By Grier Ferguson • Photo by Pam Truitt

There are three things in life April Coulson loves to do: garden, dance and draw. She grows everything — flowers, herbs and vegetables. “I really like to grow kale,” Coulson says. “I like to eat it, and it’s fun to watch it grow into little kale trees.” She has a passion flower vine she tends to as well, always waiting for it to bloom.

“They’re amazing, those flowers.” 

And there was that one time she grew an heirloom tomato that was the best tomato she’s ever tasted. Coulson’s love of dance is in her blood. Her grandparents met on the dance floor, and her mom loved to dance. She enjoys nights out when she can just have fun dancing with her friends. But drawing has always held a particularly special place in Coulson’s life. “I love to draw,” she says. “That goes back to probably when I was two years old. Kids love to draw, but I never stopped loving to draw.”

Coulson grew up in Milwaukee and got a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. “I especially love to draw the human figure and faces and hands, and I paint, too,” Coulson says. “Drawing is so calming. It’s very relaxing and it’s peaceful. It just takes me to another place in my mind — a great place to be.”

A Resource for the Future

Coulson turned her love of drawing into a career as a graphic designer. She first came to the Women’s Resource Center in 2006 when she was looking for a job after someone recommended WRC’s employment services to her. That year, WRC helped her with her resume and tips about how to make work connections. 

In spring 2017, after 15 years in the graphic design and illustration field, both working full time for companies and serving her own clients as a freelancer, Coulson thought of WRC again. This time, she wanted to transition from freelancing to working as a company’s in-house graphic designer. “I thought, ‘I know it’s a great place to go, so I’m going to go back,’” she says. 

Coulson started taking advantage of WRC’s employment program at the organization’s Sarasota and Bradenton offices. She went to classes about topics including how to write a resume to what to say during a job interview. “I met all kinds of women,” she says. “It was fun getting together with them and learning together.”

Jay Lemmel, an employment and career counselor at WRC, and Jane Bubinak, a resume coach at WRC, helped Coulson polish her resume and guided her job search. Next she visited WRC’s Career Closet to find business clothes for job interviews. “The Career Closet is outstanding,” she says. “What a great resource.” 

As part of WRC’s employment program, Coulson was matched with a mentor — Kim Roden — a peer resource advisor and mentor for WRC. Coulson and Roden met in person and talked on the phone, and Roden became a regular sounding board for her. “She helps me figure things out,” Coulson says. “She has ideas that I wouldn’t have had.” 

The mentorship program at WRC matches clients with the mentor who might be best able to help that specific client. “No two clients have the same need, and you really have to make an effort to understand what they want to do and help them make a map to get them there,” says Roden. 

If Coulson’s employment goals were a journey of 1,000 steps, Roden says, “Coulson has walked them all.”  “We’ve been working together for a while, and she’s met and exceeded all of her goals,” Roden says. “She’s someone who is really easy to work with because she’s open to feedback and she wants to improve.” Today, Roden and Coulson still talk, and the  mentorship is going strong. 

In all, WRC offered support for months, Coulson says. “I hadn’t done this in a long time,” she says of her job search. “Things keep changing in the workforce, and they had the latest information.”

Next Step: New Job 

After receiving help from WRC, Coulson says she was empowered for the next step. “I felt well prepared,” she says. 

She started applying for jobs, and soon started work as a graphic designer at Sarasota-based Freeheart/Covo Drinkware, which manufactures thermal insulated tumblers.

Coulson is part of a team of graphic designers at Freeheart/Covo who create drinkware designs, files for printing, and other projects – from designing digital marketing advertisements to brochures promoting the company.

“I get to be creative, and I also really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of preparing the files to print because there’s a lot to consider to make it look like you want it to look,” she says. “It’s sort of like doing a puzzle, and it’s kind of fun in that regard.” 

Coulson is already looking forward to her future at Freeheart/Covo. “I’d really like to grow with this company. It’s a young company, the owner has a wonderful outlook on life and vision for the future, and the product is excellent. This is really a wonderful situation for me. I think I would have to say this is the best in-house working situation I’ve been in.” 

Her days include a wide variety of tasks, from designing products to prepping files, but Coulson doesn’t have a favorite part of her job.   “That’s because of a simple truth: I just really like all of it. I was telling my boss, and it’s the honest truth — ‘I really like my job, and I really like what I’m doing.’ That hasn’t always been the case in my life, but this is really a neat place.”