The story of this couple and this business is absolutely inspiring. When I first stumbled upon Laura and Tom’s work on Etsy, I knew I had to interview them. This is our first couple’s interview but I certainly hope it won’t be our last! As someone who’s partner is also my business partner, I can tell you there’s a lot of power and possibility that comes from working with your very best friend.
Laura and Tom, who together equal Jolly Edition, make a great team helping other couples have one very special wedding day thanks to their beautifully painted invitations, note cards, maps, and so much more.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
T: I’m a self–taught web and graphic designer from Cambridge, England. I graduated with an English degree that I had no use for and learned the fundamentals of design over a few short years whilst trying to make ends meet. I went from a junior to senior designer inside three years. Moving to be with Laura changed my life exponentially for the better and revealed the opportunity of working together, building our legacy.
L: I really admire that Tom is self-taught, I love his determination and tenacity. I’ve been in art schools ranging from middle school to grad school so I have been institutionalized most of my life. It has been 6 years since grad school and it’s been an incredible adventure finding my way. I’m trained as a painter so the first year or so I was freelancing for art galleries, and working at CVS to stay alive. Then I received an incredible opportunity to paint in Jeff Koons’ studio and was working on super-realistic paintings with some incredibly talented artists in Manhattan. I will always love that time, but even better, that’s when I met Tom.
Because of visa issues, I had to choose between staying at the studio in NYC or to go to the UK with my fiancé, Tom. Tom was the clear winner. I made illustrations for my bridal party as wedding favors, our photographer (and now good friend) suggested that we could do that for a living. That sounded good to us, I started drawing like crazy, blogging, set up an Etsy shop and then Tom joined me full time about ten months later.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
T: Refining our processes was a steep learning curve. In our first few projects we were completely exposed financially and by the verbal agreements we made with our clients. Now we have a much more solid and transparent relationship with clients. Oh, and we moved across an ocean with only three suitcases full of our belongings. Emigrating two lives and a business without downtime is hard.
L: I’m not too stuck on the points Tom raises. There have been some more challenging times but I’ve really enjoyed it all so far. I anticipate we’ll encounter some harder challenges in the years to come by trying to grow our business into something larger that doesn’t demand so much of our hands-on attention.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
T: We’ve had a lot of needlessly kind feedback from clients. We’ve made a couple of big mistakes and those clients have been terrifically understanding. When things fall apart, saving them at the last minute is a victory in itself.
L: Our first big feature was on Martha Stewart’s wedding blog, and I’m positive that Martha herself hasn’t seen our work and it wasn’t a big spread or anything, but it made me feel like we’re doing something really special and going in the right direction. I was definitely fist-pumping that day.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
T: If we didn’t have doubts, we would never achieve anything. Doubts make you take risks and those provide the impetus for change and improvement.
L: What makes me feel better on those days is talking to Tom about possible ideas for our business. Brainstorming with him is fun and energizing and gets me back raring to go. We have a mix of complementary skills and we’re lucky to have that dexterity in our business. We have plans to start expanding Jolly Company and put those skills to use but time is definitely what we need more of before we get started.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
T: I dip in and out of projects to offer opinion and critique but the website is where I have the most creative input. Design can be a very incestuous discipline and whilst I need the inspiration of others, it can be a poisoned chalice. I find the best way to come across inspiration is space from the problem. Go for a walk. Take a look at nature and realise how insignificant the problem is and your unconscious will provide a way.
L: Some days I feel like I’m on fire and other days I feel like I’ve been stomped out. Sometimes it’s a matter of pushing through it, but that can be a tough slog. As Peggy Olson says, “clearing out the cobwebs” helps. Get distracted and a flicker of an idea pops up and saves the day.
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
T: We get up at around seven, check email and get our priorities in order so we know what we need to get done before the end of the day. Lunch is around noon, usually The Daily Show and Colbert Report with a salad, and then it’s back to work. Some days we don’t finish until midnight but we’re trying to cut those down to a minimum.
L: We work most of the time. I say work but now it’s just what we do, it’s like brushing our teeth or making lunch and it’s just part of our lives, we couldn’t do without working. We make time to be with our friends, and take time during the day to talk on twitter or Facebook, they keep us smiling.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
T: Exposing Laura’s work. If everything goes to plan clients will see everything Laura does and nothing I do. I’m happy to be the bottom of the iceberg because so many talented designers drown under the burden of what I do for our business, the ugly guts that go into making sure everything is balanced to afford Laura the chance to experiment and make mistakes.
L: Having Tom assume the public relations role. I love him so much for that because it had been so stressful to handle both that end and creating the products, there was no time to fit both of those roles into one person.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
T: Creativity is an overused word. Concentrate more on selling your decision making because that’s a tangible quality that people can relate to. You’ll get paid more and earn more respect by being a good decision maker then you will being a good ‘creative’. Plus you can avoid that ‘creative’ label that reduces your efforts to magic.
L: If you’re in a creative business, you know what your strengths are but you also know your weaknesses. If you can’t do something well yourself, hire a professional (branding, website, or photos) and trust in those professionals. Cheaping out and hiring the amateur designer next door to set up a website and rebrand is going to cost twice as much in the long run and may put off potential clients, so bite the bullet and outsource to professionals you trust.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
T: Hopefully earning more money with a stronger brand and a lot more time for larking about with Laura in national parks.