From full-time to freelance with a dash of side-hustle.
The journey to launch Bonnefetti through the eyes of a Designer.
Nancy – Co-founder & Creative
Oh hello … It’s me, Nancy ( the Designer ) here. The other half of Bonnefetti!
So, I’m supposed to write a blog article right now. Needless to say, I’m more of a visual person, and wondering if I should just resort to expressing my thoughts through images instead? Nope. I’m going to give this writing thing a try.
The title of this article, ultimately defines my life for the past few years and more intensely the past 8 months. I know, this article probably sounds like some coming of age, melodramatic teen drama. (You have been warned.)
I thought sharing this back story would resonate with many who work a full time job and are looking for ways to fulfill another passion through starting their own business. It can be a whirlwind of thoughts, emotions and endless self inflicted doubt.
I’ve met and heard many who have the desire to do the same, but actually pushing it through is another story. Not because of ability, but because of risk and impact on one’s pre-existing life style. This blog post is about figuring things out. I’ve realized that it can be a lonely and confusing road trying to sort out thoughts in your own head. And to be truthfully honest, I don’t have any answers, just a few experiences and insights to share, maybe inspire or even help gauge if this is the right thing for you to do.
Without further adieu, below are a few moments I’ve highlighted along the way, where I was just trying to figure things out.
What Makes You Satisfied?
For the past decade or so, I’ve been a Designer / Art Director within the Design and Advertising industry. I’ve learned a lot and have been privileged enough to work on many great projects. I’ve also had the privilege of working with some brilliant minds, talented individuals and grateful for those who have taken me under their wing. Sounds pretty great right? Of course! This is what I set out to do. I had a clear career path that I had been steadily building for so many years. After my day job, I would even take on side / freelance projects to try and expedite and add to my craft. Practice, practice, practice. “Why not let your work day just end?” Some would say. I responded with a shoulder shrug and mumbled “…I don’t know” as I walked away. I never had a straight answer for anyone, not even myself. Was I chasing perfection? Was I bored and looking for something new? Was I insecure with my own ability and felt that I needed to be better? Was I trying to fill a creative void? Again, I don’t know.
But what I did know, is that I’m extremely lucky. Why? Because my job is my hobby. Sometimes, designing just didn’t feel like work. It felt like fun. When you create something you’re proud of, you get the same dopamine rush some would experience after an intense workout. You start to crave and continuously chase this feeling. I loved my job. It defined me. It was my everything. But as the years flew by, I realized I was getting less and less happy. It wasn’t the place, or the people or the work… something was missing. And I found that I didn’t feel like I was becoming the best person I could be. Internally, I was frustrated for a long time, and didn’t know why.
What Did I Figure Out?
I realized, that the entire time I would take on freelance projects, I was able to practice how to operate a teeny tiny little business. I was fascinated with carrying out a project from the very beginning to the very end (beyond, just the design). I was exposed to wearing many hats. Acknowledging, I have not perfected any of the additional roles, nor do I love doing all of them… but it was the experience of having to be the Account Person, the Strategist, the Producer, the Designer, the Production Designer, relaying with vendors and personal face time with Clients. All of this was new and interesting. I felt like I was growing. I liked the hustle. I liked the control. I liked learning something new. I had never formalized the thought of being my own boss one day. But subconsciously, I knew I was setting myself up … for maybe, one day.. if I had enough courage to start my own business, I would already have had the experience of wearing many hats. This made me tick. It woke me up.
The older I got, the more pressure I placed on myself. What have I done in this life, that I’m truly proud of? And this is a question, some may ask themselves. This question is for no one else to answer but themselves. Its not about wanting more and never being satisfied. It’s about forcing yourself to figure out, what makes you satisfied. When I realized, that I wanted to at least try to start my own business, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. Check. I had one thing figured out.
When the universe sends you magic. Run with it.
Cool, so now, I know, I have a clear thought. Great. What did I do about it? Nothing.
I may have mentioned it to a few people in passing, but probably appeared to be the person who did nothing about it. I carried on, suppressed the dream and quickly became engulfed in the day to day.
Then, one day, Abby called out of the blue. I knew her as an Account Director I had worked with a touch in the past, but were no longer at the same agency at this point in time. She mentioned she was getting married, and wanted me to design her wedding invitations. I responded with an immediate “Yes!” At the time, I thought, cool, I’ll get a nice printed piece for my portfolio, to even out all the digital work I had been working on. We jumped right in. And to my surprise, I loved working with her. Why? She cared about the work. (Not just because it was her wedding).
You can tell, when people are truly passionate about something. She was quick and thorough when responding to any needs or requests, bright, sharp, trusting, reliable and so appreciative. Communication between the both of us was always clear. We had the same working sensibilities. Needless to say, we created a beautifully opulent wedding theme & collection for her wedding day.
After all was said and done, I sent her an email, gushing about how much fun I had designing this wedding program, and casually mentioned, “we should start a business one day”. She showed interest and excitement. But we did nothing about it. And we carried on with our own lives.
A few years later, we ended up working together in the same agency again. Abby went to Korea for a family vacation and brought back some pretty rad Korean stationery, pencils and socks for me. And we quickly solidified our love for paper goods.
At the same time, we were working on a fairly large digital project together, but still had the urge to create more. So, when there was time, we hung out at the local Milestones during happy hour, to drink wine and cider and pour over card designs. From there, Bonnefetti was half born. We were just being hypothetical about starting a business. We had our day to day priorities and that was first. Bonnefetti felt like a fun side project at the time. Although we stretched our process out over a year, we were consistent. Abby brought the persistence. The push.
What Did I Figure Out?
Finding the right business partner, is critical. Why? Because, it’s going to be a long road. Because, not one person can master everything. Although, I like to dabble and get my feet wet with various roles, I’m very aware of what my strengths and weaknesses are. Trust me, I am not a “numbers” girl, or a “words” girl (#useless! just kidding ;). And even though, I may innately be drawn to the business and strategy side of things, this is not my forte. To move this venture forward, we realized we needed strength in creative and strength in business. Abby and I bring very different services to the table. Although, we come from polar ends of the spectrum, we know how to speak the same language to bridge the gap between commerce and creativity. We both have the ability to work in parallel – When needed, Abby puts on a baby creative hat. When needed, I put on a baby business hat. We are just two people. Two people who are seriously serious about making this work. Willing and ready to jump to any height. Currently, the name of the game is flexibility, agility and a whole lot of grit. #hustle
The money will come, but for me, it’s about how you get there. Personally, I would rather be slower to start, but enjoy the process than to hate every minute of working with someone and make a ton of profit. For me, if the latter was the case – then I might as well have just thrown in the towel, because I’ve already lost. Realistically, it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows, and we both know that. But if majority of the working relationship can be a semi smooth operation, where Partners have the same working sensibilities. Each could bring something new to the table, challenge and push each other to be their best and have the ability to fill in all the missing puzzle pieces. You’re already winning. If you have the right business Partner, all the problems and adjustments can be figured out. I’ve realized the journey to get “there” is just as important as making a profit.
To Stay or Not to Stay?
Moving forward. Great. I finally have clarity on two aspects. I know that one day, I want to own my own business. I now, confidently know I have the right business partner. Double Check. But there’s still a problem. I felt like I was becoming more and more rotten as the days grew. I was conflicted. I loved my job because of the type of work I was given, but I also really loved working on Bonnefetti. I wasn’t doing so hot. Spread a bit thin. I wanted to keep pushing my career, but also, realized, to make any traction and push things forward with Bonnefetti, I needed to have more control with my time. I was completely torn. I spent months, laying out pros and cons and evaluated the longevity of each path, the potential promise of a fulfilling future and brainstormed various ways I could still keep my day job while pursuing a passion. In the end, although I did not want to admit it, I already knew the answer. Following this, came constant self doubt, guilt, fear, heart break and questioning.
Now what? What about the dreams of climbing the (creative) corporate ladder. What about that? What about all the hard work and late nights I’ve already put in? My parents moved to Canada to give me a better life, and I’m just going to throw it all away? What about stability and starting a family? What if things don’t work out? What if I’m too old to take a risk? What if I fail? What if I fail? What if I fail?
Omigoodness. My head was spinning.
For some people, they are risk takers. They just jump straight into the deep end. I admire that. I am not that person. I’m way too cautious. But at that moment, internally, I knew I was going to make a bold move (“bold” for me at least).
I left my full time job in November 2016. For me, it felt traumatic. I felt really sad. I couldn’t sleep. I would wake up throughout the night in a panic. So much doubt. It took some time for me to get up on my feet and figure things out. I was so scared I just kept working. I thought, even if I don’t know exactly what to do right now, if I keep working, something will happen. I don’t regret my decision, but admittedly I had a hard time letting go.
What Did I Figure Out?
I realized, I could “kind of” have my cake and eat it too. I am now a full time freelance Designer and can work on Bonnefetti much more. I am able to control my time and how I want to spend it.
I also realized it’s ok to be scared. And with the right judgement, considerations, and planning, taking a risk and relentlessly pursing your passion really does satisfy the soul. I’m happy, I figured out what makes me satisfied, who the right Business Partner is and proud I took a leap of faith.
The most rewarding part, whether rain or shine, fail or succeed, profit or no profit… I’m finally, truly trying. I realized, I just wanted to try. Now I have the chance, and I’m not sure, if ever in my lifetime, I’ve felt this fulfilled.
On May 25th, 2017, we finally launched Bonnefetti.