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Meet Trailblazer Danielle Shearer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Shearer.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
At four years old, I was drawing on everything I could – the walls included (my poor parents, but Dad did save a few I actually got on paper). Growing up, I kept drawing and expanding my portfolio to include painting (on approved surfaces now), sewing, and cake decorating. At fourteen, inspired by a speaker from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, I was lucky to have that lightbulb moment that evades many and decided concretely that my future would be in the arts. In 2010, I completed the first step of the journey by graduating with a BFA in Applied Media Arts: Graphic Design from Edinboro University, my Jr. Graphic Designer (my cat, Captain Jack) in tow.

The design industry is notoriously competitive, so in lieu of summer fun, I applied for every internship and job I came across. Four months later I began my internship at a boutique design firm in Pittsburgh, PA and after another four months of long-distance commuting and temp work, I had my first part-time job. In six months, I was promoted to full-time, the first in the firm’s history.

Over the next five years, my passion for branding and logo design revealed itself, and I was able to hone my web design skill. With my new skillset came a wanderlust for personal development and a desire for new mountains to paint, so in December of 2015, I packed up Captain Jack (CJ for short) and followed the offer of a new graphic design gig to Denver.

Working on a larger team in Denver brought with it new portfolio pieces, including package designs, marketing and advertising materials, in-store collateral and displays, t-shirt designs, etc. I watched my designs come to life around me, and soon enough, my creations landed me the role of Art Director/Creative Services Manager at a successful Denver start-up.

CreativCat was born in November of 2018. CJ inspired the name, but the business itself was inspired by my late father, who had the foresight and wherewithal to tell me I wouldn’t find true career satisfaction until I was running a business myself. He was right.

I know that nothing would make my Dad more proud than pursuing my dreams and finding authentic happiness in my career and my life and I honor him every day by doing just that.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have been very fortunate in my career, but that’s not to say that there haven’t been a lot of bumps along the way. From the very beginning, it was hard to even find a job or internship in my field. When I did find the jobs, they were generally run by those who were more focused on their bottom line than dedicating time to develop their employees. Instead of criticizing them for their business practices (we’re all trying to make a buck, right?), I took the solutions-oriented route and left the situation to pursue my own happiness and development.

I’ve learned very quickly that client-focused work demands rapid production code-switching. What works best for one client could be completely out of the question for another. I underbid hours for a client akin to how France underbid the Louisiana Purchase to the United States. I had no idea what the scope was worth in the sense of my time commitment. Unlike France (a country to which the profits of my business allowed me to travel and ski in by the way), I ended up on top of the experience. I learned so much from that client that I apply to my daily operations now, and on top of that, I have a loyal client with whom I now work consistently.

Outside of scope-creep, I’ve dealt with ever-present misogyny in the workplace. I’ve dealt with the self-doubt that inevitably comes with inappropriate suggestions, and I’ve dealt with being undervalued. I know so many women can relate to these experiences because they are tragically ever-present and under-recognized.

But, these experiences have been manageable and aren’t deal-breakers, because I’ve been blessed with a supportive team of mentors who help me smooth over these bumps in the road, effectively paving my gravel road experience to smooth asphalt. They’ve helped me develop my strengths and transform my weaknesses in learning opportunities. This group of men and women I’ve cultivated around me have helped me with everything from LLC to trademarking to Business Accounts, all of which seemed formidable, but were situated within a month. A month! They’ve also helped me tackle the stress of client acquisition head-on. My community is as driven and goal-oriented as I am, and we have been able to leverage our unique skillsets to support each other with networking and skill-trades.

Ladies, here’s my advice:
1. Find yourself a mentor you trust and don’t be afraid to dive into the semantics of a business headfirst. It’s not as scary as it seems.
2. Be wary of the unsolicited advice you receive. Trust your gut.
3. Know your worth.
4. Work long weeks, weekends, and any chance you get, because the work will reflect in your attitude with clients. But also, take nights off when you need to. Working according to your personal style is the key to success, and the payoff is real and inevitable when you are fully committed.
5. Don’t give up. Don’t let naysayers undercut your ambition.

I ultimately owe my initial success to my community and the work ethic my father instilled in me. I work late nights, driven by motivation to make my clients happy. It’s not easy, especially watching CJ sleep while I stare at a computer screen, but the satisfaction I see in my clients when I complete a project motivates me to keep going.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about CreativCat Design – what should we know?
I am a cat who wears many hats! I specialize in branding, websites, and packaging, but provide many other design services necessary for a client, thanks to my well-rounded portfolio. Whether you are looking for just a logo or a fun t-shirt design, I’m here for you. I want to help bring your vision and project to life. The most important thing to me besides a client’s brand is their happiness. I enjoy building strong brands that clients show with pride.

What I’m most purroud of (see what I did there) as a brand is my pawtnership (I can’t help myself) with Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue. I contribute a small portion of my profit from each client project to help kitties in need. All cats are important to me, not just the creative ones.

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well-positioned for?
Women are amazing, and I think that any woman is capable of accomplishing any task she’s given. With enough drive and flexibility, success is inevitable. Hopefully with time and commitment to political change, women will be able to shake off a few more intrinsic shackles holding them back, but in general, I’ve found that people won’t say no to a strong, confident, and smart woman.

While women can do anything they set their minds to, I think we are allotted more opportunities and poised to really excel in start-up industries like cannabis. These industries are not yet bound by traditional general (or race) roles or restrictions and are a way to level the playing field as they grow into their own. In a start-up, people don’t care about anything outside of accomplishing the work itself.

If you are a woman struggling to figure out where you fit in with your career, and the job searches are just ending up short, recognize that it’s time to dig deep, figure out what YOU want out of life and what YOU want to do. Be selfish in your career moves. The rest will fall into place.

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Image Credit:
Kyle Muhr

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