Laneisha Bennett laughed when I asked her how many regular jobs she had on the way to finding her profession and her business, as the owner of The Design Market, then she proceeded to rattle off a long list. She’s been full-time at The Design Market since around 2015, but the long and winding road to a consistent client list and professional confidence took Bennett to McDonalds (her longest jobby job…two stints), Lincoln Life, Pepsi, Lady Foot Locker. She could only name a handful; she’s forgotten the others…so many others…because she didn’t stay at them long enough for them to resonate. “I either left or lost my job because I was trying to work on something for my business.”
But it took her roughly 15 years to get that business up and running, and self-sustaining. And it took her another three years (roughly) to move into her first office, at 2513 South Calhoun Street (the Penta Building). Before that, she would drag her desktop computer to the library meeting rooms for business meetings.
“My creativity is rooted from my childhood church, St. John Missionary Baptist Church,” Bennett said. She created (and still creates) various arts projects for the church. At Northrop High School, a self-proclaimed C and D grade-average student, she found distinction during an art project; her pencil work caught the eye of her teacher, Mr. Park Ginder.
Bennett graduated from the International Academy of Design out of Florida, the only school she was accepted into, with an associate’s degree in cartoon animation and web development in the year 2000. Then she went on her many-job odyssey.
Why did it take so long? Bennett said it was the lack of client consistency; she now has 10 to 15 on-the-regular clients, in addition to her random pop-in clients. Even though her degree is in web design, that’s the only art she doesn’t offer. The Design Market is all about the oft-forgotten world of print. She does business cards and flyers for events, invitations and programs, banners, table covers. And obituary notices. “That’s what I’m really passionate about, that’s what I love the most, that market.” She’s also an illustrator; she does wall painting, like when she paints cartoon characters on the walls of daycare centers. McDonalds has asked her to paint their windows to promote their annual Monopoly game.
But it took more than a minute to get here, with her regular work. She started at a time where social media…the means for an entrepreneur to advertise themselves easily and freely…didn’t exist. And then there was the bigger elephant in the room…Bennett’s fear of not being good enough. Her grandmother, Christine Bennett, saw her hesitation. “She always pushed me to use my artistic ability, because I didn’t use artwork to my maximum ability.”
Bennett promised her grandmother to design her obituary notice and the excellent work led to a position at Scott Bent’s Instyle Creative Marketing (now closed), one day a week while she worked for Frontier the other four. Bent was “very honest,” she said. Bennett learned to iron out her wrinkles.
The other jobs did serve as a win-win for Bennett; they gave her steady income before The Design Market paid her bills but they also gave her job skills she eventually plucked for her own business. At McDonalds, she learned to book keep and the need for a paper trail, and how to have that “professional conversation with the higher-ups,” as she described it. From Staples, she didn’t learn much about the act of printing per se, but grew wise about the technical aspects of printers, for when she had to buy her own.
Bennett used to do gospel miming, but she landed wrong on a choreographed move and fractured her wrist, effectively curtailing her job at Pepsi. She picked up odd jobs (of course she did!), like playing the drums. “Don’t ask me why I was playing drums with a broken wrist; it wasn’t the greatest idea,” she said. She fought through the pain. Endure is the appropriate descriptive here.
“As The Design Market begins to grow I see the impact that it has on my family, especially my siblings and son,” Bennett said. “I know my grandmothers, Christine Bennett and Darlene Williams, would be extremely proud of how far I've came by using the gift that I've been blessed with.”
Laneisha Bennett, The Design Market
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I run Scrambled Egg(s) Design and Productions, based out of Northeast Indiana. In addition to producing in-house company projects, I also create advertising materials for companies and organizations, with an emphasis on interactivity.