Born to create
MNW grad starts graphic design business
KANSAS CITY — While in high school, Lucy Besch would design shoes for her friends or draw portraits of her classmates for fun.
The 2014 Manson Northwest Webster graduate has since translated those creative skills into operating her own business, Lucy Besch Designs, based in Kansas City. Her services include: custom illustrations, custom paintings, logos and social media graphics.
“Back in high school I had my own shoe designing businesses,” Besch recalled. “I painted peoples’ sneakers. I loved doing that. People would bring me those $5 white sneakers from Walmart and I would doodle on there whatever they wanted. I did One Direction (pop band) shoes for a girl who was obsessed with them.”
Even in elementary school, Besch had that spark to create something original.
“Being creative has always been completely natural to me,” she said. “I came from a small school. I graduated with 60 kids and I remember in elementary school, I would just draw my classmates. I think I have a book with almost all of them in it.”
When Besch graduated from high school, she knew she wanted to study something in design. Besch attended Iowa State University in Ames.
“The whole first year at ISU it was figuring out which program to get into,” she said. “There’s all sorts of different design programs.”
At first she entered a program called biological and premedical illustration.
“I did that for half a semester and it was too much chemistry and biology,” Besch said. “I dropped that and decided graphic design was the way to go. I like it because I can use my illustraiton skills, but plug it into the layout side of it — using my creative illustration skills to make it more fun.”
Her education at ISU was valuable.
“I loved going to school there,” Besch said. “I learned so much.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, Besch and her boyfriend decided to move to Kansas City.
“We moved here the summer of 2019,” she said. “My boyfriend and I both graduated in spring of 2019 and moved here that july. My boyfriend is also a designer. I love Texas — Austin, Texas and my boyfriend really loves Chicago. But neither one of us wanted to go to either of those places.
“I wanted to get a little further south but he cannot handle the heat, so we met in the middle. We have a ton of friends who moved to Kansas City. We have some other mutual friends who moved here. Kansas City has been really fun.”
For a time Besch worked at an advertising agency in downtown Kansas City.
The COVID-19 pandemic actually played a role in her decision to start her own business.
“When I was at my full-time job we all started working from home but that made me realize I was not happy going to the office every day,” Besch said. “I like working from home.”
The business was launched in May 2020.
Besch is able to do all of her work from her computer, phone or iPad.
She said the only drawback is sometimes her pet pug, Jorja, needs a little more attention while she’s trying to work.
“She’s with me all the time,” Besch said.
Dogs are a big part of her graphic design business, which includes pet portaits.
“Last summer my biggest project, hands down, a girl messaged me from T-Mobile, and I actually illustrated around 1,000 of their employee pets,” Besch said. “So for the entire month of June and July, we set up an email account, they would send me photos of their pets and I did that for two months straight.”
Later, she went to an event at a dog park in Kansas City that’s also a bar.
“They (T-Mobile) did an event there because they could social distance,” Besch said. “My dog got to meet other dogs I illusrated.”
Besch often gets requests to illustrate family pets who have passed away.
“They (customers) will come to me and say we want our whole family illustrated but our dog passed away,” she said. “Someone wants their childhood pet illustrated with their current pet or illustrating family members together.
“Last week I had three dogs right in a row where they didn’t really have many good pictures. They will send me photos of their dog and I will make a really good forward facing picture. People can get their work really fast. They request it and in a few days it’s in their inbox. It’s been really awesome.”
It’s rewarding to illustrate something her customers appreciate.
“It’s really sad, but I do illustrate a lot of pets who passed away,” Besch said. “People follow up and send a picture of them with their family and it makes me cry. Having that memory now that their pet is gone. They are always so excited to get the portrait of their pet.”
Besch is planning to release her own children’s book later in the year about dog breeds.
On weekends, she works for a dog sitting company.
Her pet portaits have sold all over the U.S.
“I think I’ve done one in about every state,” she said. “With social media, random people find me and they have an idea and I can make it happen. I’ve illustarted pigs, lots of cats, birds.”
Besch has also held fundraisers for animal shelters.
“There’s a really bad stray animal problem,” she said. “Some of the proceeds of my pet portaits go to animal shelters. Just this last mont I did a fundraiser and raised $2,500 for two pug rescues down in Texas and I buzzed my head to celebrate. It was nice being able to help from afar.”
Besch said she has some ideas on expanding the business, but is happy with her progress to this point.
“I definitely want to do more physical products, maybe some merchandise or apparel,” she said. “I am happy with where I am at right now but there’s always room to grow.”
Her website is lucybeschdesigns.com