Updated: Aug 1
I started Giraffes and Unicorns in 2016, I did not have a plan. I knew I wanted to start a business and I knew I wanted to do something creative but I never thought 4 years down the line I'd be calling myself an illustrator and be about to start a YouTube channel! I mean, the thought of that still sounds a bit ridiculous to me but I'm going for it anyway.
I'm not going to go into the history and timeline of the business, if you've followed me on Instagram for a while you'll know a bit of that already and if not - head over there and scroll back a bit! I am going to talk about WHY I run this business and how it's actually changed my life!
That sounds deep I know, but bear with. Before I started, my mental health was not in a good place, I was 23, I had dropped out of university because I wasn't remotely interesting in what I was studying and I was working three part time jobs that I didn't particularly enjoy. Looking back, I now know that I had been struggling with anxiety and depression for a long time and my self esteem was at an all time low, it took getting that diagnosis and finding the right therapist to realise something needed to change and that I actually could change things!
My therapist advised me to start doing something I enjoyed and that thing was art. I signed up to an art class and started painting again, firstly in oils then I had a go at watercolours and I was hooked! Art became its own form of therapy and was a huge help in getting out of that place in my life. Although, things were improving and I found joy in my art, I still didn't really feel I had a purpose, I didn't know what I wanted to do as a job and a creative career didn't even cross my mind. It wasn't until after I'd started the business (which started out as a completely different venture by the way) that the idea of selling my art became a realistic possibility.
I go into more detail about how the business developed here but where it all changed for me was when I discovered the amazing community of small business owners and realised there were more of me out there! By sharing my work online, doing craft fairs and markets and various online courses, I was introduced to hundreds of people who totally got what I was feeling and who were making their own path. Not only that, but people who liked the same kind of things as me, who'd rather stay in and get their craft on than go on a night out, who dressed as crazy and colourful as me and they all just made me feel like it was okay to be myself. Don't get me wrong, my friends and family are amazing and have always known and accepted who I am, probably before I did, but I'd always felt like I didn't really know myself or have confidence in who I was and meeting a load of people who were just like me helped me realise that I didn't need to change or try to fit in, I'm good just being me.
The other huge thing that I've only recently realised is that I can live life at my own pace. One of the many lessons I've learnt from being part of the Indie Roller community, obviously in terms of business it's great to know that there are no specific milestones that you 'should' have hit by year one, your business is your own and the only goals that matter are the ones you set yourself! But the same goes for life, some people go to university at 18, learn a profession, get a job in that field and retire at 60. Some people leave school at 16, work in a supermarket or a bank for 25 years then decide to become an illustrator at 40 and that's amazing too! There are no rules and you are never too old to start something new.
I may have got a little carried away there but circling back to my original point, I do what I do because working on my business is the thing that makes me feel most like me. I do it for myself and because I love it and right now, while I still have one of those part time jobs that pays my bills, I'm able to focus on what I enjoy doing and that's creating!