THE BLOG
02/24/2016 12:35 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2017

Quit Your Job And Become A Fashion Illustrator? Hey, It Worked For Jamel Saliba

Jamel Saliba, better known to her millions of fans as Melsy, did everything you're not supposed to do when you've got a good, corporate job and a 401(k) and you're still in your mid-twenties.
She quit her job and raided her 401(k) to start a business in, of all things, fashion illustration.
And she's doing just fine, thank you.
"Entrepreneurship and art have always just merged together," Saliba says. "I'm equally comfortable being an artist and an entrepreneur.
"I've always wanted to be my own boss. When I found this niche about two and a half years ago, I knew I found my calling--to pursue my career as a full-time fashion illustrator and live the dream of becoming self-employed.
"I've been surrounded by entrepreneurs my whole life, my dad being one of them, so it's kind of in our blood!"
Saliba began posting her fashion illustrations on Etsy, a website that allows independent artists to share and sell their work.
In practically no time, Saliba developed an international following and developed a successful business selling her drawings.
It's not just art fans who scour Etsy for the latest and hottest. Big businesses do, as well. A French company discovered her work on Etsy, contacted Saliba, and asked if they could present her designs to their next client.
Who was that next client? T.J.Maxx/HomeGoods.
Saliba did her due diligence, signed the deal, and now sells card sets on the shelves of this major national chain.
Hallmark came calling next. Saliba designed images for the iconic card company, which will be released in time for Christmas, 2016.
Maybe the most courageous move of all was to rent space in the holiday shops at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan, behind the New York Public Library, and the primary location for New York Fashion Week.
"I had never done a move like this before," Saliba says. "I rented a bus, packed up all my things, and drove to New York City with my family. I stayed with my cousin in Manhattan for those two months."
Renting space in Midtown was a risky move for the young artist/entrepreneur, one she bankrolled out of her 401(k).
"To most people," Saliba says of her looting her retirement account, "this is a big no-no. I knew if I didn't take the risk, I would've regretted it forever and didn't want to keep on thinking about what ifs.
"I took all the savings I had to my name, and took a major risk ... but it was the best 'no-no' I had ever done!"
Saliba is one of a rising tide of young artist/entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of Etsy, Pinterest, and other visually oriented websites to develop national reputations practically overnight. She hopes to work with top designers like Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Dior in the near future. She also hopes to extend her brand into high-end stores like Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus. Vogue and Vanity Fair are on her radar as well.
What guidance would she offer artists who fear entrepreneurship?
"Never be afraid," she advises. "Fear only gets in the way of your dreams. If you have enough passion to make art your career, you won't be scared--you will have faith!
"I'm usually an over-thinker and scared of everything, but I was fearless when it came to starting Melsys [her childhood nickname]. I just had a great feeling about it and ran with it!"
You can find her work at Etsy.com/shop/melsys and on Instagram at melsysillustrations.
Chynna Levin contributed to the interviewing and writing of this article.