“It was a scary decision to make at the time but I’ve always been a strong believer in going with your gut and I knew it was the right thing to do.”
Next in the Creative Business series is the wonderful creative behind LIFEstyled Planner, Lou Rodrigues. I’ve known Lou in social media circles for a couple of years now. She’s such a lovely person, and both her eye for design and tenacity in business is amazing. Not only does she create the gorgeous designs for the LIFEstyled Planner covers, she also handles the day-to-day running of the company, and I’m sure I’m not the only person she inspires on a regular basis. Let’s get to know more about her…
What does creativity mean to you?
To me creativity is like being able to be myself. All my life I’ve been creative, excelling in art at school and wanting to focus on art and design further at degree level. I always had to try harder with academic subjects at school, like I was trying to be something I wasn’t, it never came easy. So being able to be creative everyday is my comfort zone, its me.
Have you always been creative?
Ooops think I kind of answered this already but yes, always. I had huge arguments with the career advisors at school, they disapproved of taking art as an A-level, incase I wanted to be a doctor in later life, but I KNEW I didn’t want to do anything else.
What first got you interested in your field?
When I was studying for art A level, I stayed with a family friend, I thought she was awesome. She had studied fashion at university and was working as an interior stylist for a interiors company at the time. She got me a work experience position for a whole week, it literally changed my course. After that I was set on getting into design. At the time I was aiming at Fashion, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but fashion seemed to be a good focus.
I went to university and started working for a fashion company supplying to the high street, which grew to me specialising in men’s clothing in house for a high street retailer.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Working in fashion was a lot of fun, it was also a lot of commitment of time with travelling the world being part of the job, once a huge attraction to the role became a toll when I started a family. Juggling work life and home was getting increasingly more difficult with more time away from my new family making me concerned about the balance of work and over all happiness.
It was a scary decision to make at the time but I’ve always been a strong believer in going with your gut and I knew it was the right thing to do.
What is your favourite thing about your work?
I love the freedom and flexibility my job gives me, I’m quite a lover of routine and can get swept up with working the same hours every day but then I realise if I fancy meeting a friend for coffee, I can do that! Without the worry that I need to get back to the office. It’s a great feeling.
What is a ‘reality’ of your work that other people don’t realise?
The reality is that the flexibility goes both ways, any time that I borrow from the day, I might find myself having to make up in the evening. You never really do switch off, unless you are really strict with boundaries. I’m often checking emails and replying all hours of the evening.
Also the reality that the buck stops with you, any larger issues that might arise I have to deal with, I sometimes feel out of my depth, after all, the academic side of me still hides away so dealing with business matters makes me feel out of my depth and can be a little scary making me wish for the days I could leave the office and leave it all behind.
How do you handle creative ‘blocks’ in work?
Honestly it never gets easier, I panic, and hide away and try to ignore it for a while, then when time is getting close and deadlines are looming I panic more and basically saturate my brain with ideas. Then I hate 95% of them and out of all the crazy comes that 5% that actually is pretty cool. And we start all over again.
Do you have any other creative interests?
I do hand knit, although I’ve not done it for a while, my mum was a professional knitter so I’ve knitted since I was a little girl and it’s something that I actually used in my career as a knitwear designer..
What one thing would you say to someone dreaming of starting their own creative business?
I’d say start small and on the side, for me the ideas were there and I was trying things out whilst I was still employed, it gave me the confidence to move from side hustle to main business. I’m not sure I’d have been as brave if I was starting from scratch.
One of the things I love about Lou is her ability to share great stories on Instagram, and reflect the (juggling) balance between life and work. I was having a conversation with another business owner the other day, about the slight misconception a lot of people have around running a business. How many people think it means you just get to work when you want and you can take time off as much as you like. The truth is, it’s not quite that simple. As Lou has said, one of the best things about owning your business is you have a level of flexibility and no one has control or a say over when you work. However, put simply, if you don’t work enough or at the right times, your business’s success is in your hands only so you’re going to have to make that time up somewhere else. I think that’s why the most sustainable businesses are those where the owner loves what they do. It takes determination and a lot of passion to make it work.
As always, I’ll end with Lou’s self-portrait. I always chat to the women I’m going to feature, about what’s involved, and give some suggestions to inspire their self-portrait (as I know it might sound a bit daunting to some!). One of the ideas I suggest is a photo of their most treasured possessions… things that tell their story. Instead of possessions, Lou sent me a photo of her (I quote) “favourite things all in one photo, long family walks with the dog”.
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up to my email list (and select business, or business and lifestyle) to receive the ‘Creative Business Edit’ which includes further insight from Creative Business features, as well as guest experts giving tips on the other side of creative business.