As a freelance graphic designer transitioning in the late 1990s from the corporate world to entrepreneurship, Felicia Wright leaned heavily on advice from people who had been in her shoes.
A couple of years ago, Wright went on a new mentor-hunting expedition to assist her as she embraced another monumental life change — motherhood.
“There were a lot of mommy-and-me-type groups, but I did some research and talked to several moms, and didn’t find anything that focused on entrepreneurship or gave you that aspect of it,” said Wright, CEO/president of Mygani Design Studio.
This year, Wright set out to fill that void. She launched Mentoring Mamas, a peer-to-peer mentoring program for business owners who are actively balancing the roles of mother and entrepreneur.
“Felicia is quintessentially an entrepreneur — an entrepreneur to the core,” says CEO Focus President Linda Nottingham, who mentored Wright through the JAX Chamber Foundation’s Jacksonville Women’s Business Center.
Wright and nine other current and former Women’s Business Center clients will be recognized tonight at the program’s 10th anniversary celebration at Episcopal School of Jacksonville. The center has helped more than 8,000 clients launch, grow or transform their businesses.
As driven to succeed as she is, Wright spends a tremendous amount of time and energy helping others, Nottingham says.
“One of the things that struck me about Felicia is that while she was interested in building her business and marketing her business, which she did very successfully, she was also very good in determining how and when to give back,” Nottingham said.
Indeed, Wright’s pro bono endeavors earned her a University of Phoenix scholarship, enabling her to obtain a master’s of business administration in marketing. Wright also has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of North Florida.
Wright, 40, readily uses — but did not coin — the term “mompreneur” to describe herself and many of her business peers.
Mentoring Mamas particularly targets women with children under 5; Wright’s daughter, Savannah, is 2.
“Like with other peer groups, it just helps to know you are not alone. It helps to talk with others who have similar issues and similar challenges, support each other, and bounce ideas off each other,” she said. “Even though we have small kids, we want to continue to grow our business and be successful.”
Barbara Tolliver-Haskins, op-erator of Jacksonville’s Executive Coaching Solutions, says she is especially impressed with Wright’s grasp of “work-life balance” and her attention to detail.
“I know personally that this has always been important to her. She has not kept this a secret,” said Tolliver-Haskins. “As her mentor and coach, I have found her to be sincere, determined and focused on providing the best product possible to her customers. She is not a ‘hit-and-miss’ type of person. She is creative, authentic and serves with purity.”
Noting that Savannah has a propensity to chat and otherwise demand attention from her mother, especially when visitors are present, Wright says teleconferencing has become a vital tool in what she describes as a “portable” career.
“As you can see, she is very busy now, at this age,” Wright said of ever-playful Savannah during an interview at her home, from which she works full time. “Skype has come to be my friend.”
Likewise, getting clients together for monthly Mentoring Mamas meetings is inherently challenging, so participants are encouraged to bring their children.
“Everyone is understanding about the distractions, of course. Distractions are just part of our lives, at this point,” Wright said.
Wright’s bread-and-butter remains her longtime passion — graphic arts. She specializes in logo design, newsletters, brochures, programs and other art-centric projects publications.
Among her recurring, raving clients is Matt Galnor, the JAX Chamber vice president of public affairs, for whom Wright has designed programs and other marketing material.
“Her passion for graphic design shows in her work, which is always topnotch,” Galnor said. “She is quick to respond and consistently finishes complicated projects ahead of schedule. Felicia is a true professional and she’s done an excellent job establishing and growing her business.”
Wright says that working for herself has advantages and challenges. Among the benefits, she said, has been working directly with clients.
“When I was in corporate America, I was a designer working with a salesperson who was the one talking to the client,” she said. “Now, as the owner of my own company, I’m able to interact directly with the client through the entire creative process. It helped me build self-confidence and leadership skills.”
Wright also has gradually gained the knowledge and experience to beef up her portfolio by offering branding and other marketing consulting services.
“As a nonprofit or a business, there’s so much involved beyond logos in getting your message out to your target audience, and I am able to help now not just with the creative part, but with branding,” she said.