While I’ve dreamed of being an entrepreneur for a long time, I never thought that I’d be sitting here running a full-time web design business before the age of 25. As someone who loves to plan and follow the rules, when I graduated college a year early summa cum laude, I thought that as long as I “did everything right” things would work out. I’d get a 9 to 5 job as a graphic designer, and start my own business after getting years of experience under my belt.
Spoiler alert: that’s not what happened. Here’s the story of how facing rejection after college taught me to persevere, and led me to entrepreneurship. In honor of this first episode, I’ll also be sharing what inspired my next big project as a business owner: this podcast! I wouldn’t have made it this far without God and several amazing mentors!
I’ve known that I wanted to be a graphic designer since middle school, so choosing my college major wasn’t hard for me. And since I was exposed to entrepreneurship from an early age, I hoped that owning a business would be part of my story at some point, too. I just wasn’t sure how to fit all of the pieces of the puzzle together.
Then, in the summer of 2017, I decided that I wanted to start a business to have a fun outlet outside of school work. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the start of my journey as a creative entrepreneur.
My college, Campbell University, is a small community. Everyone pretty much knows each other. So when I heard about Sarah’s and her hand lettering shop, The Redheaded Camel, I was so excited to connect with her. What she did looked like so much fun, and I decided that I’d like to try hand lettering, too. After I opened my online shop, Maya Palmer Designs (sound familiar?), I reached out to her and she graciously agreed to be my mentor.
You’ll notice as this story continues that I’m a big fan of mentorship! I’ve learned so much from the amazing mentors I’ve had. There’s nothing like being able to talk to and learn from someone who has lived experience doing something.
I had enough credits, so I decided to graduate from college a year early. At the time, I had been doing my hand lettering shop side hustle for about 2 years. But I didn’t think that it was possible for me to go full-time with it right after graduation.
Sarah and I had one last mentorship session before I graduated, and she asked me a question that would start to change my perspective on the possibilities for the business:
“So, what’s your long-term vision for this business?”
Maya Palmer Designs was still very much a side hustle, but I was interested in taking it more seriously. There was a problem, though: while hand lettering was fun, it wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term. I shared that I wanted to offer graphic design services for small business owners.
Sarah followed up with another question: “So, why aren’t you offering your design services now?”
That was the nudge I needed to start showing up as a freelance graphic designer.
After that, I started taking on a mix of hand lettering and graphic design projects, working part-time, and applying for full-time jobs. I got some interviews for full-time jobs, but no offers.
As my mentor, Sarah had exposed me to resources for creative entrepreneurs, but I didn’t fully understand the possibilities that existed yet! She recommended a marketing course by Amber Housley (Flourish). I purchased Amber’s course, and followed her on Instagram.
The fall after I graduated from college, Amber posted on Instagram that Elizabeth McCravy designed her new Showit site. I had never heard of Showit or Elizabeth, but as someone with a design background, I was intrigued. So, I clicked over to Elizabeth’s profile to learn more about her business.
Then, I discovered Elizabeth’s Breakthrough Brand Podcast, and my whole life changed. (Dramatic I know, but it is kind of true!)
I was fascinated by how Elizabeth, who’s about the same age as my older sister, had started a successful website design business at a young age. It opened my eyes to what was possible for me as a designer.
A few months go by, I’d received several “no thanks” letters for jobs I’d applied to, and I was freelancing but barely making any money. I was feeling pretty discouraged as to whether or not I was meant to be a graphic designer. But after an honest conversation with my dad, I decided to keep trying, hopeful that the right job would come or my business would take off.
Excited for a new year, I decided that in 2020, I would do everything I could to make my business work. And then the pandemic happened. Even though I wasn’t able to do some of the things I’d hoped to, I did book my first Showit website clients! I also took this time to learn as much as I could about running successful business.
At the beginning of 2021, Elizabeth launched her course, Booked Out Designer. As someone who was already a big fan, I was so excited to learn from her more. Being a part of that course and community has been such a blessing, and my business has grown exponentially since applying what I’ve learned! (I wrote a whole other blog post about the experience!)
I’ve decided that going into 2022, I want to be intentional about cultivating community through my business. Since stopping my old podcast and YouTube channel to focus on client work, I’ve realized that I miss getting to share stories and invite you to learn from others’ experiences in a way that’s so unique to podcasting.
The concept for this new podcast was Inspired by Iverlei Brookes sharing on the Goal Digger Podcast about contributing something meaningful to the conversation and Natalie Franke emphasizing the importance of community on the Heart & Hustle Podcast. Iverlei’s questions, “What do I have to contribute to the conversation?”, “How can I make the most impact when I do show up?”, and “How will I allow God to use me and my business?” have stuck with me since the day I heard them.
My hope is that this podcast will bring people together and serve as inspiration that no matter where you start, you can run a business that makes a profit, positive impact on your community, and allows you to live an intentional life. Many of the entrepreneurs I admire inspire me because of the way that they create community and care about people, not just because of their business success. Through this podcast, we’ll learn together by honoring our unique perspectives and the life experiences that shape us as leaders.
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