Meet Kristen Ley, the talented owner behind creative letterpress studio Thimblepress®. Since 2012 Kristen has been creating beautiful designs alongside her team in Jackson, MS – learn more about what her day-to-day is like, as well as her advice for fellow ladies looking to take a walk on the entrepreneurial side. Don't forget to enter our Thimblepress giveaway at the end of the Q&A!
All photos credit: Beth Morgan Photography
Q: Prior to launching Thimblepress® in 2012, how did your love for stationery and design first come to be?
A: I always loved a handwritten note. My mom instilled writing thank you notes in all of us sisters from the moment we could write the alphabet. Lisa Frank and her glorious colors really sealed the deal for me in elementary. I was obsessed. Really, obsessed. One of my most vivid memories with mail as a child have to be when I would be off at summer camp and my mom or family members would write me letters and send them to me, and I would respond back on my pretty pink stationery. Letter writing is a part of my soul. There is something about receiving a hand written note in the mail vs email. Its almost like a person sent a part of their heart in the mail. You can feel the penmanship, see how far it traveled and hold the same piece of paper they held when they wrote it. Can you tell I am really sentimental? As far as my love of design, I would love to say it paralleled my love of stationery, but it came far before I could write a letter. According to my mother, I have been coloring since I could hold a crayon. I have always had a fascination with color and lots of it. In college I received a BFA with an emphasis in graphic design from Mississippi State University, which officially and professionally kicked off my love affair with design.
Q: Walk us through what a day in the life of Kristen is like – morning coffee, design sessions, keeping in touch with your clients and team?
A: Oh gosh, every day is different for me. I live above my studio, so in the mornings I usually get dressed while watching the local news, hang out with my pups over a cup of coffee or shot of wheatgrass, and try to wake up. I spend a lot of evening working late, so I typically get into the office at 9 a.m. I wake up at 6:30 a.m., but it just takes forever for me to get going after a long night of work. On Mondays, I always walk around and check in with my team members to see how their weekend went and what is on the roster for the day. After that I get on our task management software, Asana, and check in for what our team and myself have going on for the day and week ahead. Some days I am sitting in my office all day long managing business stuff, working on our website, creating new products, sourcing new vendors, paying bills, and seeking opportunities for growth. Other days I am on my 1925 Chandler + Price letterpress printing our current card collection or a custom project, out of the office and running around, or meeting with vendors, lawyers, suppliers, etc. I love what I do, so much, so a typical day for me could be starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. It's a good thing and a bad thing to love what you do as much as I do. Some nights I let myself off for drinks and dinner with friends. I travel A TON, so when I am in Jackson I tend to be a bit of a homebody and want to hang with my pups all the time!
A: I love creating and running a business. It is by far the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. Seriously. My team also keeps me so motivated. They are so encouraging and love Thimblepress® so much, and they probably have no idea how contagious that is to me, and it continues to motivate me to move Thimblepress® in a positive direction. Positive energy is infectious, and that is the atmosphere we strive to create here in our studio. I am also a Christian, and I truly believe that this is what I am supposed to be doing. Will I be doing it in 5 years? I don't know, only God does, but He has been steering the ship this far so I trust he won't lead me wrong!
A: Both of my grandparents owned their own pharmacies in small, Texas towns (Needville & Taylor). It was crazy growing up with two, small-pharmacy, business owners as grandparents, but also amazing. My sisters and I would attend trade shows with them when we were young and collect all kinds of samples. I look back now and think, was God preparing me to do this all along? Of course! I have a lot of memories invested in those tiny perfume samples from my childhood, but also deep-seated memories of trade shows and my grandfathers running their small businesses. When I graduated college, I started my own graphic design and marketing firm in Charleston, South Carolina with a friend. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to start my own business out of college was so that if I got married, I could work from home and have kids. Granted I LOVED doing what I was doing, but that was the cherry on top of the sundae. Fast forward 8 years, and I am almost four years into Thimblepress®, single and no kids. Ha ha! Isn't life funny like that? I truly started Thimblepress® out of an even deeper passion than I started my first business for. In my head it's like dating the wrong person and then finally dating and finding THE person for you. Since I have never had that, that is my equivalent for the feelings I had when I started Thimblepress®. I never knew my end goal would be what Thimblepress® is or has become, but I am so thrilled to see what else is to come! We work REALLY hard up here at Thimblepress® and truly create products that make people happy. What a dream job! Thimblepress® is a true reflection of me, my values and core. I hope that never changes.
Q: For fellow career-oriented women looking to embark on their own creative business adventure, what would your best advice be for taking the “leap” and starting up a successful project or business?
A: Prayer & Faith. Taking that leap is hard, but I was able to bundle up (and I still do) my fears for owning and running a business and lift them up to God. That was the biggest change for me. I used to be THE WORLD'S BIGGEST WORRIER in the world, but I try to lift up my worries and thankfulness to Him daily. It makes you lighter and able to fill those spaces you were harboring so much negativity, fear and worry with exciting new adventure. Even if you aren't starting a business I recommend that. I tell people that I really didn't understand when people would tell me that until I was 26 years old and toggling the idea of Thimblepress® or my full time job. It was a struggle to break away, but I prayed about it and had my mom and aunt praying about it, and God made it very evident what I needed to be doing. I tell people I got to taste A tree of life. Not THE tree, but A tree. I was 26 years old and just then realizing the magnitude of God's mighty power. I always knew growing up, but I didn't REALLY know.
Q: What do you love most about owning Thimblepress®, and where do you hope to see your brand and business over the next few years?
A: Definitely community. Not only community with my local Jackson, Mississippi community, but community with my team members, other industry creatives, business owners, Christians, etc. Thimblepress® has truly given us a platform to bring communities and people together for a greater good. I would love to continue to see Thimblepress® grown and become something bigger than ourselves. We don't just create products that make people happy, we are a part of peoples memories, lives, and home. We are a part of a letter from a husband to a wife, a friend to another friend, a sister to a brother. To me, those moments and memories are why we continue to do what we do. We love operating in Jackson, MS and being a part of the community here. We hope to continue our work here and have an imprint in the life of the city for years to come.
Keep the Thimblepress fun going and enter our exclusive giveaway below for a Hustle Smart tote bag, art print and two confetti push-pops™. All you have to do is comment below with your favorite Thimblepress item and leave your email address. Our winner will be randomly chosen and notified next week – best of luck, Working Girls!