underpriced my work and it made me feel really defeated. I was so burnt-out, and I became stagnant with dreams for the future.
Fast forward to my next job, I met my now fiancé while I was working in bars inside restaurants. I was a cocktail waitress, and he was the bartender. Together we decided to start a mobile bar and run it inside of an old 1970s horse trailer.
The trailer needed a lot of work. We didn’t own any power tools or know what we were doing but we were so passionate about this thing. We would commute 1.5 hours each way to work on the trailer after our jobs. When it came time to do the website and branding for the mobile bar, that was when I realized how much I loved design.
I realized how much I loved design, so I thought about going back to school for graphic design. But the truth was, I was already so in debt with student loans that I could hardly afford anything. I knew from my job in jewelry that I wanted to get paid to learn instead of paying to learn.
I found a local agency and noticed some things wrong with their website. I redesigned it and submitted it with my resume, while also letting them know the minor detail that I knew absolutely nothing about graphic design.
Luckily the CEO didn’t think I was an asshole and they created a position for me. At this job, I learned so much about branding, web design, and even copywriting and marketing. I designed billboards, animations that played in sports arenas and got to work on some big websites. But after a while, I realized how unfulfilling it was for me. My dream job was not living up to the dream.
My friend asked me to do branding and a website for her. I did the branding for free and the website for $800. From there, she referred me to her friends. I realized how fun it was to work on projects with other ambitious women.
Because of our mobile bar business, I knew wedding planners and photographers in the area, and I did some branding and web design projects for them.
I wrote down in my planner, right at the front so I would see it every day, this quote by Napoleon Hill: “a goal is a dream with a deadline”. I then went 6 months ahead in my planner and made a note that I was going to quit my job.
I ended up leaving my job in 3 months from when I wrote that down.
I’ll be honest though, after I quit my job things were slow to get rolling for me. I took on a lot of white label jobs for other designers. I took on jobs that weren’t aligned with me, just for the money. I was just scraping by, but I loved that I got to work for myself.
I kept at it and finally found my groove. I eventually achieved consistent $5K months, then $10K months, then consistent $20K.
It can look like things happened really fast for Quill & Co, but you have to know that this wasn’t my first business. There were so many things that had to happen before to get me to this point.
Looking back on the choices that I made that led me here; I don’t know if some of those choices were made from ignorance or fearlessness. But this year, my goal is to bring in more of that fearlessness.
The bigger my business gets, honestly, the more scared I get. There is more responsibility, there is more visibility, there is more to lose.
So, for this year I’m hoping to make decisions with this one question in mind, “What would I do if I wasn’t scared. What would I do if I was fearless”?