Spotlight on Spouses – Jess Sands
Design • Jessica and The InDependent Spouse™.
What is your career background?
I’ve always loved anything creative. As a little girl I was either going to be an artist, a princess, or an England hockey player, so if you couldn’t find me on a hockey pitch I’d probably be out in the garden, painting princesses. Luckily there is an industry that loves this and in 2006, after earning my degree in Graphic Design, I became a designer for Disney, Nickelodeon and PIXAR, creating children’s books for an international market.
I spent six glorious years designing in Bath for publishers, greetings card studios and a highly recognised product and stationery company where I learnt to hone my craft and become an expert in all things branded. I knew that branding was where my true skill-set lay. I loved developing the early stages of a new company or product, from the initial nitty-gritty of defining the philosophy and appeal, through to application of the style across a range of marketing materials. I won licensing awards, design awards, and even had a No.1 Times Best Selling book – it was High School Musical, you might have heard of it?
Where did the idea for your business come from?
It was in Bath that I met my (future) husband, who was then based at RAF Lyneham as a C-130 Hercules pilot. When the base closed in 2012 and after a long miserable winter with him commuting to RAF Brize Norton, we made the decision to move closer to his base. It made sense for me to create a business that I could take with me, no matter where we were posted and I knew that after six years of designing for Disney, Transport for London, Marks & Spencer, and Caroline Gardner I had the skills necessary to go it alone – Design • Jessica was born.
Since then I have spent 6 years helping many businesses and charities with their branding and marketing, applying my very special creative touch to create on-brand designs – the time has flown!
I knew that my husband would be away a lot with his job and it made sense for me to start my business to keep me feeling that I had an important role within our family. It’s so crucial that I continue working – it’s my way of keeping my identity within this crazy military world where I spend a lot of my time as my husband’s ‘plus-one’. I’ve noticed over the years that there is a whole community of military spouses who are running their businesses despite the pressures of this service life and just getting on with it. This summer I launched The InDependent Spouse™ along with a podcast series to showcase the amazing things that military spouses are achieving in business. The InDependent Spouse™ celebrates these entrepreneurs and its aim is to inspire others who are thinking of starting their own businesses to go for it.
How did you move from the idea to the actual business?
To start with I solely worked for my old employer, designing Disney books, but I knew that I needed to find more clients in order to grow the business. I ploughed all of my profit into networking and into an online business course that gave me weekly goals to achieve. Although I was great at designing, it was the other side of running a business that I knew nothing about. I spent about 6 months of my first year researching and defining my business plan, and still spend a lot of my week on self-development and learning new-skills that will enhance my business. This was especially useful when launching the podcast series – there was so much to learn.
How do you spread the word about what you do?
Aside from networking, I spend a lot of time on social media. I know that my client and follower base need to be able to work with me no matter where in the world I find myself, or they happen to be, so I get a lot of interest from my online social media. I have a growing mailing list and often send out free business growth printables and coupons. I also love video! It’s such a good way for people to get to know me before they chose to work with me or subscribe to The InDependent Spouse™. Facebook loves video too, so I would definitely recommend it to anyone running their own business or trying to share their content.
As a Military spouse, what has been your biggest obstacle when trying to balance work/ your spouses military commitments?
Running your own business from your married quarter can be quite lonely at times, especially when you’re married to a very operational service man – you can go for days without talking to anyone. So that’s something that I really struggle with. Luckily, with help from the owners at FEN CIC I was able to launch an online community for other spouses in business. Although we aren’t actually near each other, there’s always someone around that can help with business questions and I can always have someone to talk to when I’m just feeling a little bit lonely. It’s been a brilliant thing to do.
What has been your proudest moment?
There have been quite a few – I loved designing for the recent Military Wives Choirs album and am so proud of the work I have created for the RAF Benevolent Fund, but I think my proudest moment was the release of The InDependent Spouse™ podcast series and hitting 500 listeners.
It was probably the most difficult project I have ever undertaken, but I am so happy with the result and the feedback. I really feel that what spouses are doing in business while living this ‘magnolia wall life’ needs to be celebrated. I also got to talk to some brilliant military spouse business owners who have really inspired me to grow both Design Jessica and The InDependent Spouse™.
What advice would you give fellow military spouses who want to start their own business?
That this crazy military life is a roller-coaster, in good ways and in bad. If you can survive even half of what that it can throw at you then starting your own business can only enhance it!
Design • Jessica
The InDependent Spouse™.