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Check Out Erica Whitley’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Whitley.

Hi Erica, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My story starts in eighth grade. By this time, I was already known to be the girl who plays basketball. My life basically revolved around it. So, when the opportunity rose to select an elective class, I chose painting. At this point, I had never picked up a brush and didn’t know what a canvas was. It excited me. I remember one distinct class where we had to paint a green apple using Pointillism (painting with dots). When I finished, I was so enthralled with myself that I had created this beautiful piece of art. That’s when I felt something say to me: You did this, all on your own and it didn’t need to look like anyone else’s. This was created by you.

Time passes and all of the sudden Myspace takes the world by storm. Going to school, all you heard was “add me on Myspace!” Naturally, a child never wants to be left out so, I rushed home and started building my profile. I was intrigued by the ability to customize and change the code to add different effects. I even went as far as teaching myself Photoshop so I could edit my profile picture and embed photos into my page. I was tough in it. But I never knew what a “Graphic Designer” was. My mom was a psychiatric nurse and my dad was working in IT so I went into college as a Comm major thinking I wanted to be a sports broadcaster. During my second semester freshman year, I got placed in an art class titled “Intro to Multimedia”. My world exploded. We designed our own flash animation, a magazine ads, brand logos, etc…I was in heaven. I finally felt like I fit here. This class changed the course of my life. I went to the registrar’s office and immediately changed my major and my creativity took off from there.

After college, I tried freelancing but I wasn’t really serious about work. My focus was on rehabbing a torn ACL and training to play pro. I went to a combine and when I tell you I was let down… is not in a way you’re thinking. The competition was mediocre, the women who had experience didn’t impress me, and some were a lot older still doing THIS. This couldn’t be it. I asked myself the hardest question of my life: “Do you really want to be doing this for the next five years?” The answer was no. Absolutely not. I told myself I needed to be successful, and if that means I have to give up this dream to start a new one……then so be it. I flew home and started job hunting.

At this time, I had already been working part-time at a gun manufacturing shop (YES, your girl was in a machine shop making gun parts lol), as well as doing seasonal work with a few photography businesses. I landed my first full-time position with a drinkware manufacturing company. I was in the virtual department creating virtual mockups on mugs and bottles for clients to see. I stayed there for almost two years and then took a job offer at a winery. I was the sole designer and when I say it was a different experience, it was DIFFERENT. I was micromanaged and heavily prohibited. I literally was told “You have a very helpful personality, but that’s just not what we need right now”. After four months, we came to an agreement and I moved on. I really enjoyed the work there and the people, but it just didn’t work out. And that’s perfectly fine.

A few months later, I started working part-time at a biotech company and eventually became a full-time employee. I loved it. I was learning, I was growing, I was flourishing………until the environment changed. People left, new people joined, people bumped heads, people got fired. The emotional and mental toughness I had to build because of my job environment has left me with a sort of PTSD. Almost everyone walked on eggs shells. Eventually, situations transpired and it left me running a whole department by myself. Thinking back, I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t over my head…I knew exactly what needed to get done and I thrived. I held the department together with the knowledge I obtained while training newcomers, keeping deadlines, and implementing new processes. I was happy again. This lasted about four months because when reviews came, I got a pat on the back. I felt so unappreciated. I just displayed my value, my worth, my capability, and nothing. I immediately started looking for a new job.

As I was searching, I came across an opportunity that I fit the requirements for, so I clicked apply. A few weeks later, I got an email requesting to schedule a meeting. Honestly, I was in shock. I landed an interview with a well-known company. I was so nervous and excited but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. That phone interview turned into two video interviews which then lead to a six person panel interview…


I never felt so proud. I had landed one of the greatest job opportunities in my life. One that I could build at and grow. One where I didn’t need to wear 15 hats and be a jack of all trades. One where I could be me and thrive. It’s crazy how an environment can truly stunt your creative growth. But being that I was able to relax and not feel like I was on edge, this gave me a creative jump and I started my business creating stickers. Since February of 2021, I’ve released 20 stickers and even took a break for a few months to travel as I turned 30. Now, I’m back to creating and growing my business.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road is never easy. Artists always suffer from imposter syndrome, so I’ve second-guessed designs, packaging, and myself. But it’s all part of the process. I try to isolate these feelings, leave it alone and just do something else. For example, I was trying to think of my brand logo and was STUCK. So, I took out a canvas and started painting. Afterwards, I looked at it and said yoooooooo, this could be my logo and I ran with it. The journey of a creative is never easy, even if it looks like it.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Professionally, I work as a designer for LinkedIn Learning. I’m part of the graphics team putting together the instructional designs for each learning video we produce. I also help create documentation on different processes.

Creatively, I’m a graphic designer and photographer. I’m known for logos, stickers, and my photos.

I’d have to say I’m mostly proud of the fact I have been putting my artwork out into the world. I used to feel afraid of being judged on what I created because I didn’t feel like I was creative enough or talented enough but I learned it’s all a facade. People will like what you produce….maybe not everyone, but some. That’s good enough for me!

I think my background sets me apart from others. My entire life I was a basketball player. I played since I was six. Being an artist was not what anyone expected and sometimes now, people don’t realize I was an athlete. It’s not common having a star athlete who also is somewhat of a nerd.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I wouldn’t say luck, I’d say God’s timing. I’m very spiritual and I have built a faith in knowing that God got me. He knows the desires of my heart and I think I had to go through some tough experiences to help shape my view and prepare me for the blessing. Honestly, all I can do is give my effort and have faith.


  • Stickers: $2-$4

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Image Credits
Images credited to @EWTheCreative

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