Josey is a talented graphic designer and she also creates earrings and wall decor! She decided to start her business so she could do what she loves and the bonus would be that she can take it anywhere the military takes her. Josey’s husband is in the Army and works as a JAG Officer. They are currently located at Fort Campbell, in Kentucky but they live in Clarksville, Tennessee.
When did you start your business & what made you decide this career path? I started my business, Graceful Leo Designs, in August of 2020. Before we moved, I had worked as a production manager at Central Logos, a custom print shop located in Warrensburg, MO. I had worked there for over 5 years and loved what I did. I thought I would easily be able to find something related to that career field once we got to Fort Campbell – oh, was I SO wrong! I searched and applied to so many positions with hardly any of them getting back to me. It was beyond discouraging. Here I was with this Graphic Technologies degree (print and design) that I loved but wasn’t using. I was really second guessing if I went to school for the right thing and also considered going back to school. After trying really hard and talking to a lot of people about what I should do, I got the idea to go my own route. I started with freelance design work and the craft side of it all just fell into place. I got my hands on some wooden pieces for the earrings by chance and fell in love with the creative side of making earrings and being able to work with my hands. I then started posting on social media to gauge interest, and to my surprise, there was! It has continued to grow and I now offer stud earrings, tassel keychains, and wall decor, all handmade by myself, while still doing design work of all types. I feel so incredibly fortunate for the support that my little business has been shown and the growth that it is having.
Where have you lived and what has been your favorite base so far? I am fairly new to the military lifestyle and being a military spouse. Fort Campbell is our first duty station and we have been here for a little under a year (we got here in May of 2020). We have no complaints! We really like the area and the people here are great. I was born and raised outside of Kansas City, MO and my husband was born and raised in a little town in Kansas, so this is the first time that either one of us have really lived far from home!
What is the biggest challenge of being a military spouse and pursuing your career? The biggest struggle, like so many others are too familiar with, is finding and having a career for yourself. Having to find a new job at every new location can get so stressful and discouraging. My experience with moving and trying to find a job was the companies I applied to, they wanted someone that could grow with the company. While I could grow for the 3ish years that we would be here, they wanted something a little more long term. I got so many, “we’ll keep your resume on file” or sometimes I didn’t even get a call back. It was rough! I whole-heartedly believe that is why so many military spouses end up starting their own business or seek remote locations. It can get tiresome!
What are your other hobbies? I love to sing and bake. I honestly enjoy pretty much anything when it allows me to be creative
What are some benefits of being a military spouse as a business owner? The biggest benefit is that I can take this wherever we go – I don’t have to look for a new job every time we move. That takes away just a little bit of the stress of a move! I have also gained some really amazing friendships and have found some amazing mentors throughout the military spouse community who are also entrepreneurs.
If you could, what advice would you give yourself when you first started your business? If I were to go back in time and give myself advice for when I first started, I would say two things. The first would be to find my niche and stick to it! I think this can pertain to any field and not just design. When it comes to design work, there are so many different styles, ways to design, softwares to use, areas of design work and so much more. Though it is good to have experience in lots of different areas, I have found that I do my best work when it is in the area that I truly enjoy doing – for me, that is logo work. Though that might mean I won’t get clients from all over the board, I do know that the work I continue to put out allows for me to continue to build a strong portfolio and be recognized for what I personally think I am really good at.
The second thing I would tell myself is to have confidence. With there being so many designers with all different skill levels, there can be times when I get discouraged. I will see another designer’s work of art and put myself down because I know that I am not to that level. However, I have to keep reminding myself that the more I do this, the more I learn and the more skills I will gain. Again, just like any career field, there is ALWAYS room for growth. For me, that means watching videos, or playing with/trying out new tools in my design software, and so on. For the roughly 5+ years that I have been designing (including college), I still learn new things all the time. You have to push through the challenging/frustrating times and have confidence that you will get to where you want to be. It’s all about having patience and believing in yourself!
Any future plans or dreams for your business? Just to keep growing! I would love for this to turn into a bigger business, with potentially having an in person location. I have surpassed sales for the couple months we have been in 2021 compared to the 4 months that I was in business in 2020. It has always been a dream (kind of a silly one) but I would love to have a strip mall of businesses – one with a bakery, print shop, boutique, and a law firm on the very end for my husband.