#inspo: Helen Hatzioannou, Founder of 'Light of Leni'
Meet Helen from Light of Leni - she runs her own small business specialising in hand lettering and modern calligraphy based in Sydney, Australia.
The name is a mix between the meaning of ‘Helen’ (light) and her nickname (Leni). Helen started out as a graphic designer and found herself drawn more and more to hand lettering and calligraphy and instantly fell in love with it! Helen loves adding a hand made element to anything she can including wedding stationary, signage, branding, paper goods, events and collaborations. She was even found doing live lettering for customers at Myer for the Beauty Lives Here event, as well as at Mecca Maxima for the MACxMecca launch! When she's not busy live lettering, she also runs her own Etsy shop where you can purchase some of her lovely prints or order some custom made products!
We get the inside scoop from Helen about how she became successful doing what she loves!
1. Did you always know you wanted to do hand lettering?
I had no idea what I wanted to do while I was growing up. I used to want to be a fashion designer because I loved drawing clothes, but wasn't too keen on sewing! My mum suggested graphic design and that seemed fitting to my creative interests so I studied that for 4 years at TAFE and acquired my advanced diploma. I knew of hand lettering through a few accounts on instagram but I really got into it in 2016 when I worked at a stationery design studio where we outsourced a calligrapher to write addresses on envelopes. I thought it was just so beautiful that someone had taken the time to sit and write something so amazing (I love anything that's personal) and started to focus on hand lettering and calligraphy ever since.
2. What did you do before you started hand lettering and what made you decide to start your own business?
Before I started hand lettering I worked at a few graphic design studios as well as retail stores. I'm someone who really likes moving around and being on my feet, talking to people and helping them. That was where I found graphic design didn't suit me, as although I am creative, I was stuck in an office all day doing work to other people's tastes instead of my own. After a while it just wasn't working out for me, so I decided to start my little business part time while still working in retail so I could have the best of both worlds.
3. How did you transition from your previous job into your own business?
After I stopped working at the design studio, I pondered for a while what would be the best next step for me. A previous colleague from Priceline said she was at a different Priceline store and asked if I would like a position there. Since I already knew I enjoyed working at Priceline and I knew the ins and outs of it, I happily accepted and decided to work part time there to pursue my hand lettering and develop my skills from home.
4. Tell us more about the beginnings of starting your own business?
I was basically just practicing lettering every day, trying to develop a style of my own (still am haha) and learning from others through tutorials, videos and asking questions. I had posted up a bit of my work on my personal Facebook page and Instagram when a friend suggested I make a business page. I laughed because I am someone who had never considered running my own business before, but I decided to give it a go and just start small to see where it would lead to.
5. What did you find the most challenging?
I suppose it would be making sure you have a solid routine and sticking to it. Working from home can be challenging as you are surrounded by distractions and are basically in your comfort zone. So you have to be really strict with yourself to power through all the work you have to do to meet deadlines and just ensure your day runs smoothly.
6. What does your work week look like typically?
Monday, Tuesday and Friday I am working at Priceline. Wednesday, Thursday and the weekend I keep for working on Light of Leni and my projects. I obviously squeeze in time for a social life but if I have a big deadline coming up I make sure that's the priority.
7. What keeps you motivated?
I think what keeps me motivated is the fact that I really genuinely enjoy what I do and I always want to improve and learn new things. Also, I am someone who really enjoys variety and not being stuck doing the same thing over and over. Hand lettering is great in that sense because I could be working on a logo, a hand lettered print, place cards or signage - all on different mediums too (eg paper, wood etc) so there's always something different to keep me busy! Working at Priceline is great as well because I get time away to use my energy in a different way. I get to be around people and help to run someone else's business without too much pressure, so it really is the best of both worlds for me.
8. What's it like being your own boss?
It's interesting haha. I'm used to someone telling me what to do and just doing it... now I have to be really disciplined with myself and set my own deadlines and goals (something I haven't really had to do before) and keep on top of everything. There literally is no time for slacking off because you are putting your reputation on the line. I do love it though because I don't have anyone yelling at me or telling me to change things - I have to critique it all! That doesn't mean I go easy on myself though haha!
9. What do you love about your job?
I LOVE the variety of work I get to do and making something unique for my client that is really special to them. To know I've done that is an incredible feeling. I really enjoy connecting with people and getting to know them. I've become friends with a few of my clients! It's just so lovely and makes my feel really happy.
10. Tell us more about the process of setting up your own Etsy shop and why you think it works for your business?
I basically set up Etsy because I had a deadline to make my website but didn't have a shop section. I decided to make an Etsy account because it was quick and I could link it to my website, so it was really handy in that sense. Honestly, I haven't invested much time into Etsy as I have mainly done custom work and my clients connect with me through my Facebook page and Instagram, but I plan to use Etsy more in 2018 when I introduce products - yay!
11. Would you recommend using it to new hand lettering businesses?
Yes I would, as I think if you are selling products and make your 'shop' look really professional it's a great way to gain exposure in the online market.
12. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
In my spare time I am usually lettering! But I also really love dancing, reading (usually about health topics, food, makeup or self development), going for walks with my boyfriend or just having a tea and a chat with a friend. All about dat calm life.
13. What bit of advice would you give someone who is thinking about setting up their own hand lettering business?
I would start by saying to practice every day and get really comfortable with your craft. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to be the 'best', just take it easy and enjoy the process. Once you are ready, set up an Etsy store, Instagram and Facebook business page as these are great platforms to gain exposure and an online presence. You also get to meet other like minded creatives online, which is so important!
14. What is your favourite inspirational quote?
"There is enough room for everyone and their dreams". I love this because it can be quite daunting when so many people do what you do and so beautifully, but there are sooo many singers in the world and they are all appreciated in their own way. So why should anyone else feel less about what they do just because someone else does it? Let's just cheer everyone on and let each other's hearts sing while doing what we love.
15. What are you most excited for in the future?
I am REALLY excited to design my own paper goods range in 2018. I want to start with cards and prints and move onto a few other things. I really just want to make things from my heart, share them with others and make people feel loved through my work. It'll be great to expand, try new things and use my Etsy store properly haha!