Lucy Stephens is the founder of Lucy Loves This, a small design company based in Brixton. Lucy creates graphic representations of well-loved areas of London, as well as other typography-based artwork. We love her prints (we’re particularly fond of the Richmond R) so we asked her a few questions about her business and how she got started.
What inspired you to create Lucy Loves This?
I’ve been working as a graphic designer for 8 years, but spent most of my time designing things that other people wanted. So, when I went freelance three years ago, I decided it was time to start designing things that I liked for a change. I’m a little bit obsessed with typography so I wanted to do something new and interesting using type, showing off the things I love – starting with London. I wanted to design things that made people look a little closer and think.
Describe your product range and what makes it unique
I think my customers like my designs because they strike a chord with them. I’m always trying to go beyond the obvious. For example if you don’t know Brixton then you wouldn’t know why there’s a big Bovril sign on my Brixton ‘B’. People are proud of their local area and I think they get excited when they see their favourite pub in amongst other landmarks. I update the designs frequently as new places open and areas change.
Everything I do is type-based and hand illustrated. My product range includes screen prints, tote bags, tea towels and greeting cards. The prints and bags are hand screen printed in our studio in Brixton.
What is your best selling range / product?
Overall it’s the London Letter series as a whole that’s proven to be really popular, and now I’ve expanded it to other cities too. My customers have helped with many of the designs by suggesting what to include in each area.
Where did you start your company (at home / studio / shed) and describe where you work now?
I started off in the spare room of our two bed flat in Brixton, but soon the whole flat was overwhelmed by stock and postage tubes! So last year I moved into a lovely (if slightly rustic) studio five minutes down the road. So I still have a pretty good commute!
What kind of support have you received along the way (financial / family and friends)?
I honestly couldn’t have done any of it without my husband’s support, he’s been a complete hero since the beginning from helping with the accounts to manning craft fair stalls! My friend Rosie has been a huge help in growing the business this year by letting me use a corner of her big studio space just down the corridor to do our screen printing. I also couldn’t survive without Tessa who works for me part time – she’s been a lifesaver, especially at Christmas time!
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in running your business?
I’ve not run by own business before, so each new step feels like a leap into the unknown. Last year I made several big changes at once when I moved into the studio and brought on an assistant. We had completely run out of space at home and I no longer had time to send out the orders and do any new designs.
It was pretty daunting taking on all the extra monthly costs involved, but it has turned out to be the best step I have made because we have been able to continue to grow and start doing all of the screen printing ourselves too.
Describe where you live / the style of your home
Well I’m actually just about to move, so it’s all about to change! We’re currently in a top floor flat in a georgian building in Brixton but we’ve just bought a house round the corner. It’s a bit of a wreck, so I’m very excited to get started completely redesigning it.
What are the benefits / disadvantages of being a designer-maker?
The main benefit is being your own boss and not having to answer to someone else and design what they want. As a creative person this means the world to me. It is also really exciting seeing the business grow and getting feedback from customers who like my designs.
The downsides are that it can be quite lonely making big decisions on your own. I think it’s true for everyone who works for themselves but the fear of how you’ll pay the bills next month never really goes away!
Do you have a good work / life balance?
I think most of the time yes. I try really hard to keep to normal office hours – although obviously sometimes that’s completely impossible, especially in the run-up to Christmas! Having Tessa helping out has made a big difference as I know that I can go on holiday and everything will run perfectly without me!
Has notonthehighstreet.com had a positive impact on your business?
Absolutely, notonthehighstreet.com has probably made my business what it is today. It was after my first Christmas with notonthehighstreet.com that I had to move out of the spare room as I’d completely run out of space! The team have been incredibly supportive to me and growing my business over the past two years. I’ve also received a lot of support from other sellers through annual events and the forum. It’s always good to find out that you’re not the only one who finds it daunting running your own business!
What are you lusting after on notonthehighstreet.com this month?
I really love Prickle Press’ letterpress stationery set; she does some beautiful Christmas cards too.
What are your ambitions for your company in the future?
I’ve got lots of ideas for new products and my customers are always giving me more ideas for new letters. I want to be able to offer more customised prints too. Overall I love what I do and I just want to be able to carry on doing it and keep the business as sustainable as possible.