Ali Becnel Solino

Ali Becnel Solino

From googling the meaning of graphic design to sending custom designs to the Kardashians, Ali Becnel Solino has certainly carved her own path in the design world. Her journey from working two full-time jobs to sending her designs all over the country to taking the risk of going out on her own is truly inspiring. This profile is full of  ‘how to’s and ‘me too’s, and it is a must-read for up and coming designers and entrepreneurs.

Name: Ali Becnel Solino

Instagram handle: @abeck502

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Occupation: Designer+Owner, Josephine Knick-Knacks & Trinkets

Age: 25

Secretly Obsessed With: It’s not so secret, but early Cash Money Records songs. Hot Boyz, Big Tymerz, Juvenile’s 400 Degreez album – I know and love every last expletive-filled verse. Also, old maps and conspiracy theories.

On My Nightstand: My glasses, a picture of my husband and our dogs, some Micron pens (they’re basically sketching pens that I use to do hand-lettering), a small sketchbook and Freedom by Jonathan Frazen, which I’m in the middle of right now.

Last Thing You Read: Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginedes. I had it for years and never read it, but I finally picked it up. Damn, that was a good book. A really nice and unexpected parallel of a traditional Greek tragedy with the character arc of a transgendered person during the rise and then decline of Detroit. I love books that use old-school literary devices in modern ways.

How did you get started? 

When I was younger, people always commented on how they thought I was creative. I just took it as a nice compliment and didn’t think much of it. I never took a real art class in high school, but I always thought that I had unique ideas that were compelling. When I was 17, a total stranger invited me to interview for a graphic design internship after seeing a t-shirt I designed. I agreed to the interview on the spot and promptly went home and Googled what graphic design actually was. I had no clue, and I certainly didn’t have a portfolio to show. Design found me. The summer internship went well, and after my university cut the broadcast journalism program, I had to pick a new major, and I went with advertising and graphic design.

After graduating, I worked full time for an ad agency. I would occasionally freelance for friends or friends of friends, but I didn’t get serious about monetizing my creativity on my own until my Boston terrier needed a pretty pricey knee surgery. Instead of putting it on the credit card and incurring that debt, I decided to try to raise the money by selling little dog bow ties and custom vinyl decals to pay it outright. After seeing that success, I decided to enter a craft show. And based on THAT success, I started my Etsy shop. Originally, the money from the Etsy shop went to fund my laser cutter, something I had on my wish list for a long time, and I made exponentially more money from that. The progress was incremental but encouraging, and it let to working full-time on my own shop.

Ali Becnel Solino

What key elements played into your success?

Definitely having a tremendous amount of encouragement from my support system and not being afraid to flâneur. (All right, time to throw my credibility into question completely.) I’ve always recognized this phenomenon, but I first heard it referred to as an actual word -“flâneur”- by Kelly Cutrone on The Hills. To flâneur is basically to loaf around and explore things without having a real purpose for doing it. I’ve found this is crucial for creatives, and some of my best ideas come to me when I am outside looking at the world. Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it isn’t going to happen if you spend your life stuck in a cube. Creativity is cultivated by circulating cross-cultural and timeless ideas, as well as those that have special relevance to certain cultures. But unless you get out and explore those cultures, you won’t get far.

What’s the best piece of advice you received?

Don’t be afraid to take the first step. I am notorious for being way too practical and cautious, but nothing incredible happens within your comfort zone. The magic happens “out there.” So being cautiously ambitious is how I choose to chase my dreams. In other words, stop thinking of all the things that can go wrong and think of everything that can go right.

What struggles did you face getting to this point? 

For me, finding the time to do things is really difficult. I worked full-time, which meant I had to grow my business between the hours of 7pm-7am and on weekends by filling/shipping orders, answering emails, maintaining inventory, buying supplies, depositing checks, cataloging receipts, etc. in addition to normal chores (taking care of the house, taking care of the dogs, feeding myself and my husband, maintaining a relationship with aforementioned husband, and sleeping {ha! sleep}.) It isn’t easy, but being as practical as I am, I didn’t want to haphazardly quit my day-job with a mortgage to pay. But I also refused to quit my passion. I really couldn’t have done it without my husband’s help. He’s one of my biggest encouragements, as well as the dude that helps me do the laundry at midnight on Saturday and tracking my expenses. He’s a man of many hats.

Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?

My husband and my parents. They’ve always cheered me on in a super cheesy, Celine Dion “Because You Loved Me” sort of way. I’ve also seen great inspiration in women I’ve worked with who own their own businesses. Whether I’ve interned with them in college or design for them now, the ladies I’ve worked with throughout my career have amazed me with their perseverance. The common thread I’ve seen in all these women is they worked hard and didn’t take no for an answer. They made things happen when things seemed impossible.

Ali Becnel Solino

What accomplishment are you most proud of, and when do you feel most successful?

Seeing my work on People Magazine’s Instagram page was definitely a proud moment. I was randomly approached through my Etsy site to design decor for Kourtney Kardashian’s kids clothing line launch in March 2014. The project itself had quite a few bumps in the road, but despite how challenging it was to make it work, it was worth it to see the national press in the end. On a much smaller scale, though, I definitely feel most successful when I’m able to make long, meaningful connections with people who I work well with and who will help me grow. Nothing beats finding someone who hires you to do good work, and then shares your work with their friends who also need good work done. Great connections make the world go ’round!

What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?

Don’t be afraid of hard work and don’t be afraid to mess up. I don’t care who you are, you’re going to mess up. A lot. Bank those screw-ups and draw from them later for inspiration. No one was born being great. Let great designers tear your work apart. Cry about it in the car. Eat a cupcake, watch re-runs of Dance Moms and then try again. Eventually you’ll be the one new designers come to for advice.