Zoe Lacey owns The Golden Letter - an award winning, London based luxury stationery design studio. Specialising in hot foil, personalised calligraphy and beautiful tactile wedding stationery.
How would you describe your creativity?
I think my creativity isn’t very high 95% of the time. Occasionally I’ll just have a moment of inspiration – it’s very rarely during a working day. Sometimes I’ll have 27 things to do on my list and will think ‘oh I know what I want to do!’ and that will spark my creative moments. I can’t force it. I was always scared of taking a creative job, as I was terrified that I can’t turn my creativity on. Sometimes there will be a 3-month period where I’m just not feeling it at all and then suddenly loads of it will come. I’ve set up my business so if I’m not feeling creative, I can still do my job.
What’s your favourite creative thing to do?
The graphic design side of things is definitely much more my preference now. It used to be calligraphy, but I have definitely gone the other way on that.
I don’t know actually. I think it’s because I’m self-taught in everything. To begin with, graphic design wise, I was very unsure. Whereas my calligraphy was much stronger. But where I’ve been doing this for 4 years, my graphic design skills are far more superior now. So actually I understand the software that I’m using. I can have something in my head and make it using a computer, rather than my pens and cobbling ideas together.
What software do you use?
I do nearly everything in Illustrator, which is very much the wrong way. I should be using In Design, but I don’t get on with it. So it’s all on Illustrator or Procreate on the iPad – between the two of those.
How do you top up your creative cup?
I go for a walk every morning first thing after I take Noah to school. It’s a bit different now in lockdown, as we have a 1-hour lunch time walk and I am really feeling that because I have all this pent up energy by not doing my morning walk. I do have most of my creative ideas whilst I am walking.
Because it’s a set time do you find that affects the output?
No, but to be fair I am most creative in the morning anyway, so I think it works quite well. I would love to go for a walk all day, that’s my choice of activity in general. When I walk with other people - and we do walk all day - that doesn’t happen. Getting that brief walk in the morning means my brain can just switch off for a moment. I will have an idea and start typing it out on my phone and email myself. I email myself every idea I have, just so I know it’s all there.
What did you do before you did this?
I was a corporate PA. I worked in corporate property for about 15 years. My Mum is a PA, my sister is a PA, so we’re all horribly organised. I can do that job with my eyes shut, upside down and backwards.
How do those organisational skills serve you now?
It’s really helpful. It meant that I could hit the ground running with a new business very quickly, and it now means I can teach other people how to do it. That wasn’t something I intended to do at all. I think it was something I started sharing with other creatives, as I joined Facebook groups with other wedding stationers. They’d be talking and I’d think ‘How can you not know this? It’s common sense.’ It dawned on me very quickly that a lot of creatives just have no idea. When I was setting up The Golden Letter, I did a part time admin job at Cockpit Arts - an incubation studio for makers. Again, a lot of the stuff they were teaching there I was thinking, 'this is just common sense,’ so it just seemed silly not to share that information. I do show all of that on my Instagram – a lot of my highlights are just tips on how I run my business. I also do a lot of Trello 1:1s, so helping people set up Trello to stop them being headless chickens.
What was the turning point of moving from PA to starting this business?
I’ve always done this in the background and then I had Noah. I took extended maternity leave, so I didn’t go back to work and I wasn’t planning to. My husband and I had then split and then it all came to a head very quickly. Instead of sitting there and wallowing I thought ‘right, let’s set up my business properly.’ So I did and it all kind of exploded from there. I think it was more of a right place, right time, right frame of mind more than anything. I looked into how much child care would be for me to do a 9-5 and I would be making £10 a day or something completely ridiculous.
If you were talking to another creative, is there anything you would recommend?
I always say you can’t be organised if you don’t know what you’re organising. For me it’s all about putting down your process from beginning to end. Including your whole client journey, your process and where they intersect. It’s about understanding your process, so you can meet clients from one end to the other.
Zoe has just launched a pre-sale crowdfund for her second business, Pretty Post. Pretty Post is a year of cards in a box. Twenty different, all occasion, luxury cards in a reusable and refillable box. Just what we need right now to keep in touch with loved ones in a special way! For more info go to Pretty Post V2: Pre Sale!