Emerald in the rough: The story of creating a design firm that cares

You will spend about one fifth of your life at your career. Better to find one that you love, right?

I want to share my personal journey of quitting my job and starting my own design firm. One of the most impactful decisions in my life.

The journey began as a dream

Agency life

Before I launched Emerald to the world, I first worked in a marketing and design agency. And boy, was I excited for this.

It had always been my dream to work side-by-side with a bunch of designers, likeminded artists like me.

It was your typical agency life with kombucha on-tap and a "cool" atmosphere.

But my boss was just okay, the environment was bureaucratic, and I didn't make much money. It wasn’t really the dream I’d imagined.

Transition to a startup

I later moved on to work at a startup, where I made more money and the work was more exciting.

It was a faster pace and the work I did made more of an impact on the consumers I so badly wanted to work with.

Then I got laid off.

But silver lining, I don’t know if I would’ve ever started my own business had I not been laid off and left with a few months severance to learn what I wanted to do next in my life.

Freelancing & creation of Emerald

After losing my job, I interviewed for a bunch of design positions from startups to big corporations.

None of them really excited me.

I continued working with my former boss on some mini-projects (laid off at the same time as I was 😆). I freelanced for a year.

But all these changes couldn’t have come at a better time. When the pandemic hit, I had even more to think about my future and what I wanted to do for a career.

What was going to give me the control, impact and monetary outcome I wanted?


Emerald was born in May 2020

I wasn’t starting fresh.

My dad started multiple businesses when I was growing up. So I got to see the positives and negatives of entrepreneurship. The benefits and challenges. The celebratory ups and severe downs.

Watching him navigate the business world definitely influenced my decision to start my own company.

These are 3 ways entrepreneurship benefited my soul:

I’m invested in our clients’ success

I run my own design firm. Now I’m truly invested in our work because it directly impacts …

  • my wallet
  • my clients
  • my reputation

I couldn’t say the same when I worked at the design agency or for the startup.

I genuinely care about our clients’ success - and it shows in the quality of the work I deliver.

Agency & autonomy

Ah yes, the sweet smell of bureaucracy. Said no one ever.

I love having control over my work and decision-making.

No hoops to jump through. No random red tape. No bureaucracy.

I can focus on what matters most: Creating beautiful brand, website and marketing materials for our clients.

Direct relationship between work & income

Owning my own business means all the work I put into designing great brands directly translates to the money I make.

The more great work I do, the more I earn in income.

Pretty cool, right?

It's incredibly rewarding and motivating to see the fruits of my labor. Far more than I expected.

What entrepreneurship has taught me

Avoiding the 9-5 routine

This was a tough learned lesson.

Without clear direction, it can be so easy to fall back into a 9-5 routine. This forced me to get very clear and think deeply on how I wanted my life to look (not just my working hours).

Staying focused on my goals of balance was and still is really important.

Balancing work & personal life

A few months into starting Emerald, I started taking off Fridays and scheduling more vacation days.

This is harder than you’d think it is. It’s not just a simple calendar block and you’re good.

The world around me is accustomed to a 5-day work week. So when I was trying to stop working on Fridays, it felt like my environment was pulling me back to my computer.

This is still a work in progress. I’m still a work in progress. Tools like Motion and Calendly help me break free from the desk.

So slowly but surely, I'm learning how to balance personal and professional.

Tension between growing the business & myself

Another big challenge I didn’t expect is the tension between scaling my business and scaling myself.

Harmonious growth sure would be nice. But for some reason, I’ve never felt they grow together.

Emerald is more than me. So I had to acknowledge that my identity is separate from the company.

Overcoming isolation

Isolation has been an issue. I wasn't engaging with other designers or the design world.

And my design skills and work stagnated because of it.

I've learned to overcome this by staying connected to other designers, attending community events (s/o CoHatch and Maven Space) and constantly learning from the industry at-large.

Working with people I respect

At the beginning, I accepted any- and everyone.

It was a total learning experience to work with clients who weren’t aligned with my values and mission.

Now, I understand the importance of being selective about who and how I work with clients (more so the individual than the company).

What I’ve learned: It matters more the stakeholder you serve on a regular basis than the industry or niche they work in.

And now we’re here

Our clients are entrepreneurs and CEOs. I understand how important their businesses are to them because of how important mine is to me.

Starting Emerald has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. My journey has taught me valuable lessons about entrepreneurship, self-care and the importance of working with people you respect.

In a world full of distractions and competing priorities, staying true to my vision for Emerald is number one.

I hope this is helpful for you in understanding who I am, who Emerald is and how we see the world.

Cheers 🥂