Kate Hansen’s career journey isn’t a traditional one.
“I started my career as a police officer outside of Chicago,” Hansen said. “My husband and I moved back here to Mankato so I worked as a security officer at Minnesota State University, but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
Now the sole owner of Blue Sun Designs, Hansen is her own boss, but it wasn’t a straight-shot journey. With family, expenses and not knowing exactly where she wanted to be, she wore many hats.
After the security position on campus she worked for two years in MSU’s admissions office, received a promotion, and then decided it was time to go back to grad school for her second master’s degree.
“I went back to school for technical communication. I had 2-year-old twins at the time and I realized this was too much for me to be doing,” Hansen said.
Despite the inability to continue with her education, it sparked an interest in what she does now: graphic design and editing
Still trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, she began work at FX Fusion in North Mankato. Shortly after she started, their graphic designer left. Hansen was hired for a different position there but offered to help in graphic design until they hired someone.
“It turned into, ‘Well can you do this?’ ‘sure!’ and then I’d Google how to do it that night,” Hansen said. Helping to create the best design and layout to appeal to audiences, families and friends became a passion for Hansen.
“My husband looked at me and said you love this. This is what you should do,” Hansen said.
And it wasn’t much of a surprise to her. After all, even in high school everyone thought Hansen was going to go to college for art. She took many classes and it was a passion of hers.
“I think what is unique about the way I’m approaching it is the art and design of things. I’m tapping back into a passion I had when I was a lot younger,” Hansen said.
Her passion for art also inspired the name of the business. Blue Sun Designs refers to a song Hansen was listening to in an art class one day that inspired her to paint a yellow sky with a blue sun.
After working part-time until late last year creating her own full time business.
A personal touch
When viewing Hansen’s website two things are obvious: her expertise and her personality.
Her website walks potential customers through how everything will work. It also includes her core values.
“I have a lot of them. Commitment to quality, personal connection, honesty and integrity and environmental responsibility,” Hansen said.
“I don’t ever want to give a client something that isn’t a 100% effort,” Hansen said.
“I’m taking content and not just fitting it into the design, but thinking how to target your audience. It is very individualized,” Hansen said.
She said she works to get to know the companies and people she works with to ensure that what she creates is truly them. Outside of that, authenticity and genuine connections are important to Hansen.
“That is so important to me that my company reflects who I am as a person. I’m the kind of person that when you meet me, you don’t have to guess what I’m thinking because it’s all over my face. When you work with me you get me,” Hansen said.
One of the things that Hansen says makes her business unique is this particular value and that it is all done by one person.
“I’m kind of combining this design thing with my editing and writing skills. When they bring me their content it doesn’t have to be polished and perfect. I think that is kind of unique,” Hansen said.
“I have a strong moral and ethical compass. When a client hires me they know I won’t charge them for work I didn’t do. They know what they’re getting,” Hansen said.
She creates estimates to be transparent about costs. Since she started full-time it has mainly been word of mouth getting her customers.
Lastly she said she values environmental responsibility, both personally and professionally. She identifies as a nature enthusiast and tries to reduce the use of single plastics, drinks out of a reusable water bottle, but she also implements this value into her business, choosing any shipping materials she can find that are recyclable.
Not just a business
Blue Sun Designs doesn’t just do design work for businesses in the area but also creates designs for families.
“One of the biggest sellers I have on Etsy are baseball cards. That all started because my son plays baseball and it was an end of the year gift to everyone,” Hansen said.
The design includes pictures of kids posing or playing in their sport and is printed on cardstock paper so it looks and feels just like an actual baseball card.
She also designs Christmas cards and “responsibility cards” for parents to give to kids on no-school days with lists of chores to complete before screen time.
“I feel like I’ve been working a lot with organizations that work with kids. When I get excited it’s because I know I’m helping to create a richer community for our kids,” she said.