Best known for her cheeky cards, Leeds born, Stacey Dennis provides us with her hugely inspirational story of her creative start-up and now award-winning business Love Layla. We talk about how she quite literally used her ‘skills to pay the bills’ and turned 30 quid into a million and why carving out your own path might lead to even bigger and better things.
Excited to introduce the fabulous Stacey Dennis!
Let’s get right to it, what University did you got to and to do what?
Leeds Art College & Leeds Met University, studying Design
After finishing formal education what did you do next?
Shortly after graduating, I began my first role within Graphic Design at a Musical
Instrument company based in Leeds. My job was to edit photographs of instruments
and design layouts for the in-house magazine.
How has your career path been shaped over the years?
Amongst various Graphic Design jobs, they were mainly all office based positions. I did break off after a redundancy to travel Australia. This led me to various job roles while backpacking around, but then I landed a position in Sydney working at a Design & Print shop – this was really where I came into more print production, understanding colour process and more technical design.
It was a local business and I became close to the owner who guided me through 9 months of training and development within my skills. Still working as a junior, my Manager was an amazing Illustrator and taught me how to really control design skills throughout the Adobe suite software. On my return to the UK, with my now Australian Husband, I then landed a Managerial position within a similar type of business back in Leeds.
Wow, what a journey!
What have been some of your most difficult obstacles in the workplace?
I think the most difficult obstacles within my career are being a Director of Love Layla. While I still love my job as a Designer, running a business involves job roles that I have zero interest in – such as Accounts. It takes me a long time to understand the sums!
Thankfully, I am super organised so can handle the workload but understanding and throwing yourself into duties that you really have no idea (or interest!) about…
What has been your favourite project to work on?
My favourite projects have always been logo design – throughout my career and having various tasks, I still and always will love designing logos! Simply because they are the “emblem” of someone’s business – there’s a lot riding on that. It’s the pressure I love then…
I did feel really proud and loved designing a sign for our offices -the sign is huge and I have never had to design a sign for myself, that was special.
Starting out, how did you create opportunities for yourself?
I always tried to put myself into everything – I always kept up with trends and found my own style. I was fortunate to gain experience within both print and design – this gave me a better understanding of a finished product when I was designing to send to print.
You have a very family orientated brand and business, who would you thank for helping get where you are?
It’s true! The biggest input to my career started with my parents – they would drive me crazy places for crazy equipment/tools/materials to create my designs while at Uni. After them, I would say my boss from my job in Sydney. I was only supposed to be a temp for 3 weeks – 9 months later, I left the country and the job along with the support and advice of a professional who had grown her business from scratch.
So, from Leeds to Sydney to Leeds again, what was it that made you create Love Layla?
Love Layla came about because I was made redundant (again) as I left for maternity leave to have my baby, Layla. I was working as a freelance designer when my husband had a back injury. We were left with £30 and a one year old so I used my skills to pay the bills!
I designed 11 cards for Valentine’s Day and pushed them through Social Media. 3 years later, we stand in a warehouse with 4 members of staff (who are all family) with my husband, Jay, also as a Director. Layla is now 4 years old and we have a huge social media following generating repeat and new custom.
Amazing! What would you say has been your biggest achievement to date?
While not to sound too cocksure, my biggest achievement is managing Motherhood and building a successful business turning over £1million in our first year of trading. That was a big year and a proud achievement.
Absolutely, that’s incredible. Why do you think the North of England is so special?
Yorkshire Puddings – My Dad is the king of them!
I was born and bred in Leeds and I love being in the North because it’s home! With great cities, we have lots to offer – chips and gravy for one!
What is great about Northern creatives?
There are lots of opportunities worldwide for Creatives, but sometimes they aren’t plausible or practical – so Northern Creatives are able to reach out to the North to assure you that you don’t need to be in the capital to have good ideas – nor do you need to have the skyline backdrop for inspiration.
If you have the eye, determination and drive, it will take you where you want to be.
What does the future hold for 2018?
Continue building our business, generate more designs and products to add to our collection and in general, keep enjoying my work and designing.
What advice would you give to anyone entering the creative industry?
Keep going, it’s not easy. I do find sometimes what looks great to you, isn’t always to someone else – but stick with your gut. Believe in what you do and keep practicing. I have gained a lot of skills through watching and practising video tutorials since I left University and through running my business.
Always think outside of the box, sorry for being cliché – It’s not my usual style, but always look for the not so obvious things in life, they might just lead you to a good thing.
One final thing, who is Twat Cat?
(Laughing) That’s our cat and he is Twat Cat.