When I graduated from college in 2007 I, like most recently graduated college students, was unable to get a job in my field of study. It was the same old song, companies wanted someone with the credentials and experience, but I didn't have experience yet. When I graduated, I was an assistant manager and barista at the college campus Starbucks and I freelanced in photography and graphic design. I never envisioned what my "dream job" would look like. I just knew that whatever I did, I wanted to be successful. For me, success was accomplishing the things I was told I couldn't; fulfilling the purpose of the project; evolving in the process, and inspiring others during the journey.
After a year of submitting countless applications, and dead-end interviews I still had no luck with being hired. I couldn't just continue working at the coffee shop hoping that an opportunity would present itself to me. I had to make my newly acquired degree and skillset work for me. So I set out on my journey to becoming a small business owner.
I made the decision to create the opportunity that I wanted.
I've always believed that anything can be used to help you achieve your goal, you just have to be creative enough to see the potential in your present. My customer connection with the various business professionals and grad students that came in for coffee every day prove to be very beneficial to me. A friend and co-worker of mine was a law student that helped me to prepare and file my articles of organization. One of my customers connected me with a graphic designer, and custom art framer, with whom I interned for three months. The internship gave me a front-row seat to the untold realities of being a small business owner. It became the foundation of my understanding of entrepreneurship. One thing that I learned quickly was as an entrepreneur, everywhere is your office. The lack of "dedicated office space" could never be your excuse for showing a lack of professionalism. I had specific environments that catered to the work or task I needed to complete. Libraries were reserved for my uninterrupted "deep work", Kinko's, now FedEx, was for production work, and the coffee shop was my preferred space to meet with clients.
Choosing the path of an entrepreneur did not allow for excuses as to why you couldn't get the job done.
Within nine months, at the tender age of 23, I had legitimately established my business on paper. At the time I didn't feel as if I had accomplished anything significant yet. This was just one of many line items on my to-do-list that I had just crossed off. About a month after solidifying my business, I got hired for a marketing position. Perfect timing right? At this point in my life, I was single with no huge responsibilities outside of paying bills, so I worked both. My new marketing role allowed me to pay my bills, while I continued to travel down the entrepreneurial path establishing and running my own business. Joggling both roles definitely helped me to gain the essential skills of time management and organization. As my business clientele increased I realized the importance of having effective processes and procedures to combat customer pressures. A year after being hired, I was promoted to a marketing management role, which meant, more travel and responsibilities. Thanks to my volunteer creative work at my local church, I had built a solid clientele.
By this time my life looked a little different. I was a newlywed that had to learn to balance home, job responsibilities, and my own small business. Spring and summer had become my busy seasons providing services for proms, graduations, baby showers, and other special events. I remained in my corporate role for a little over a year and a half before leaving. The experience jump-started my understanding of marketing, as well as showed me how cutthroat people can be when conducting business. My choice to leave was two-fold, I didn't enjoy my time there, but mainly, I was about to embark on a new chapter in my life, motherhood.
My life was about to change everything else around me had to also, including my business. I couldn't very well bring and care for my newborn baby on a photoshoot, nor did I want to. Yet and still, I wanted to have it all. I wanted to be at home not missing a moment with my new blessing, and pursuing my small business dreams. Four months after my son was born I started pursuing short-term 100% online design contracts. During the day when my son napped, I would send emails and apply for contracts. At night I would do my design work for the contracts I had acquired. This was my routine for about one and a half years, in which time I had my daughter. With my online contract work, volunteer design work, and home my work schedule became more and more unrealistic.
I was a mother of two children under the age of two, that I had become fatigued and creatively frustrated with my graphic design. So I took some time to engage in a little combinatory play, "the act of opening up on mental channel by dabbling in another". I started a brand of homemade body butter, scrubs, and such, named after my daughter. I sold my products on Etsy, at local trade shows and vendor fairs, for holidays and parties. Of course, I used my graphic design skills to create order forms, business cards, and packaging. Still, this was a nice break from my usual design work and something different for me to get lost in. My knowledge of establishing price points, shopping for vendors, and customer care continued to grow with this new venture. For about two years I made and sold body products and did a small number of graphic design projects before everything stopped. My husband had received a job opportunity and we relocated out of state.
With the relocation, my focus was solely on being a mom and getting the family acclimated to our new home. All of my body products remained in boxes after the move and outside of leading my graphic design abilities to our local church occasionally, I wasn't doing much design work either. Instead, I worked summers as a camp nurse for the summer camp my children attended. I was officially on hiatus, besides the occasional design job here and there I didn't do much design work and I avoided telling people about my design/photography business. For the moment, I was fine with not operating as a small business. I took the time to really figure out what I wanted and how I wanted to proceed. Once my kids started school, I took a short-term contract as a quality control specialist for a financial company. This new role was like nothing I had ever done before and I loved it. I worked alongside graphic designers, but I didn't have to do any design work. I was close enough to be reminded of the frustrations design work brought, yet far enough away to admire and appreciate the process. This new perspective helped widen my understanding of the creative marketing and design process.
After my contract, I worked another summer at camp, followed by short stints in various roles including marketing coordinator and a retail sales associate. I volunteered as the communications team assistant at my church and learned ever more about the key players and functions of a well-rounded marketing and communications team. At this point, the vision for my business began to become clearer, and shortly thereafter I got my first long-term marketing and design client.
After four years in this new place, I had finally found my rhythm. For the first time, I had been happy with my work-life balance. Then, life's unpredictable nature revealed itself again in the form of another relocation and a new baby. Nevertheless, I was confident in the direction I was heading in and excited about the endless possibilities of the future.
Over the last thirteen years, every single one of my roles, environment, and experience directly contributed to my growth and clarity. The purpose of my business evolved from being about creating an opportunity for myself to being about creating opportunities for others. I am B. Lynn, I have a heart for the underdog, underestimated, and overlooked. I collaborate with them by offering creative and business support. I share my story in hopes to encourage and inspire others on their path to greatness. This is my entrepreneur journey and I'm just getting started.