Asia Horne is a self-taught Graphic Designer from Grand Rapids, MI and is the Editor-in-Chief of Empire Life Magazine – a lifestyle digital platform for millennial entrepreneurial women of color. Pay attention as Asia takes us on a journey through her experience as a self-taught Graphic Designer, her transition into full-time entrepreneurship, and her lessons learned along the way!
Formal Education & Self-Taught Graphic Design
What did you study in school, and how did you make the decision about what to study?
In college I majored in Advertising and Public Relations at Grand Valley State. It’s kind of funny how that story goes! Originally, before I went to college, I wanted to major in Journalism and minor in Graphic Design, but my mom was like, “You should consider a business degree. That’s where all the money is.” So me listening to my mom, being a good daughter, I was like, “Okay.” That just turned into me considering what I majored in, Advertising and Public Relations, which was cool, but it really wasn’t me, you know?
In college, you majored in something you weren’t completely passionate about. Explain your thought process through that journey.
I really wanted to like what I originally studied because it was the lesser of two evils in a way. It was just me trying to please everyone else and not really going for what I knew or what I loved.
Being a Communications major is kind of a more broad major to where you’re not getting really into the “nitty gritty”, so after I graduated college I’m like, “I don’t know what I’m doing”, you know? I didn’t really learn a lot of the things that are necessary to know as a PR practitioner. So after college I can’t apply to any PR agency because they’re like, “Well who did you work with? What’s your experience?”, and I had none, so it was crazy.
Sometimes, as women, we can make a lot of decisions to please other people. At what point did you decide to forget about what everyone else had to say and actually do what you want?
It really came after college. I think every person experiences that soul-searching time of your life, especially after college, because you really want to figure out what makes you happy and what you want to do. At that time, I was working a lot of part-time, dead-end jobs just to make money, but I was really searching for something that truly made me happy and something that I can explore my passions with. That’s where Empire Life Magazine came about.
Explain your journey as a self-taught graphic designer.
As a younger girl, I was a complete computer nerd. I was always on the computer. I was on all the blogs and stuff. That kind of started my graphic design interest because people would make small graphics and I’d think it was cool. It all started when I was about 13 years old, and it just grew from there. I never really had any formal training outside of taking one or two graphic design classes in high school and college. Other than that, everything else was self-taught with that, and it is really cool because I was able to land jobs from this skill that I taught myself and make money, so it’s exciting. It’s self-gratifying, for sure.
Are there any key resources you used to teach yourself Graphic Design?
Well, of course, Google University and YouTube University are huge! If you ever want to know something there’s everything out there you know at the tip of your fingers that you’re able to access. I really recommend for anybody who’s wanting to do anything, regardless of if it’s graphic design or creating a magazine, or whatever… If you’re not able to afford the college experience, use those resources that we have online because it’s all there, and most of it is free.
I would definitely say that whenever I need to do something special with the graphic design project that I don’t know, I go on YouTube and more than likely I’m able to find it. So definitely take advantage of those resources like that. Read books! Books are so important just to make sure that you’re staying sharp, but for anybody wanting to do anything, I definitely say remain a student of your craft and always stay hungry for that information, and you’ll you know make it. You’ll do what you need to do.
How has your passion for Graphic Design at a young age prepared you for what you do now?
It really helped me explore my creative side. I definitely refer to myself as a creative. I was able to help others in that aspect because a lot of people come to me aren’t necessarily creative – they don’t know how to make whatever they want to look pretty. So I’m able to do that. Now I work with a lot of female entrepreneurs who are launching their businesses and they need their logo or they need promotional flyers or things like that. So it’s really cool to do that because it’s something that I love to do and I’m good at it.
A Look at Empire Life Magazine & Life as an Entrepreneur
What’s Empire Life Magazine, and how did it get started? Did you think it was going to be what it is now?
I had no clue that it was going to turn into what it is now, but I guess it really came from doing what was true to me. Like I mentioned at the beginning, I wanted to major in Journalism in Graphic Design. Ultimately, that’s what a magazine is. So after college, I really sat down and wondered “what am I good at?” and “what do I like to do?” Those were two things, so I wanted to merge that.
After college, that’s when my entrepreneurial spirit started to come out more, and I noticed there were more and more women that were already around me that I was friends or colleagues with who were building their own businesses and brands but they weren’t receiving a lot of exposure as far as media went. So I wanted to create a platform where they could share their stories and you know get those news clippings and grow their brands that way. I also wanted to create a hub where aspiring and new entrepreneurs could learn tools and resources to build a strong foundation for their businesses, as well.
What has your experience been with transitioning out of a 9-5 job into full-time entrepreneurship?
It’s been a roller-coaster. It’s even to the point that when I’m moving back home I’m considering other options. Maybe not full-time, but part-time because it’s something about that stability.
I’m working to make Empire Life be a business to where I can pay myself a paycheck because everybody needs that consistency with their income. But it’s been tough, especially as a graphic designer because we work with a lot of clients. So, there’s been circumstances where I’m working on a project and everything’s good but something may happen on the client’s end where they’re like “I can’t pay you on this day”. In my head I’m like, “I counted in your money for my bills,” you know? So it has been frustrating.
It has been super frustrating, but I say for anybody who is considering going full-time into entrepreneurship, I say you should have systems in place to where you don’t even have to experience those low points and to create multiple streams of income. There may be times where one stream of income can be slow but another one you can gain passive income. So just make sure you have those things in place to where you don’t have to struggle and also know that you’ll be working more than ever than you did with the 9 to 5. You’ll be working 60-70 hours and you’ll be working throughout the night or waking up super early. So you have to know that being an entrepreneur isn’t just laying on the beach and, you know, chillin’, you’ll be working harder than you ever have before.
Lessons Learned in Pursuit of Purpose
Do you know your life’s purpose? Do you have any tips on pursuing it?
That’s a really tough question because you can go through waves. I think a lot of people have different things that they’re passionate about, but when you’re able to merge those passions into one mission or purpose, that’s the best thing in the world. So, at this time, I can’t really put into words what my purpose is, but I guess it’s just to create an impact and a legacy at this point.
What advice would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to speak up more, to use your voice and to speak to what you know and what you know is right. Because you can’t please everybody, and you want to make sure that whatever you are feeling inside is heard. I would definitely say to exercise your voice and just be more passionate about what you love.
What would you tell your younger self about being confident in your ability?
Even to this day, as a new 25 year-old, I’m still finding confidence, but something that I’ve learned within this new year is that the worst somebody can say is “No”. You know you should never feel so intimidated by somebody, because they have the same 24 hours as you. The worst somebody can say is, “No,” and they should never have that big of an impact on you to make you not want to go for what you want to do.
How has a positive self-image impacted your ability to actually go after your dreams?
Positive self-image all comes from being authentic. What that means is just doing you. At the end of the day, nobody can do it like you can do it. So in order to create a positive self-image, or even to gain that confidence within yourself, just remain authentic in everything. Don’t pay attention to everybody else because it’s a lot of facades out here, and it’s a lot of fake stuff. In order to stay true to yourself, just do what you know is right and do what you know is true to you.
Do you have final words about understanding and pursuing your purpose?
Create a life that you’re happy with and that you’re proud of, regardless of what that entails, because you only have one life. You want to make sure that, at the end of the day, you lived life with no regrets. So make mistakes, bump your head sometime, be broke for a season… But create those experiences that, at the end of the day, you’ll be proud of and you know that you didn’t leave any stone un-turned.