Member Spotlight: Courtney Searcy

Recently, we posted an interview with CO:Member, Courtney Searcy, in the Jackson Sun. But there was a lot more to the interview that didn't get published. Here's the discussion in full!

How did Souvenir Design Co. come to be?

Katie Williams and I went through all of our graphic design classes together, and became good friends during that time. Last year, we decided to take Co.Starters together since we both do freelance design, and we wanted to see what it would take to pursue that full time. We also both have a dream of having a studio and a shop, so we thought we’d take the course. At the end of the class, there’s a pitch night. As we tried to work on our individual pitches, the class facilitator encouraged us to think about working together since a lot of our style overlaps, and our skills are complementary. So we settled on a name, and are now in the stages of figuring out exactly what the business will look like. 

Are you still working with the paper company? Tell me about that.

It’s a dream of Marcie’s for Fig Paper Company to become a thriving social enterprise that could offer employment to women in Ethiopia and here, giving them the same opportunity to pursue the same kind of creative work that we’ve found so much joy in. We don’t have a timeline or anything like that, but I think it’s still in the works, and I want to be a part of making it happen in any way I can. 

How did you get into design and lettering originally?

I’ve always made cards for friends’ birthdays, or elaborate poster projects for class, or cared a little too much about my handwriting, but I never thought much of it. I’m not even sure if I knew design was a job people do. I started college as a journalism major because I liked to write, and it was an easy to recognize skill. However, in college I became friends with Katie, who was an art major, which exposed me to a lot of possibilities. I started to realize that design and hand-lettering was a thing people actually do, and I had more and more people start asking me to do projects like chalkboards or wedding invitations for them. So my senior year, I signed up for a couple of art classes that ended up leaving no time for anything else, so I crammed the art major into two years of study. 

How does being located in Jackson affect how your business runs?

For one, the market is less crowded with people who do the same kind of work we do. It also seems like Jackson is really growing and new businesses mean new opportunities for design. I’m definitely still figuring that part out. 

Three Jackson favorites? (places, restaurants, events, people, etc.)

ComeUnity Cafe:  Saturday brunch and the best lunch every day. Plus it’s a great example of people thinking of different ways to serve the needs of their city. 

Jackson Pop-Up Shops: This gives so many people an opportunity to sell their work and encourages so many makers to keep making.

theCO:  theCO makes being an entrepreneur seem so much more doable. It’s providing resources and connecting people from all kinds of ventures, which is great. 

What do you hope to be doing in ten years?

It’s hard for me to imagine that — because I look at the things I’m doing now and I had no idea they were coming even two years ago. Being here and getting to be experience the beginning stages of theCO,  Jackson Pop-up Shops, Our Jackson Home, Fig Paper Company, and now Souvenir has been really exciting. I don’t know if I’ll be in Jackson or doing full time design in ten years, but do hope that in ten years I’ll still be doing work that benefits a community, and that allows me to continue to participate in that. I’ve always talked about having a shop, so maybe that could happen in the next ten years.

You’re also a part of Our Jackson Home. What do you do with them?

Sometimes I take pictures, sometimes I design a graphic to go with a story, and sometimes I write stories, too. It’s made me realize that art and design and journalism have two things in common: telling stories and creating community.  When an artist or a writer or a musician puts their work out there, their goal is to connect with someone else and build an audience, which creates a kind of community around their work. My hope is that with OJH, I can be a part of telling stories that help create a thriving community.

As a designer, you probably felt a little called to a big city. What’s keeping you here?

There are plenty of moments bigger cities seem more appealing, but it’s really the people that keep me here. There are so many people here who didn’t plan to stay here, but have decided to make this a better place to be through whatever career or new venture they might want to pursue. Everything I’m involved in is fresh and new. That’s both exciting and scary, because I can’t know the outcome of any of it. So for now, I’m still here because I’m seeing growth and opportunity to do the things I love.

What advice do you have for Jacksonians to make this town better?

It seems like what makes a town better is people who commit to it, and who pursue the things they love doing for the sake of their community. Great cities are made by people who care about one another, and who start businesses, write music, make art, teach students, fight injustice, and put the skills they have been given to use.  Jackson is an enjoyable place for me to live because I happen to know a lot of people who are wholeheartedly pursuing these kinds of things. 

Brady Heyen is an intern, a writer, a composer, and the author of this piece.