Today we’d like to introduce you to Cimone Key.
Cimone, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My life got off to a cool start, my parents fell in love in the Army and had a set of twins — me and my brother. Then, at the age of three, my parents divorced and my life changed. My twin brother and I became the dependents of a divorced Army woman looking to make a means for her children. We often traveled coast-to-coast and internationally during that time.
Another shift occurred when my mother was called for her third tour in Iraq. Her departure allowed for my brother and I to live in Texas with our dad during our Junior and Senior year of high school. We went to Colleyville Heritage High – a school that significantly impacted my college career and the major that I would choose.
I always knew in my heart that I was destined to be an artist. I LOVED colors throughout my childhood and continue to love them today. My infatuation with wearing bright colors and rainbow themes drove my family CRAZY. The thought tickles me ‘til this day, but I find it truly incredible that God blessed me with a passion for creativity because it has ultimately allowed me to become the artist that I am now.
I recall a conversation that I had with my mom after expressing that I wanted to be an artist, and she replied, “You only make money after you die. I don’t want you to be a starving artist.” Oh boy, little did she know that I would become an artist — let’s just say, ya girl ain’t starving! haha.
My dad suggested that I explore architecture. He often said, “They make a lot of money, and you can still draw and be creative.” I took fashion and CAD architecture classes during my junior year, only to discover that I hated them both, haha.
One day, during my senior year of high school, a representative from The Art Institute of Dallas came to visit my class. She spoke about the Art Institute and broke down the majors and what they were all about. The moment that she started describing the graphic design program, she caught my attention. A light bulb clicked in my head and I knew what I was being called to do. I was going to be a Graphic Designer. I signed up right after high school and managed to graduate in three years with my Bachelor’s Degree.
Two weeks before graduation, I started my career with an internship to gain professional experience. I invested eight months of my energy designing for Fortune 500 brands, such as Chevrolet, USAA, Udi’s, and AT&T, before having to move on with my career. The next level was landing a job as an Art Director at one firm, and then after a year, becoming an Art Director for one of the top agencies in Dallas.
I was making strides, but not necessarily be fulfilled. In the back of my mind, ever since I was 16 years old, I knew that I wanted to own my own business. I stayed at an agency for about a year, taking in all that I could. I remember planning to quit in the summer of 2016. On September 25, 2015, I woke up that morning praying to God to direct my path, asking for guidance in the course that He wanted me to take. I got fired that day. No write-ups or a valid explanation.
Even though I shed a few tears, I knew that God was providing me with direction. It just came with a little push. I took a leap of faith, and I decided not to return to corporate. I started my own business on October 5, 2015, and retained a web design certificate from SMU in November 2016. I haven’t looked back since.
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?
Challenges and obstacles are inevitable for the aspiring female business owner, largely because we are not encouraged or taught to be business owners in school. We were coached on how to be good employees. Both of my parents are hard workers, but I think that most of my entrepreneurial ambition came from my dad. He has been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember, with the mentality that no one would ever tell him how much he’s worth an hour.
The primary and most consistent struggle that I’ve encountered is the underappreciation of my professional work. Creative and artistic services are often undervalued because of its intangible nature. Another challenge is…