We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Lopez-Bagan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
After working for multiple years in Architecture, the profession I went to school for, I had the realization that my passion was with graphic design. I had been working as a graphic design as a side hustle after work and on the weekends and one day realized that was what I wanted to pursue as a career as it was what I was really passionate about. I had gone into architecture because I knew I wanted to work in a creative field and architecture seemed like a really secure career but after working in the field I realized that my heart wasn’t in it. It took me a while to really get up the courage to even consider leaving that career to start my own business and become self employed. I had to deal with alot of fear and uncertainty around the idea and worked to lay out a plan that felt safe and well though out, rather than just jumping right into such a huge life shift. There was a lot of fear about “what if I fail” “what if this is a mistake” or “what if I don’t make any money” etc. but I learned that those fears are totally normal and ok to acknowledge as long as I didn’t let them stop me from pursuing my dream. I had the understanding too that this was the time to do this, I’m young, I don’t have any kids, I don’t own a home, I can afford to take this risk now and have the time to build a strong foundation for the business before I had those added pressures to worry about. Once I made the decision to pursue quitting my job and starting the business I sat down and worked on a business plan. I worked out a monthly budget to determine what I needed to make sure I was bringing in to cover all of my costs and bills, started reaching out to potential clients to have some jobs lined up for when I gave my two weeks notice, and sat down and drew up a rough outline of what I wanted for the business and what it stood for, etc.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I am the owner of Play Grnd Design, a design firm specializing in graphic design, web design, and creative art direction. I started this business about 3 years ago after realizing that I was passionate about graphic design and wanted to work for myself. It was not an easy decision and certainly had it’s challenges. I had alot of fear around making “the wrong choice” to leave my secure job to try something new and had to work really hard to push through those fears and keep going so that I could build my business into what it is today. I spent alot of all nighters working on as many jobs as I could at a time to build up my portfolio and cover my livin expenses while also trying to work on a few side passion projects that were all funded through community donations and what I could save up from any profit I was getting from my design jobs. I’ve definitely learned a lot about how to run a business and how to interact with clients through experience and time. I’m someone who has trouble pricing my services appropriately (I tend to undercharge quite a bit) and that was a huge growing pain to really get to the point where I was comfortable charging a fair rate and was able to realize that the services I’m providing are valuable and worth it. I also had to learn through trial and error how to write proper contracts and how to ensure I was protected when working with a client and how to ensure the client was protected as well. I’ve learned how to manage my time and how to work to maintain a work life balance as best I can (I’m not perfect at this but getting better as time goes on!) I think one of the biggest challenges of starting up a small business, especially when you don’t have any safety net or plan B to catch you if things don’t pan out is figuring out how to stay hungry and work through all of the stress, fear and uncertainty and to just have the faith that if you keep at it that you’ll be successful. For me that is starting to show up after multiple years of grinding and working really hard to build a strong foundation. I have regular clients and I’m able to contribute to my household comfortably. I’m getting much better at separating my own personal feelings from feedback and criticisms on jobs, and I’m getting better at letting work stay work and allowing myself to have a personal life that I’m present for. It isn’t always easy, and this year has certainly posed some big challenges but at the end of the day I know I made the right move and I’m so grateful to have Play Grnd and to get to continue to grow and build it in the years to come.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ah I love planning trips for friends and family when they come to visit! First I would take them to a few of my favorite coffee spots in the morning: Interstellar in Santa Monica, Go Get Em Tiger in Highland Park, Mr Holmes Bakehouse in Highland Park, Roo Coffee in Silverlake, and Kindness and Mischief in Highland Park. I love these spots because the interior design is amazing and I love to be surrounded by strong, unique design, there’s just something really inspiring about it. Some great lunch spots I love going to when I need a break from work and my computer is La Monarca Bakery in South Pasadena (I love their cinnamon conchas) , Triple Beam Pizza in Highland Park, and honestly just walking the dogs around El Sereno (our old neighborhood) and South Pasadena which was right next door to our old neighborhood. My favorite dinner spot has to be Blair’s in Highland Park, I’m a huge pasta lover and they have the best pasta in LA in my opinion! I also love going to Homestate in Highland park, great food and I love the design of the space and outdoor dining area. Honestly all of these spots I love for their food but also their design of their space and their graphics (logos, menus, merch, etc.)
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my husband, Uriel Alexander Lopez-Bagan. He is my biggest supporter and is always there to back up what I pursue. Before I took the leap to start my business he was right there encouraging me every step of the way, he even sat down with me to discuss strategy, budget, etc. He is always there for me to bounce ideas off of and is that extra boost of confidence when I feel like I’m not doing enough or in self doubt. I also have to shout out my parents Beth and Neil Raskin who have supported me even when they were a bit nervous about the choices I was making to start a business. They showed up and helped with suggestions on how to run a business and how to cover all the legal ends of things. Lastly I have an amazing community of friends around me who were pillars for me to lean on when I was worried about making a mistake or wrong move. They were there to help me see how talented and capable I was and to supplement support when I was stuck in the fear. Thank you Natasha Roland, Jessica Kreilick, Sarah Long, Katrina Rodriguez, Hannah Riley, and Jackie Lara!
Rachel Lopez-Bagan, Emi Kitawaki (sweatshirt pictures), Khalid Farquharson (group photograph), Michelle Sharp (photo of book)