Bold & Polished
Pistil of the Month
By: Maquita Donyel
― Leonardo da Vinci
“It’s a funny thing, how much time we spend planning our lives. We so convince ourselves of what we want to do, that sometimes we don’t see what we’re meant to do.”
― Susan Gregg Gilmore
With crisp white walls as her backdrop, an edgy bob and a signature collection chain to shape her face, Avonda’s soulful voice, bright smile and humble spirit greets me with a sweet, “Heeyy!”
Avonda Turner is a twenty-something year old, Owner/Art Director of Brand Design Love and the Senior Graphic Designer at a firm located in the Washington, DC area.
Like most 2006 High School graduates, this Chesterfield, Virginia native graduated with a diploma in one hand and very specific life plans in the other. These life plans included attending a specific university, and that university alone.
“My first, [and only], choice was Howard [University]. That was where I was going to go. That was my life plan and my best friends [and I] applied together.”
And then the unexpected happened.
“Two received their acceptance letters, the other two received their denial letters. I didn’t receive a letter period, so I just took it as I didn’t get in. I was depressed; I didn’t apply to anywhere else but Howard University. Come to found out, they lost [my application]. By the time they found it, my father was hellbent on ‘my daughter is NOT a city girl and she was not living in off campus housing,’ it was [all] too much.”
Avonda began researching other schools, but was uninterested in attending any of them. A few weeks later, a friend from church, a second year Old Dominion University (ODU) student, invited Avonda to stay with her, on the ODU campus, during Spring Break. Avonda agreed.
“I fell in love with [ODU]. I fell in love with the campus. I fell in love with all of her friends! I applied [to ODU] [as soon as I got back home]. They accepted me! ODU was one of the best, random things to happen for me.”
Now faced with the decision to choose a major, Avonda chose Dance based on her 10+ years of experience and dreams of one day changing lives in a urban community through her personal dance studio. With a natural gift for marketing, her parents convinced her to choose this as her minor.
A year later Avonda found that although she loved dancing, she was not the best at working with children on a daily basis. She also began to question whether or not life as a dance teacher would support her future financial obligations. Sophomore year of college, Avonda changed her major to Public Relations (PR) and chose to minor in Dance.
It was in the required PR/Marketing internship course where she discovered her love for branding and graphic designing.
“We had to create an entire campaign from beginning to end. [We created] the press release, the brochures [and] any pitch material. I spent most of my energy and time on the look of it. However, it was not a graphic design course. [Needless to say,] I pretty much failed the project. [My instructor] told me ‘this looks absolutely amazing, but you put all of your energy towards [the graphics].I realized then I loved, [and preferred], the brand side of [marketing]. But even then, I never considered myself a graphic designer.”
Avonda graduated from college in 2010 with a PR degree and wealth of experience. Even with this, Avonda was still unable to land a job.
“ I cried when I moved out of my dorm. I moved back in with my parents for a few months and it was very, very rough. I had this dream that when I graduated from college I would go off into my dream job and into my own place. And then it hit me, [I was a college graduate, without a job] and my mom pretty much gives me $75 a week. There was no one [ with job offers] calling me back. My degree didn’t feel like it [was worth] anything.”
In-between job hunting, Avonda decided to create graphic designs on the Adobe Illustrator program she used during her PR internship.
Her parents began to take notice of her talented work and referred her services to anyone they knew. It was during this time that a client suggested she start her own graphic design business. So, she got a business license and started Brand Design Love (BDL), “a branding company that designs compelling print and online brand identities. It is a system that connects businesses to their audiences on a forever kind of level”.
Shortly after BDL’s creation, Avonda was offered a position as a Marketing Project Manager in Maryland. She accepted the position and continued to do graphic design work on the side. Suddenly, things took a turn for what appeared to be the worst.
“They fired me. I was devastated. It was the worse firing in the world; I felt horrible. When I asked the reason, they said you are not Marketing project manager, maybe you should look into the design field. ”
Avonda had previously been told by another professional, she did not have the credentials to be hired as a graphic design artists. And although she had her own business creating graphics for others, she felt that without a degree in Graphic Design and the proper credentials, she could not consider herself as such.
Avonda was then offered a position as a Marketing Coordinator. This position required for her to take on a role more closely related that of a graphic designer. This position not only helped to build her confidence in graphic design, it connected her to a graphic design artist that changed her entire prospective.
“He basically gave it to me straight. He told me ‘I think you’re amazing. Avonda, you don’t charge enough, you don’t have enough confidence in yourself. Forget everything else you’ve ever been told, you’re a graphic designer.’”
She took his advice and ran with it.
“I don’t know what life will throw at me, so I mind as well enjoy it.” – Avonda Turner
When asked her advice for girls and women that are attempting to find themselves and identify their passion, she replied:
“It’s very empowering to get to know yourself, to have fun with yourself. You have to really ask yourself, ‘What do I what to do?’ Even if it’s something as simple as ‘What do I want to do today?’ —Date yourself! Take yourself out. If there’s a favorite meal that you want, go make it. If you dont want to make it, go buy it. Doing things by yourself and for yourself helps you learn who you are. What are the things that make you say, ‘I am in pure bliss right now’ in life. Once you discover those things, it will help you find what [truly enjoy] professionally, personally, and in everything.”
When asked “What do we need to improve on as women,” her response?
“I think often times we look outside of ourselves and we compare ourselves [to things and people around us]. It makes us think we aren’t amazing. I would say, it’s important to remind ourselves often that we are each amazing, we are wonderfully made and that we are superpowers. That the world belongs to us, and we do run the world, I really believe that. I think we need to uplift each other and empower each other. We are strong separately but together we can do the most amazing things.”
Avonda ultimately has dreams of creating a brand management firm/agency that not only designs business cards and logos, but also takes ownership and manages an entire brand from beginning to end.
Avonda was chosen to be ‘Pistil of the Month’ – February 2014 because of the amount of boldness and strength displayed throughout her journey thus far. She handled her very unpredictable situation with grace, class, and determination. She could have chosen to dwell on the incidents that did not go according to her plan, but she instead opted to have faith in better plans. Avonda was chosen because of the unafraid attitude she has towards taking calculated risks. She constantly and consistently trusted God’s plan over her own.
These are the very things that should be celebrated; class, strength and unity among women.
This is the essence of our true beauty as women. It is our hopes that Avonda’s eloquent story will inspire you to never give up, and to keep pushing. That when something does not go according to plan, you don’t give up and settle for less, but instead work harder to discover His plan for you.
Stay Lifted. Stay Faithful. Be inspired.