If you remember my Insta giveaway a few weeks ago, you’ll recall I did a drawing for a leather bracelet from Laurel Denise. My new pal Lolly is the darling behind the brand, and y’all, she’s the real deal. I got to hang out with her this week and snap some photos of her workspace for The Thersday Series, and it was like catching up with an old friend. Her work is gorgeous, her business is growing, and she’s got a few new ideas up her sleeve that I got to peek at too, yet she is as kind and humble as they come. I’m so excited to have her today. Welcome, Lolly, to the blog!
You literally dreamed up your company, is that right? Tell us how Laurel Denise got its start.
I did! I love remembering this story. I had been flailing about in a quietly miserable sort of way that I think a lot of folks do the year or so after graduating from college, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I knew working in a traditional office from 9-5 wasn’t for me, but I wasn’t at all sure what I could do to get out of that cycle. This was 2005, so Facebook was barely a thing and Etsy and blogs and all of the wonderful examples all of those channels provide for starting your very own creative dream weren’t available. I wasn’t great at thinking too far outside of the box at that time (something that continues to be a struggle for me) and so my mind rested on some “safe” creative ideas. I thought maybe I’d go back to school to be an art teacher (my goodness, I wouldn’t have been good at that!) or perhaps I’d do some collage work and make some cards to sell at farmer’s markets (my mom had a friend who did that—seemed feasible, but I never loved any of the things I put together) or go to FIT to become a fashion merchandiser (I had already been accepted and it seemed like a good idea, minus the huge loans). But, nothing really stuck and nothing felt like me.
Then one night, I had a dream where I was using tools to create jewelry with my handwriting—tools that I had never used before, tools that I hadn’t even heard of! I remembered this dream while at work the next day and was totally taken over. I left work early and marched myself into the closest Michael’s craft store to find these tools. I dove into the internet, searching for the things I couldn’t find (and didn’t even know the names of). I was relentless in my pursuit of this vision that, really, God had given directly to me. I knew that my handwriting—something that had changed overnight when I was 17-years-old in AP History class—was going to change my life and I couldn’t stop pushing myself to see this become a reality. Six months or so after this dream, I had a website up! I can still remember the running dash I took around my mom’s house when I got my first order; I was beyond thrilled! After that, I was featured in Daily Candy and got my first big wholesale account. Then I started participating in wholesale shows and the rest, as they say, is history. Writing it all out in black and white makes it sound like it happened so quickly, but I’ve learned that things take time. And waiting until it’s your time or your business’ time is so important. Nothing for me has happened overnight, but a lot HAS happened. And I’m grateful for the goals achieved as well as the time they took to come around. It’s taken a lot of prayer, tears, and super hard work to get to where I am and most days I feel like I’m still just at the bottom of the staircase looking up at the rest of the journey!
What’s the biggest lesson you’re learning running a business?
I can’t stop repeating a line that I heard in a recent handmade business podcast: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Oh what a lesson this is for creative entrepreneurs! I can create a lot, sure, but should I? Does is fit in with my brand? Does it give me that excited drive I felt when starting this business or does it just make me feel anxious and pressured? I participated in a retail show last spring at Magnolia Market and, after almost twelve years in business, I think I finally figured out the purpose of my company: I’m here to encourage others. To send sweet messages out into the world that help people through; that speak to people in their happiest and darkest moments, and remind them to press on toward joy and peace and rest. I have to bounce every single creative idea I’d like to add to my line against that purpose. If it doesn’t line up with my mission, the entire process—from creating the product to selling it—is going to be painful and will ultimately fail. I’ve fallen into this trap so often. But when I can remember the joy I get when my products line up with the job God has given me and stick to that purpose, I feel the fruit of success in an entirely different and more meaningful way.
Name the first thing you do every morning to get your day off on the right foot.
I’m such a creature of habit, writing this out makes me giggle. But this is me literally every single morning — turn the tea kettle on, do my quick exercises (and I do mean quick – it’s about an 8-minute routine) while the water boils, read through Psalm 143 and pray over my day (I break it down hour by hour). I started doing Hello Mornings a few weeks ago after listening to a God-centered Mom podcast and I am in LOVE. I don’t have much quiet in my life anymore with two little ones running around and the work I do filling most spare moments, but starting my day with the Lord in an intentional way is always best.
My mind can get stuck cycling around new ideas and the mechanics of these ideas—the hows, the pricing, the production—but I’m thankful for a mind that hasn’t circled too much lately. One thing the Lord has really pressed into my heart with the arrival of my second child is that things take time and there is always enough time to complete the work He’s given me to do. If I’m awake at night circling around an idea, unable to rest, then it probably isn’t something that’s for me or it might not be the right time. I keep a list of future goals and a sheet in my notebook for these things and jot down details as they come to me; doing that helps keep the swirling “stay awake” thoughts at bay.
Who keeps you company in your line of work?
My husband! He works in the next room and is always available to help me think through a product or pricing and he is absolutely the only reason I’m able to grow this business. His support helps this whole thing go round! I also have an unbelievable and dedicated team. We are small, but mighty! Nancy is one of the most talented people I will ever know and she is my only full time employee. She has her creative hand in pretty much everything anyone sees with Laurel Denise. Then we have Kelly, who comes in and helps us out for a few hours each day with inventory and display prepping and bracelet logging and shipping—she is such a help to us. We also have some wonderful “mama elves” who do the production of my bracelets at home while their babies are sleeping—Megan and Diana and Jenny, I couldn’t do any of this without you dears!! I pray for and thank God for these women every single day.