Hi everyone, and welcome to Silver Oak Design. I once read that the ‘About Me’ section of a website is the second most visited page, and here you are. So, thank you so much for stopping by, and I’ll try my best not to mess this up :)
My name is Jennifer, and my little family includes me, my boyfriend Ryan, and our 5 cats - Moosh, Nero, Nova, Honey, and Zoe.
I am originally from a small town in Western North Carolina but moved to Central Florida about 10 years ago. In October 2010, after being laid off 3 times in a row, with the job market disappearing in our area, and Ryan recovering from a year-long battle with cancer, we decided it was time for a change. Without jobs, very little money, and no idea what we were doing, we packed up his truck, grabbed the cats, and headed to the Sunshine State. With my background in IT and web development, I was able to quickly get a job at a college help desk, and with some super tight budgeting, we managed to scrape by. And by tight, I mean we slept on the floor and ate mac and cheese every night for 4 months straight. 0/5 stars, would not recommend.
To help pay the bills, I turned to selling items online. First, it began with knitted baby hats and craft supplies. When that failed I moved to very ugly jewelry that no one had the heart to tell me was awful, and then terrarium kits that were a real pain to ship. And if those ideas weren’t bad enough on their own, I thought - why not combine the two and make terrariums that you can wear? Of course, everyone thought I was crazy... For months I researched, sketched, contacted suppliers, experimented, and finally came up with the perfect design. With all the money we had left, I put it all on this one insane idea of wearable living plant jewelry, and in May 2011, GemSprouts was created.
To make a very long story short - the history of GemSprouts went from “Woah” to “woe”. Weeks after opening our Etsy shop, we were contacted by a company called Fab, who wanted our little GemSprouts to headline their Christmas sale. From there, we went viral. We were featured in blogs, newspapers, and in magazines including "The Knot". We were selling our plant necklaces all over the country from gardening centers to boutiques. Unfortunately, as many businesses find out, especially small ones who have a unique product, copycats started popping up everywhere. Chinese knock-offs with illegally sourced plants using our photos started flooding the market, and our sales started to decline. It was a never-ending battle of reporting, defending, and damage control.
At the same time this was happening, both of my parents passed away suddenly from lung cancer. I tried to give it everything I had, but the emotional toll was too much, and eventually, neither I, nor our little plant company could sustain us. I was 30 years old. My parents were gone, my business was going under, I had no safety net, nothing to show for anything, and no idea what to do next.
In an effort to keep my mind off of things, I turned into a full-blown workaholic. While still employed full time at the college help desk, I finished a bachelor's degree in Information Technology. I went to animation school but dropped out after a year because it just wasn’t what I expected. I got a new job at a library and finished a Master’s in Digital Forensics. I then decided that I should probably keep going and get a second Masters in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. During all of this, I was also running half a dozen random Etsy shops, freelancing as a graphic designer, and trying to maintain tons of different print on demand sites, because why not? Who needs to sleep?
To manage all of this self-inflicted mayhem, I started to gravitate towards the planning community. I bought every style of planner and journal I could find and spent hours and hours looking for the perfect quotes, layouts, and overly specific stickers to fit my chaotic schedule. As you can probably image, when it comes to the field of digital forensics, the subject matter can be rather dark. To maintain balance, I try to introduce as much wholesome and absurdly cute elements as possible into my daily life, mostly through my planner layouts. (And my Sumikko Gurashi collection).
Of course, when it became harder and harder to find the exact stickers that I needed, I began creating my own. What started with a few doodles and one little girl character (Ruby) soon morphed into hundreds and then thousands of designs and over a dozen more characters. Soon, things began falling into place. I was no longer just filling up a calendar with distractions. I began removing the busywork and side jobs that I hated and replaced them with creating something that made me happy again.
While I never expected to start over again, I've spent the past few years contentedly grinding away in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, my little stickers could help someone else find their happy, too.