In the beginning

It all started in 2007. Six years into my career, I was living my dream working as a designer for a leading publishing company. I had worked on five magazines, gaining experience and absorbing as much as possible. Captivated by the world of glossy magazines and advertising, I was in love with the industry. At 26, I was married, had done a bit of travelling and all the things you do when you’re young and relatively care free, then I had my first baby. Needless to say, my priorities changed quite a bit.

I was always rushing home, the guilt of someone else raising my son while I was focusing on other moms having babies, was unsettling for me (the irony of working on a pregnancy and baby magazine). Because it was an international title, we worked closely with the American team – sharing ideas and strategies for marketing and content. I was introduced to the wonder of being a ‘mompreneur’ and the idea of starting a business on the side. Honestly, that idea changed my world. I was excited and determined, and that ball started rolling.

Such a simple solution right? Wrong. It took three years before I got it together and took the plunge. My motto in life and business is that everything happens for a reason. When the magazine later closed down, I was ready to start my own thing. But there was one more detour to make. Before I left, I was offered a position at Oprah Magazine. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and I’m so glad that I didn’t. I worked alongside the most amazing colleague and friend – a creative leader who taught me more about life and design (in between outrageous laughs and lunchtime adventures) than I could ever have asked for. My eyes were opened to opportunities I never considered before. As you might know, Oprah can be very motivational. We featured entrepreneurs in every issue, learning about their personal journeys in business and how they managed to juggle it all. Working in the most inspirational environment, continuously being encouraged to ‘live your best life’, inspired me to buckle down and focus on the business plan and how I was going to work from home, be a freelancer, take care of my son and then… I fell pregnant with my second baby. I know, right?!

Two years into my business plan and here I was pregnant and confused as to whether it was still wise to go on my own. Honestly, all excuses aside, it was the fear of not succeeding that I struggled with the most. I mean, I was working for Oprah Magazine, alongside their creative team and taking notes from the best of the best. How could I give that up? At this point, I was freelancing while holding down a 9 to 5, all in the name of building a client list. It was an insane time. I went to bed late every night and woke up early every morning to make every deadline. I worked through my lunch, on weekends and as expected I got sick, really sick. Heeding my doctor’s warnings, after some sleep and soul searching, I knew this was what I wanted to do.

I then teamed up with one of my closest friends, and together, we were going to take over the world. We eventually parted ways but I couldn’t have done it without her. Pregnant and unable to bend down at shoots, the emotional highs and lows and the complete inability to make any decisions at the time – it was crazy. I spent my entire maternity leave working on business strategies, branding, marketing and a million and one website design options. I went back to work and five months later I resigned (yes, I had to pay back my maternity leave). And that was it. I was officially an entrepreneur!

A few months into running The Pencil Box, I got an email from an old friend and colleague. We both started a few months apart at that publishing company and continued to grow and learn (and struggle) together for nine years. We battled through endless deadlines with the best stories, those you reminisce about with belly aching laughter, asking each other over and over WTF we were thinking. Jacques and I sat behind each other then, and sixteen years later, we’re still sitting behind each other, still wondering WTF we are thinking.

So, my story is not that different to many women starting their own businesses. Before I took the plunge, it was a dream that became a goal that became a reality. Trust me; it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done, but one of which I’m very proud. I‘ve stumbled and fallen flat on my face (picture the ultimate faceplant with feet in the air). I’ve sacrificed lots to get here, but looking back at it all, I have learnt so much. I’ve made many mistakes but I’ve also had revelations. Everything happens, when it happens, for a reason and even though there were tears and tragedies, it was totally worth being around for both my boys. They were my reason to start, and they’re my reason to keep going.

I cannot forget my biggest supporter – my incredible husband who walked this journey with me from the very start. Running a business is not for the faint-hearted. It can be hard on your family and your friends. He picks up where I fall short at home and being the project managing, engineering type that he is, helps me get through all the admin, legalities (and taxes! I hate taxes!) that is a nightmare for a crazy creative like myself. I wont lie, there have been meltdowns and moments of weakness but the strength you gain from having support when you feel like you’re on your own, is priceless. Hold on to that, hold on to the people who want to help you.

Almost six years later, The Pencil Box is now a team of eight, a team for which I am so grateful. We’re friends, we’re family, we’re determined to make it work together… with a trail of bad jokes and good laughs.

This is the story of how it all started. But what’s more interesting is what happens in between. Stick with us, we have lots more to share from our days in the design studio.