We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Merrill and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
For as long as I can recall, I have always been certain that my gift is helping people. Knowing this fun fact, I attended and graduated from college with a degree in Science of Psychology of Applied Behavioral Analysis. I did what most do in my field and became a behavior and trauma therapist after college. Honestly, life wasn’t that bad. I was helping people and understanding how our experiences shape and mold our perceptions in the future. This seemed to be the perfect choice for me, career-wise.
I have always had a fearless, entrepreneurial, and creative spirit. Even while working as a therapist, I started several side businesses. About 10 years ago, a friend of mine asked me to help her design her website. Being the fearless leader that I am, I jumped at the opportunity. The design process was both challenging and exciting. Once I was pleased with the finished product, I gave her the grand tour, and we went live! My design turned out to be a money-making success for my friend, which fueled my fire to learn more. I started seeking out those in my circle that needed help building their website, and with time (and a few hard lessons learned), I became fluent in the language of design + branding | SEO strategies. Despite how much fun this was for years and years, I never considered doing this full time. At that time, it seemed irresponsible or impossible, maybe both. Little did I know my world was about to go topsy turvy.
My life forever changed during my last pregnancy with baby number 5. About halfway through the pregnancy, my appendix ruptured, and I became seriously ill. It was not a fun ride, let me tell you. My baby and I spent the next 10 weeks in and out of the hospital. We nearly died. You know how they say, “your whole life flashes before your eyes,” well, there is some truth to that. I imagined never seeing my kids go to their first dance, graduate, or get married. I imagined all the family game nights, birthdays, and holidays I would miss. Then I reflected on how my life had played out thus far. I noticed exactly how much of my time I spent away from my family. I vowed that if I survived, I would do everything that I could to change that. A few weeks earlier than expected, I delivered my baby girl. She was perfect, and we were both alive. But something in me had changed; I was not the same person anymore. This life-threatening experience became the diving board from which my new life began.
You see, life had given me a new set of lenses to see the world with. I had a greater sense of what really mattered to me and turns out, that was not being a therapist working 50+ hours a week in an office. What mattered more than anything was spending every precious moment I have left on this earth with my family. I knew that I needed to free myself from the confining 9 to 5 schedule if spending more time with them was truly my priority. With a new sense of “I’ve only got one life to live – don’t mess it up” in mind, I boldly created Virtually Adventurous in 2019.
A funny thing happens when your passion aligns with your gifts, you decide that you’re worth it, and build your own business; when you “jump” and don’t look back. Initially, I started with mostly referral clients and a few repeat clients. Now, I’ve snagged the attention of numerous major corporations and Fortune 500 companies. My redesigned websites rank high on google, and my clients always come back for more. Branding + Website Design is the perfect profession that I was searching for in college. It gives me creative freedom, a sense of pride knowing that my skills directly impact others’ success, and I still get to put my degree to use by incorporating my understanding of how people think. As a mom, we often feel like we aren’t doing enough. But when it comes to my business, I could not be prouder of my growth. I’ve come a long way from when I first started designing 10 years ago, and I am just getting started!
What should our readers know about your business?
While so many designers may have received a degree as a web designer, my story is far from that.
In (year) I enrolled in school to begin my degree as a (degree) and graduated in (year) with a master’s degree in (degree) with 4 kids running around my feet.
I began my career as a psychologist, believing that would be my ultimate goal, but things changed. Kid after kid I realized just how much I wanted to be home with my kids but with the (#) hour days I was having to do each day.
When a friend asked me to help her create a website for her business, I jumped on the opportunity despite not coming from a web design background. One thing that is unique to me is that when I am determined to do something, I spend my time making sure I learn everything I need to make it happen. I went on to build a website that not only was appealing to the eye but was a money-making machine for my friend.
It wasn’t at this time that I decided to start my business, but years later when I decided to begin my design business, I had only created one website at the time. With the determination to change my family’s situation, I applied for design opportunities, hopped on calls, and was so confident in what I could accomplish for them that majority of the calls I hopped on I had the opportunity to design their website.
What makes me unique is that I have a drive in me! I didn’t have a degree to show my clients, but I had the drive to serve them and make a website that converts for them. I may not have had tons of experience, but I had the drive to learn whatever I needed to build the website they were desiring.
That drive is what got me to where I am today and continues to fuel me as I continue to serve my current plus future clients.
If you have a goal, if you have a desire, if your why is big enough; let your DRIVE guide you so you can accomplish the goal you’ve set out!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As an adventurous soul, Arizona has been an amazing location for myself & my family. If my best friend came, I would be so excited to share my families most favorite locations here in Arizona, locally but also heading on the road.
For a nice blend of adventure, relaxation, and experiencing an incredible Arizona water park, I would first take them to The Oasis Water Park at the Arizona Grand Resort. From thrill seeking water slides, to a river to float down, pools and more, it is the nice combination for an adventurous soul that seeks rest.
Another place we would go to is Temple Beach! This is the ultimate location to fuel my adventurous soul! From boating, paddle boating, biking and more, this stop would be one with lots of memories (and sunscreen)!
For someone coming in from out of state, I would definitely introduce them to In and Out. While not a fancy sit down, it is a must to have when one is near an In and Out. I would definitely order my friend (YOUR FAVORITE FOOD).
Lastly, we would hit the road and drive a couple hours to Sedona! Right as you enter, the red rock is breathtaking. It is a location I make sure all my friends and family have a chance to visit. We love going to slide rock, the trout farm, and all the fantastic food and little shops.
There are so many hidden gems in Arizona and I’m excited to continue to discover more to share when my friends do visit.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
While Entrepreneurship can be incredibly amazing and has its perks, it can also be challenging and lonely. Luckily there are so many incredible people that are willing to support business owners that it does not have to be this way. I personally have met some amazing people along the way that have truly helped me get to where I am today, and I honestly don’t know where I would be without them.
The First would be Abbey Ashley from The Virtual Savvy. Abbey helped pave the way for me into the online world. I had no idea where to start, but I knew I had a hunger and drive to work from home, and I had many skills to offer to others. Abbey’s personality and program set the way towards getting my business up and running, plus leading with the best foot forward.
The next person that had an incredible influence on me would be Brandi Mowles. I was in a dark place; my water had just gotten turned off, and it felt like I was losing everything. I had just been through a traumatic pregnancy, and while my husband was trying so hard to pay the bills, we just could not keep up. I needed income now, and I needed a plan. As you know, AZ heat is brutal, and our water was turned off during the summer months, which meant it had to be turned back on right away. I cried with no AC all the way to get our water turned back on. As I was driving home from turning our water back on, I put on Brandi Mowles podcast Serve Scale Soar. As I listened to her podcast, I felt this strong desire to be the key to change things for our family and began making a plan. In less than four weeks, I hit my first 5 figure month, and it hasn’t stopped! I feel so blessed I found a way to support my family and the amazing clients I love to serve.
I believe in community over competition, and I believe in community over competition. I have met some amazing entrepreneurs along the way that have helped me tremendously every day in business and life! Find your tribe that can help support your journey.
Alex Wilhelm Photography