Jo-Ann Smyth, Evolution Graphic Design.. on her journey to self employment and her talents and skills as a graphic designer

Jo-Ann Anastasia Smyth, is 58 and is from Lurgan. She is also a VIP Member of the Mums at Work Club and a graphic designer.

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Jo-Ann isn’t a mum; Mums at Work isn’t exclusively for just Mums with biological children, we have stepmums, women with fur-baby children and in Jo-Ann’s case, she is a carer for her father. She told me, “I have no kids but have had mum and dad living with us for the past eleven years until mum passed away last July 20 aged 92 and dad is still with us and will be 94 in August. So they have been my kids for the past 11 years.”

Like many other carers, Jo-Ann is juggling self employment with commitments, and she identified with the Mums at Work initiative to support women in their journeys.

Jo-Ann says she always wanted to start a business;  she had observed how much her boss was charging for her designs and started thinking about starting her own business.  so she asked the managing director if she left, would he outsource the designs jobs to her, rather than employing a new graphic designer, and he agreed. Jo-ann said she had kept a loyalty bonus that she had received from a previous job, in the hope that she would have an opportunity to set up her own business and in 1991, she began her dreams started to become a reality.

Jo-Ann told me, “My experience in graphic design has enabled me to create functional and practical design solutions for a wide variety of clients throughout both the North and South of Ireland, in all aspects of corporate identity, brochures, leaflets, packaging detail, multi-media CDs for presentation, exhibition displays, points of sales and production of magazines.

I work with a variety of colleagues in associated fields of photography, illustration, pre-press and printing. All assignments are carried out from concept to finished and printed materials.

I am able to conduct design projects for clients of all sizes, and in all industrial and service sectors. When required, I can act as art director for photographic shoots alongside professional photographers, supervising and devising the set up of photographes for brochures, literature, displays and packaging design.
As a senior graphic designer with 34 years experience, I am highly motivated and keen to keep up with changing trends in both design and technology.”
Everyone struggles and Jo-Ann told me, “I guess my biggest struggle was when the councils merged together. I had been working for Craigavon Borough Council for approximately 8 years in the Tourism and Economic Development Department. I lost approximately 75% of my work as they now have an in-house graphic design department in Armagh.”
With mum being ill last year my world was falling apart and the work was almost at a standstill. After mum passed away there was no work, but I believed and still do believe it will pick up again. In October doors started to open in different places, people were calling me and the work started to come in again, I think my mum was looking after me.
Then I found the group mums-at-work and I have renewed energy to try and build the business up again. I have had two business a total of 21 years and I intend to build it up again with the encouragement I am getting from Sinead Norton and mums-at-work.”
Jo-ann gives this great advice to others who are trying to build their business,
“Build your business slowly, take your time, don’t try to grow it too fast that create too many overheads. Don’t give up your day job until you know you can survive on what you are earning from your own business. Finally and most important, don’t have too many eggs in one basket, take it from me I had.”
Jo-ann is most proud of her role in the rebranding of  the Eartharium from top to bottom, this was a building connected to the Planetarium in Armagh. The project included a new corporate identity, full stationery pack, posters, fliers, try-fold leaflet, and then the full interactive exhibition; she even had to go to Ulster Carpets in Portadown to get a carpet printed with the world printed on it, it was an exciting project and it opened up a lot of new work. The Eartharium, was added due to increased interest in Earth Science.

Jo-Ann’s 5 tips for others are:

1) Know your market
2) Keep your nerve when you think the work isn’t coming in, don’t buckle under it stay strong and keep driving on through the hard times
3) Learn from your mistakes
4) Be disciplined
5) Don’t be afraid to take risks, they will pay off

Jo-Ann told me her luck changed when she was in the gym one day and a girl asked her if she had heard about Mums at Work. After googling us, she joined our online networking group 

Jo-Ann attending the networking night at the Cohannon Inn on 18th May 2018 called “Mums creating their own success event,” and while she was nervous, she met a lovely  lady called Joanne Neeson and felt more relaxed. Jo-Ann then hosted two coffee mornings and both Briege Price and myself came down to meet the lovely ladies of Lurgan.

Jo-Ann says, “It was lovely to meet women with the same struggles as myself and since joining I have gained my own self confidence, and made a boomerang video and a live video. I have realised that it is important for customers to see the person behind the business page and that, while we hate doing “Live Videos” they are a great way to build trust and rapport with our customers. It is great to know that lots of other business women also hate it and hate watching it back but we are gaining confidence together.”

Jo-ann added at the end, “Thank you Sinead for running this group it has given me that extra push I needed during a sad time in my life xo”

I have felt really honoured to meet Jo-Ann myself and to meet so many other ladies who have the same struggles, the same journeys but different paths.