March 22, 2017

Laura Willis

Laura WillisHere’s My Journey:

Introduced to the world the same year as Barbie and Jiffy Pop, I remember being told at an early age that I had inherited my parent’s artistic talents. Given the influence of my Dad, who made furniture and dabbled in oil painting, and Mom, who loved all things artsy-crafty, it seemed to make sense that my sister and I would end up pursuing careers related to the arts. I’m sure I held crayons and markers long before I could read or write.

At the Massachusetts College of Art I received a BFA in Graphic Design and Advertising, as I fell in love with the idea of creating something that would have visibility out there in the world and that what I created could affect a company’s success by helping them to connect with a consumer in an emotional way.

I realize that I was highly influenced by after-school TV as it was part of my every day routine growing up. Then of course, the commercials – I’ve always been a sucker for a good ad campaign. I won awards in school art competitions and remember winning an award for a poster I created for fire safety when I was probably 10 or 12 years old. I guess the idea of making an impact runs deep.

The influence of my career path

My career path has taken me from mechanical artist through creative director to business owner. I’ve worked at both small to large ad agencies and in the corporate environment in and around the Boston area, helping to build consumer and business-to-business brands for local and national clients.

One highlight I remember after I was married and on a trip to St. Maarten with friends, we walked into a yogurt shop where a poster I designed was on display. It was so cool that I was in a foreign land and seeing my work there, potentially contributing to that business’ success.

My Perfect Storm

With the ups and downs of the corporate and agency worlds and then being faced with caring for several aging family members, I started my own business creating brands for local and regional businesses. Then the perfect storm started in 2009–– turning 50, hitting menopause, the economic recession, and the passing of my aunt who was like a second mother to me (my mother passed previously) and was the matriarch of my extended family.

It was a rough few years of almost a whole generation in my life passing away. I also became disheartened by the design world with designers undercutting each other just to get work, and people being able to do it themselves or buy logos, brochures or other marketing materials for cheap money on the internet. I felt like what I was doing was a commodity and had no value.

My AHA Moment

Then it hit me, as I was sitting there writing my Dad’s eulogy when he passed in 2011, “What would I want someone to write about me when I leave the planet? And if I’m not living that way now, what do I need to do to change?”

But I had no idea where to start. I had been doing design my whole career, I didn’t even know what else I COULD do, what else was I good at? Did I have a unique brilliance? What were my passions? I was in a pretty dark place. But I listened to seminars, read books, started meditating (again) and all of a sudden the word “teach” came up.

“Teach?? Teach what??” I had no idea. Then while listening to an episode of Oprah’s Masterclass with Maya Angelou, she said something to the effect of “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” That has stuck with me ever since.

I also realized that I was not alone. That there are many who are experiencing a burning desire to do something more meaningful in their work and their lives. One day I called this the “encore revolution”, it just came out of my mouth, but made perfect sense. This became the name of my business.

Laura Willis Messenger of Hope and Healing

11 Ways to Know Me Laura Willis

~ I love noticing beautiful skies, clouds, sunrises, sunsets and they take my breath away. I am grateful for the beauty mother nature provides and is my symbol to remind myself that I am loved.

~ Aside from skies, I love noticing all beauty in nature. Mountains, flowers, birds, animals and even the plants in my own garden. My parents taught me that and for that I am truly grateful. You’ll often find me taking photos of these.

~ I love the look of pure bliss on someone’s face after they experience Reiki.

~ I’m a racing fan. I used to go watch stock car races with my Dad. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I married a man who loves to drive race cars!

~ I’m grateful for my husband. He challenges me in many ways, but he’s always there for me when I need him.

~ Being high in the mountains or in the valleys below them makes me feel expansive and I am blown away at the power and grandeur they have.

~ I love having a window seat in a plane. Makes me feel amazed at the limitlessness of the world.

~ Though I’m no daredevil, I like doing things that push me beyond my comfort zone like zip lining or snowmobiling, or speaking in front of a large crowd.

~ My husband and I were like “Green Acres” on TV with me being the city girl and he being the country boy growing up and working on farms.

~ I killed a cactus once and used to be terrible at house plants or gardening. Thanks to my husband’s farming knowledge we typically have abundant vegetable gardens and I’ve gotten a lot better at keeping house plants.

~ Sometimes I feel like I have an adolescent soul and that I still have so much to learn even though I’m well into my 50’s!

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Laura Willis