The Office: Leona Thrift-ola
I’m Leona and I moved to London when I was 17 because I didn’t really know what else to do. I felt lost. For one reason or another the words “you’ll amount to nothing” were ringing in my ears. What I didn’t realise at the time, was that I was actually about to embark on an exciting journey of freelancing and running my own businesses.
I was working in a cocktail bar (OK, that’s a lie, just a normal bar) and the manager’s hairdresser pal said the stylist on his current job was looking for a freelance assistant — “could I sew?” Having never touched a sewing machine in my life, I said “yes”, winged it and went on to work on pop videos for the Spice Girls, Steps, S Club 7 and The Honeyz.
Fast forward 15 years through a rollercoaster of launching an e-commerce website before the days of Etsy for my jewellery business (I got the knack of the whole making thing!), running my own independent shop in Shoreditch, wholesaling my jewellery to over 250 stores, travelling Europe sourcing vintage items to sell and discovering subscription boxes. I’m currently about to re-launch my latest business, Lucky Dip Club, after taking time out to have my daughter Lola.
For about 8 years, since working solely online, I’ve been very passionate about having my own space to run the business. I wanted either a studio or a room at home that’s decorated to capture the essence of the brand — I wanted stepping into my office to feel like stepping into a Lucky Dip Club subscription box — and ultimately, I wanted to make a space that inspires me to create and that I enjoy coming to everyday to work some very long hours.
Unlike most people, I didn’t really take maternity leave. I fell pregnant after quite a few years of trying and a miscarriage and to be honest I think we’d both given up hope. So, throughout my pregnancy I don’t think I really accepted that it was going to happen and I just kept working. Then I gave birth and I just kept working. When Lola was newborn, my office became the bedroom or the sofa where I’d sit with her and my laptop propped up on my breastfeeding pillow. I justified it all to myself by thinking that because it was an online business and that I didn’t have to actually go out somewhere to work, that I could handle it. The truth was I couldn’t handle it and it ended up being a very miserable time. One day I posted on Instagram that I just couldn’t cope anymore and I needed a break. The surge of support was instant (pre-algorithm thank goodness!) and my customers have been magnificent. With the support of family, friends and my magnificent customers I paused the business for three months to catch my breath and make some vital changes.
Currently, my office is the spare room at the front of our new house in Margate. It took me a bit longer than usual to get the space together, but having taken that break from the business, I changed up a few things which included making the time to sort out my studio space. My boyfriend painted it rainbow stripes (no, B&Q assistant, the paint is not for the nursery) thus christening it the ‘Rainbow Room’ and slowly coming back to work in here a few days a week has been one of the things that’s inspired me to carry on with it all. I wanted to shift the recent memory of it being a space where I felt the walls were closing in and into a space that I enjoyed coming to work in everyday on a business that I loved.
Sat at my desk I can see a Garfield tankard of water as I’m trying to cut down on my crazy coffee consumption, my brand new Canon G7X as I’m about to start producing video content for my social channels, SEVEN notebooks, a stack of nail varnishes, my Ban.Do agenda and most importantly, my earphones. My partner looks after Lola during the day but I can literally hear every. Single. Thing. At first I found it very difficult to switch off from being a Mum and kept going into the front room every 5 minutes to help or more likely, be a bit bossy but now I sit at my desk, earphones in and get on with my work until lunchtime.
Lola already loves coming into the Rainbow Room! She’s 10 months old and obsessed with pulling herself up on everything so she clings to my pink sofa and with all her determination pulls herself up and cruises along. I watch her sheer determination to get up on her feet and burst with pride. We’ve had a tangled-up-in-camera-cables crying fit and eating-tissue-paper scenario but I really don’t care because I just love seeing her playing in this room. I have a zillion novelty cushions on my sofa that I throw on the floor when she comes in and we play peek-a-boo with the donut.
I feel very, very lucky to have this setup. Although there have been bumps in the road and we’re still at the early stages of our journey, I’ve only just started being honest about how I feel about motherhood and feel that it’s OK to be passionate about my work and love my baby too. I won’t feel the guilt! Well, I’ll try not to anyway.