It’s been almost 6 months since I took a crazy leap, quitting my tech job as a product designer and becoming a surface pattern designer and artist. We have all read stories about people taking a leap and how they came out the other side. This is a Q&A I did with a friend who wanted to know what it like to take the leap - but still struggling to fly (ok maybe still just falling). This is a little insight into what I have been up to the last 6 months starting Courtney Beyer Design.
Tell me about yourself in 5 sentences or less!
My name is Courtney Beyer and I am 30 years old, I grew up in the bay area and currently live in Menlo Park with my husband. I am in the middle of switching careers from a product designer to surface pattern designer and artist. I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Anthropology and was captain of the varsity swim team. And I love ending the week (ok maybe a few days a week) with a glass of wine.
Tell me about your company.
After a birthday trip to Spain and Morocco, I was inspired to start creating with my hands again and a few months later in January of 2017 Courtney Beyer Design was born. I specialize in block prints and surface pattern designs. I sell hand printed cards, journals and tea towels on my etsy shop, I am working on a pattern line (you can see my progress on IG @csbeyer), and I teach corporate and private block printing classes. Interested in a class? Let me know - we’ll chat.
What does it feel like to be in the midst of risk taking and dream chasing?
Crazy, scary, and very uncomfortable. There is a constant mental battle between doubts and aspirations. I created a toolkit (see below) to help combat all of my inner doubts and fears that are constantly trying to drag me down and hold me back. I know that the only way I am going to feel more comfortable being uncomfortable is to continue to take risks and put myself out there.
On the other side, I have felt so excited and alive these past few months and I am realizing that anything is possible. By nature, I move fast and love getting stuff done. For the first time I can work as fast as I want without waiting for approval or convincing by boss that something is a good idea. I can just do it and if it does not work I am on to the next thing. I feel like I am creating something that is truly authentic and I deeply care about. If someone told me I had 6 months to live I would continue doing what I am doing today, (maybe add in a trip to Greece) but I think that proves to me that I am on the right track and I am doing something worthwhile. I know I have a long road ahead but I am loving the journey.
How are you financially making it?
I am not right now - like any start up I have my own personal runway with quarterly goals - I am working like mad to start generating revenue before the investment is gone. I have diverse revenue streams, as well as a bridge job at Paper Source to help fund my projects. I know it is not going to be easy but what the past few months have shown me is that there are so many opportunities out there but you have to be willing to reach out for them (which is always the hardest part).
What are your best strategies for faking it 'til you make it?
Do things before you are ready. Body Zone Swim is using one of my patterns for their newly launched swimwear line. When I had reached out to the company a few months ago, I did not even know how to make a digital pattern. I had been doing a lot of drawings that looked like patterns but none of them were digital repeats. They liked my drawings and and said yes - which then forced me to figure out how to make a digital pattern. The old Courtney would have NEVER done this. I would have felt like I needed to go to a class, and create many patterns and get lots of feedback from experts before I was “worthy” of submitting a pattern to a company.
Keeping a lot of balls in the air. An important mental strategy for me is to have a lot of things going on at once so I am never worried about or waiting on one item. When sales on my etsy shop are slow - that’s ok because I am working on my pattern line or scheduling a block printing workshop. I want things to happen a lot faster then they do so if I can be working on another project then I can be patient. I am very much in the stage of creating as much work as possible as I craft my style and point of view.
What is the most important skill you've learned these past 6 months as a founder?
Being humble and vulnerable (oops that’s 2). Telling my family and friends that I was not going to be working at tech company anymore and making $X but going to do art and make $0 was really hard. I thought (I still do - as I tell more people) that I was/am being judged for making a “irresponsible” decision. I have been “doing the right thing” my whole life and stepping out of that mold seemed SO wrong. Living in Silicon Valley there is a lot of pressure to be a certain kind of success and make a lot of money a certain kind of way. I am going against those “shoulds” and doing something that at face value financially does not make sense. As I have told more people - now you- the opposite has happened and people have been so supportive. Being vulnerable and sharing my vision with friends and family has allowed me to ask for help; critical to getting my business up and going.
What is your AM ritual?
My AM ritual is very much in flux -except making the bed, which I do everyday. I am trying to meditate everyday -(but just 6 minutes that is about all I can handle). I do have a very steady evening ritual. I brush my teeth etc. Once in bed I journal - my journal also has a blank schedule for each day. I review what I had wanted to get done for that day, and if I accomplished my top 3 goals. Then I do a little journaling and write down my schedule for the next day. Reflecting at the end of the day and going to bed with a game plan for the next day calms my mind and puts the planner in me at peace(ish). I guess my new ‘stand up’ is a ‘lay down’?
What was the toolkit you mentioned?
I created a “toolkit” for myself for when I am freaking out - which happens a lot. The google doc literally is called “when I am freaking out”. In the doc I have a list of links that I read/or watch that helps me reset, refocus and gives me a little creative confidence boost to get me going again. Here is the current list:
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my Q&A about my journey so far. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or are thinking about starting your venture. Like I mentioned I am always excited to collaborate with companies and do team building workshops!