If you know me, I can seem like I am all business all of the time. I find it rare to have time to relax or just be normal. However, in the past 6 months, things started to change. With the help of my husband and part-timer, Jordan, I have been given some breathing room to become human again and I am forever thankful to those two.
SO WHO AM I OUTSIDE OF WORK?
Favorite Food: Chinese food, stir fry, and fried mac n cheese bites top my list. And I won’t pass the opportunity to try a reuben at a new restaurant. I am still looking for the best one in Pittsburgh, so if you know of it, please email me. If there is one in your town, I may be interested in visiting there just to try it! 😉
Favorite thing(s) to do: I like to be outdoors. Walking, hiking, biking. If I’m inside, reading a great novel or watching comedy. I am also totally into campfires, tailgating and spending time with friends in our backyard, at their place or at the races. Plus I love my dogs and playing with them.
Favorite vacation spot: Turks and Caicos, mostly because we got married there. It’s super special for that reason and we have been there 3 times and plan on returning.
Next vacation on the list: St. Lucia, which I am really excited about! We will be hiking the pitons and exploring the lush hillsides of Gros Islet.
Must see before I die: My list is so long it’s hard to decide. But I feel like the further away it is, the longer it will take for us to make the decision to actually go.… So Thailand, Indonesia and New Zealand are must sees.
Favorite song: ‘Round here’ by the Counting Crows and ‘You Rock My World’ by Michael Jackson
Best Friend? My husband for sure. He is my rock and the reason I am who I am today.
Current project (not work related): Well, this could be work related, because I am learning French. However, I feel it is mostly travel related so that when we get to Tahiti, France, or places in Canada we feel comfortable mingling with the locals.
The quick 10:
Weirdest thing about me: I randomly sing and dance for no reason (And I suck at both)
Favorite Color: Purple (obviously)
Nickname: Bella (given to me by my sister and it stuck) and Kanobles (given to me by my husband)
Can’t live without: A warm bed
Go to relaxation method: Music or Laughing and goofing off with my husband
Best childhood memory: Camping and boating in Erie, PA
What did you want to be when you grew up: Veterinarian
Tattoos, yes or no? Yes, I have 4 and plan on more
Favorite drink: Unsweetened ice tea
Cabin in woods or mansion: Cabin, I am and will always be down-to-earth
So how did Jessica Wilkeson Design Studio, LLC come to be?
This isn’t a short story by any means…. I am the founder and lead designer behind Jessica Wilkeson Design Studio. But, It wasn’t always that way.
THE STRUGGLE WAS REAL
I grew up in a struggling middle class life living in an upper class neighborhood. I went to high school with the rich kids that called me a “dirt ball” for not being one of them. I was a tomboy, but a romantic and incredibly naive. I read Shakespeare and painted a lot. I didn’t show up to classes, I skipped often and I certainly wasn’t voted most likely to succeed.
And for a while, it might have seemed like not succeeding was what my life would be. The first job I stuck with was working as a Merry Maid making roughly $9,000 a year cleaning people’s homes.
Then things started to change. I was getting ready to turn 21, I knew I wasn’t headed in the right direction and I needed to make some fast moves. I got a new job working in a laboratory. I went back to college (which was good for my psyche, but bad financially). I applied to every design job I could find in Pittsburgh. No one called. I never even got an interview.
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON
So I did what any self respecting individual would do. I got a job at a bank that I hated. I worked my way up to roughly $27,000 a year. It wasn’t me or anything I wanted in my life. But in hindsight, I met and fell in love with my husband there. Without making the decision to get that job, I may not be where I am today and I may not have the relationship that I have with him. I will forever be grateful for those years at the bank….
THE PATH TO SUCCESS ISN’T ALWAYS STRAIGHT AND NARROW
Eventually, I decided to go to grad school, which was by far the biggest financial mistake I have ever made. I made it about a year and a half and a teacher decided to fail me out of a class I paid $2500 for because she felt I could push myself harder. It was a decision she made in order to make me a better person.
I didn’t agree. That pretty much threw me over the edge, so I quit.
THE BIG BREAK
I landed a design job at a world wide manufacturing company located about an hour from where I lived. I know I got hired on the lower end of the salary since I didn’t have any previous experience, but I thought this was my “IN”, so I was thrilled for the opportunity to prove myself worthy.
So that is what I did. I worked hard. I produced and created amazing work. I meshed well with the bosses and employees. I consistently did the best I could do.
Come year end, I got an awesome raise, which I should have been ecstatic about. I had never seen that kind of money before in my life. I was 28, and I was doing pretty well in comparison to what my life was before.
PERSISTENCE AND DESIRE
But apparently not well enough for me. I disliked working for someone else. And for some reason I always had this thought that I was going to do something great. I just didn’t know what it was or how to get there.
I tried so many different things. Freelancing, wedding invitations, illustration, etc. I even tried opening a pet sitting service. But being a designer, I put a lot of effort and time into the branding, getting the website designed just right.… And then I got my first handful of clients and it was a nightmare. I made no money, plus I couldn’t work out the schedule with my current full time job while dog sitting.
LOVE AND CELEBRATION = MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF MY LIFE
At the same exact time, I was also getting ready to celebrate my 2nd year wedding anniversary with my husband. I wanted to get something special, so I looked all over the internet and all I could find was robes, shirts and other cotton items that just didn’t seem great enough.
So I decided to create my own design. That story can be found here. But the short of it is, I put it online and before I even gave him his gift, I had one order!
I still remember to this day how I packed it. It was embarrassing. I put it in a large envelope between two rough cut pieces of cardboard with a huge handwritten note thanking him for his business.
After that, I got more orders and from May 31st to June 26th, 2013, I had 60 orders and I had to make the decision to either quit my entrepreneurial dream or go all in and hope for the best.
Against the will of my stomach and everyone except for my husband (NO ONE supported my decision outside of my husband), I put my 2 weeks in and the rest is history.
A LOT OF HARD WORK
I spent a year and a half working by myself, incredibly stressed out and unable to deal with the growth. I worked day in, day out, just making it happen. I mostly worked out of my dining room and computer room at the time.
Then I realized I needed to expand, so I took over our entire basement, hired a part-timer and got professional equipment.
Before I knew it, my husband quit his day job (a career of over 17 years at the bank) to take over being the business manager, customer service, packaging, shipping and assistant design work.
Now we are a team of 3, with a great part time — soon to be full time employee, (Jordan) still working out of our home basement studio with serious need for expansion into a larger space and bigger equipment.
But for now, as everything comes in time, I pride myself in the ability to create completely made to order, customized products for people all over the world. The personal touch we create is not something you can get anywhere. Our one-on-one contact with our clients is what sets us apart. We truly spend a great deal of time and energy working with everyone individually that I feel we really are personal designers.
LIFE IS A JOURNEY AND I LOVE IT
The best part of all of this for me is that I get to see other people happy. I get to hear their love stories. I get to know their reactions. I get to experience the love people share all over the world and it’s truly amazing. I could not have a better career and I hope that this lasts my lifetime.
“They say that nothing lasts forever, but something special can last a lifetime”