By Zoe Hall
Noelle Barrows, freshman graphic design major at UM, first started her business in 2018.
“I have loved art my whole life. In middle school, I remember doodling little flowers and stuff like that. As I got older, I always knew I loved business management and I thought that was what I wanted to do in college,” said Barrows.
During her sophomore year of high school, she realized that she loved hand lettering and typography after her mom got a t-shirt press and Barrows found people asking about her designs.
“People that I knew from school and church started asking me, ‘Where do you get your shirts? Can we buy some?’ And I said, ‘Well I make them, but I can totally sell you some.’”
Around February 2018, she launched her first shirt, and then launched her Instagram the following summer.
“It made me so happy seeing people in public wearing my shirts. It was really exciting and I realized how much I loved designing.”
According to Barrows, she’d been designing for about a year before quarantine hit.
“When quarantine hit, I had so much free time, it blew up and it became ‘this is what I want to do.’”
She then changed her college plans to study graphic design with a marketing minor, “with hopes to work at Left Lettering after graduating.”
Barrows described her designs as an outlet for her stress and anxiety during quarantine.
“I couldn’t go anywhere and I’m a social butterfly,” said Barrows. “Between working with my service dog, Harper, and working with my business, it was all hours of the day, but it was a big stress reliever.”
Many small businesses, including Barrows’, began to grow over quarantine because people were spending more time on social media and discovering smaller artists.
“I could easily compare myself to all the millions of other artists out there, but as I’ve gotten more support for my business, I’ve taken myself more seriously. Just because I’m one of millions of artists doesn’t mean that my art doesn’t matter or isn’t as cool or as good at someone who does a similar thing.”
Dr. Tiffany Wang, associate professor of communication studies, has purchased several things from Barrows’ shop.
“I’ve loved all the things I’ve bought from Noelle,” said Wang. “I’m even wearing her design right now.”
When coming up with her designs, Barrows said that ideas come to her randomly, but one of her favorite things to do is to “sit in front of the TV for hours and just draw.”
According to Barrows, she’s learned to respect her growth as an artist.
“Some of the things I made and sold when I was first starting or before I started Left Lettering, I cringe now, but I think about four years from now, I’ll cringe at [current designs] because I’ll hopefully be improving and changing.”
Recently, Barrows did a spring launch with several new designs.
Barrow also advised others who may also want to start or grow a small business.
“Putting myself out there, my personality, not just my products and my art, was something that helped my business grow and what helped me respect my business.”
According to Barrows, one of her goals of her business is to spread her faith.
“I’ve always wanted to spread the Gospel and positivity through my business however I can. Whether it means a shirt with a Christian lyric on it or a note of encouragement on an Instagram post, I try to reach people in a way that is accessible,” said Barrows.
“It isn’t necessarily, ‘Hey, you should be a Christian,’ but it’s ‘hey, this is what being a Christian is about, being encouraging and loving and supportive,’ and I want to continue to do that as my business grows,” she continued.
While Barrows does have Christian designs, she sells stickers, shirts, art prints and more for different seasons and occasions.
One customer from Barrows’ Etsy shop, Julia Bornhardt, described Barrows as “incredibly talented.”
“Honestly, my portrait was much more amazing than I could have ever envisioned,” she said.