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Meet Karilyn Owens

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karilyn Owens.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Karilyn. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I have been obsessed with creating art ever since I was a little girl. Art was (and still is) my refuge—a way to process my intense emotions and express my creativity. When my family got a computer in the 90s I began creating graphics for school projects or mixed CD’s. I found any excuse to make something. It was clear that I was born to create and the computer gave me an entirely new medium through which to do that. When my Mom suggested graphic design as a career option, I jumped right in and never looked back. Turning my love for design into a career seemed like the perfect solution.

I became a freelance graphic designer by happenstance while working in the publishing industry shortly after college. People in my growing network came to me for graphic design needs; I figured I could help them although I had no idea how to run a business. I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to use my skills to help others simply because I lacked business acumen, so I said yes. Google became my best friend as I learned how to write contracts, set my rates and create invoices (which I designed myself). Word of mouth spread quickly and I soon had a bevy of clients while I worked my 9-5 in publishing. Little did I know that I’d one day be laid off from my full-time job. While the news still shocked and devastated me, I knew I was ready to move on to new challenges. I took it as a nudge from God because I wasn’t willing to leave on my own. My business went from something I didn’t even know I needed to a lifeline that kept me afloat during a crisis. I began to see my layoff as a blessing in disguise and my business as something I was always meant to birth.

My business grew organically and I found that clients came to me more than I sought out clients. I relied on creative recruiting agencies to build my client repertoire and sustain me when work dried up. I eventually took another 9-5 job in digital marketing for greater financial security, job experience and social interaction (which ended up expanding my skills and training beyond what I could have done as a freelancer.) I always had my business to fall back on, so I didn’t feel trapped when job situations went awry or life circumstances called for greater flexibility. When I wasn’t doing work that I loved during the day, I had more challenging and creative work to focus on during my “extended work hours.” Being a freelancer afforded me the time and energy to explore passions of mine like writing and volunteering, which allowed my spirit to soar in new directions.

Today, I’ve worked with more clients than I could have ever hoped for during those first years of winging it. Although I didn’t intentionally set out to start a business, it has become an unexpected blessing—meeting amazing people, expanding my creative horizons and giving me the flexibility to work wherever are just a few of the benefits.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been far from easy, especially given I lasted a week in my Intro to a Business college course. Because I have the creative passion, I figured out the business side of what I do to focus on what I love. I have made countless mistakes while learning the ins and outs of the business, and by far the best lesson I’ve learned is to not put pressure on doing what you love to make money.  I resorted to taking babysitting jobs, working in retail or going back to a 9-5 so the financial piece wouldn’t edge out the joy of creating.

With each mistake I made, I chose to learn from it and become a better business owner and person. Being a business owner forced me to grow as an individual—to stand up for what I am worth based on the value I bring to others, to be transparent and upfront about business issues and to put people before profit. I learned the hard way that making a few extra bucks is never worth jeopardizing a client relationship—especially since it was never meant to be about the money in the first place. Having these struggles only solidified my intention to make money by other means when necessary so I can keep my business about doing what I love while helping people succeed in business and life.

Tell us about your company. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?
My graphic design company creates a wide range of marketing needs for small businesses: brand development and design, marketing collateral, website design, copywriting, creative strategy and consulting, email marketing, social media design and other business collateral such as menus, mailers, posters, book design and infographics. My specialty is brand design and development: creating messaging, logos, color schemes, font packages and other brand material such as business cards and letterheads.

I am most proud of the creative strategy and consulting I offer small business owners who have an idea they want to bring to life; knowing the value that being a business owner has brought to my life, I love to help others birth their creative ideas and businesses. Most people get stuck during the creative process and never get past the idea phase; due to frustration, fear of the unknown and lack of allies, they give up. I serve as a partner that assists them throughout the gestation period of their business. I use creative strategy to brainstorm new ideas with my clients, reach beyond their blocks and help them see the possibilities in what lies ahead. Once the business strategy is in place, I use my design experience and skills to bring their baby into the world.

While I am a wonderful designer, what I bring to others is passion, intuition and strategy so that they are putting what they truly want to create out into the world. I am not afraid to challenge my clients and help them face their fears so they find their best selves in the process (just as my business has done for me).

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I owe my success to countless people who have encouraged me, believed in me, pushed me and kept me going when I was running on empty—financially, spiritually and physically. First and foremost, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my Mother who saw my creative talent and passion at an early age and encouraged me to pursue a career in graphic design. These days she passes along her tips, tricks and advice as a fellow freelancer and business owner. My Father has been my biggest cheerleader, providing sensible wisdom and hope when I was ready to give up on graphic design. To this day, he always tells me exactly what I need to hear to keep me going. My incredible sisters, Katie Kali and Kimberly, have also cheered me on continuously, offering not only their moral support but their wisdom and business acumen.

My first freelance client, Heather Fineman, believed in me enough to ask me to design her app without any prior experience. I am especially grateful for my first mentor, Lyndze Blosser, who took me under her wing as an intern and inspired me beyond belief. Her talent was intimidating but she helped me believe in my talent while offering her constant friendship, wisdom and unconventional outlook on life. I have had many business coaches along the way who helped me believe in myself and clear the subconscious blocks that threatened to sabotage further success (while also educating me on the aspects of the business that I struggle most with). Most of all, I have the clients that have given me the gift of creating for their businesses so that I can do what I love most. Lastly, I am eternally thankful for God, who pushed me out of my comfort zone and connected me to the right people at the right time so my business could be born (and continues to support and guide me in business and life).

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Image Credit:
Karilyn Owens Design

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