No More 9-to-5: A Chicago Graphic Designer's Journey from Corporate to Entrepreneur

Friday, 03 May 2013 23:11 Written by  Kim Shine

Sleep is a transitory occasion for 30-year-old entrepreneur and business owner Lara Phillips. As an artist, graphic designer, photographer and social media maven (four hats of many), her days and nights are one. Aside from the four-hour naptime her body forces upon her, she’s always working, finding new ways to reach her goals.

“Balance never works,” Lara says when friends tell her she needs time for herself. “If I’m not doing something toward my dream, it’s time wasted. God gave me this gift of talent and I’m not using it.”

After graduating from Ohio State University in 2004, Lara worked in the real estate and auto industries, creating designs for clients she would never physically meet. Feeling uninspired and slighted by the corporate world—once, as a temp, her boss trashed a project she spent five all-nighters designing—Lara took her experiences and began freelancing. In 2009, she formed  Chicago-based Lpdeezign & Marketing, Inc., a web, graphic design, marketing and social media company.

But that’s not all she’s into. Her intense love of music sparked the creation of her second company, Chicago Hip Hop Connects, an entity devoted to creating networking opportunities for members and professionals in Chicago’s Hip Hop community.

Photoshoot with Chicago artist Nikki Lynette ( for her latest single “Love Bullets” This is the first photo-shoot Nikki has done for an actual single release.

GlossMagazineOnline (GMO): What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and create Lpdeezign?

Lara: If I think back to when I was in college, I think I always knew that I wanted to have my own business. I just didn’t know how because I majored in graphic design and minored in painting and silk screening. I knew that if I could be in front of the client, I could deliver whatever they wanted.

Photo Caption: Photoshoot with Chicago artist Nikki Lynette ( for her latest single “Love Bullets” This is the first photo-shoot Nikki has done for an actual single release.

GMO: You launched Lpdeezign in 2009, what steps did you take to get you where you are now?

Lara: I told my job at the time (real estate e-commerce manager) that I had landed a deal for Sheila Ray Charles (Ray Charles’ daughter and a family friend), because I knew her and she asked me to do work for her. The contract wasn’t solidified, but I was done. I just wanted to do my own thing. So, I broke off and actually bartended. I had already bought 50 domain names and I was just trying to figure out which business I was going to do first.

Bartending allowed flexibility for Lara, while she landed contracts from her real estate industry connections. After securing two yearly contracts, she quit bartending and began freelancing, producing logo design and websites for clients.

GMO: Did you do anything else?

Lara: Anything anybody wanted me to do I did. I never said no. When somebody asked me if I could do this, if it was related to me, I said yes. And then I would Google how to do it, teach myself how to do it and then do it for them. That’s how I became so multitalented in everything from social media, to blogging, to website design.

GMO: How did you manage it all?

Lara: I would actually come home from the bar at 2 a.m. after a 12-hour shift and work until probably about eight in the morning and at that time, not only did I have Lpdeezign, but I had Chicago Hip Hop Connects, which was another company of mine.

GMO: How did working in the corporate world change or influence you?

Lara: The corporate world took the love out of art for me, and as an artist I told myself I would never go work in a corporate job ever, as an artist. However, I did need to go down the route of doing that to get experience. I just took what I learned from my corporate jobs and relayed it back to owning my own business as an artist.

GMO: Financial stability as an entrepreneur can be unsteady at first. How did you do you and stay afloat?

Lara: From 2010 to now, what I focused on more are kind of the luxury-end clients. Just because when you’re on your own, you need to have that financial backing. No matter what you love to do, you need to go after that client that will give you that year contract instead of a three-month, a six-month, or a month-to-month. Now, I can plan five years ahead because I have these clients on yearly contracts.

Photo Caption: Lara Phillips, 30, artist/graphic designer, entrepreneur

GMO: How many clients do you have right now?

Lara: About 50, not all on yearly contracts.

GMO: You design brands for your clients, but how do you brand yourself?

Lara: For yourself, it’s such a hard struggle because after you’ve put in a 12-hour day, you have to think about your client first and you have deadlines to meet, it’s a gamble. I try to set a guideline that I have to spend one eight-hour day on my business every week. I’m trying to make it a habit to at least keep my website updated. I’ve had interns before and I’m searching for interns now!

GMO: You’re experienced in the real estate and auto industries, but your love of music has allowed Lpdeezign to branch into entertainment and other genres.

Lara: For Lpdeezign, my niche is the real estate industry, but I do everything from salons, to makeup artists, actresses, dancers and dance companies in Chicago. But, the two major markets would be real estate and music.

GMO: Being an entrepreneur can be challenging, especially in male-dominated industries such as music and entertainment. Have you ever faced any prejudice as a woman?

Lara: The music industry is bad and so is the auto industry. If you’re a woman at a high level, people just treat you whatever way. Carrying that confidence and taking what you do seriously from beginning to end; from the time you meet the person to following up with them, to always keeping it professional. If you do that, then there’s nothing that they can really do or say. If anything, especially in the music industry, the guys that I work with value me and want to work with me because of that. They refer me and say, “LP, she’s so professional.”

The way that you dress is so important. You can still be an artist and be yourself, but you don’t have to reveal. And there are so many women that go that route and they get taken advantage of. I’ve never been that way. I’ve always taken my dream seriously because it’s what I live for and work for every single day. I would never want somebody to look at me in another way. That’s why your friends and who you surround yourself around are important because if they are that way, then people in the industry think that you’re that way.

GMO: What about being a female graphic designer in Chicago?

Lara: There’s not a lot of graphic designers that are females, I could name like three that are good in the city. And there’s like thousands of guys. You tag them or try to support what they do, and they untag themselves. There’s no support, whereas we’re embracing. That’s how God made us.

GMO: So, I guess you don’t regret being an entrepreneur?

Lara: No, no definitely not. I’m making more money now than I ever could at any of my corporate jobs, unless I put in 20 years. And because there are so many things I want to do, I hate to be just limited to one. So, I’m trying to make my primary idea work before I move onto the other ideas that I have, i.e. the 50 domain names.

GMO: How do you stay motivated?

Lara: I really don’t know when I’m not motivated. A lot of people say it’s an obsession because I put in so many hours where I hate when I sleep because I’m not working toward my dream. It’s hard work. I’m not even a fourth of a way to my dream and I would never let anybody take that away from me. I would never stop working 20-hour days ever in my life … I don’t think.

GMO: Is there anything else you wanted to add?

Lara: I’ve never been afraid of anything. If anything is a challenge, I want that challenge. I don’t back down. I go into it acting like I know and if I don’t know, I’m sure I could pull it off. It takes confidence in what you do.

Photo Caption: Shoot with Chef Suzy Singh, Chicagoan and Season 2 finalist on FOX’s "MasterChef." (@ChefSuzySingh)

To find out more about Lara Phillips and Lpdeezign, or to apply for an internship, contact Lara at and follow her on Twitter @lpdeezign.

 Kim Shine

Kim Shine

Kim Shine is a GlossMagazineOnline (GMO) staff writer. A multimedia journalist, she has reporting experience in entertainment journalism, health and local reporting. Kim is currently pursuing her MS in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She has written for Medill News Service, the Northwest Indiana Times, Level-Up Magazine and Chicago Hip Hop Connects.

She can be contacted at