Meet the Designer

Because I think it impacts the stories I tell here and the views I hold, I figured I needed to get my back story jotted down here.

I originally went to school as a journalism major with an emphasis on print journalism. A year in, I knew it wasn't my calling. I wanted to write, but not for newspapers, not in what felt like a forced way and not for an industry that I no longer had tremendous confidence in. I switched to an advertising/marketing/public relations track instead. 

It didn't take long before I found myself soaking it all up. It was this beautiful combination of psychology, passion, aesthetics...it was amazing! I've known all my life that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, long before I knew what that word meant. I've created (many, many) shows from my bedroom with my parents' camcorder and brainstormed entire companies as a teenager. I was convinced for awhile that I'd make my living as an author and even wrote a few books but eventually, I bought into the notion that the only way to make a living was to go to school, get a real job and if you're really lucky, be able to derive a little enjoyment from it. 

College changed all that for me. In one class, we created a hypothetical company from scratch and planned its marketing and launch efforts (I made a spa, by the way). It was basically the stuff dreams are made of. I didn't quite grasp at the time the way that course would change my life, but I can see it clearly looking back now. It lit a fire inside that took me a long time to discover. The class was actually focused on how to market new companies, which I do still enjoy so much today, but the act of creating a company from scratch is what really stirred a passion inside. 

I went on to work at a newspaper (ironically) in the advertising department. I found myself doing something that I had never envisioned. I was working with local businesses to brainstorm their advertising efforts, and then communicating with the graphic design team to bring the ideas to life. Though the office politics and dreariness drove me out, I did love-love-love the clients I had. I developed relationships with a handful of them that made it tough to leave when the time came. But I was pregnant with my first baby and had bigger things in mind (like using my last bit of time before children to write a book or create something amazing). Those never came to fruition. 

Shortly after my son was born, though, I decided I'd run a couponing blog (they were all the rage at this time). Certain I could be successful because I had the background to market myself, I took some shots in the dark and pieced together a really lousy blog. It was ugly, disorganized, a mesh of personal and couponing, and really, just so not me at all. I wasn't a couponer in the least bit! 

I left that endeavor and went on to pursue a children's clothing line after my second baby was born. As ridiculous as my first endeavor was, as I had virtually no experience couponing before starting my blog, this one was even more delusional. I'd been sewing for about a month when I decided to sell my creations to the world. I took my branding super seriously, rebranding myself multiple times in my short year or so in business. I obsessed over packaging and focused virtually no time or energy on my actual products. In fact, when I got orders, I hated it. I hated sewing, I hated being tucked away in a room by myself since sewing wasn't a very transportable hobby, and I knew pretty early on that it was not at all sustainable for me. I put my Etsy shop on vacation more times than I had it open, and shortly before my third baby was born, I put it on vacation and never opened its doors again. 

But the beauty of my past failures is that I learned what I was good at, and I learned that I happened to be good at, and passionate about, design. I had gotten fairly skilled at manipulating Blogger during my years on the platform, and graphic design had become quite a passion. While my time in college and at the newspaper taught me a lot about design in general, what worked and what didn't, I had no formal graphic design skills. I knew what things should look like, but I didn't know how to execute them. That changed when I ran my second business, as I began dipping my toes into learning programs like Pixlr, Gimp, and eventually, Photoshop and Illustrator. 

Since my background was in marketing and advertising, my only job out of college had been the same and I was now proficient in graphic design programs and becoming better at HTML/CSS, I started to get this tugging little feeling shortly after my third was born that maybe I could use this skill set to open a new business. How amazing it would be to actually use the skills I learned in college, rather than try to piece together careers based on things I didn't care about. 

Quietly, I designed a few blog templates and premade logos and I put them up on Etsy. That's it. I didn't tell a soul. I didn't advertise. I just put them on Etsy. And though I can't remember my exact statistics from that first month, they were compelling. Orders started coming in left and right, and after a few weeks, I opened up and told my husband. Shortly thereafter, I started telling friends when it became clear that I could love this and make some decent money doing it. 

It's been 2.5 years now, and I love it more than I did when I opened its doors. I've spent the past several years soaking up everything I can get my hands on about web and graphic design. I'm relearning it all from the ground up, properly, and I am more convinced today than ever that I've finally found my calling. Graphic and web design just makes sense to me. I've always been so aesthetically driven, and now that I can turn the visions in my head into visions on screen, there's nothing I'd rather do. And the relationships?! Oh, the relationships. It's been the highlight of the past 2.5 years.

I've faced some big challenges this year, with blog designers across the globe now offering templates for $2.99 (I live in America; I simply can't compete with that price), and I've been forced to do a lot of soul searching. 

The next few months are bringing about some huge changes for this little old shop. I'm so excited I seriously don't know how to keep it under wraps. I feel as though the past six years of entrepreneurial adventures have been one big learning experience, guiding me to the ultimate journey. The ultimate journey is almost here, loves. And it's going to be one heck of an awesome adventure. It's time for me to buckle up!

Chelsea Hibbard

Greenville, SC