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July 14, 2023

The Journey to 4 Years in Business

4 years ago today, I went out on a whim and started this business. I was 23 and so optimistic about owning a business. I was cheesin’ all the way down to the Dallas County Clerk’s Office. Even as a child, I dreamed of one day having the freedom to travel and just be free. Beyond the daydreaming, I never actually thought much more of it. Growing up, I was taught to keep a ‘normal’ job for the security it brings. So quitting my salaried, 80K/yr job to continue growing this business was something that scared me. I let a few, ‘But the money is good, why would you quit?’ and ‘It’s not ideal’ comments get to me for a good period of time. I was afraid of something that hadn’t even happened.

Being the first person in my immediate family to own a business, I knew zero, zilch, nada about being a business owner. Having to file taxes, sell my services consistently or even make an effort to create sustainable systems was not even a thought! I didn’t even have social media to share my work for more brand awareness. I just wanted to design websites and that’s it!

My first year in business I created an Instagram page, that is now @solcostudio, but originally my design studio was Creatively Inspired. I remember being so fixated on my Instagram feed that I barely even posted because it had to be just right. The level of perfectionism I had, literally halted my progress. Not even 2 months into the business, I just kind of stopped doing it. I didn’t take it serious at all, and at the time I had a 9-5 so I wasn’t too pressed if it didn’t work out.

I worked as a Software Developer for 2 years in corporate and it didn’t take me long to realize that this was not at all what I enjoyed doing. The corporate life nor the coding. Coding is hard, but I’m thankful for the skill. I would cry every day because of work though, and it didn’t help that at the 2 jobs I had, I was always the only Black woman in that space. The microaggressions, sheer disregard for me as a person on the team and being embarrassed for my lack of knowledge certain tasks created a spout of imposter syndrome that I personally would never want anyone to experience. So I knew I had to find a better job or at least a company with a bit more diversity. The money wasn’t worth the mental and physical headache.

For some reason, 2020 came around and I got so fed up. I think we can all agree that if you were going to throw in the towel, 2020 was the year to do it. It was great because I was finally working remotely full-time, and as a natural homebody, this was everything to me. But it didn’t quite stop the mental exhaustion of working in a place where I felt inadequate. Waiting to be fired, if you will. I remember the day I decided, ‘Fuck this, I’m finna quit!’ It took me another 7-ish months to actually do that, but I was nowhere near ready to go full-time in my business. I had barely designed 3 websites in 2020.

I however had challenged myself to save a year’s worth of living expenses and to have at least 2 clients in queue so that I could expect some work and income after the jump. When I finally saved the money I needed, I drafted that email so fast. And the response I got was underwhelming, but also in the same breath, my previous boss said he was waiting for this day. Like WTF!? What you mean!? Everyone suddenly seemed to want to say goodbye and acknowledge me, and it’s like yeah this feeling of being ignored wasn’t just in my head. I knew then that whether I was supposed to own a business or not, I refused to keep putting myself in situations or spaces that I wasn’t valued, heard or appreciated.

My first full year in business was in 2021 and I was ready to do whatever it took to create that life I wanted as a little girl. I wasn’t aiming for a $100K year or $10K months, I just wanted to pay off my debt, buy a house with some land and continue traveling. Luckily that year I was able to contract a social media manager, work with a business coach and take a road trip to The Grand Canyon & San Francisco/Napa Valley.

Towards the end of that same year, I also experienced a slow season in my business and unknowingly it would last for longer than I imagined. What people don’t share outwardly is that business isn’t always deposit after deposit and sometimes you’re doing the work with no monetary reward. This is where having the courage to keep going got tough. I couldn’t afford to keep paying for help and I had to make sure my bills were paid. It was back to wearing ALL the hats, once again.

I was in a city, as a single woman, with no family. I knew no one and I had yet to make friends who were just as loyal as me. Having to balance how I would survive that storm was something I didn’t think I had the courage to do. Over the next year, I went through it!!!! I’m talking depression, not going outside for days at a time and gaining back all of the weight I had lost. I was glued to my laptop for at least, 12+ hours a day, because in my mind I had to work to make money. I wasn’t exactly doing the right work though. I was filling my days with mindless tasks that would help me avoid the fact that my business needed help and I was drowning.

The thought of having to get a job was something I was embarrassed of, because wouldn’t that make me a failure? I didn’t want to do that, so I had to figure it out… Eventually I had to get over myself and find something that would help pay the bills. I picked up gig work outside of the house, that I’ve now been doing for almost 2 years now. Do I love it? Absolutely not. Am I ready to retire from that gig work? Hell yeah!

In my third year of business (2022) I had the ultimate spiral. I had maybe 2 or 3 clients last year and so I was solely depending on gig work. Last year was the ultimate breaking point in my life and business. I had never gone through a depression so bad in my life, but God. It was so hard to get out of bed, to even be creative or even make a social media post. Despite me not posting highlight reels (I like to keep it real and honest), it still felt like my business wasn’t making enough traction to even be sharing valuable content.

2022 was a year of shedding the layers to uncover a more resilient fighter in me. I used to be the type to stress at the smallest inconvenience, but as of the last 9 months I’ve been heavy on the ‘I ain’t finna let this stress me.’ It’s easy most days and then some days I’m in sheer panic mode. But the goal is to focus on the growth.

And as I sit here writing this post, at 1AM in the morning, I can’t help but be happy that I can share this honest journey of trials and tribulations, but also blessings. Blessings for friends and family who have pushed me to keep going, therapy, and for whatever is in my body telling me to keep building. I get up everyday in hopes that today will be the day that my business positively changes forever and it’s coming.

2023 has been about climbing up out of the darkness, being more intentional and releasing the negative feelings around my business growth. I’m able to use my experience as motivation not deterrence. I’ve had a few clients this year so far and I’m thankful for the opportunity to create for them, always. In this season, the real work is in the community I build and surround myself with, my creative projects such as my website templates and learning to detach my worthiness from my work.

Sol Co. Studio is meant to be in the long game, creating impactful client-designer experiences and keeping the mentality of people over profit. I continue to approach business from a holistic standpoint and it’s important that the clients I have and the clients I will work with in the future feel comfortable in this safe space to grow, transform and inspire.

My journey has been far from ‘perfect’ or filled with million-dollar clients. It has been rewarding for the simple fact that despite all of the obstacles and moments of fighting the urge to quit… I’m still here. Let this be a message that what your business looked like yesterday isn’t what it has to look like today. Either way, you’re doing amazing and I love you. Doing business isn’t easy, and I applaud you for doing the best you can, because that’s all you can do.

And if you’re new here, hi! I’m Sunnie, a heart-led designer helping Black women build sustainable brands that speak to the mission of who they are and how they serve.

That’s all for now,

Be kind to yourself.

Hi, I'm Sunnie!

Web & brand designer, dog mama and a literal music junkie. The Sol Co. Blog is filled with life, business and design tips that are meant to help you, nurture you and remind you that you are in fact not alone on your journey. In fact, you’re doing amazing! As you continue to go on your journey, I hope that you’ll find this blog inspirational, relatable and enjoyable. 

If you’re interested in connecting to learn more about our web & brand design services, I’d love to chat with you!