INTERVIEW with Nayvette Fowlkes of Nay-Lilly Designs
Nay-Lilly is a creative woman who has an ability to carefully design the vision of an individual. She always had the passion and developed her skills. She obtained a Bachelor and Master’s Degree that has nothing to do with art design. Instead of her pursuing a career in her degree field she followed her creative dreams.
Please give the readers some background information about you and tell us about Nay-Lilly Designs.
I was born and raised in Maryland. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Morgan State University and a Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology from Texas A&M University. As the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher, I am deeply spiritual. My faith has given me the gift- confidence, knowing that we all have a purpose in life that will help guide us in our life journey.
I created Nay-Lilly Designs as an outlet for my natural creativity. Nay-Lilly Designs provides custom-designed stationery and event-related products. My clients come to me looking for distinctive products that reflect their individual personalities and preferences. From wedding and shower invitations to baby announcements, business letterhead, business cards and informal note cards for general use – whatever the need is, I offer them complete design services. I am very sensitive to an individual’s vision, and every item is carefully designed and crafted for each client.
In addition to founding Nay-Lilly Designs, I also launched Bringing on New Direction (BOND) Inc. BOND is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering women of color to reach their highest potential by providing support and resources to its members and to the communities where they live. BOND serves Baltimore, Washington, Northern Virginia and surrounding areas, but my goal is to expand its reach far enough so that no woman who strives to improve her life is left behind
Both of my ventures have shown great signs of success, and I am thrilled that my dreams are coming to fruition.
What motivated you to start Nay-Lilly Designs?
I have always been drawn to paper. Even when I was young, I loved the different textures, the colors and – most of all – the wonderful things that I could create. Now as an adult I am madly in love (actually borderline obsessed) with paper – the urge is even greater than ever. Some women are obsessed with a nice handbag or great shoe. I, on the other hand, am in my element whenever I walk into a paper store. I go into the store just to look and feel and think of all the endless possibilities. However, it wasn’t until after the constant urging – and sometimes nagging – of few close friends that I finally decided to take the leap and open my own design business. So far, I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride.
Did you always know you wanted to create and design stationery? Who or what inspired you?
As a young girl I actually wanted to find a way to purchase my own large printer to make business cards. I just recently remembered that childhood goal, and even if it didn’t come to fruition then, it certainly has traveled full-circle now. So in a sense, when I was young, I was self-inspired; as an adult, my friends inspired me; and now the world of design inspires me.
What did you do pre Nay-Lilly Designs?
My work with BOND has given me many opportunities to hone my skills designing flyers and other promotional materials since 2004. When I began receiving requests from friends and family to create designs for their personal use, the vision of starting my own design business began to take shape.
What makes your design company unique?
With Nay-Lilly Designs, I am adamant about three commitments:
- To create personalized designs that fit the uniqueness of each of my clients
- To do the job right
- To have a spirit of excellence and integrity in all that I do
I ask my clients many questions. Some relate to a specific event or occasion, but I often ask them more personal questions about themselves because I want their final designs to “fit them to a T.” I want their personality to jump off the page. For instance, when an engaged couple comes to me to design their wedding invitation, I am especially sensitive to their shared vision of their special day (in addition to their individual personalities and preferences). There are two individuals to consider, and I realize that they each have a voice. I listen extremely carefully and make sure that each one is equally represented in the final product. This vision of two individuals sharing a dream must be reflected in their invitations, response cards and thank-you notes. When their guests open a Nay-Lilly Designs wedding invitation, they immediately connect with this couple.
The other thing that makes Nay-Lilly Designs different is that I view each order as a work of art. I start from scratch with each client and don’t rely on adaptations of designs that I have already used. To me, each customer is a blank slate. This approach guarantees an experience that very few other design firms deliver.
How do you develop your creative concepts?
I am always on the alert for new inspiration and often find them in everyday moments. A TV commercial, something online or just having a simple conversation will trigger a creative thought that I want to translate into design.
However, if I had to choose something specific, I’d say my creativity comes from each of my clients. My favorite part of the design process is our consultation, which is why it’s a must for me. I like to get to know my clients because this is our time to really connect. I want to understand their style, their personality, their likes and dislikes, their favorite and least favorite colors – anything that helps me translate their special uniqueness into a design. After that, it doesn’t take long for me to have a strong sense of the direction.
What are the key ingredients to starting and maintaining a business?
I have found that it is important to:
- Have the drive and will to succeed. When you decide to start a business, there is no room for self-doubt. This is important, because self-doubt can undermine your growth. It’s important to have faith in yourself (and your dream) and the drive to bring it to fruition.
- Take time. Take time to develop a business plan that is realistic. Take time to consider all aspects of your operations. Take time to take advantage of opportunities and to address “stumbling blocks.” More importantly, after you’ve worked hard on a project, take time to recoup and get re-inspired.
- Practice patience. Be patient with the process. When you are excited about a new venture, it’s difficult to be patient as it evolves. Be patient with yourself when you make mistakes, and be patient with others.
- Find a niche and perfecting it. This is important. The market is crowded with many people competing for customers. You will be much more successful if you offer a product or service that fills customers’ unmet needs. Find the one thing that sets you apart.
- Be authentic no matter what happens. Be true to your principles and to your mission. Be transparent; be open; be honest.
- Be willing to put in the hard work. Starting and maintaining a business is not easy and takes a lot of hard work. It’s not a path for those who are not wholeheartedly committed. It takes dedication and being willing to attend to the myriad of details on a daily basis.
- Be willing to put yourself out there, to take risks. Success is never certain, but if you don’t take the initial risk, your business will never come to fruition and will always be an unfulfilled dream.
- Be vulnerable; be willing to ask for help and honest feedback. It’s ok to be vulnerable. We all become stronger, not weaker, when we open our hearts and minds to help from others.
By Claire Guerre