When Jack Baker, 24, from Liskeard in Cornwall, found out his exam results, he felt like it was the end of the world. He soon realised that a piece of paper doesn't have to define your future, and since then has started up his own commercial illustration business called Jack Baker Design.
School wasn’t a great time for me. I didn’t apply myself as much as I could have and I left with only two GCSEs.
The day I went to pick up my results, my heart was pounding. I knew the outcome wouldn’t be great, but having that confirmed makes it real. I remember standing amongst my classmates as they celebrated their impressive grades, whilst I felt hugely disappointed. It’s fair to say my self-esteem was at an all-time-low during that time.
It’s no surprise that the pressure of this situation leaves so many young people feeling unnerved about what their future holds. I had no idea what to do next or where my life was going.
I had quite a few distractions growing up. My dad left home when I was twelve and I couldn’t help but feel rejected and unwanted. Soon after my mum was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and I acted as her main carer. I wanted to look after her but mentally it was a lot to handle at a young age.
I tried a stint at college studying music after school, but I didn’t complete the course. I had no motivation, I felt depressed and I’d got to a point where I hated socialising. Being around large groups of people heightened my anxiety disorder.
I also tried and failed at a range of different jobs. Nothing seemed to work out for me.
It wasn’t until I signed up to The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme – which helps young people set up in business – that my life started to change.
I’ve always been creative and loved drawing, so I taught myself over the years how to use graphic design software, including Photoshop. It seemed to be the only thing I was good at, and that I enjoyed.
During Enterprise, with the help of great mentors, I started to understand more about running a business including bookkeeping, tax, marketing and the legal side too. I also met other young people on the course who had similar backgrounds to me and we could relate to each other and talk about our problems. I started to grow in confidence and enjoyed being around people again.
I received so much support from The Prince’s Trust throughout the course; it helped me to believe in myself again. This was a real turning point in my life and lifted me out of depression.
It was then that I decided to set up my own commercial illustration business. My first job came through a friend whose employer needed a graphic artist to illustrate their advertising. I showed them some of my work and they loved it. Since then I’ve gone on to build my business and now have a range of regular clients. I create fantasy worlds through the method of digital painting and have worked on animations, children’s picture books, game designs and have illustrated six book covers for an author in California. My portfolio of work is growing and growing.
Many people would argue that continuing with education is the better option because employers are more likely to take an interest if you’ve got A-levels or a degree. But, this isn’t always the case. From my experience, passion and drive can also get you to where you want to be.
I wasn’t willing to let my lack of qualifications hold me back in life. I’ve been on such a journey, met amazing people, learned more about myself than I ever thought possible, and ended up with my own business at the end of it.