All photos: Amanda Wilens
Today I'm so excited to introduce Laura Dooley, the creator and founder behind home decor and styled succulent brand LoKey Designs. I first fell in love with Laura's work when I was lucky enough to go home with one of her adorable potted creations after attending a styled shoot back in August. Learn more about Laura's unexpected journey to small business ownership below, as well as what's in the works for LoKey Designs in 2018!
Q: Share a bit of your story with us: what’s your creative background, and what led you to pursuing your creative business, LoKey Designs? What did your process look like while launching the business?
A. When I started LoKey Designs, I was not looking to start a business. I was actually looking to do a DIY-style blog, sharing projects I was working on around my home. I have always had a creative heart, doing anything I could to fill the creative void my day job could not satisfy.
I believe succulent planting was the second project I decided to tackle – hanging a light over my washing machine was the first...random, I know! After I shared some photos of my succulent arrangements, a few friends asked if I could teach them how to plant and arrange succulents. In January 2016, I hosted my first succulent planting class with four friends in my basement. A few weeks later, I had another class and soon after, I was teaching a public class that grew into two retail opportunities selling my succulent arrangements. It all grew so quickly. I still don't quite know how it all really happened, but I kept saying yes to the opportunities that felt right. So here I am today, feeling blown away by the fact that my DIY blog aspirations and curiosity for easy to care for plants created a business. From the beginning, I experienced an incredible outpouring of support all around. There is a mutual curiosity and desire to learn how to incorporate plants as low-maintenance home decor. LoKey Designs is here to share the plant love.
"It all grew so quickly. I still don't quite know how it all really happened, but I kept saying yes to the opportunities that felt right."
Q: I have to ask! What does your workday routine look like, and how do you try to maintain a balance between running LoKey Designs and spending quality time with your family?
A: LoKey Designs is very much my side hustle. When I started, I was working full-time, cramming in as much work and teaching as many classes as I could. From January to October 2016, I was literally running non-stop. I was also pregnant with my first child, which drove me to work even harder. I wasn't sure if the business would survive with me planning to go back to work full-time after maternity leave, but man I was going to give it my best.
I have been blown away by life and the way things are able to fall together when something is meant to happen. Not only did my business survive, it got better and grew bigger. I still work my day job, Monday through Thursday, but now have Friday's to be at home with my baby girl and work my business.
On the weekdays, I get up at 6 a.m. I commute about an hour to work, but there's a silver lining: my husband and I work together. So while my husband drives, I get to answer messages, plan, write my endless to-do lists and sometimes sleep. We work until 4:30 or 5 p.m. and typically utilize the drive home to run errands for the business. We turn my after-work business duties into a family affair, which usually ends with a celebratory pizza dinner. On the days we get to come straight home after work, I like to cook a nice dinner, feed and play with my baby girl, put her to bed by 8 or 8:30 p.m., hang with the hubs for a bit and then typically work from 9 p.m. to midnight.
I am still running full speed in my business, but am so fortunate to have an incredibly supportive family that I get to involve in the process. Somehow, we find peace in all the activity because we are in it together. I have never felt more part of a team before in my life. Who knew owning a small business would help me achieve that.
Q: You have a great lineup of LoKey Designs workshops and classes coming up this fall. What compelled you to begin teaching classes about succulent planting, wreath making and more?
A: My business began with teaching. I love the aspect of teaching and have never had the opportunity to be in this type of role before. It takes my creative passion for plants and home decor so much further than just creating succulent arrangements to sell. Succulent planting was the first – and remains the most popular – class I offer. I have done different variations of this class to suit the group I am teaching, in both public and private class settings. I have had the privilege of teaching planting classes for anything from team-building exercises at local businesses to girls night get-togethers at clients' homes. I also get to teach regular classes at the retail locations I sell my arrangements and home decor – Joy's Collective Market and Long Row Lavender. I am very open to new opportunities and ways to share the plant love through different kinds of classes as well, like seasonal wreath making classes. I like the challenge of delivering an experience to my clients that is not only catered to their needs but is educational, care-free and relaxing.
Q: What’s next for LoKey Designs in 2018?
A: Plants are just a small portion of my vision for LoKey Designs. I plan to keep up with the planting classes, but hope to continue to test new ideas and improve the classes. One upcoming class includes painting and planting, which I am really excited about.
Home decor is a large part of LoKey Designs and I am looking to approach it in a few different ways for 2018. I have been working over the past few months to source some really amazing products to offer alongside my living home decor and arrangements. I have added plant-themed enamel pins, stationery and paper goods to the mix. The next round of additions include botanical tea towels, Nordic-inspired jewelry (that beautifully mirrors the containers I use in my arrangements!) and soy candles in natural, botanical scents. I am so excited to introduce this well-rounded offering just in time for the holiday gift-giving season and look forward to seeing how this side of my business develops into the new year. I love the opportunity to carefully curate and share products I believe in and am just so happy to see how beautifully everything seems to be working together.
"It is amazing what the mind can do when you are 'bored.' It forces a part of you to come alive and I have always been surprised by the results."
Q: For fellow women who are seeking a creative outlet or want to take their creative business to the next level, what would your greatest piece of advice be?
A: Always be learning. When I was in a creative slump prior to LoKey Designs, I started doing projects around my house and taking DIY classes. I documented my journey and navigated my way through the slump with a very open mind. I had no real objective other than to learn. I still do this with my business when I feel like I am getting into a boring groove. I pick up a project that interests me and seek to learn something new. It is amazing what the mind can do when you are "bored." It forces a part of you to come alive and I have always been surprised by the results.