Dawn Nicole Designs is a hand-lettering designer who has built her business on a modest creative pastime. She is a published author and expert in the lettering industry, leading a growing group of aspiring designers who share her passion for art and hand lettering. Dawn has a BA in English and an MBA in HR Management, and has worked as an HR Manager at a resort in Charleston, South Carolina. She is self-taught in typography and calligraphy. She started her blog to chronicle her activities, which evolved into an Art + Lettering blog. She faced numerous doubts and setbacks, but found solutions and overcome obstacles through a collaborative group of fellow entrepreneurs, hiring a lawyer and a certified public accountant, and delegating essential matters to professionals.
Dawn Nicole is the designer responsible for Dawn Nicole Designs. If you’ve contemplated hand lettering as a hobby or a source of income, Dawn’s story will serve as an inspiration.
Dawn, who specializes in hand-lettering, has built her own business on the foundation of a modest creative pastime. A few years later, Dawn is a published author and expert in the lettering industry. The best part is that she is the leader of a growing group of aspiring designers who share her passion for art and hand lettering. I can’t wait for you to learn more about this creative superhero!
BEGINNINGS AS A HAND LETTERER
What is your background in art and design? Do you possess a formal education or did you educate yourself?
A bit of everything! I have a BA in English and an MBA in HR Management, and I worked as an HR Manager at a magnificent resort in Charleston, South Carolina, prior to meeting and marrying a military man and having three children within 3.5 years. That changed everything, so I happily spent a few years as a stay-at-home mother before returning to school in 2013 to earn a Graphic Design Certificate with a branding concentration from Sessions College of Professional Design. My interests include typography and calligraphy. I, along with the preponderance of hand-letterers, am self-taught. During my time at Design School, it was never discussed.
Why did you decide to start sharing your talents online?
Due to my spouse’s service in the Air Force, we frequently relocate. In our small Oklahoma town, the majority of the time it was just me and the infants at home. I required an outlet for my creativity, so I started a blog to chronicle my activities (mostly recipes and needlework at the time)! Over the years, my blog’s niche has evolved significantly to become an Art + Lettering blog in an infinity inspired color scheme.
Did you encounter any doubts or setbacks following the launch of your business? How did you find solutions and overcome obstacles?
Too numerous to mention! I had no intention of turning this into a business. I believe this was a case of a “hobby gone wild.” I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I believe the most challenging aspect is recognizing your true passion and ensuring that all of your decisions are based on it.
The legal aspect poses the greatest obstacles for me. This causes my mind to spin. Having a collaborative group of fellow entrepreneurs is extremely advantageous, and for the most important aspects, I hired a lawyer and a certified public accountant. I believe it is best to spend the money and delegate genuinely “essential to get right” matters to professionals!
Can you identify a significant turning point in your business’s journey? What caused this to occur?
Oh, good! I can pinpoint the precise moment when my hobby turned into a full-time business: when I published my first eBook. Having a product made partnerships with retailers like Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, and Krispy Kreme possible. That signaled the beginning of the transformation of my blog into a full-time income and enterprise!
Currently, lettering is extremely prevalent. How do you distinguish yourself from other creative businesses that offer analogous brands and products?
It is so fashionable at present! It has been fantastic for business! I began doing it a few years before it became fashionable, and I will continue doing it for a very long time after it is no longer fashionable. I prioritize maintaining my focus “on my own page” and doing what I prefer. I’ve realized that a substantial portion of my passion is teaching lettering/art and simply inspiring my readers to create (via the monthly Instagram challenge prompt I provide).
I strongly suggest conducting a reader survey to ascertain the desires of your audience. I recently conducted one and was surprised by some of the results, which prompted me to make some minor adjustments to my plan.
When I have an idea for an eBook, I check to see if it has already been published; if it hasn’t, I move forward. Thankfully, all of my eBooks have been ahead of the trend curve. However, I also believe that if you build a community with your readers, they will frequently make purchases to support you and your free content. This has been specifically stated by readers, which I find so gratifying and endearing!
If you were compelled to relocate and could only bring three hand-lettering instruments, which three would you pack?
Ha! What, merely three? You’re driving me wild. I believe I will have to decide between coffee, pencils, and my Tombow collection. Does the third item count as a single unit?
In a similar vein, the greatest feature of an online business is the ability to “pick it up” and move it every two to three years. #workfromanywhere
How can you use online community building to expand your business and engage your target market? What advice would you give to those who wish to establish their own communities?
There are numerous facets of business that I struggle with. My vitality is severely depleted by the incessant “on” nature of social media and the trolls that accompany an online presence.
My preference is to make decisions based on my sentiments, which is not always the best business practice. On the other hand, I believe this promotes community development. And I believe that is a strength of mine (it feels odd to say they, but I’m endeavoring to “own” my strengths and seek help for my deficiencies).
I feel as though I could write an entire book on community development, but I believe it reduces down to readily sharing your knowledge with others and placing an emphasis on community over competition. There is room for everyone who is willing to work diligently to achieve success!
How do you reconcile motherhood and business ownership? Any advice for those trying to accomplish the same?
Coffee during the day and wine in the evening. If only it were that easy! Managing life as a military spouse and mother of three active children requires constant equilibrium. I frequently receive this question, so I wrote an article titled 10 Simple Tips for the Work-at-Home Mom.
Can you name a book, podcast, conference, or person that has had a long-lasting impact on you and your business?
I believe creative business proprietors must peruse the following three texts:
Austin Kleon wrote the book Steal Like an Artist: Ten Things Nobody Told You About Creativity.
Essentialism, authored by Greg McKeown Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must
I also thoroughly appreciated Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
All of these works had a profound effect on my existence. If you read them, you will understand why. I felt as though they were written with me in mind. Excellent stuff. These texts assisted me in combating fatigue and discovering ways to boost my productivity by doing less.
In what areas are you, as a business owner and creative individual, still striving for improvement?
The greatest obstacle I face as a business owner is learning to relinquish control and delegate competent individuals with specific tasks. Instead of working 16-hour days (been there, done that), I’ve employed help so that I can focus on the duties that only I can complete. I have a Creative Team of accomplished women who help me create blog content, a Virtual Assistant who helps me create round-up-based content, and I just recently hired my first blog assistant to assist with email and social media scheduling.
Creative individuals must make time for daily practice and “just for fun” creative time. If allowed, business-related concerns can overwhelm everything else. I’ve only recently started celebrating “Funday Fridays” by myself. I take an online creative course, go sightseeing, read a book, etc. on this day. Anything that entertains, inspires, or enhances my abilities.
What are your intentions for the company’s future? Do you continue to pursue any personal objectives?
The last two years have been filled with incredulous occurrences, and I still cannot believe it’s all true. Who knew that a modest Oklahoma-based blog would become a six-figure business? Certainly not me! My intention is for my website to be the preeminent online resource for art classes! To be inspired and to learn new art styles and techniques, individuals are drawn to this location.
My current goal is to increase my passive income. I wish I could work less, appreciate life more (specifically travel), and create for the sake of creating!
In the future, I expect to be able to transfer this business to my offspring. My daughters admire art and all forms of creativity, in particular. My 6-year-old daughter has already requested that I leave my craft studio to her upon my passing.
I am aware that you are engaged in some fascinating endeavors! Tell us about your recent activities and what we can expect:
I’m scaling back a bit while we’re stationed in Germany so I can truly appreciate the overseas experience, but I just joined Tombow as a Senior Brand Ambassador and am in talks with my publisher about a new hand lettering book. eCourses is the next significant topic I intend to investigate (and one that my readers continue to request). I detest being on camera, but I recognize that it is the best career path for me in the future, so stay alert!
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