I filled out a questionnaire several years ago after rejoining the National Association of Women Business Owners - Silicon Valley. Since it elaborates on my positions regarding business ownership, design, success and related topics, I thought it would help visitors get to know me a bit.
In an increasingly virtual age, telling our stories is one way to reach across the digital divide.
NAWBO-SV changed my vision of my business and myself into something extraordinary that I could never have achieved alone. Being surrounded by resourceful, self-starting women business owners inspired me to kick up my game and showed me how to be a success.
In addition to helping me find clients, I have access to professional business mentors. When I attend events, I am surrounded by seasoned, unapologetically ambitious woman who understand my business challenges and speak my language. I always leave events supercharged with girl power.
I have always had a passion for the arts, particularly, the visual arts. I am fascinated by the ebb and flow and movement of textures, the intensity and vibration of color, the zen quality of forms and shapes. I love how you can evoke a mood, elicit a certain type of energy, or produce harmony and balance by arranging disparate elements—words, shapes, illustrations, photos—on a page.
I love using all of the above to help a client communicate a message or tell their story to an audience. Creating that connection between two people, bridging that gap—that’s what design is all about.
I studied design pre-computer when there was more focus on hand-eye coordination and using traditional media to achieve what we deliver today using digital tools. I have found that all tools are good tools. Digitization increases speed of production but the fundamentals of what works and what doesn’t remains the same.
The difference now is that once you master a tool, it might change next week, and so the learning curve is more challenging to keep up with. Luckily, your ramp up speed improves the more tools that you master.
I would say the people who helped me most were a few teachers, but mostly it was other artists, designers and typographers whose work inspired me to want to try to become a designer. The beauty or sheer brilliance or cleverness or mastery of their pieces pulled me into being a designer. I wanted to be like those creators; to come up with a brilliant visual concept that would connect people to a message and possibly change the world. How cool is that?
In an era where design is becoming commodified and automated in some cases, I have chosen to go in the opposite direction and deliver hand-crafted visuals. I feel strongly that machines will never be able to match humans with regard to the intuitive connections that you tap into as a creative to make visuals that actually connect with people; that tell stories. In order to do this, you have to understand people. Machines will never be able to tell relevant human stories. Only humans can do that.
I’m also not a tech snob. I like helping people expand their skillsets. I enjoy raising my clients’ cyber-IQ. Business tech has become quite complex—almost overwhelming—for many people. Tech shouldn’t be intimidating but it evolves so fast and there are so many tools. I like helping my clients figure out which cocktail of marketing tools works best for their business and also how to use these tools to their best advantage.
Plus, Bright Bird Creative doesn’t deliver prepackaged designs or solutions. We hand-craft every piece of collateral, every logo, and every website.
I attribute my success to my drive to become a designer. This was the catalyst that drove me to learn how to run a business; how to network and market my wares. Mastering these skills is a grand challenge when you are first starting out. I was a server for many years and that taught me sales and people skills.
In addition, I love to learn and am always questing to expand my knowledge pool. I read broadly, watch alot of films, and expose myself to the arts. I pursue ideas, philosophies and visuals that inspire me. This helps feed my creativity and makes me a better designer.
I believe we make our own luck. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you don’t put in the time to be prepared for when that opportunity presents itself, then you won’t get lucky. And sometimes, even if you are striving and preparing, you won’t be ready when an opportunity shows up. But if you keep working at it every day, every week, every month, every year, there will be other opportunities that you will be prepared for.
That’s a toughie. Running a design business is very challenging because you have to manufacture what you sell. Wearing all the hats of a small business owner, allocating enough time to create your deliverables, plus finding time to sell/market and also the ever-present learning curve—it’s a juggling act.
What you learn is to set boundaries and take time off. There is enough work that you can easily overwhelm yourself. You have to find clients that are a good fit for your business process and then negotiate a fair pace. You have to learn to stake out your space.
I close my business twice a year for 10 days because I need time for personal pursuits. I need time away from the computer. I try very hard not to work on weekends or in the evenings. That said, there are crunch times when you have to make those sacrifices. But you can’t sustain that pace for long. You have to be brave and dare to miss opportunities.
As a sole proprietor, you are both boss and employee. It’s up to you to keep yourself in good shape, however you define that.
Serving on organizational boards of directors and committees has taught me how to be a better leader. Leadership is not hard in the sense of taking the initiative and leading the way. But you have to learn to be patient, trust your lieutenants, and not be afraid to delegate. You also have to let go of being a perfectionist. Visions can come to fruition and be very effective without having to match exactly what’s in your head. When you are working with a team, flexibility is key.
Discovering entrepreneurship is probably the best thing that ever happened to me (aside from my personal relationships). It is a wonderful way to grow and evolve and achieve things that you never dreamed you could. It is a testing ground, a challenge, a space that will push you to greater heights if you are willing to do the work, to fail, and to keep going. It has made me a better, wiser, broader person.
Mentoring others is wonderful because sharing your expertise and experiences with a novice illuminates where you are and how far you’ve come. Mentoring forces you to slow down and examine the “what, why, and how” of what you have been doing but probably don’t reflect on very much. Mentoring invites you to examine your journey to becoming a business owner so you can share it with someone and hopefully make their evolution a bit easier.
Don’t focus or hold on to on what is not working. Focus on what IS working or figure out how to make something work. Don’t pay attention to the naysayers. Don’t allow anyone-male or female-to stop you from moving ahead. If you are blocked, get creative and find another way. Believe in yourself. Build your skills and your voice. NEVER GIVE UP!
Don’t be afraid to be bold and to speak out even if you make mistakes. Learn from your failures. Don’t let them crush you. Keep picking yourself up and moving forward no matter what happens. The secret to success in any endeavor in life is perseverance.
Queen Elizabeth I. She was incredibly clever. In a world commanded by men and their preferences, she rose to the challenge and wouldn’t allow them to dominate her. She rewrote the script on what a woman could get away with; what a woman could demand. She proved that women were capable of being strong leaders with strong voices and opinions.
I don’t think women are better than men or vice versa. But we are equally worthy, as human beings, and fully capable of holding power and of having a voice in the ordering of human affairs.
I have so many. The visual arts, of course. But also, music. I LOVE music. All genres (except maybe death metal, LOL). Music lights me up and helps me regain balance when I’m stressed or upset. I find music simultaneously uplifting and soothing.
I listen to music. I also enjoy hiking, stretching, reading, puzzles and games, movies, and dining out.
Alaska. Also, northern Canada—all of that wondrous fresh water. It would be amazing to see it.
Be yourself. Love yourself. It’s the hardest thing you will ever do. It takes a lifetime to master. But, at least I’m enjoying the ride…