With some old paints and pent up creativity, Jessica Willis moved on from high school art classes to the simple curiosity of how far her work could take her in the future. Since moving on to college and even graduating, Jessica has always had an unbreakable passion for painting, but it wasn’t until recently that she used her ability to create her own business.
Set Apart, a black-owned business operated solely by Jessica, launched early this spring. While working through personal struggles and transitioning to a new stage of life, she saw the opportunity to express her feelings on a canvas. After rounding out her abilities, whether it be through raw detail or the perfect final touch, Jessica built up the courage to begin selling her work.
“When I create, it’s like a release of built up emotion — I take my highs and lows from the day and express them on a canvas,” she says. “The end product is so rewarding because I know what it took to create it, and it’s so encouraging to know that people would pay money to own it.”
Customers can shop a variety of canvas prints and can even request a personalized painting on Jessica’s IInstagram page. Paintings come in a variety of sizes [small, medium and large] and range from landscapes to portraits to marble prints. Whether it be words of affirmation, beautiful fall scenes or a statement piece, Jessica caters her work to the customer. Paintings can also be topped with a spotless resin finish for a timeless glow.
As a Black business owner during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Jessica reflects on her experience with pride. While she expresses that she hasn’t faced some of the challenges other Black business owners have faced, she admits it has been harder to gain traction on social media and build a platform. Regardless, she is confident she will never stop creating.
“I think this is the best time to be a Black business owner. With the recent movement, the support has definitely skyrocketed and I’m grateful,” Jessica says. “Whether I sell paintings or not, I’m always going to create — at this point, it’s a need for me.”
For other Black business owners, Jessica urges that they avoid comparison and do what they love with less emphasis on quantity sold. Eventually, she says, the motivation and drive will shine through. For those looking to support, she emphasizes that even a shoutout on social media makes a difference.
“Find a community and people that believe in what you’re doing. You can’t do it with support especially when it feels like the world is against you,” Jessica says. “People will see your passion and you will catch their eye, you just have to get started.”
To support Set Apart, follow Jessica on Instagram @setapartbyjessica and give her page a shoutout, or message her for a purchase request.