I’m absolutely thrilled to be hosting a new series of blogs celebrating female entrepreneurs who are simply thriving. It’s my aim to bring you a varied range of stories featuring women who are living life on their own terms and shunning the idea that life has to take a back seat when you run your own business. Although these women will share their tips and advice, I hope this blog series also inspires you to do things your way – to carve your own path. Click here to see the first interview and to read a full explanation of what a Simply Thriving Entrepreneur is.
May I introduce you to Lucy Smith, the unicorn-haired founder of the absolutely gorgeous Postcards Home – an online shop full of ethically sourced and unique delights from around the world. Her personality is reflected in the collection she curates for Postcards Home – a fun mix of colourful items with a whole lot of heart. Lucy juggles a thriving business with a solid foundation of self-care and fun – she really embodies everything I was thinking about when I decided to showcase Simply Thriving Entrepreneurs. Lucy is a guiding light for many a business owner in Brighton – she’s not only warm and engaging, she is generous with her attention and endlessly optimistic.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
I’m an optimist through and through; it takes a lot to shake my confidence that it will all work out for the best in the end, and I think that helps me to keep calm and grounded and enjoy my life to the full. I’m not a sweater of the small stuff, and I’m probably too easily persuaded to head down to the beach on sunny days. But having perspective on my life and not taking things too seriously is a big part of who I am, and helps to maintain my default chipper setting.
I wear a lot of colour; so much so that I’d say my personal style is pretty much that of a 90s children’s TV presenter, but it makes me smile and brightens up my day, so until the street heckles get too much, I’ll maintain my rainbow filter.
I’m creative to the core. Never happier than when I’m knee deep in a creative project, wandering around an art gallery or getting stuck in to a bit of DIY around my home. I definitely get my energy and inspiration from swooning over beautiful things and having a go at the creative process myself.
I run Postcards Home – an online boutique selling homeware and gifts from independent designers and social enterprises around the world. If you’re looking for unique items full of colour and culture that look good and do good, then head to postcardshome.co.uk and enjoy! I curate the collection myself – handpicking items from around the world that I think capture the essence of a destination and have a positive impact on the world. I also do small business consultancy and community management because I just love marketing (no really, I’m geeky like that).
How do you plan your day/week?
The more I plan my working week, the calmer I feel, the more productive I am and the better my work/life balance is. I use Google Calendar religiously and colour code each calendar entry depending on which ‘part’ of my business it corresponds to. I block out sections of my day giving myself clearly defined chunks of time to tackle different projects in. Of course this often goes out the window if I have to react to an issue, but then I just drag the chunks of time to different days in the coming weeks and start prioritising to make sure things don’t get missed.
I completely rely on Trello, which is an online platform that uses a system of boards and lists to help you organise work projects and life admin. I have specific boards for all my projects, broken down into lists of what needs to be done and by when, and a general board for my business as a whole with a ‘TO DO’ list and a “TO DO THIS WEEK’ list that I drag items across to on a Sunday night with a deadline alert so that I know what I need to tackle and complete in the following week.
I work three days a week in a co-working space in Brighton, one day a week with a small business friend up in London and one day from home. I find moving around between spaces really helps me to stay focused and motivated, and as a people person and an extrovert, I need to structure my self-employed life to be as stimulating and social as possible.
I have a separate Google Calendar and Trello board for my personal life, with regular events like gigs, book clubs, drinks with my pals, exercise and family time all built in as a fun foundation in my life.
What does success look like to you?
Flexibility, fulfilment and fun. I think you know you’ve cracked it when your work positively impacts your personal life and offers you enough money, time and energy to have a full and rounded existence. I noticed a difference when I became self-employed that when friends asked me how work was I was eager to talk about my business and share successes or issues I was having, rather than before when I’d shrug the question off and respond with the standard ‘I’m manically busy’ or ‘I’m so stressed’ etc.
I’m motivated by a sense of purpose and impact. A chance to make a difference will always have me working harder than my monthly pay packet, and feeling like I’ve done myself proud.
I try hard not to compare myself with others, but that’s not to say that a little bit of validation from industry peers doesn’t make me feel good. It’s a great feeling to be asked your opinion on a business decision and I view that as a personal success whenever I’m asked to be involved in a project.
What does self-care mean to you, and how is that reflected in your life?
Reacting to my physical and mental wellbeing and making positive sustainable changes in my lifestyle so that I can be the very best version of myself possible and really enjoy my life is so important to me.
I build self-care into my daily routine so that I don’t even notice I’m being kind to myself – I just know that I’m feeling balanced and happy. I try and react to my energy levels and say no to too many business events in a month so that the ones I do go to, I can really enjoy and make the most of.
I swim, I go to book clubs, I sleep, I journal, I try and walk without listening to music or podcasts and just have a good long think, and I stay social. I am the worst version of myself when I am under-stimulated without interesting things going on in my social life or work life, so I keep all corners of my life purposefully full.
Looking back, is there anything you would you change about your first year in business?
I really loved my first year in business – I felt SO excited to be building something that was completely mine, and learning loads of new skills along the way.
But looking back, I think I was too hard on myself at the start in terms of routine. I felt like I needed to replicate the hours I’d previously been working so that I wouldn’t lose focus and momentum. But what I soon realised was that I’m so lucky to construct my own schedule and I should really take advantage of that. Now I totally do!
I would also have spoken more openly about the business to absolutely anyone who would listen, like I do now, but back then I just didn’t have the confidence to pitch myself as a small business owner and looking back I think I missed out on establishing some valuable connections in those early days just through not wanting to bother people or take up their precious time.
What boundaries do you have in place regarding your work/life balance?
I do constantly check my emails and I often work at the weekend, BUT it’s completely my choice and it’s the way I feel on top of things but not overwhelmed by them. Having said that, if I have plans or I’m spending 121 time with someone, then I’m totally focused on them and enjoying myself without itching to check my phone or respond to emails. I run a few social media accounts and that does mean that I need to be checking them fairly constantly to reply to messages and comments – which is fine by me but as I say, it’s a conscious choice and not one that I feel is out of my control.
I keep my personal and business calendars, email accounts and social media accounts completely separate so that I don’t blur the lines between Lucy and Postcards Home too much. It’s just my personal preference, but keeping a safe space where I can really be myself and make that distinction between my business and personal life is really important to me.
What’s the best and worst thing about working for yourself?
Being able to focus on projects I genuinely care about and want to work on is such a privilege. One of the best moments for me was when I realised I didn’t have to say yes to everything that came my way, I could choose what I wanted to work on and focus my time and energy on projects completely aligned with what I wanted to achieve.
In my opinion, the worst thing about working for yourself is having to push every single aspect of your business forward. Every call, meeting, sale and piece of coverage has happened because you worked hard to make it so. And honestly, when I think of it like that I take a deep breath and make a cup of tea because blimey it takes a lot of energy to keep pushing sometimes, but it’s the only way to make things happen.
Please can you share a top tip for an overwhelmed entrepreneur
As simple as it sounds, lists have always been my lifesaver. I write everything down so that I can prioritise my workload and sort everything I need to do by deadlines. Often when I look at it like that, all laid out on my Trello board, it’s not as bad as I think, and that really helps with the overwhelm.
Where can we find you online?