Design is everywhere all the time. But being able to take design and put it to use creative a future for yourself is not something that everyone can do. Lets face it, we all want to be more in control of our destinies, but that step can sometimes be daunting.
We spoke with the founder of Nomadic Hearts Clothing who has found a way to combine her passion for adventure and skills in design into something with a purpose.
Allison is a 23 year old graphic designer for Cleveland, Ohio and shared with us her story about how getting involved with design has helped her do something she always dreamed of: starting a company. She gives us some really good insight into what it means to start a brand and what the best way to deal with some of the challenges that come along with it.
What role has design played in your life? What mediums do you find suits you best?
I fell so in love with graphic design that I decided to pursue it as a career choice in college, and two years later here I am working for a business based out of Cleveland, Ohio as one of three designers here. So I’d say it not only plays a huge role in my everyday life, but it’s also shaped my life & my life’s path. Without my passion for design, especially brand identity & my desire to create my own, I wouldn’t have Nomadic Hearts, either. I’m also definitely more of a computer artist – hand drawing & painting aren’t the easiest for me, so all of my work is done on the computer in Adobe Illustrator.
Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and deciding to pursue creation the way you have?
Other companies similar to mine, Wish You Were Northwest, Rad Earth Supply Co., and BANGS Shoes, specifically. Everything from the rad people that run those companies, to the things they sell have inspired me to jump on board the adventure-lifestyle-apparel-brand bandwagon.
I also had a lot of support from friends on Instagram when I was first looking at starting my brand. I’d post on Instagram asking for feedback and got so much love and positive responses from people, it really motivated me in the direction of my designs. While I design according to what I love and feel passionate about, I also constantly keep in mind the consumer, and what they want.
How did you decide to make the leap to starting your own t-shirt company and what are your goals?
Taking the leap was inspired by a multitude of things.
This business was born from the idea that I want to do more to help animals. I went vegan in May of 2015 after finally realizing some of the ugly truths behind the food I was eating and I wanted to do more. So I decided to start a business that I would donate part of my profit from. I threw around a couple ideas, but an apparel brand inspired by adventure is what stuck.
I’ve also always wanted to do something by myself for myself. Start a company, brand it, create the products to sell, package them up, interact with customers. I spent a lot of time analyzing other companies in my market on Instagram & fell in love with the sense of community that each of these companies had, and wanted to create something like that myself. The idea that I could possibly one day support my life by owning my own company was the final thing that did it for me. I just want to see myself grow as a designer, a person, a business owner and this will be such an adventure and an awesome way to do so.
What message are you trying to get across with your brand? What has been the biggest help in you getting this across?
An all over message of adventure, free spiritedness & the love of the outdoors. “Find your adventure” has become my company’s tagline – it means to find the adventure in everyday life, and see that life itself is a grand adventure to learn from. Embrace the adventure’s ups and downs and grow from them. I’m sure as my company expands, so will my company’s meaning and message & that’s kind of exciting to me.. I can’t wait to see where it’ll go.
The biggest help for getting this message across has been the amazing amazing people I’ve met on Instagram & the family & friends who have supported my company so far. They’ve spent their money on my products, their time photographing them & writing up posts about them to tell their friends to checkout my site.. Without anyone’s help, the message of my brand would not be getting across. And then there is the obvious, that my products themselves help get the point across. I carefully chose fonts, illustrations, textures etc that mimic the “find your adventure” outdoors-y message that I’m trying to get across. So having a background in design & knowing how to design for a certain market has been extremely beneficial as well.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve had so far and some of the victories?
My biggest challenges so far have been coming up with fresh new ideas, marketing myself and figuring out all the little legal details of owning a business.
Coming up with fresh new ideas when the market is already so saturated is extremely difficult to do. While other similar companies inspire and motivate me and my work, I also need to be careful to not directly steal anyone’s designs or ideas, or let their designs subconsciously make their way into mine. I’ve overcome this so far by taking what’s been done and adding my own spin to things, as well as really paying attention to the images and words that people are most influenced by, and instead of focusing so hard on “what can I design that hasn’t been done” (because then you tend to get stuck), I just let myself freely design without thinking of any of the “what ifs”. Those come after the design itself is complete.
Marketing is also very difficult. I have an advantage, having gone to school for design, I know what attracts people and how to design something that’ll draw them in. But getting my name out there as been a tough task, mostly because there’s just so much out there. But I’m so thankful for the people I’ve met on Instagram who are so willing to help me advertise and who put out a good word for me. Word of mouth and social media are glorious things in marketing.
And finally, figuring out all the little legal things. I had to file for a sole proprietorship with the State of Ohio, I had to obtain a vendor’s license, I have to figure out how this will all affect my taxes.. Little things that I didn’t realize starting off. I never studied business in school and have ZERO business background, so this is all a new challenging adventure for me. But I’m absolutely loving it.
Are you collaborating with anyone else for the company? What has that been like if so?
I collaborated with a couple companies for a giveaway I did about a month ago, and that was really awesome seeing the support from other people, especially because they saw potential in my brand and were willing to associate their names with mine. As for anything else, I’m not collaborating YET, but I really really hope to be able to collab with more companies in the future, whether it be giveaways, coming up with designs, etc.
What kind of advice would you give to anyone who is also starting out with a business endeavor or a career of design?
Be open to making mistakes – both owning a business and a design career involve making lots of mistakes in order to learn. From making a bad investment to designing something people don’t like, those things can be mistakes but they can also be learning experiences, depending on how you look at them.
Be open to feedback, negative and positive – it seems scary to ask people for their opinions, especially when the feedback you get is negative. Sometimes, when it’s just you, it’s so easy to get stuck inside your head, whether it be business ideas you think are going to be awesome, or a design you’re making that you think will look so rad. Sometimes you become so immersed in it all that you fail to see the ideas from the outside. So I always always ask for feedback from people before finalizing anything. And when negative feedback comes my way, I’m grateful. That helps me realize what won’t work & in turn, what will. So be open to feedback and go our of your way to ask for it.
Just do it – if it’s something you feel passionately about and you’re willing to put the time, effort, money and thought into it, do it. If you fail in the end, it was a learning experience that you can walk away from a better person.
Don’t be afraid to take risks & be patient – risk taking is what owning a business is all about. You invest a lot of time and money into products and designs and you hope that you’ll be able to make a profit off your hard work. Don’t be afraid to take that leap and invest in yourself and your talents – doing so is so badass and so empowering. And be patient for the reward. No big business is built overnight. No good designer becomes a good designer overnight. Building a successful business takes years. Don’t be discouraged, and do not compare your starting point with someone else’s middle or end point. With enough motivation, inspiration, vision and work, you can become successful.