Janet Odgis started her design firm Odgis and Company in September 1985, after working as a designer and art director for 9 years. “I didn’t always want to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to work at a big company,” she recalls, adding that she “liked the idea of being in the middle of something big.” But eventually, she “started realizing that if I was working for one company, I would be doing one thing — and I wanted variety.” So, she decided to create something big for herself.

Odgis launched her firm from her New York City apartment mere months after earning an MFA in graphic design from Yale University and while teaching part-time at Parsons School of Design. Initially, she leveraged Yale contacts for clients and hired her students as interns. Since then, she has significantly expanded both her client roster, which has included the likes of IBM and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and her team. She also became a proud member of the Women Presidents Organization, a nonprofit, members-only operation that she says has provided both support and learning opportunities. Looking ahead, she wants to brand buildings. “I have a passion for architecture, and my staff and I love the aesthetics of buildings in New York,” she says.

While growing her company, Odgis also raised a son while serving as her household’s sole breadwinner after her husband’s cancer diagnosis. It was demanding, but she persevered knowing that she “had other people working for me, so I’m responsible for them.” She credits her survival to “sheer will and force and persistence.” Now, Odgis enjoys working on a diverse range of passion projects and the comforts her company’s success has provided. “I made a nice life for myself and my team.”