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Meet Trailblazer Donna Agnes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Donna Agnes.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Donna. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m an immigrant from the Philippines and migrated to Los Angeles, CA when I was nine years old. I didn’t know it back then, but this big move to a different country changed the course of my life forever, and for the better.

Growing up as a child, in both the PH and US, my family (mother, father, sister) and I had always rented a room the four of us can live in, in another relatives’ homes. I thought this was the norm growing up, but as I grew older and found out my other classmates and friends had their own rooms, I began to speculate why this I was different. I realized that though we were still a young family back then, we were living life at the poverty level. Neither my mother or father had any formal education to get decent jobs. My mother didn’t finish high school in the Philippines and my father didn’t finish college. My mother became a full-time caretaker for my sister and I back home, while my father immigrated to the states first so he can provide for us.

For years, we made it work with barely enough to spend on bills every month. My mother eventually became a caregiver and my father worked at a deli. They were living paycheck to paycheck and I remember feeling the tension and stress when they would come up short to cover all our bills. The stress was so toxic that my parents eventually divorced when I was 12. When I was old enough to work at the student store at 14 years old, I was able to support myself so my parents didn’t have to provide for me. I just wanted to alleviate some stress off their shoulders. So, at a very young age, I learned how to survive and be self-sufficient. But the feeling of anxiety stayed with me throughout my teens. When I was old enough to go to college, I promised myself that I would not put myself through this stress. So, I was determined to finish college, get a good degree and have a successful career so that I don’t ever have to be in my parents’ shoes.

I ended up defying my parents’ wishes to become a nurse (because there are enough Filipina nurses around the world, and it’s just not my thing lol). Instead, I followed my passion to become a designer. My intuition led me to attend The Art Institutes in Santa Monica and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Going through this college and getting a Bachelor’s degree in technical design was one of my proudest moments in life. After graduating, I was swarmed with many amazing opportunities. I eventually settled into a career for a creative agency where I worked for ten years as a senior art director.

This career was so fulfilling in many ways. I had an amazing salary with benefits and I never worried about money. Best of all, I was able to support both my parents financially and provide stability for our family. Looking back at those years, I realized how lucky I was and how proud I was of myself for being that determined. I still reminisce about this time of my life when I was comfortable and stable.

When I turned 30 years old, I asked myself “So, what now?!” I was feeling the urge to evolve and grow. I started my spiritual journey and dove into the world of personal development and entrepreneurship. My intuition was telling me again to pivot and I felt that I no longer belonged at that career. My heart was telling me to support the heroes I was meeting in the personal development world. And so, with as much courage as I can summon, I quit my stable job to start my own design business!

This was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but the most necessary. Five years later, I still don’t regret leaving my job. As scary as it was, this journey made me who I am today – resourceful, a problem solver, expressive, compassionate, creative and I’m living my most authentic life because I’m living my purpose!

I use to say that I work on million dollar campaigns, and now I’m proud to say I make transformational leaders, lightworkers, business leaders, and visionary entrepreneurs look like a million bucks so they can make their impact. I’ve created something one of a kind with my company and I believe that the work I do is so special. Having my own business taught me how to be and feel abundant, and heal the scarcity wounds that I’ve picked up from my parents. I’ve learned to trust the process and follow where my heart and God leads me. I trust that support will present itself when it’s needed and miracles are gifted to me just at the right time. Today, I can say that I’m “winning at life.” I’m living my purpose, I feel so abundant and my heart is so full! =)

Has it been a smooth road?
My entrepreneurship journey has definitely been an adventure! I wish I had done things differently and I learned many lessons that could have prevented a lot of heartache, stress, and anxiety.

Some of just a few of my struggles and lessons were:
– not saving enough money before leaving my job and not building a solid foundation. Because of this, I didn’t have a structure in life and business. I was forced to take on any design projects even if they weren’t aligned with me and they paid very little. If I could do it all over again, I would have sucked up my pride and work on my business as a side hustle, while honing in on who my ideal clients were, until I’m able to make a good enough income from it so I can finally leave my job.

– as a new entrepreneur, I had the “shiny object syndrome.” I must have taken 6 online courses about how to build a business and learned all kinds of business models. This leads me to not focus on one strategy and follow it through. I was going in many directions that I wasn’t as productive as I needed to be. If I could do it all over again, I would have hired a personal coach who’s been through the same journey, follow through one plan and focus my actions on getting results instead of feeling the false hope from the courses I’ve taken.

– I dreaded sales conversations and marketing myself. I realize now that this is not a mistake but a common experience that most artists and entrepreneurs to go through. But at the time, it wasn’t a concept that was normalized for me. If I could do it all over again, I would get coaching on this and face my fears sooner.

– I got stuck doing “busy work” and didn’t allow myself to have a grand vision. I was stuck in survival mode that I wasted time I could have put into creating a business that works FOR me instead of being a slave to it. If I could do it all over again, I would trust my ability to do this more, got the support to help me rise up to the leader I needed to be in order to make the biggest impact I can make.


We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
First of all, I’m so grateful that I live in a time where I see so many amazing, confident, intelligent and powerful women leaders and other women rising up to become tomorrow’s leaders in our industry! In this line of work, I feel like I have nothing holding me back because I have so many great examples of women who are rocking it and have paved the way.

But like any industry, it’s not a perfect world. I feel that the biggest barrier women have in my industry is lack of deep connections. This may be ironic since technology today has made it easy for us to connect across the globe, but I believe this blessing also comes with a price.

It takes more effort to get to REALLY know someone and build relationships. We have made up obligations to keep up with technology that we don’t have the capacity to invest time in cultivating and nurturing deeper relationships.

We’d love to hear more about The Essence Muse.

I’m a founder and creative director of The Essence Muse, a branding & web design consultancy for leaders, coaches, visionary entrepreneurs, and influencers.

I specialize in capturing your essence and translating it into an experience as a visual brand and website. Therefore my name “The Essence Muse.”

I am passionate about helping people articulate their value and gifts through my work. I’ve helped people launch their brands & websites, design their products & programs, and put their work up online so they can share their services and attract their ideal clients.

I’m also passionate about mentoring other designpreneurs and freelance designers. I’m currently designing a coaching program to support them on their journey so they can live abundant lives doing what they love.

I believe what sets me apart from others is that as much as I love being a leader, I know I don’t know everything. I’m don’t feel like a “guru” or someone people should idolize. I genuinely want to HELP people and inspire them to find their own inner strength, just as I discovered it for myself. I am still on this journey and I want to share what I’ve learned as a student of life with others. I see myself as being a few steps ahead of my clients and students, and it’s my passion for wanting to help them succeed is what keeps me going.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photography by: Jeff Cleary, Personal Stylist: Lauren LiBrandi

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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