Jessica Morgan never imagined herself running a business when she graduated from Cardiff Metropolitan University and entered the working world.
But after taking on freelance work to supplement her day job, she soon realised that she had a flair for creating and maintaining her own clientele.
Soon enough, Jessica found that she had so much freelance work coming her way that she had to choose between that and her job. She took a dive into to the world of entrepreneurship and never looked back.
Jessica has been shortlisted for the 'Creative Entrepreneur of the Year' award at the Entrepreneurs Wales Awards, sponsored by Business Wales, Welsh Government. So, I caught up with her to gain a bit of insight about her life as a designer and illustrator.
Tell us about the business
"I am a graphic designer and illustrator by trade and my small team at Jessica Draws offer bespoke design and marketing solutions to all kinds of businesses from sole traders to large organisations. I work on everything from brand development, stationary, print design, web design, infographics, social media covers and most recently animated infographics (explainer videos), to market products and businesses. Because I offer illustration services as well as design, the results are always unique and tailored for that specific organization or product; this adds a splash of personality to what could be otherwise standard and dull design."
When and how did you start the company?
"Since graduating I entered straight into a career as a pattern designer for a major greetings card company. I learned a great deal about printing processes and it was a great first job, but after two years it was clear there was no room to move up within the company. I was also designing Christmas wrapping paper all year round, so needless to say, that soon got frustrating. I needed a change.
"From there I moved on to work as a web and app designer for a Cardiff-based company. Here I learned more about digital design and added a new string to my bow. Wages in both of these positions were relatively poor and I found myself needing to take on freelance work to help with living costs. I found that I enjoyed the thrill of networking and seeking new projects and soon became what I can only describe as addicted. I soon had enough freelance work that I couldn't hold down a full time job and carry on freelancing, so I left in June 2012. Since then, I've had the privilege of working with many start-ups, charities and larger agencies.
"Because I have a relatively diverse background (illustration, print, pattern and digital design), I have found that I can offer more options to clients. Instead of commissioning an illustrator for a project, then a designer to put the illustrations into a print design, then a digital designer to convert into web banners; I can offer all of this in one package. This also means that I can manage all of the outcomes to make sure the design is consistent across the brand; it makes things easier and much more efficient for the client. This means that clients return to me for further work and updates, so I've built very strong, reliable relationships with everyone I work with. Once the relationship is there, they can give me a call and outline what they want and I'll deliver. Because I've stayed so hands on and face to face I believe the clients have appreciated how invested I've been in making their brand look its best."
Had you always wanted to run your own business?
"Definitely not. I always saw myself working for a big agency somewhere. It always seemed like something that was so out of the realms of possibility for a designer from Wales."
What (or who) inspired you to start the business? And what (or who) inspires you to keep going?
"I was inspired by circumstances. I needed a challenge; I wanted every day to be different and I wanted to make a great life for myself and this didn’t seem to be coming from employed life. I get bored quite easily so I need the challenge and the goals of managing a business to make life interesting. I’m always inspired by the projects that come through the door and the wonderful people that I meet."
What are your best and worst qualities as a business person?
"My best qualities I would say are my organisational skills. It’s so important to stay on top of everything, especially when your role is essentially designer/illustrator/finance manager/sales/marketing and everything else in between. My worst quality is probably my inability to say no to a tight deadline or at least negotiate a longer one. As such, my schedules are full and it’s quite difficult to make time for other things. It can be quite a strain sometimes."
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in Wales?
"Be bold and take risks, otherwise you will always wonder “what if”. If you’re unhappy, fix it. If you need a change, change it. There’s always a solution."
Why did you enter the Entrepreneur Wales Awards?
"I entered initially as an exercise in explaining myself and my business in words. I’m often face to face with clients so I rarely have to write what I do. I never dreamed I’d be shortlisted so it’s such a surprise and I’m thrilled! Now I’m hoping for some recognition and to spread the word about the business and meet some new people."
Why is Wales a great place to do business?
"Wales is fantastic. There are so many start-ups and freelancers popping up all over the place, it really is a vibrant place to network and collaborate."
You can find out more the Entrepreneur Wales Awards here.