As an artist, illustrator and designer, my work has always been about visually connecting with viewers on an emotional level to tell a story. These visual stories may be nostalgic, humorous, tongue in cheek, or more specific statements regarding an aspect of the human experience. Empathy is one of the main ingredients in my visual storytelling process. There has to be an understanding of what the viewer’s thoughts and feelings may be in response to the imagery. To do that, you have to put yourself in their shoes or be able to relate to what it is that you hope the viewer will experience in a way that is not convoluted or forced.  It just happens naturally and honestly.

I’ve always held unexpected honesty and truthfulness in high regard. I’m entertained by the shock value of unsolicited opinions, and I feel we could all use more humor with a side of truth. I find that most emotions, whether positive or negative, are wonderfully expressed through light sarcasm and satire. Growing up in traditional New Orleans, I did not always feel that this was well received in day-to-day conversations, especially coming from a girl. When this same sarcasm, truthfulness and raw emotion were expressed in artwork, however, the same dialogue was found to be impressive and amusing. I continue to challenge the outdated “girls aren’t funny” notion to this day, although I do feel that equality of expression has improved significantly since the 90s. My work is still an acceptable and enjoyable outlet, and I find my voice in my work as well as in conversation.

I started Sassy Banana Design Co. in 2016 as a greeting card business that sells handmade, vintage and kitsch items as well. The specific products I chose to feature in Sassy Banana’s online shop and local pop-up markets seemed random at first, and then it became clear to me why I chose them: people buy greeting cards for other people, and the more genuine, the better.

My biggest challenge so far on my path of entrepreneurship is figuring out what it is that people actually want, and what makes it worth it for them to invest their time and/or money. It may be worth it to me personally to invest my time and money, but I can’t keep this hustle going if I’m not making any sales. I have to be realistic. What will drive someone to buy what I’m selling? Tying back into that theme of empathy, I have to first inwardly answer these questions before spending time creating my products. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. I don’t know where to start, so I just pick an idea and create it.

My concepts so far have mostly been based on seasonality or a sense of local pride in one’s community. New Orleans is huge on toting its own quirky sense of local pride. I’ve been doing a lot of local markets around town here in NOLA, which I’ve found extremely helpful in answering some of these basic marketing questions.

Time moves a lot faster when you have big plans and ideas. It has helped me tremendously to actually do more, even if it’s not perfect, rather than to think about doing and waiting around because it’s not exactly what I want just yet. Because then you have at least something, rather than just ideas and nothing at all to show for them. You gotta start somewhere, even if it’s small.

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