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Lessons From My First Year as an Online Business Owner

I’m the owner and designer behind all things KBD. I love creating work for other passionate and ambitious female entrepreneurs to design experiences they love.

Hey, I'm Kylie!

I remember being an entrepreneur of sorts since early high school. It actually all started when I needed a creative way to save for a two-week trip to Europe.

As any aspiring artist story goes, I found myself taking whatever opportunity came my way. I was drawing people’s loved ones and painting custom shoes to sell on Etsy. I got so busy at one point that I had to increase my prices by 275%. And guess what? I raised the money I needed in no time. I knew at that moment – I would be able to make my dream of running a business as a full-time gig a reality.

Running a business during design school

When it got to applying to design school, I kind of put a halt to the Etsy business. I still had it up and running, but orders weren’t flowing in as quickly as they had been. Part of that was a decision on my part. I knew running a business while managing design school would be difficult.

Once I started to get a handle on the new routines of my college career, I missed the life of being a small entrepreneur. One of my favorite bands at the time had an ever-growing fanbase. I took that opportunity and decided to start selling handpainted products again. I was painting canvas, ball caps, jean jackets, pants, and any other requests that came my way (see a pair shorts I painted here!) It was fun while it lasted, but I knew it wouldn’t be sustainable moving forward. Orders slowed down again, and that’s when things started to get hard.

A bump in the road…

Many of you probably already know where this story is headed. As I neared the end of my college career, word started trickling down around campus that there was a new infectious disease was spreading across the world. Before we knew it, my friends and I all left for spring break and most of us never saw each other again.

Before the “stay at home” order went into place, I had a job offer from a company that was perfect for an aspiring “I want to climb the corporate in-house creative ladder” type of designer. The position was offered to me to start as a part-time designer and transition to a full-time employee upon graduation. Months had passed, and I still hadn’t heard anything. I spent my time strengthening my skills in the little time I had left as a student and working solely on school work, but I was bored.

After a while, I decided to pull out my iPad and experiment more with digital art. I found myself illustrating boho-inspired prints and lettering designs, and you guessed it, listed them on my Etsy shop.

Getting the long-awaited call

After more weeks of waiting and wondering, I finally got that long-awaited call. The job was still mine. I’d start working as a part-time employee as planned, and shift into full-time after some time on the job.

I loved working in the office at first, but after a while, I felt like something was missing. I wanted more freedom with my schedule and creativity. By vamping up my social media accounts and Etsy products, I found a creative outlet. Even though I wasn’t making a ton of money, it felt like the right move for me.

I was pulling late night after late night creating products, shipping orders, and always brainstorming my next move. In all reality, I was burning myself out without realizing it.

After about a year of working with the company learning more technical design skills, and working late nights running a business, it was time for a change. My boyfriend and I decided to do something crazy and move to a new state for a little while but didn’t know where. After some discussion and opportunities on his end, we ended up in the beautiful area of Traverse City, Michigan. I kept running and hustling in my side business, and was able to keep my job while working remotely, but it still didn’t solve the problems I was facing.

Hand holding waterproof plant stickers. Running a business on the side

So, how did I make my dream of running a business a reality?

A few months after working remotely for my first job out of college, I decided it was time for a change. I did a ton of research into self-employment, informed my friends and family of this crazy leap, and to my surprise, was greeted with a lot of support.

In all honesty, I didn’t have much “saved” up for the transition, but I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. I realized my mental health was unstable and I wanted nothing more than to just give it a shot, so that’s what I did.

I knew that in order to make the transition easier on myself, I had to have opportunities lined up. My biggest fears with leaping into full-time self-employment lay within consistency and fear of failing. So, I set myself up with a safety net. I decided to start by informing my employer of my plans, and they were kind enough to hire me as an independent contractor. I also found a separate contracting opportunity with a studio that’s already taught me so much.

Once my safety net was secure enough to ease my anxieties, I set up all the legalities of my business. I revamped my website and made the announcement to my amazing support system of both loved ones, and clients. I’ve since closed down my Etsy shop to focus solely on running my design business and creating brand identities and custom websites that my clients love.

Don’t let your fear hold you back from your dreams

If you take anything from this story, I hope it’s that you don’t let life’s curveballs or your own fear hold you back from your dreams. I put my dream of running a business full-time on the back burner for so long. In reality, all I needed to do was set up systems to get me started and trust that it will all work out.

If you’ve been looking for a sign to take your business full-time, this is it. I’m here to answer any questions you may have about entrepreneurship. It’s always my goal to help women of all backgrounds achieve their biggest business dreams.

Check out some of my resources to start making your dreams a reality.

How I Knew It Was Time to Go Full-Time

Woman sketching on papers sitting at café


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