I was recently chatting with someone who went through my Brand Design Love Academy course and she (gently) challenged me to talk more about me and my story.
This isn’t always the easiest thing for me as someone who is a little more introverted. But, she was absolutely right to push me on it because as humans, we want to connect with other humans, and that means being more vulnerable and open! I know when someone shares something personal with me, I feel an instant connection with them. That’s so important.
It’s Not All Sunshine and Rainbows
First off, let me just say that the story about how I ended up running a profitable design business is a pretty humbling one. Still, I know it’s important to share with you because I think there’s too many stories from entrepreneurs out there that paint the path to success as a fairy tale.
They’re leaving out all of the growing pains and the hard lessons and really only talking about their successes. This isn’t helpful for other people who are a little bit further behind them on the path. It sets them up for disappointment when their story doesn’t end up going the same way.
Starting a business, no matter what, comes with ups and downs. Many ups and downs.
So, needless to say, my story is NOT a fairy tale. It wasn’t always easy but you know what? That’s okay. It has led to some really great things and I have grown so much as a person and a designer since I started out all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
The Phone Call That Changed Everything
The story of my life as an entrepreneur all started with a phone call telling me that I was being laid off from my design agency job. This kind of call is crushing for anyone, but it felt especially crushing because it was the second time I had been laid off in two years.
Talk about a humbling moment. I’m not going to lie: this phone call really made me doubt myself and my skills. Who gets laid off twice? Maybe I just wasn’t good enough. Not to mention, I was feeling so much panic after losing what felt like a stable career while living through a global pandemic and everything felt uncertain. Not a great time, to say the least.
I had to figure out what to do, for myself and my family. I could jump back into a full-time role or I could finally decide to dive into the deep end of my dream to have my own design business. Both options seemed scary at this point. Was there really such a thing as a stable job? Could I really make it on my own? Both paths filled me with doubt, to be honest.
It was hard to ignore the little voice in the back of my head telling me to share everything I have learned about brand design. My dad was a teacher, and after he passed away in the fall of 2020, several of his students shared how he had touched their lives. I was so inspired by his legacy and impact and I felt a renewed sense of urgency about following in his path.
So, I did it, I went full force with my business. Don’t get me wrong: I was terrified. But I have zero regrets about my decision. Of course, there are days where I feel overwhelmed. In fact, when I launched my course early this year, I had a lot of “fraudy feelings” that made me doubt practically everything (you can read about that here).
But even with all that, I am SO glad I chose this option rather than going back to a full-time job at another agency. I feel grateful that my future is in my hands and no one else’s. And if you’ve been thinking about starting a business, let me just say: it’s worth it.
It’s hard for me sometimes to get super personal like this, but I believe it is SO important to connect with people, even if it’s “just” online. So, I would love to get to know more about you! Come follow me on Instagram and introduce yourself to me!
Exactly one year ago, I said “yes” to an opportunity that would change my entire entrepreneurial journey. Let me back up and set the scene for you: It was late 2020. I was recently unemployed and it was starting to look like COVID was going to be around a lot longer than just a few weeks.
I wanted my design business to succeed, but so far, it wasn’t something that could sustain my family on its own. I knew I had to do something, and sitting around feeling sorry for myself was definitely not going to be it.
I was chatting with my friend Lia and she was telling me about a new program she had recently enrolled in called Selfmade, a course for entrepreneurs led by Brit Morin, founder and CEO of Brit + Co. I had been a follower (and fangirl) of Brit + Co for a while, so I was VERY intrigued.
She explained how much clarity she had already received since joining Selfmade, and honestly, I could actually see some of those changes taking place in her business. It was transitioning from a small idea to a big vision, and that was exactly what I needed for my business, too.
After talking with Lia, I knew I wanted to join the Spring 2021 cohort. But, I’m not going to lie: I was a little nervous about investing since I didn’t have a full-time job (or income) to support me. But, I knew that if I didn’t make that investment in myself, no one else would, either.
Just looking at the line-up of coaches and guest teachers that Brit had gathered together for this program, I knew it was beyond worth it. We’re talking Gwyneth Paltrow, Bethany Frankel, Melissa Bernstein (of Melissa & Doug)... you know, people on *that* level.
Of course, the curriculum is impressive, too. It’s a 10-week program that includes all the topics you need to run a successful business. What I really like is how she includes topics that I never would have thought to teach myself, like fundraising, legal, and press.
You’re supported throughout the entire program by a coach, and you have the opportunity to meet most of the other coaches in the program through group and 1:1 sessions. There’s live weekly calls with Brit where you can actually interact with her and ask questions! In other programs like this, the calls are pre-recorded, which feels a little one-sided. You also get the chance to join small group mentoring sessions with her and she's even available via DM!
Working With Brit Morin
It was on one of these small group calls that Brit asked if I would be able to help her with some graphics that she needed to promote the program. Of course, I said yes! I tried to play it cool, but I’m sure she could see how excited I was that she had asked me.
If you know the brand Brit + Co, you know how design-forward it is. To be asked to contribute my vision and skills to a brand like that, a brand I’ve been pinning to my “Design Inspo” board on Pinterest for years… it was a HUGE confidence boost at a time when I really needed it.
I ended up creating a suite of graphics for her, including a set of over 200 ads and stickers to promote the Selfmade program (you can see some of my designs here). I was so pleasantly surprised when they won an American Graphic Design Award!
While I don’t do a lot of this kind of work anymore (I mostly just stick with logos and brand identities these days), it is fun to revisit these projects I’ve done, especially ones that had such an enormous impact on my career.
I learned so much from the Selfmade program and from working with Brit. She really cares about helping people, and she is always looking for ways she can provide opportunities to people who are in the earlier chapters of their entrepreneurship journeys.
If this sounds like something you need right now, I encourage you to check out the program! If you have any questions, I am more than happy to answer them. I also have a 20% code if you'd like to use it. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me directly at on Instagram!
As I’m writing this, there’s a lot of uncertainty and sadness in the world. There are constant, unrelenting attacks on the people of Ukraine. After two long years, the pandemic is still impacting our lives in ways that most of us didn’t expect it would be in 2022.
Some things are smaller and more personal, like my recent move back home to Connecticut from Mexico, where I had been staying with my mom for the past 9 months. It wasn’t the plan to stay that long, but life happens and I am so glad I got that extra time with my mom and the rest of my family. However, the transition back to my life, the logistics of a long-distance move, it’s all very difficult and it makes you feel like your life has been turned upside down.
In moments like these, I have to remind myself that my discomfort or sadness is allowed to exist, even if other people are dealing with something more serious. I know for me, there have been many times I’ve had to remind myself of this in the last few years. Our feelings are valid, period. No comparison needed.
Finding Order in the Chaos
With so much to distract me, I’m finding it difficult to focus on the work that needs to be done. Luckily, I’ve found something that really works for me when I’m feeling this way and I want to share it with you in case it helps you, too! It’s not some fancy technique… it’s actually incredibly simple: I plan my day by the hour.
After trying lots of different strategies and getting really honest with myself, I discovered that breaking down what I have to do into small, manageable tasks is what really works best for me.
This might seem like a lot of work, but I promise, it isn’t. I spend about 5 minutes each morning planning out my tasks. Sometimes, I even do it the night before so I can just wake up in the morning and get started on the first thing.
It takes all of the decision-making paralysis off the table so I can just do the thing.
I have an hourly “to do” list that I designed a while ago that I just keep printing new copies of. I would love to share it with you. Click below to download a printable version for yourself!
More of a Planner Person?
If you’re thinking, “Ok, this sounds like it might work but I really like to use planners for this purpose” don’t worry. I got you. I am also slightly planner obsessed and I highly, highly recommend the Sprouted Planner. I actually use it along with my hourly to-do list which I have found is the best way for me to focus and move through my tasks.
Also, the owner of this company, Heather, is truly wonderful and I love to support her in any way I can!
Thank you for letting me share my life updates and thoughts with you. It’s a little bit vulnerable to share personal thoughts like this, but I really feel like we find healing and community when we open up and let people in, so I am trying to do that more often. If you are going through personal hardships or just transitions that feel tough, please know that I am holding space for peace in my heart for you, and for the world at large.
Karla is an award-winning designer, branding expert and mentor. She has designed for brands including BRIT+CO, Discovery, HGTV, Food Network, Facebook, and more.