Tag Archives: vyrl co. design

The HBCUpreneur Corner – Huston-Tillotson University’s Jasmine “Bobby” Oliver & VYRL Co. Design


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Name: Jasmine “Bobby” Oliver

Alma Mater: Huston-Tillotson University, Class of 2015

Business Name & Description: VYRL Co. Design began from an honest place of desiring to have an opportunity to explore all that it means to be a creative entrepreneur, but also to showcase recent photography and web/graphic design projects that I have done. VYRLCoDesign.com became a space of passion, honesty, and inspiration where you can see a deeper side of a creative black-woman entrepreneur living, traveling, and pursuing a beautiful and fulfilling life that inspires others to do the same.

What year did you found your company? I first began as VYRL Media in 2010, then sometime in 2015 I started dabbling into design and the name evolved into VYRL Co. Design.

What has been the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? The most exciting and most fearful moments itself are when I realize that others are paying attention to my work and start asking me to do more challenging projects. Each and every project has allowed me to come out with a learning experience that I can take onto my next project.

What made you want to start your own company? Financial independence. Let’s be honest, this is probably the biggest reason people get into business from get-go. Which is a good thing! However we define ‘financial independence’ – retirement funds, unlimited cash potential or having the money to buy/do what you want….. entrepreneurship can allow you to achieve it. Another reason, I wanted to start my own company was because I had a hard time finding many places where myself, an African American creator/creative, could go to after graduation. So I figured that I would start small, build my own company and eventually hire other designers like myself.

Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? Jeff Wilson and Clara Bensen. Jeff, the dean of our college, and Clara Bensen, local Austin writer.

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How do you handle complex problems? Creatives are wired uniquely. As such, I think we have to navigate the world in a slightly different manner than non-creatives. How I handle complex problems is by trying to slow down. This is one I’m still trying to work out. While i think that multitasking can be useful, sometimes it does more harm than good. This causes my creativity to plummet as well as my mood. So as a resolution I try to get a firm grip on my schedule. And I only take on what I can do. Next I prepare for disapproval. I don’t know about you, but for some reason, I’m always looking for validation. I suspect this has something to do with a lack of self-confidence. However, it’s important to recognize that some people ‘just don’t get it’. I am a Cancer sign which means I am a very emotional person. So I also try to keep my emotions in check. I have this habit of always dissecting my thoughts which tends to lead me to second-guessing myself. So, what seems like a good idea today, feels like a disaster later. Plus, I’m overcritical of myself. So I tend to try to remind myself that not every thought needs to be evaluated.

What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? I wish I had known how much entrepreneurship consumes your life. This has became something that has consumed my thoughts. You start with an idea then a hailstorm of ideas on how you could possibly execute the idea begins… and it never ends. You just keep thinking and doubting and thinking and execute.

Many African American companies and organizations suffer from a poor digital presence. Why do you believe there is not more investment in this by African American entrepreneurs and companies? I’m not particular sure about this. My guess is economics plays a part. It would be interesting to know how many of our businesses get e-commerce business. That certainly could play a role in how serious they take their web presence. If they are not getting much of their business from the web, then they may not think it is worth having much invested in it. However, these days the web is serving as the store front most customers encounter even before they get to your brick and mortar. A strong presence though is not cheap and as I stated, economics may play a major role in the lack of investment in this area. Do I as an entrepreneur invest more in my product or my web presence? It is a decision we are faced with more than other groups unfortunately.

Digital designers certainly get influence from a myriad of different places. What are some of the things that you believe influences your design personality? Things that influence my design personality kind of derives from my first experience as a photographer. I have always noticed that I was drawn to clean spaces and I’ve noticed that in my photography that I was always drawn to photographing in unison with landscape and architectures. I love clean lines.

What do you believe HBCUs can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship while their students are in school either as undergraduate or graduate students? I would love to see HBCUs encourage students to step out more and challenge them to find their passion, their why, and assist them in starting their own business even while in school. Not only should HBCUs provide the fundamentals, but provide them with hands-on tools and resources to develop action plans.

I’ve also noticed that many HBCU’s do not have many arts programs. I want to see more photography and design programs that are infused with business.I would be super geeked if I had seen a “Visual Identity and Creative Branding” course on my curriculum.

How do you deal with rejection? Bah! Rejection. It’s easy to say ‘don’t take it personally’ but it’s not so easy to do when you put your heart and soul into your work. I am still learning how to deal with rejection quite honestly so I don’t have an amazing answer but what I can tell you is that I try to respond to it by experimenting with new influences and making my work more unique.

When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I try to stay as far away from my desk and computer as possible. I love being outdoors so I may go on a quick trip to Conroe or Austin to visit friends for a day or two, go running with my dog, check out the museums downtown or simply do nothing. There are days well I feel mentally exhausted and I’ll opt to a movie on my iPad in bed and order a pizza and gather some snacks for easy access while in the bed. I’m keeping it simple these days.

What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Being apart of the student organization, Green is the New Black at my alma matter (HTU). GITNB is a organization that was created tin 2013 that tackled both environmental issues and race. We had events, raise funds and were advocates of environmental awareness in areas that weren’t particularly apart of the “sustainability conversation”.

The biggest moment was when I was even won first place prices for a $85,000 grant from Fort HBCU Challenge against much bigger named HBCU’s.

In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs?

Be focused. Very obsessively focused.

How To Work With Friends as Clients, and Not Kill Each Other In The Process


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By Jasmine Oliver

As a creative, it is inevitable that at some point in our career one of our close friends will either approach us for help with their project, or we will see how our skill sets could benefit their situation.

These can be tense situations to handle as there is more than just money on the table, a friendship is at stake as well.If these situations aren’t handled properly, you could lose a client and a close friend.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

1. Never work for free

One of the biggest mistakes that can ruin friendships and your business is volunteering your work for free. While we have the best intentions and want to help our friends, we are doing them an injustice if we don’t charge for our services.

If you’re a graphic designer looking for real-life advice and long-term success, The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Clients by acclaimed designer Ellen Shapiro is the book for you. Not only does she reveal the secrets behind getting the clients you want to recognize your name and brand, but she also discusses how to land those clients and create a positive and productive working relationship with them.

When you volunteer your work for free, you are putting that project at the bottom of your priority list.

Paying your bills will always come before doing free work for a friend.

Despite your good intentions, when times get tough you will end up pushing their project aside to get money in the door.

When you don’t charge your friends, you are disrespecting them and their business. This grave mistake has personally cost me several friendships over the course of pursuit to being a freelancer.

Every time I volunteered my work with true genuine intentions of helping the other person, but as paid clients picked up I had to prioritize my time on what was going to pay the bills.

Ultimately, my friends felt disrespected. They became very upset that I pushed their project aside and our friendship has never been the same ever since.

Never work for friends for free, its not worth it.

2. Only work with a friend if you truly believe you can provide value

Approaching friends as potential clients can be an awkward thing. Sometimes you may see a friend who could desperately benefit from your services.

But how do you approach them? Instead of thinking of approaching your friends as ‘trying to make a sale,’ try to think about it this way.

If you can really provide value to your friend, then you would be doing an injustice to them by not offering to help them. Never look at friends as just a source of income, only work with them if you truly believe you can benefit their situation.

3.Keep things professional

BAHHHH!!!! This part is hard, especially when dealing with friends that you even consider family. I know. I get it. Trust me.  When working with friends, it is essential that you keep things professional. You must treat your friends with the same professional care that you use on all of your other clients.Go through the same process and handle them just like you would with any other client.

Getting loose or unprofessional about the process with your friends is a quick way to bring uncertainty and doubt which can hurt the project and the friendship.

4. How to talk money with friends

Talking about the money, honey. Talking about the details with friends can be weird at first. As a result, many freelancers totally avoid this topic and end up with a loose scope or awkwardly dance around the money subject.

Instead of avoiding the topic, you need to face this head on and make sure everything is clear up front.

An easy way to do this is through e-mail. Having the money talk with a friend over the phone can be quite awkward, but doing it via e-mail tends to make it a bit less scary.

Whenever I send over my budget and proposal via e-mail I always give my friend the option out. I will say something along the lines of “If this project is out of your budget range, then no worries. I value our friendship more than this project and I won’t be offended if you say no.”

While that may not be the best sales tactic, it is essential in preserving the friendship.

5. Separate friendly talk from client talk

Another struggle for many friends is that working together can often mean that many once great friendships begin to diverge into a constant talk of the project at hand.

Set boundaries.

If you are out one evening having a good time, make it a rule to keep your work stuff out of the conversation. Or you can schedule regular work calls and keep those focused exclusively on the project at hand so that the rest of your life can go as normal.

Setting boundaries helps keep your friendships intact as the project moves forward.

6. Trade Agreements/ Bartering

Often friends can’t always afford to work with each other, but a trade of services may be something to consider.

Personal training in exchange for marketing.

Food in exchange for web design.

Accounting in exchange for business coaching.

Trade arrangements aren’t a bad thing, but the key is to make sure that you still structure those deals just like you do with any paid project.

Set clear expectations as to what each party will receive and put it in writing.

With trade agreements it is easy for one person or the other to feel cheated or undercompensated for their time. Get clear about what is being traded so that both parties feel equally compensated.

The bottom line

Working with friends as clients can be an enjoyable and profitable process. But you must handle these relationships with care because it is more than a project on the line, your friendship is at stake as well.

Jasmine Oliver is the creator behind VYRL CO. DESIGN. It is here that you will find a catalog of what inspired me, the struggles of growing as a creative and the joys, a place to share travels, and explore the journey of pursuing a beautiful and fulfilling life as a graphic/web designer and commercial photographer.  This rerun is with the consent of Vyrl Co. Design and may not reproduced otherwise. Visit her blog by clicking here.