Laura Parker’s story of business ownership is similar to that of a lot of creative professionals. After years of working for someone else, designers frequently find they can work for themselves, relying on their specialized artistic skills and technical knowledge. The obstacles are developing a client base large enough to drive consistent work, and the ability to market your business for growth. That’s exactly what Laura did.
Laura went to Spring Arbor University for Graphic Design, knowing that her gift was being able to create great designs. Out of college, she worked for a firm and enjoyed designing professional materials with great clients. It wasn’t long, however, before she realized that she didn’t need someone else delegating projects to her, and that she could be doing the same work on her own. With that in mind, Laura worked on creating a professional portfolio to share with prospective clients, printed her own business cards, and started developing the connections needed to get consistent work. She “flew solo” for a while, working sporadically before realizing that things were pretty slow, and she needed help to improve the flow of work. “I lacked focus,” she said, and she wasn’t bringing in as much work as she could have. While discussing the problem with her friends, one of them referred her to Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), a Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center in Grand Rapids. The center offers training and resources for women and men to start, grow, and maintain their small businesses.
“GROW really helped me focus on what to pursue, and how to do the basics of business and marketing.” Networking opportunities helped Laura to build her list of potential clients, and writing a business plan showed her where to concentrate her efforts. Once she started to grow her business, she said it was “not as terrifying as I thought.”
Armed with the knowledge needed to succeed, Laura has been continuing to push herself out of her comfort zone, building great relationships with other businesses, and getting consistent work. Her work doesn’t stop in the studio, though. Laura teaches high school and middle school students in design classes through Culture Works, a non-profit arts organization committed to offering quality arts experiences in an inclusive, accessible and encouraging environment. A growing trend, Laura and many other business owners are finding ways to use their skills and business knowledge for community development through volunteering.
On the topic of the name of her business, Laura said the “three strands” in her business name is a reference to the three ways her business delivers services: graphic design, product design, and community development. Laura’s husband does product design for a separate company, but the two are hoping to integrate some of his skills into their business model in the future.
For now, Laura continues to engage her network and provide exceptional design work for her client base and for the community.