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Meet Ava St. Claire of The MoonRose Agency

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ava St. Claire.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I live on the southside and used to wonder why we didn’t have more vibrant commercial corridors like many neighborhoods on the north side. It frustrated me. I started working for the local Chamber in an effort to change that. From the outside, everything just looked so easy. I thought “Hey, all we have to do is get these businesses on the internet. Do some fresh branding. Maybe paint a few storefronts and have a few financial workshops and everything will be better,”

But it wasn’t. No amount of new logo designs was going to fix the deeper systemic issues. On the infrastructure side, the businesses were often conned into spotty internet packages for double the regular rate. Or bad credit card machines and shark rates for retail loans. The neighborhood baker was really good at baking cakes but didn’t understand marketing. And why should she be expected to? So I became a sort of translator for the business owners who were trying to get new customers, build a new stream of income, or get a bank loan. I used the power of design and the web to build and develop their businesses. I would also educate them on what was happening; why their landscaping was causing customers to turn away or why they couldn’t get a bank loan and teach them what I was doing so they could do it on their own. Sometimes I got paid in food or services, but I was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to making things better.

The majority of business owners I served were African-American, but as I’ve developed I’m finding that ethnicities of all types face the same challenges in their development as entrepreneurs. The ability to handle pressure, to grow, and develop as a person is at the root of all the material issues, no matter what. We’re starting to see certain patterns emerge and documenting them so that we can educate others.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Hell, no! Sometimes I look back on where I’ve come from and think to myself, how did I do it. I mean when I first started, I was making $12.50 an hour at a consignment shop and then coming home and going door to door on foot to sell graphic and web services to people who, at the time, had no idea why it mattered. All the while with a Master’s Degree at the edge of the recession. It was craziness. I had a supportive husband, but together we were barely making it.

I think the biggest struggle, in the beginning, was gaining entrance into certain networks or circles. Everyone understands you need connections, but we gravely discount the cost of making those connections. If you don’t live in a neighborhood where you’re constantly running into connected people, you have to build from scratch. You have to have the right clothes, read the right material, attend the right parties, etc. And all that costs money. It’s a catch-22. So if you’re not making any money when you finally spend it to go to that networking party, every cent has to count.

The second biggest challenge I would say was learning how to say yes. Most any woman will tell you, the first lesson you learn is don’t screw up. We learn the lesson of perfectionism very early which is a catastrophe for learning new things. I would lock myself out of opportunities early on because I didn’t want to look foolish if I couldn’t complete a request. Eventually, I built up enough confidence to know that I would figure it out. You just have to trust that you’ll figure it out. And eventually, you do. Now, I’m doing projects I never would have dreamed I was capable of before.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The MoonRose Agency, Inc. – what should we know?
We are a diverse, soul-based design agency that takes an inside out approach to marketing, identity and business building. When new clients come in, we have them go through a battery of personality tests and look at their Enneagram and birth charts. This gives us a pretty good idea of how this person will approach their projects and how to properly communicate and relate to them on an individual level.

Most design companies just give the client whatever they ask for. I tell my clients no, happily and regularly. A client may come to me saying they want to do this or that, but when we look at their personality or their finances or where they are on their spiritual journey, it becomes apparent that what they’re asking for isn’t really what they actually want or can reasonably sustain. This is how so many projects are de-railed midway in traditional agency models. No one has taken the time to get to know the client’s deeper pains or worries. And so a perfectly well-adjusted human-being starts losing their mind right before the close of the project, blaming everything from the UX to the web copy.
Nobody can figure it out and all the designers are bending over backward to make the client happy. When truly the client is freaked out that the actual work is about to begin.

They realize there’s no more stalling with “design”. They actually have to start doing business or acting on the new advice and there’s nothing that a color change can do about that. We are intimately aware of all the subtle aggravations that go along with developing as a person to run a business. That’s what makes us so unique.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My husband has been relentlessly supportive. Even on the toughest days when I thought I was going to quit to look for a 9-5, he would flat out tell me I couldn’t. I was allowed to rest or take a break, but I wasn’t allowed to quit. Chicago’s south side community played a huge in role in giving me a place to practice before anyone else would. No one gives them the credit and support they deserve for doing the same for so many others and I will be forever grateful for that. My sister has been an awesome support and cheerleader. I love her so much! And of course, my team is awesome! Having design and administrative support is really allowing me to dig deeper into working on the business and growing my skills as a teacher and counselor.


  • Initial Consultations | Free
  • Photo Shoots- 5 Edited Shots | Start at $350
  • Our full logo packages start at around $450
  • Website | $1475 Up to 7 pages of custom design with logo and branding sessions. Monthly Payment Plans available
  • Zenith Startup Package $3995 | Take your idea to a full business in about 90 days. Includes Business Licensing, Branding, Business Cards, and Website. Payment Plans available

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All the Onyx studios images are from a total nothing to something business. That’s an idea to full business licensing, branding, space design and opening in 4 months.

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Sharon

    September 13, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    You my dear are awesome!!!! Congratulations I am proud to know you. Kiss your husband. Strong brother……

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