I’m often asked how I got started in web design. Did I know in school I wanted to be a web designer? Was I always so smart with technology? I can’t help but laugh because my career in this industry happened quite literally by accident. A car crash actually.
In 1994 I was a college sophomore, working towards a degree in education. Yes, I actually wanted to be a teacher. I planned to teach high school history while earning my Master’s Degree in Political Science. I would then move up to teaching at the University level, and I had a good shot at it, too. With a 3.8 GPA, I was well on my way to achieving what had been a long term dream of mine.
A Fateful Turn
Then came Valentine’s Day 1995. I was driving to lunch with an old high school crush on our first date. We had only been in the car about 5 minutes when we approached a blind curve in the road. Without warning we were hit head on by a driver that had crossed the center line. A state trooper describing the scene said that since neither of us had time to apply our brakes, it was like hitting a brick wall at 90 mph.
Mrs. Yetta May, the driver of the other car, was killed instantly in the crash. She had 2 young children in her car, her great niece Jessica (age 7) and her great nephew John (age 1). Jessica was not injured in the crash, but the infant went through the windshield of her car and suffered severe head trauma. I was later informed that Mrs. May had turned to adjust a car seat, and veered into my lane.
My passenger and I were both lying unconscious, trapped within the twisted wreckage. My best friend had been just two cars behind me, and the mother of another friend was also on the scene. They say it took rescue workers over an hour to extract us by removing the top of my car. I remember waking up in the ER sometime that evening, asking what had happened to everyone else involved. Upon hearing the fate of Mrs. May I became completely hysterical. The doctors had to sedate me, and my next memory is 3 days later. I spent 10 days in the hospital.
My passenger had a kidney and his spleen removed, and a metal rod inserted between his hip and knee. I suffered brain swelling from the impact, affecting both my short and long term memory banks, and experienced mild amnesia. To this day I still have holes in my memory that have never returned.
My right heel was completely shattered, and I was told I would never walk again. At only 18 years old, this was news I simply did not want to accept. After 6 long months of painful and difficult therapy I learned to walk again, albeit with a noticeable limp. I lost 90% of the mobility in my right foot, and many years later the pain required me to have a subtalar fusion (2 screws placed into the bottom of my foot – permanently attaching the heel to the ankle).
John (the one year old in the other car) and I both saw the same neurologist after the accident, and I ran into his family several times afterward. By all accounts, he completely recovered, with no permanent brain damage.
History? What History?
Returning to college, I flunked out of my classes. One of the blocks of memory I lost was all of the history I had learned. Oh, did I mention I was a history major? Starting over during the 2nd year in college was not really an option. Uncertain of what to do next, I dropped out of college and starting working various jobs.
Over the course of the next 5 years, I worked at a gas station, was assistant manager at a video rental store, sold mobile homes as well as cars, worked various retail jobs, and ended up working at a real estate office. I started out as a receptionist, and within months was the Executive Assistant to the Broker at a Prudential office.
I found I really enjoyed real estate, and started studying for my Realtor’s license. During this time, one of my job responsibilities was to coordinate with our web designer to make sure the website got updated with new properties for sale, and insure that properties that had sold were removed.
To put it nicely, this was not a very friendly man. He took forever to get our listings updated, and after a few months of dealing with him, I told my Broker that we needed to find a new web person. She looked at me and said “Ok, you’re it.” I laughed right out loud, and told her “No way.” I could BARELY check email at the time, hated computers, and had no interest in learning how to build websites.
However, the thought of continuing to work with this uncooperative web designer seemed unbearable. That Friday afternoon on my lunch break, I walked into Staples and told the sales clerk that I needed software to help me build a website. He handed me 2 programs and wished me luck.
A Crash Course of My Own Making
After getting off work that afternoon, I installed the software onto my computer, and taught myself everything I could about web design, mostly from the Help files. Talk about the hard way! Have you ever tried finding even a single answer like that? Luckily, I didn’t know better.
By Monday morning, after a weekend without sleep, our office had a brand new website. I sort of wish I had kept a snapshot of it. To say it was a good looking website would be a lie, but it was actually better than the one they had. The other agents in my office were impressed, and started hiring me to build their own websites.
I had always been somewhat artistic, from a very early age. I took advanced art classes all through school, and loved to paint and draw. I also studied the fine art of calligraphy, and used to create invitations for my friends. My mother always told me I should find a career where I could put my love for art to use. Getting my first taste of graphic design I was hooked. I found a new medium for my love of art.
Time to Choose
In the summer of 2000, I graduated from real estate school at the top of my class, and had offers from four offices. I was very excited about becoming a Realtor, but also really enjoyed my hobby of designing websites. I spent the next few months continuing to build websites in my off time, and working at the real estate office during the day. The day before I was to take my real estate licensing exam, the other agents that I worked with came into my office. They told me that if I became a Realtor, I’d be their competition and couldn’t continue to help them with their own websites. I had to make a choice.
That night I thought long and hard about what direction I wanted to take and decided that I would see how far I could go with web design, that real estate would always be there as my fall back option should I need it. So during November of 2000, I opened my web design company.
The original company was named Results Web Design (obviously I knew nothing of branding at the time), but I continued on working with more and more real estate agents. In April of 2003 I had my first child (Damian Robert) while my fiancé, a United States Marine, was serving in Iraq. In November of 2003 we married and I renamed my company Nielsen Internet Consulting and Media (NIC Media – still not knowing much about branding).
They Call it the World Wide Web for a Reason
Being married to a Marine meant we wouldn’t stay in one place for very long, so after starting my company in North Carolina, we got orders to move to Boise Idaho in April of 2004. By this time, I had expanded my target audience from just Realtors, to now include business and life coaches as well as attorneys. In April of 2005 I gave birth to my second child (Kadence Sidney).
In August of 2005 we got orders to California, and off we went, moving to Oceanside (about half an hour north of San Diego). After 5 years of running my business alone, it was time to hire staff, and by December 2005 I had hired my first assistant. Business was getting busier every day, and eventually I had 3 additional full time employees. In 2006 I hired an amazing branding company (Phil Davis of Tungsten Branding) and One Lily was born. Along with this new name, we started offering additional services to our clients, including blogs and print design.
By May of 2007 I again gave birth to another daughter (Bianca Elizabeth). And one year and 5 days later, gave birth to my fourth child (Addison Jennifer) just after my husband had once again returned to serve his country in Iraq.
Today we are still living in California, but were transferred a year ago to Barstow (150 miles north of where we were in Oceanside). I currently have two full time employees and several independent contractors that we routinely work with. After working with coaches for over eight years, I also finally hired one of my own – Noah Blumenthal of Leading Principles, and will tell you that hiring a coach (Noah in particular) has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my business!
An Exciting Decade of Challenge and Rewards
With over 200 clients, more than 30 awards for our work, I’d have to say that I’m glad I made the decision to continue with web design. I couldn’t be happier doing what I do, and work with some of the greatest minds in the business. I have written numerous articles as well as two eBooks, been a guest expert on many teleclasses and webinars, and have spoken at multiple workshops and conferences.
To say I’ve come a long way in the last 10 years would be an understatement. I continue to learn every day, and have just completed my Advanced Certificate in Social Media and have almost completed my Master Certificate in Internet Marketing, both from the University of San Francisco.
One Lily is now a full service strategy and web design company, offering all aspects of print and web design, internet strategy including social media, and has excellent resources for search engine optimization and copywriting.
I wonder what the next 10 years will bring? I can tell you that before the year’s end – One Lily will be launching an all new website. We began designing our new site several months ago, and can’t wait to share it with the world. Stay tuned for news of our new launch.