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UofGH Media Studies alumna an entrepreneur in design
University of Guelph-Humber Media Studies alumna Emma Allen has a knack for design that spans a vast number of disciplines – she’s trained and talented at photography, calligraphy, fine art, graphic design, and creating custom signage and stationery, to name a few – but when she needs a creative outlet, she turns to watercolour.
That’s why that with so many people working and studying from home during the COVID-19 crisis, Allen – the owner of the Emma Allen Design Studio – thought she would share the uplifting feeling she gets with a brush in her hand by offering free watercolour classes online.
“When I’m painting just for the sake of painting, it feels therapeutic and productive from a professional development standpoint,” she explained. “I thought offering free watercolour lessons during the pandemic would be a way to lift people’s spirits and encourage them to try something new.”
In fact, Allen herself has never been shy about trying new things in her career – and so far, that boldness has worked in her favour.
A winding path to entrepreneurship
Allen originally came to the University of Guelph-Humber because she prioritized finding a program that would provide both theoretical and practical studies.
“I was also looking for smaller class sizes with access to more one-on-one time with professors,” she recalled. “UofGH was the only University that fit the bill.”
Upon graduating, Allen decided to move to the West Coast. For two years, she worked as as photographer, capturing national-level athletes at the Canadian Sport Institute in Victoria.
The job allowed Allen to combine two of her passions.
“Besides art, sports and fitness play a big role in my life and it was always an attractive career path for me. My job at the Canadian Sport Institute allowed me to dabble in my love for both fields – art and sports,” she recalled.
“While working there I was constantly surrounded by Olympic and rising athletes, as well as a very inspiring and driven staff. I felt honoured to work in that environment and am so grateful for the experience. It also introduced me to my now fiancé, which is an added bonus.”
Although she was happy in that environment, she couldn’t shake the entrepreneurial urge. She made another bold choice.
“Making the decision to leave my full-time job to start a business at the age of 24, over 5,000 kilometres away from friends and family, was terrifying,” she said. “I really didn’t have any big leads or the financial means to begin, but I also felt that there really would never be a ‘right’ time to start.
“There were a lot of challenges, but the option to work for myself, make my own hours, and do creative work that was meaningful to me and others was worth it. I’m six years into running the business full time and I definitely still run into challenges, but I’ve learned to develop a thick skin and to understand how each challenge is a learning experience.”
Her own boss
Allen began establishing herself first by photographing weddings and local events, but soon her love of graphic design and fine arts prompted her to expand her business plan.
“Emma Allen Design Studio is all my favourite things wrapped up into a business,” she said. “I focus mostly on the wedding industry working with brides and grooms on stationery, signage, etc. I’ve recently started doing more education ventures like business consultations, calligraphy lessons, watercolour lessons, etc.
“Despite the stressors that come along with running a business, I love working for myself and I hope to continue doing it for a very long time.”
Certainly, when she thinks back to the beginning of her time at UofGH, she realizes how far she has come.
“I was 17 when I started University, and I grew up in a tiny little farming community. Leaving my little town and my family was scary but I quickly learned UofGH was the ideal transition to adult life because of the tight knit community,” she said.
“I not only gained an education at UofGH, I gained amazing friends, a professional network, and a lifetime of fun memories. I still dream about the iced capps from the cafe and Saturday rugby games.”
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