Women Making Waves: Laurel Denise
Businesses don’t just start and succeed. There are people behind them with lives. They struggle, wonder, and celebrate every little win. At the beginning of 2018, I began a personal project called Women Making Waves, born out of the desire to showcase the heart that goes into creative work and to meet the inspiring women who are making impact both near and far through that dedication.
Laurel Smith started her business after literally dreaming about it, left her full-time government job in DC where she worked yards away from her future husband, and started taking action on the purpose she felt called to pursue. 13 years later, she's married to that man, loving on two precious daughters, running her business, Laurel Denise, from the upstairs of her beautiful Charlottesville home, and consistently serving up joy, hope, and love around the world.
A TYPICAL MORNING BEHIND THE SCENES
The work day for Laurel starts at 11am - her team is upstairs plugging away at orders, assembly, design, and more, while Laurel is in full mom mode. She helps her oldest get ready for school, does breakfast/lunch/dinner prep and cleaning, plays with her two year old on the floor of the playroom... you know, all the things.
A sitter, who doubles as an employee for Laurel Denise, comes at 11 to look after the youngest, while Laurel gets started with the day's tasks.
A break to snuggle the little one before nap a few hours later, and the team continues to work, discuss, and occasionally listen to motivating show tunes.
(Side note: Notice the home/work shuffle? It's not easy, but man is it cool to see how possible, sometimes challenging, yet wonderful that work-from-home-mom-boss-balance can be!)
ON DREAMING AND DOING
If there's one thing I learned about Laurel from this interview and story, it's that Laurel is an ACTION TAKER down to her bones. She described herself as, "a very practical, logical person."
In other words, while her vision started with a dream, she didn't keep dreaming it. She started doing it.
She had never made jewelry or anything really before that point. But she took it step by step and figured it out. She learned about materials, how to apply her handwriting to them, how to produce and source, how to set up and sell, how to manage and track. And for years she was a one woman show.
The jewelry first started as a glass product, but she realized that it was costing too much to make and she wanted her product to be something that was accessible and easy to wear. So she pivoted into leather goods and metal.
She wanted her packaging to have a personal touch and deliver a specific message of hope to every customer - so as a first-time mom with a several-month-old baby in tow, she hand-made a watercolor design and figured out how to have them printed into the perfect size packaging for her jewelry.
And later, she wanted to add a specific style of vases - she had the visual, the concept, in mind, but had to learn an entirely new skill to execute it efficiently, profitably, and beautifully to tie in with her brand.
SO SHE DID.
Laurel is adamant that those pivots and the growth she's experienced in her brand would not have been possible, though, had she not had the bandwidth to explore and chase them.
That's where her team came in.
ON BUILDING A TEAM
She made her first hire when her oldest was 3, a part-time position executing orders, packaging, and shipping. While it was helpful, it wasn't really moving the bottom line. The real shift occurred when she went from part time help to full time employee, bringing on a team member who was invested in the business, had creative control, and truly aligned with the mission.
Since then, Laurel has brought on one more employee and several other part time helpers, whom she lovingly refers to as "mama elves." These are women throughout the community who pick up several hours of paid time a week to assemble and assist with the products themselves, in order to ship them out to customers with quality, efficiency, and love in every piece.
She stressed how incredibly invaluable it's been to simply have the space to develop new ideas, to be flexible, to have trusted women to share and explore new ideas with, and the support to follow through with them as they continue to grow.
So now, not only is Laurel able to serve customers all over the country with her handmade products and meaningful messages, but she's able to serve women right in her community with jobs to support their own dreams and careers as well. And together, they serve one another to be able to live the lifestyle they want for themselves and their families, while contributing to a larger mission of spreading hope and inspiration daily.
Pretty awesome, right?
ON HER ROLE IN THE BUSINESS
These days, Laurel remains the visionary and brand voice behind Laurel Denise- she creates all the messaging with her handwriting and writes all the copy for her media channels. She's also face of the brand, which means talking to buyers and making connections with retails stores and markets to sell and distribute their designs, AND she oversees all finances, sourcing materials, etc. Working both in and on the details of her business, Laurel is such an inspiration to women entrepreneurs seeking to live out their passions for good.
She works with purpose, serves her family and others well, loves hard, and is still so humbly sweet.
It's been a complete honor and joy to get to know this sweet new friend and peek behind the curtain for a brand that is truly making waves.