Resilience In Small Business: SBDC Helps Creative & Veteran Entrepreneur Vernon Jewell
by Dean J. Miller
Vernon Jewell’s path to business success as a creative in Colorado Springs is as much a story of grit and self-motivation, as it is a powerful story of resilience in reaching for the American dream.
The youngest of two brothers and four sisters, Vernon gained interest in the arts in his youth by drawing his own comic book heroes at home in Detroit, Mich. The hobby was set-aside for Army service as an air defender protecting ground forces in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
Following Army service, Vernon worked as a graphic artist for a Colorado Springs news channel for 5 years and then as a graphic designer for a security systems company in Boulder. Both positions were lost to the expanding recession.
Back in Colorado Springs, Vernon was planning his next steps when he was involved in a near-fatal car wreck. With recovery measured in years; he was out of work and briefly homeless before the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation provided life-changing rehabilitation, housing and education assistance.
“During recovery, I began considering my own business. As an employee, I had little control over my fate; as an entrepreneur, this could change,” said Vernon. “I launched two online sites where shoppers could select my graphics to be printed on shirts, coﬀee cups, mugs and posters.”
His e-commerce effort answered a crucial question for the vocational rehabilitation team: Could he work as a creative with his injuries? With their funding and some student loans, Vernon earned his degree in Digital Media Design with an emphasis in 3D Animation.
His initial business plan received a vote of confidence in the form of a Vocational Rehabilitation grant funding a computer, camera, popup banner, and more to launch his business. Next, he was connected with mentors from the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.
“Pikes Peak SBDC gave me a foundation and goals to work towards,” said Vernon. “I rewrote my business plan; it changed dramatically based on what they taught me. They provided business principles to help navigate any obstacles.”
Vernon then launched Jewell PR, his Colorado Springs creative services business with a track record of success in graphic design, photography, video production, animation, and more.
Vernon’s creative skills have resulted in the sale of high-end real estate, established client brand recognition, and increased sales for local restaurants requiring the best imagery to increase third-party online home-delivery.
“Pikes Peak SBDC was crucial; they helped me develop my business plan and understand the impact of professional networking,” said Vernon. “Most importantly, I’ve learned to understand what clients need, and to communicate how my services can help. It feels good when the designs I create contribute to a successful project or outcome for a client.”
Today, the veteran-turned-entrepreneur has a growing business and his networking efforts are bearing fruit. His next focus: social impact for Jewell PR.
“I’m building an animated short movie to tell the story of the Greek character Medusa,” said Vernon. “In mythology, Medusa is a victim of sexual assault who was punished. This project will highlight the importance of believing sexual assault survivors and support local prevention and awareness efforts.”
Learn more: www.jewellpr.com, on Facebook; and at www.iammedusa.net.