Q&A with Chelsie Tamms

May 28, 2020

Tell us a little bit about who you are.

I am the lettering artist and designer behind Lettering Works, a Chicago-based modern brand design studio that specializes in customized designs to help passions and brands shine. I believe we could all use a little more happy mail in our lives and have created a line of positivity and community-centric products to help foster meaningful connections. When I’m not designing, I can be found eating ice cream, traveling internationally, or starting a new passion project.

What is your story?

I grew up in the far Northwest Suburbs of Chicago and attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. At Bradley, I studied graphic design, Spanish, and marketing. Highlights from my time there included studying abroad in Granada, Spain for a semester, creating my first, self-published book “Just my Type of Lettering,” and getting introduced to the world of entrepreneurship. I won $10,000 in startup funding from Bradley’s Student Entrepreneurship Competition to start Lettering Works. I spent three years in Peoria after graduating to build my business and then relocated to Chicago to grow my business and work in a larger market. I split my time between creating art products and working with my clients to build strategic and lasting brands.

What is an obstacle you have been faced with, and how did you overcome it?

One of the largest obstacles I’ve faced was having a spinal fusion surgery to correct my scoliosis when I was in eighth grade. This surgery lasted 11.5 hours and left me with two titanium rods and 19 screws running down my spine. Scoliosis can be a pretty hidden disability. While this life event brought on physical and emotional challenges, I overcame it by consciously choosing to focus on my successes and abilities.

How did having a spinal fusion surgery impact your life? What did you learn from it?

Having a spinal fusion surgery impacted my life not only physically, but emotionally. Eighth grade is a hard time to adjust to having limitations physically and I remember one of the biggest let downs was not making the high school volleyball team despite countless hours of physical therapy to prepare me for the tryouts. After getting past that initial disappointment, I was able to focus on my abilities and where I could be successful. I excelled academically and dedicated even more time to art and creativity. That passion for art has blossomed into an opportunity for me to work for myself and allow me to work in a way that suits me. I give myself permission to do what works for me without guilt or fear of not fitting in. I’ve also learned how to advocate for myself and my own unique needs.

Tell us a little more about Lettering Works. What inspired you to create it?

Lettering Works is truly the result of my hope to turn my love of hand lettering into a full-time career. I never expected to be a business owner right out of college, but I have loved how it has shaped me and yielding me more creative opportunities than I may have found in a corporate setting.

I was inspired to start my own business after feeling really clear about what I would most enjoy doing with my life. I’ve always loved lettering and helping others in a thoughtful way. I’ve found my niche of supporting business owners with visuals that can help get their passions the attention they deserve to be really rewarding. I love seeing the impact that my work can have on these businesses and the community at large.

What was the journey of creating Lettering Works like?

I started conceptualizing Lettering Works when I was a senior at Bradley University, preparing to compete in a student entrepreneurship competition. A lot of creating Lettering Works came very naturally to me as building this business is truly my greatest passion. Other parts, like financials and accounting, have required the help of countless mentors and other business professionals.

Did you ever have moments of doubt? How did you continue to push yourself to follow your dreams?

Everyone in creative entrepreneurship has moments of doubt and I think they can be incredibly useful to challenging our ideas and pushing us to be more creative. I try to balance the doubt that comes with difficult client projects by frequently working on personal passion projects that keep my love for what I do at the forefront of my mind. I continue to push myself to follow my dreams by asking myself what I want and strategically developing a plan to achieve my goals.

Which of your achievements are you most proud of? What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?

Two achievements stick out in my mind. The first, a Small Business Award from the City of Peoria that I received in 2017 (a year into business) for my substantial contributions to the community. It helped me realize the direct impact I could have with my talents and validated my choice to become a business owner. The second, getting my art products (specifically postcards and enamel pins) into the Field Museum’s Gift Shop. My move to Chicago was motivated by an interest in leveling up in business and finding bigger opportunities, so this accomplishment was a really big win for me.

My hopes for the future is that I can continue to level up my business and seek out even bigger and more exciting opportunities. I love to be challenged and work hard to achieve my goals. Ultimately, I’d love to see my art in more museum and airport gift shops throughout the world.

What advice would you like to share with others that has helped you throughout your journey? Are there any quotes that you “live” by?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in business is to invest in myself. I think all creatives and business owners should invest more in themselves and their ideas without fear. I also have found that it is essential to work with people you like, those who value you and make you feel appreciated.

A quote that I’ve lived by for some time is to “always take advantage of every opportunity.” I’ve found that there are so many opportunities that people miss out on simply because they hold limiting beliefs about what they are capable of achieving.

What does being Simply Unstoppable mean to you?

To me, being Simply Unstoppable means never giving up on yourself and what you really want. It means pushing yourself to be your best and not letting anyone else get in the way of fulfilling your full potential.

How can readers get in contact with you to continue this conversation?

To learn more about Lettering Works, find us at www.letteringworks.com, Instagram, or Facebook.

To connect with Chelsie directly, you can email [email protected] or connect on Instagram or LinkedIn.

All photos by Violet and Ivy Photography.