We live for creative day planners. There’s something so special about taking pen to paper and planning out your week in a beautifully designed journal. If you love scrolling through Instagram for tips on organizing your calendar or can’t get enough sticker sets to keep your to-do list in check, you understand the power of a paper planner. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Emily Ley, the organization guru behind the Simplified Planner and the owner of Emily Ley, the one-stop shop for planners, journals, paper goods, and gifts.
Meet the Organization Pro: Emily Ley
Before Ley started her own brand, she worked full-time at the age of 23 as the executive director for the city ballet in Pensacola, FL. It was a huge undertaking and taught her a lot about how to manage a company and how to market a nonprofit. The skills she learned during her time at the city ballet proved to be invaluable years later when she decided to branch out on her own. When Ley and her husband decided to start a family, Ley wanted more flexibility in her work life than she currently had at the nonprofit. While working full-time, she started making stationery on the side, teaching herself how to create a website using YouTube tutorials. “Little by little, that company grew. I changed courses a few times, as my own life grew and changed, and with the birth of my son in 2011, I created the Simplified Planner,” says Ley. Now, she and her team of seven employees aim to make life easier for anyone who wants to stay organized.
1. Dive right in. During late nights, Ley taught herself how to be a designer through tutorials on YouTube. “I would stay up very late trying to create my own website. I Googled all sorts of questions and educated myself as best as I could to start small, but smart,” says Ley. She was so excited to learn that it didn’t matter that she was devoting her free time to learning about her passion project.
2. Figure out your why. Ley suggests doing some serious thinking about why you want to start a business and get clear about what you want to get out of the venture. “Once you know your reason, it makes a lot of the other big and small decisions that come along with entrepreneurship a lot easier,” says Ley. For Ley, she wanted to start a company that had more flexibility than a corporate career. As such, her business closes down for one week during spring break and two weeks off during winter break. She’s even figured out her schedule so that she has Fridays off to spend with her children. If a steady balance between your work and home life is important to you, stay true to that idea.
3. Settle into the mess. Ley is a mom to three kids (including twins), which means that she struggles with trying to “do it all,” but the successful founder says that she’s able to settle into the mess of life. “For many years, I tried to live up to this ideal I had in my head of what life should look like. I chased a standard that left me exhausted and deflated. Once I became a mom, I let go of all that,” says Ley. To keep everything organized, she set up systems, routines, and tools that make life a little bit easier. In her new book, Grace, Not Perfection, she shares some of her fave ways to get it all done. Every Sunday, she spends a few hours prepping for the week — getting laundry done, food chopped for lunches, clothes picked out, and light housekeeping — which makes the work week much easier.
4. Connect with your consumers. Through the brand’s social media platforms, Ley loves connecting with the thousands of women who use her Simplified Planner and other products from Emily Ley. “I love that I get the chance to write, to share my own experiences as a busy mom, and to create products that equip and inspire,” says Ley. She values the direct feedback she gets from her customers and loves seeing what her community has to say about her product line.
5. Find your community. When Ley launched her company almost nine years ago, Etsy was still brand new. Twitter was the go-to social media platform. Even the idea of starting your own biz as an entrepreneur was a novel concept. Ley started to connect with other like-minded business owners to find and cultivate a genuine, authentic community. She encourages other women to do the same. “You want to find people who will encourage you and hold you accountable to your goals,” says Ley. To that end, Ley started the Emily Ley Playbook as a resource for creative entrepreneurs. On the site, customers will find master classes, video-based courses, templates, and ebooks. “In each resource, we walk through the ins and outs of running a company. It took us almost a year to pull all this information together — from years of experience and countless lessons learned — and we couldn’t be prouder of it.”
6. You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. When running your own company, there’s bound to be mistakes that you’re going to make that will cost you financially. Ley shares how one time she made a mistake that ended up in a misprinting that appeared in about $6,000 worth of products. “It was my husband Bryan who told me to get up (and helped me schlep all of it to the curb for the recycling truck!), remember why I was making these products, and get back to work to earn another $6,000 to put toward the product,” says Ley. Mistakes happen. Instead of blaming yourself, take responsibility for them, work toward fixing the problem in the future, and move forward.
7. Rely on your cheerleaders. Striking out on your own means hitting challenges, making mistakes, and learning as you go. You’ll need a support squad to keep you inspired when you hit low moments. For Ley, her husband has been a resource for his financial mindset, but also for supporting and encouraging Ley throughout the journey of her company. In addition, her parents and friends have helped by spreading the word about her products, buying her stationery in the early days, and cheering her through every big launch day. “I don’t even have words for how grateful I am to everyone who’s cheered us along this path,” says Emily. If you’re questioning whether you’re making the right choices or just need a boost of self-confidence, turn to your team for a pep talk.
Perfect Your Skills
1. Design Your Brand Identity Online Class ($29): When thinking about starting your own company, you’ll want to consider the design aspects of the brand. Join creative designer Meg Lewis to learn how to develop your brand’s mission statement and a mood board that represents your brand’s unique identity.
2. Build Your Brand on Social Media Online Class ($39): Being a successful entrepreneur means having an active presence across all digital platforms. Social media guru Melanie Ham will teach you how to find your target audience, develop a weekly editorial calendar, and decide which channels you’ll use for your particular brand.
3. Emily Ley Playbook (price varies): The founder of Emily Ley shares her resources after years of experience of running her own company about how to start out as an entrepreneur. You’ll find premium ebooks, master classes, templates, workbooks, and some freebies on this site.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Gina Zeidler, Shay Cochrane and Laura Foote)