Born in Belarus and moving to Minnesota at 8-years-old, Veronica Gagnelius was a music major in high school, briefly an illustration major in college before taking off as a graphic designer. Gagnelius talks about her favorite type of clients, running her own business, and juggling work and a young family in this week’s Who The Folk?!
How did you come to start your own firm?
I started out of college when I first graduated from Cal State-Northridge. I started working for a few different companies. I did magazine design. I worked for another company where I did a lot of car ads which got old after a while. After working a few full time jobs I realized that: A) I had a hard time working in a cubicle environment being a creative person and B) The whole 8-5 work thing didn’t really speak to me well. I’m creative at different hours. So I started freelancing right away and I loved it because I got to do so much variety of work. I could work with whatever type of clients, learning new industries, learning new businesses, working with new people and the flexibility. When I moved back to Minnesota with my husband, I decided this was when I really wanted to pursue it. But I got an opportunity to work at Federation which I couldn’t pass up because I was very passionate about working for a non-profit. I really loved working there. When I got laid off, it was the time to start my own business. I was fortunate to find a really awesome team of people, and it became “this is what I’m going to do.” I call my company Dream Big because I was dreaming big. We became Dream Big in January of last year and things really took off.
Are you originally from Minnesota?
I was born in Belarus, came here when I was 8, moved to California for college. After college I was out there for a little while and I met my husband, Wes, who happens to be from Minnesota also. Both of our families are here and we got suckered into moving back here, which I’m not always happy about in the winter. Having my daughter and having my parents able to help out is amazing, so that’s why we’re back here.
Being in business on your own, what’s the biggest challenge?
I wear a lot of different hats: I’m the designer, I put the business proposals together, I’m doing the pitch. I’m doing everything all at once which can be demanding with a work-life balance. Although there’s a lot of benefits to having a loose schedule, I can never turn my phone off. If I pass it up it’s going to go to someone else. You can’t always take a break, although I do on Shabbat. I turn my phone off and I love it. It’s the best release. If someone didn’t tell me to stop, I never would.
Is it hard for your family knowing that you’re always on call?
My daughter gets frustrated sometimes. I try very hard to pay attention to her when it’s my time to play with her. I do my best to balance and I know it’s something that everyone has that issue that has a family. And now I’m going to have two, so I’ll have two to balance.
What’s your favorite area to do work in?
I love doing food and beverage. I don’t know if I have a specific space, but I have certain projects that I like doing more than others. One thing I’ve become a specialist in is infographics, so that’s something that I really love doing regardless of industry. I like to have creative projects; it doesn’t matter the industry. As long as the give me some room beyond “here’s our corporate brand and this is all you can do.” I love working with non-profits and companies working to make a positive impact on the world, and I also love rebranding and website redesign projects because I love the challenge of turning something outdated into an innovative, new and exciting design.
What led you to graphic design world?
I was at the Perpich Center for Arts Education for high school, but I was a music major. That was in 11th grade. But I was always drawing and always enjoyed visual arts as well. I knew I wasn’t going to make it as a musician, because I wasn’t amazing at it. I decided to become an illustration major because I’ve always had a passion for art. I got into Art Center College of Design as an illustration major, but I realized you aren’t going to make any money and I’d be a starving artist my whole life. I picked something a little more commercial. You can still be an artist but make a living at it.
What’s the next thing you’d like do in?
I would like to work with unique and innovative businesses that are open to pushing the creative boundaries. I would love the opportunity to work with a brewery/winery and unique retail concepts and continue to grow the business and bring more Fortune 500 clients in. I’d like to have a steady stream of business and have more employees come on.
Favorite Jewish holiday?
Definitely Sukkot. We love putting up the Sukkah and decorating it. My daughter just loved it. She was so upset when we took it down. Me and my husband really love it. He’s a convert so it’s newer to him. He converted eight years ago but it’s still fairly new to him. He loves the holidays and sharing it with him. Every Sukkot we have friends over and do a big party. But’s it’s a toss-up with Purim because who doesn’t like to dress up and get drunk, right?
Favorite Jewish food?
It may be cliché to say bagels, but I do love bagels. Especially now that I’m pregnant. Although I do like Hanukkah food as well. I’d go with latkes.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!