Jil Wyland, President of Litigation Presentation, Inc. in Atlanta, GA, first “knew I was interested in owning a business when I created my first magazine in 3rd grade (at age 8) and sold subscriptions to my friends,” she says. Although she may not have known the meaning of ROI, she was aware that she had the entrepreneurial fever. “Subsequently I sold artwork on my front yard split rail fence for $1 a piece. Then I hit pay dirt selling candy and cookies out of my bag during school breaks,” Jill recalls.
What motivated her? Her parents, who “told me I would have to work the rest of my life because we were poor.” In addition, Jill recognized that “having something people wanted made them talk to me.” Those factors, combined with her determination to support herself, started her desire. And many years later, “not much has changed in terms of my motivation.”
Jill experimented with several professions before recognizing her love for color theory and her ability to “compartmentalize general design principles into a cohesive formula for future application.” She feels that advertising school helped her to achieve those skills. “Plus, I made great contacts through the exposure of my talent and won a Leo Burnett award in my short time there,” Jill notes. “By the 6th quarter, my freelance business was so booked creating ads for the beauty industry and customized watercolor pieces for an architecture firm, I knew I had arrived. I made the choice to leave and build my freelance business.”
Jill eventually “had a trial design client where I worked 80-100 hours a month for about 7 months. I was so good at what I did I accepted a job to stay and got raises and promotions every few months.” In this position, where she worked on litigation designs, “the light bulb came on. I had found my passion. I not only did the client billable work but also established the graphics department in between. I filled in the holes (design guidelines, hiring protocols, designer tests and archiving processes) where processes were missing for future coworkers. My goal was to automate everything so I would be free for billable work.”
After some time there, one day “my coworker and I joked about starting a competing company during a convention but I took it seriously. That night I dreamt the name of the company and the logo. There was no magic moment when I left. I still felt loyal to the company so it was hard to leave. It was just a matter of time before I got tired of being managed by someone who was a good director but a bad manager, so I walked,” says Jill.
After starting her own business, Jill recognized that she “needed financial support and at that point (1 year later) was willing to split the business in the most ideal situation.” Jill succeeded in selling her idea “to the biggest trade show printing company in Atlanta. The owner agreed to the idea and allowed me to train any of his staff that was interested in helping out including sales, design and admin. I wrote a business plan, sales training manual, set my salary at $50k and he opened the bank account and incorporated me as CEO/Secretary and him as VP/Treasurer with a 50/50 split drawn up in a paragraph on a sheet of paper.”
Jill credits her parents with being “great cheerleaders. Even though they wanted me to get a college degree, at some point they gave that struggle up and went along for the ride. My Mother helped me pack up and move anytime I needed to (which was 4 times in 2 years) and would bring me food to help get me through lean times. My Dad gave me business advice through my tough decisions. They just had faith that I would be successful and continually reminded me of that. ”
Jill felt successful “when I was able to form a strategy at 33 to buy out my partner after a year of unhappiness. I was able to pay $20k a month to my partner until my portion of the EBIT was fulfilled and take my destiny, and that of my company, into my own hands. That was big for me.”
Her future goals: “to focus on products that create the biggest return for the least amount of effort while still maintaining my high standards, passion, ethics and cool! factor. I am still focused on carefully nudging right brained thinking into left brains which I can do through my products and helping people with their business ventures. I would like to financially take care of those around me that I love even more than I currently do (friends and parents). “