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Success Lessons from the Brother "Share Your Bigger Picture" Contest Winner

Learn success lessons from Jessica Bear, winner of the Brother International "Share Your Bigger Picture" contest.

In March of 2011, Brother International launched a contest to highlight the importance of 11”x17” all-in-one printing capabilities for small businesses. The “Share Your Bigger Picture” contest sought out individuals across the country to share how they would use 11”x17” printing, copying, scanning and faxing capabilities in their day-to-day small business. A $10,000 business grant was recently awarded to interior designer, Jessica Bear, for the most relevant, creative and original entry. Here is her story:

Q: What got you motivated to become an interior designer and a small business owner?

JB: Elements of the artistic environment—lighting, color, finishes, texture—have always had a potent and intriguing effect on my well-being. It is as if I can physically feel the difference in colors and mentally note the changes in my thinking as I move from room to room. This awareness fueled my curiosity and passion to figure out how to compose interiors that could positively impact individuals and families. I wanted to know the science behind the art. So, for the past 10 years, it has become a personal pursuit to take the mysticism out of the emotional impact interior design carries and establish a more scientific rigor for my field. That drive to know more and do more has led to many long, hard working hours, numerous jobs and ultimately led to my own business in interior design.

As a student, I developed a very specific agenda in my mind: increase healing through design. My approaches to this purpose quickly led me to the realization that I would best achieve my goal working as an independent business owner. The job offers I received as I approached graduation from college surprisingly undercut my skill level. Why? I discovered that this business thought I was too young. However, I soon realized that my best clients and business associates respected my unique gifts and abilities and appreciated my artistic work because of my passion for art and excellence—regardless of my age or gender. So, with the encouragement of my husband, I did something uncommon for designers my age: I opened my own private design consultation business only a few months after graduating. Since then, I’ve been privileged to work with many individuals in residential and in health care design. These opportunities have served to further my interest and capacity to combat depression through interior design. I am very excited for what the future holds and look forward to furthering my ability to help individuals thrive mentally and emotionally in their homes and in hospitals.

Jess bear interior design

Q: What were some of your challenges starting out from both a business and design perspective?

JB: Being a businesswoman and designer is a constant juggle. The business end is largely marketing and finances. I need to be constantly aware of shifting markets and the people’s design needs, as well as the fluctuations in prices for labor and material. The design end is more focused on the holistic elements needed to cultivate a rich and meaningful life. I try to keenly observe peoples’ reactions to world celebrations, turmoil and trade agreements, as these elements tend to inspire and start trends in the ever-expanding world stage of design. Constantly switching between the two worlds can be a bit dizzying, but it is truly vital to have both in order to progress and expand my business.

Q: How did you transition from a residential interior designer to high-end hospitals? Did Brother's 11×17 help you with this transition?

JB: I made the large leap from residential design into high-end health care when I was working on a grant proposal for a private study that marked emotional triggers to color in trauma patients. I had scheduled an appointment with the hospital’s CEO to discuss any interest in participating in the second phase of the study. During the meeting they were so impressed with my proposal— thanks to Brother’s 11×17 color spreads—that they hired me as a private consultant to work on their new Dialysis Center. That job led to design work with the hospital’s meditation room, and those jobs led to other projects.

Looking back, the transition was unexpectedly natural. I’ve learned to follow my instincts and by doing so have found many doors opened to me because of my sincere desire to help others. But a gut feeling or a “touch” for design is not enough. No one is going to trust me with a million dollars if I don’t look like a million dollars. Having the right tools and programs as a designer is absolutely critical because I have a direct face value. My presentations must be precise; my plans and photos must be crisp and sharp; and my budget has to be exact. So, I can only afford professional printing at home where it has the quickest turn around. The second these potential customers lay eyes on me I have to be the job they want to hire. There are no second chances over here.

Q: What is your favorite aspect about the Brother Professional Inkjet’s 11 x 17 print capabilities?

Jess bear portfolio

JB: The size. My favorite aspect of Brother’s 11 x 17 print capabilities is foremost the size of the print. The standard 8.5 x 11 simply won’t do when you are handing the owner and project manager a larger-than-life design. The 11 x 17 is small enough to fit in professional folders and files and large enough to show every important architectural detail and design nuance.

Q: If you could make one wish to grow your business, what would it be?

JB: Innovative marketing. I’ve spent a lifetime developing artistic prowess and a decade refining my design talents. Now I am honing the business skills needed to run a profitable business. One area that is constantly changing is the various marketing venues. National and state statistical reports do not always correspond with the local tastes and demands, so I wish I had a better mechanism to probe people’s interests locally on a frequent basis with an expansive polling base.

Q: What would be your best piece of advice for those wanting to launch their own small business?

JB: A mentor is helpful, but a supportive and innovative spouse or a family is invaluable. You have to accept the fact that you are your business 24/7 because everything you do personally will be associated with your business publicly. You need to have a partner in life that won’t quit on you; someone who compensates for your weaknesses with their strengths and has the ability to magnify your talents and inspire you. Together you can tackle anything.   

Q: How are you planning to use the 10K prize to help your business?

JB: I plan on reinventing and increasing my marketing strategy. I want to invest in a variety of media options: websites, blogs, social media, radio, home shows and design seminars. With the 10K I can support multiple advertisements on the Internet and still pay for the traditional paper media and airtime that much of the world is still accustomed to. Having the 10K award is such an unexpected blessing, as it will serve to increase awareness of my design services both locally and nationally.

As my project queue increases, my opportunities for specific studies will increase also, resulting in better design available to the public. Eventually, I would like to publish my design concepts and theories with the appropriate scientific research needed to validate my work. I hope to make my concepts available to other designers and design students so they can improve upon my innovations and further the work of helping people heal through art and design. This prize money will help accomplish some of the initial steps leading to that ultimate goal.

Here’s Jessica’s winning entry: There it is, in your hands: my ideas, my vision, my business. As a private Interior Designer, my Brother inkjet all-in-one with 11×17 printing represents me–the more vivid, the more clear, the larger the scale the better. Clients spend thousands of dollars on that little piece of paper I give them, because it's more than just print to them–it’s the first tangible piece of their dream home. Recently, I jumped my residential design business a notch to high-end hospitals, but I couldn't have done it without the full, fold-out design plans in the CEO's hand. Scanning, faxing, printing–my Brother printer works hard for me, giving me confidence for my first impressions, and every meeting afterwards, even up to that grand reveal when the client holds those initial drawings and smiles that their trust in me wasn't misplaced. Thank you, Brother, for giving me that professional "edge".

Jessica Bear is an experienced Interior Designer allied with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). She is professionally trained with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Interior Design from a Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) accredited university. Jess offers a range of services to include: Healthcare Design Residential: Exterior, Color Correction, Kitchen and Bath ADA/Universal Design For more information visit:

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