Graphic designer Julie Phillips gets a head start at EpiCenter Community
For Julie Phillips, founder and CEO of Jesignz Graphix, design starts with a feeling. Phillips has over 15 years of experience in the field and has been operating her full-time business for three. Her approach to the industry is more intimate than most. She says, “I give my clients a personal touch. I help them identify their brand and then express it.”
Phillips took the leap into a full-time business with the help of the Epicenter Community Accelerate Boston program. The accelerator program is designed to start and foster local businesses by building a network of relationships and support. It focuses on businesses that have creative drive and passion, but not the high-growth, high-return model that most venture capitalists seek out. Accelerate educates entrepreneurs through seminars and connects them with potential investors.
The program helped Phillips focus her vision and energy. “It was an awesome experience,” she says. “It brought me to another level and made me more serious about my business.” She notes that the deadline-oriented structure motivated her to be more efficient and deliberate in her practices. One of the most valuable skills she acquired in the program was the ability to confidently pitch to investors.
Beyond business knowledge, Accelerate Boston provides community support that makes a world of difference to independent entrepreneurs. Phillips says, “It was great to make connections with other entrepreneurs who know what you’re going through.” She’s still in contact with many of her program alumni, who meet regularly to discuss their challenges and celebrate their successes. Two of the business owners from Accelerate are now Phillips’ clients.
Sharing experiences and advice fosters a positive startup ecosystem rather than one of competition. Inclusivity is the name of the Accelerate game: among the 65 businesses engaged in the program, 77 percent were managed by creators of color and 53 percent by women.
Jesignz Graphix creates logos, magazine covers, web banners and flyers, along with other marketing materials. Phillips has a bold, recognizable style, utilizing strong colors, block fonts and symmetry. “Without Art, Life is so Blah” is a signature slogan of Jesignz Graphix, a nod to Phillips’ art background. In one of these designs, a wetsuit-clad figure in a gas mask crawls out of a tube of black paint. The slogan hovers above in thin white letters lined with purple, a favored color of Phillips. The image embodies Jesignz Graphix’s edgy, contemporary style.
While many big design firms focus solely on production, Phillips brings a personal, one-on-one model to the table. If a client comes in with a business they need to promote and no idea how to do it, she helps them develop a brand identity and strategy. The collaboration doesn’t stop when the printing press does, either. “I’m on board with the project the whole way through,” she says. Phillips likes to work with small businesses and startups because she knows their needs and how much a strong brand can help them. Some of her local clients include Boston Hip Hop Studio, 5 Star Magazine and musician Will Harvey.
Phillips has big plans for Jesignz Graphix. She hopes to make it into a full-service studio where clients can create their brand and develop it via a website, marketing materials and social media in a one-stop shop. Also on her list in coming years: an office space.
Phillips’ training at the Art Institute of Boston and the Hendrick Institute nurtured her love of art, which she hopes to incorporate further into her business. “I’d like to start a space that hosts creative events that are accessible to small business,” she says. This would include a gallery space for emerging artists and the capacity to hosts seminars and talks. She’s using her Epicenter skills to build a client list and break into corporate marketing, which will give her the resources to fulfill these plans.
Accelerate Boston has brought Phillips’ dreams for Jesignz Graphix into focus. With strong support from the entrepreneurial community and knowledge gained from workshops on pitching to investors and planning for the future, she’s well on her way to establishing her art-centered, full-service studio. “I recommend the program every other day to people,” she says. “It’s a great environment in which to become confident and grow your skill set. I had classmates who came in with an idea and left with a business.”