MENTOR SPOTLIGHT: COURTLYN JONES
When did you know you wanted to take an entrepreneurial path?
There were a couple of traumatic events that led me to quitting my job as a graphic designer in corporate and starting this venture. One is landing my first real full-time designer job and hating it, two would be being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and having a spiritual awakening that told me I needed to change my life and do something that made me happy, three would be being laid off from the job I hated due to COVID-19, and four would be landing a job at my “dream company” as a graphic designer and absolutely hating that job too. I needed to wake up. I realised I LOVE designing and creating art, but ONLY when I’m designing for myself or for clients who value me and my talent. I was also being paid terribly because I didn’t know what I deserved. It wasn’t until I met other women in the arts, from other departments within my company, that I learned how I was undervaluing MYSELF. Having that guidance and support from other women who knew better was a game-changer for me and I knew if I could make a community like this of female Creatives supporting each other worldwide, I could make a difference and help others from making the same mistakes I made. Most importantly, I wanted to bring the fun back into art and make it so that we continue to love what we do.
Tell us about your venture/work.
The Design Database is the leading online community and job platform exclusively catered to female Creatives. Our mission is to provide a supportive and empowering space where talented women can showcase their work, connect with like-minded individuals, and ultimately create their dream careers. At The Design Database, we understand the importance of exposure in attracting higher-quality clients. That’s why our platform offers a wide range of features designed to showcase your portfolio and increase your visibility within the industry. Whether you’re a designer, model, content-creator, artist, photographer, writer, or any other creative professional, our platform is tailored to meet your unique needs. But The Design Database is more than just a job platform. Think “Indeed Meets Instagram.” It’s a vibrant community where you can make meaningful connections with fellow Creatives who share your passion for innovation and collaboration. We believe that by coming together, we can unleash our full potential and create extraordinary projects that leave a lasting impact.
How did you decide to tackle this particular issue?
Before I did anything, I first vented on LinkedIn about the struggles I was having as a female Creative working in corporate and in less than 24 hours, my ONE post (more of a rant) received over 480 emails in my inbox from other women in the arts telling me how they feel the same and wanted to be a part of whatever it was that I was building. That was my sign that this platform is SO needed and I had to build it.
What do you enjoy most about being an impact entrepreneur? What’s hardest about it?
I most enjoy being able to connect with so many people and to feel like I am genuinely making a difference. It’s a magical feeling when someone messages me to tell me “I met this amazing woman on your platform and now we’re working on a mural together in NYC. I’ve always wanted to but didn’t have the courage or any idea of where to start. Now I’m so excited to live out one of my dreams. Thank you so much for creating this platform and for being you.” (One of my favourite testimonials). The hardest is being seen as a leader and also feeling like an imposter. I’m always telling people, especially women, that we need to KNOW OUR WORTH, but when it comes to myself, I’m usually the first one to tear myself down. When I win an award, I think “Do I even deserve this?” That can be a tough battle sometimes.
How do you navigate the space of being a founder and also being a POC/women/non-binary person?
I struggle with this a lot. I was just telling my friend and podcast co-host this morning how I’m always feeling uncomfortable being the only POC in almost every space I’m in these days as an entrepreneur. I know how important it is that I AM in these spaces. I feel proud to represent my community as a Black woman and I know that I’m opening the door for so many people after me who also deserve to be in this same room. Knowing that and carrying that with me, helps me to stand tall and keep pushing forward so that I can continue to be in MORE rooms and open MORE doors for others.
What advice do you have for early-stage impact entrepreneurs about using their time, relationships, and opportunities at The New School to prepare for this kind of career?
I love this quote, but I don’t remember who said it: “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product, you’ve launched too late.” I launched the first version of The Design Database in less than 45 days and it was very rushed. It was also a disaster and made me so scared to launch the new version, which took me almost two years to relaunch. However, starting before I was ready helped me to see what I really wanted my company to be, who I wanted to attract, and who I didn’t. I thought I had it all figured out right at the start, and that was stupid of me, but we learn and grow from our mistakes. You won’t know what you don’t know until you actually put something out there and see what happens. Don’t let your fear of making it perfect stop you from starting. Start. Fail. And then start over.
Anything else you would like to add?
The Design Database has just been awarded the 2023 Innovation & Excellence Awards for Art Networking Platform of the Year, our 4th award to-date, so check us out!
Click here to learn more.