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Ep. 33: Christine Llewellyn Takes a Bold Leap and Founds Christine Joy Design

"I thought, 'no one that looks like me is really doing this.' Had I seen other black women designers at an early age, I would have been much more likely to have pursued this sooner."

"I didn't want to work to work. I wanted to do something I was passionate about."

Raised in a strict Caribbean household where art was not considered a career, Christine pushed her longstanding artistic passion to the sidelines. When she met designers making a living through art, Christine took a leap of faith and left her financial services career behind. Her mother's bold move to Africa when Christine was a child gave Christine the courage to do it, and now Christine's designs are sold by major retailers like Crate & Barrel and West Elm.

In this episode, we discuss Christine's winding career path to entrepreneurship, the catalyst that caused her to leave her corporate job at American Express, growing up in a traditional Caribbean home where creative careers weren't encouraged, finding time to do creative things while working a day job you may not be passionate about, the courageous example her mother set for her, why women often take the safe path rather than the path they truly want to be on, how every step in her path including her background in business helped her succeed in art, getting her business off the ground with two young children, how her race and gender have affected her career, the lack of black women designers she saw as role models, how she manages her busy life, and why she encourages everyone to talk to as many people as possible.

"You don't have to be a starving artist. If you love art, there are many ways that you can still do art and be creative and make good money."

In this episode, you'll learn: ​

  • Christine Llewellyn is the owner and director of Christine Joy Design.
  • She started her career in financial services but left to do design.
  • Christine grew up in a traditional Caribbean family where she was encouraged to follow a corporate career.
  • Christine studied psychology and economics at university but always filled her extra classes with design and art.
  • After her degree she completed an MBA in marketing and went to work for Amex.
  • Marketing at Amex was a good middle ground between creative and business.
  • Christine was inspired by her mother's career to leave Amex and follow her passion into design.
  • Her experience of corporate America gave her an extra shine and helped with drafting business emails, concentrating on her audience and getting quickly to the point.
  • Her greatest success was having the courage to leave Amex, leaving behind a steady job and going back to school.
  • She attended Surtex, a design show to display patterns to brands and companies, when she had a 4 month old baby.
  • Christine is proud to be a person of colour in design as she believes if she's seen other black women designers at a younger age, she would have pursued her passion sooner. 
  • Christine finds her work/life balance by using the app Asana to create projects in "home" and "work" folders.

"Especially when I think about that stint at AmEx, where it just felt like 'this is not at all what I want to be doing, it's taking me off course', it couldn't have been a more perfect transition role. Had I not been on that project, I might not be where I am now."


  • If you're not sure what you want to do, or are stuck in a job that makes you unhappy, then talk to people.
  • Share your ideas with as many people as possible, and you might find new connections.
  • Stay off social media, it will make you feel overwhelmed.
  • Get as much information as possible before going down any one career path.

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