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How I became a Graphic Designer - Jenna's Story

I will start by saying this: I never thought I would be a graphic designer let alone own a graphic design business. As a kid, I was definitely a visual and creative little person. We grew up in like any other middle-class family in the 90's - the pre-internet and pre-technology days - where we were honestly forced to be creative. We'd spend hours in the sunshine, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, rollerblading around the neighborhood or playing with barbie dolls. Becca would make up stories for their lives with Ken and baby Kelly while I was into strategically picking out their outfits and what they would wear to all of my sister's pretend events. I think that's where my obsession with fashion and design began.

Throughout grade school, I found myself still obsessing over fashion but also finding a new love for design through assigned school projects. Whether it was the science fair, a paper, or some other project - I got myself through the actual work of the project by the excitement of the design portion of it. Pairing cute fonts for a written assignment, cutting out interesting pictures from magazines for a poster - you name it, if it required something visually appealing, I loved working on it. Over time, I realized I really found joy in creating and designing which is why I decided to study Business Marketing and Apparel Merchandising in college. I excelled in both areas of studies and graduated college from Colorado State University 4 years later.

I landed a job out of college with a popular shoe company as a Visual Merchandiser. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to combine the marketing and design skills I had learned and perfected before and throughout college, with my love of fashion. When I had interviewed, I expressed my love for marketing, fashion and visual design and the employer explained I could tailor my position to all of the things I loved. I couldn't believe it, it sounded way too good to be true, but as an eager and young college graduate, I accepted the job and was thrilled to begin my career. As you are probably imagining, it was too good to be true and long story short, they falsely advertised the job to make it seem like they were offering a wonderful opportunity for a career in fashion when the position was simply to sell shoes as a retail associate. I stuck it out for a few months before I just couldn't take the owner pinning girls against each other and not following through on promises. After abruptly quitting, I was completely devastated and felt like I had failed my first shot at a real career in fashion and design. To be honest, the employer lying to me and making false promises put a terrible taste in my mouth and I just felt completely jaded after ending my time with them.

It was at that point that I truly started thinking about owning my own business. After my own experience and hearing stories from friends/family members who had similar situations, I started to realize I could not see myself trying to work for someone or some other company, long-term. The reality of starting your own business is that it's not easy - it takes time, a lot of effort and usually a good amount of money/resources. Plus, it's no secret that the security of having a W-2, a steady paycheck and health insurance is a nice benefit to working for someone else. Obviously, I couldn't go without a job in this (or any) economy so I started thinking about what type of environment I would want to work in that would be a better fit for me while I started to plan and execute starting my own company. I began working as a marketing director for a healthcare company where I would get to use my design skills to create marketing collateral. It wasn't the "perfect" fit in terms of industry but the money and flexible work-from-home schedule I got in exchange, was worth it for me.

I knew that by taking this job, I would need to find my passions (fashion + graphic design) in other places until I could make all my passions turn into my personalized life-long career. What I didn't realize is I was doing this already without my full awareness. I have always been an active shopper (what girl isn't??) and putting together styled outfits along with modeling satisfied my fashion fix. My close friends knew my love for graphic design and had asked if I would help them with their various projects like websites or creating logos. I had no design software but gladly took on the tasks as I was so excited to create something under my own direction. I used Microsoft Publisher (LOL) to create logos for a few friends, and they absolutely loved it. After talking to my sister on several occasions, I realized she was doing the same things for her friends - for various weddings and small projects. It was then when we both realized we had our forever talked about business idea sitting right in front of us.

What I've learned since being out of college is that your life can go in a million and one directions and you just have to take it one day at a time. You have to learn to be okay with the fact that there is a very slim chance that your life and career will work out the exact way you had planned it to. Sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together.




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