Sherrie Savage, the owner of Naturally ILLustrated, has been drawing since the age of three. Now, she is an ILLustrator, graphic designer, and crafter who creates illustrations focused on natural hair, black culture, and her life’s journey to share with the world. Read more about Sherrie.
How did you get started in your industry?
After my first big chop in 2013, I wanted to journal my hair story. In 2015, I was inspired to transform my journal into sketches, which birthed Naturally ILLustrated. In 2016, Naturally ILLustrated released its first coloring book, “Naturally ILL, A Naturally ILLustrated Coloring Book.” The coloring book encouraged other women and young girls to celebrate their natural tresses.
Now, Naturally ILLustrated uses illustrations as a creative tool to educate and promote self-love to black women and children. Naturally ILLustrated is a series of black and white illustrations that reflect curls, coils, and kinky hair types, which are coupled with a number of coloring events that are coordinated for men and women of all ages.
Growing up, did you imagine being an entrepreneur?
Yes. Growing up, my father owned his own business, and still does, I knew that I wanted to follow in his footsteps and have the same joy, freedom, and control in shaping my career.
In the beginning, stages of developing your brand/business, what was your biggest struggle and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenges were establishing my brand, developing my business model, and understanding my customer. In the beginning, your “WHY” doesn’t always become the “WHY” in your business objective. I had a very specific niche, coloring books for black girls and women who embraced natural hair and their culture. But do black women color? Are black children still coloring? Adult coloring books were a huge trend in 2015 and 2016, but could I keep the trend going to keep my business alive? “WHY” am I doing this?
These were just some of the questions I was asking myself when establishing my brand. During the beginning stages of my business, I had to test my market. I hosted coloring parties, partnering with various Detroit businesses and venues; I participated in multiple local vending shows, and I attended business workshops. After two years of research, not only was I able to build a business portfolio, I had a clearer understanding of my brand and my customer.
Do you feel like you are pursuing purpose, Sherrie? If so, how did you know this was your purpose?
I was always meant to be an artist. I’ve been drawing and creating since I was three years old, I don’t know anything else but to create. I feel Naturally ILLustrated is helping me to fulfill my life’s purpose to create art that makes people happy, which also makes me happy. A good creative cycle!
Please tell us about, Naturally ILLustrated?
Naturally ILLustrated uses illustrations and graphic design to educate and promote self-love. It’s a series of products, such as coloring books, that reflect curls, coils, and kinky hair types, which are coupled with coloring events that are coordinated for men, women, and children of all ages. Naturally ILLustrated also offers creative design and illustration services such as logos, character development/portraits, page layout/design, branding.
What is the best part of Naturally ILLustrated? What keeps you motivated to keep going?
Reviews from my customers. It brings me joy when I hear people tell me that they’re happy to see illustrations that look like them; it warms my heart when people thank me for my talent and sharing it with them, and I’m humbled when I see photos shared of customers’ children coloring in my coloring book. Seeing and hearing others inspired and happy by my artwork keeps me going.
As an entrepreneur myself, I understand that sometimes personal life can get in the way of business. Have you encountered any personal hurdles that could have or did result in a business pivot?
Addressing my mental health has definitely slowed down how much time I was able to invest in my business. In 2018 and 2019, I had to shift most of my energy from Naturally ILLustrated to myself. It was difficult to make this decision, but I knew if I didn’t address my PTSD, Naturally ILLustrated would fail and other parts of my life wouldn’t prosper. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but society doesn’t make it ok to not be ok, so I kept quiet. I was embarrassed and was afraid of taking a hiatus from my business but I found the courage to choose ME first.
During these times, we’ve all had to adjust. How has this adjustment been for you and your brand?
After my hiatus, I decided that 2020 was going to be Naturally ILLustrated’s year! I partnered with another black business to host a fashion and coloring event to reunite me with my customers and possibly gain new ones, but COVID had other plans for all of us. During this time, I revised my business plan, explored new creative mediums, such as baking, and brainstormed other new products and services that Naturally ILLustrated will offer in the near future.
What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
No matter what, keep going, keep learning, and be consistent!
Lastly, what keeps you struttin?
What keeps me struttin’ is my strong desire to create!
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