Woman in Progress: Jen Wright, Silly Heart

It’s a pleasure to introduce you to the talented Jen Wright and her business Silly Heart - I’m so excited for her to be our Woman in Progress this week! I first met Jen about three years ago in my effort to try something new - a letterpress workshop - it was artistic and I got to leave with something I’d made myself. Jen was an excellent teacher, chatty, thoughtful and keen to learn more about me and my workshop buddy. Anyway I digress. Jen has said goodbye to full time printing and is now, among other things, a coach and mentor to women in the creative industry. It’s such a pleasure to see how the seed of an idea Jen was nurturing back then has grown into her business. Here’s what she had to say to us.

Jen, observed in her natural environment!

Woman in Progress: Jen Wright, Silly Heart

Hi! I'm Jen - a coach and small business mentor, a writer, a printmaker, and a mum to twin toddlers!

I spent five years growing my own small business, Inky and the Beast, from home, creating bespoke stationery and teaching letterpress workshops, but had to find a new way of working when my twin daughters came along. Letterpress is such a long, slow process which is one of the reasons I loved it (it's very meditative and satisfying to take your time and make something with your hands), but I had so little time now as a mother, and I was deeply sleep deprived (they were dreadful sleepers up until very recently), I knew I had to wind things down. The people I was meeting through my workshops were wonderfully inspiring and so often wanted to start a business of their own. My conversations and growing friendships with these creatives became the most fulfilling part of my work, and I realised the solution was staring me in the face!

Now I work as a coach and mentor to creative entrepreneurs who want to build their own business in a purposeful, mindful way, and particularly mothers looking to find a better balance between being self employed and the chaos of family life. My focus is on slow, sustainable growth, knowing your worth (a.k.a. charging the right price for your work!), and working in rhythm with your own needs so you can make the most of your energy and productivity, and rest when you need it. Sounds obvious and yet so few of us really listen when our body (or the seasons themselves) tell us to slow down.

One of my favourite parts of my new business is the events. I loved teaching my letterpress workshops and knew I wanted to keep running events where I could talk to people in real life. My first meet up - Networking for Introverts - had wonderful feedback in April and I've just released tickets for my Photography + Product Styling Woodland Workshop for this October in Sussex. A nature walk, photography and styling advice from professionals and even a business portrait photo in the beautiful, autumnal surroundings. The mentors are the absolute dream team and I am so, so excited!

What’s the one thing in your life that makes things easier?

Jen with The Beast and her twins too! Photo: Jeremy Hosking

Jen with The Beast and her twins too! Photo: Jeremy Hosking

Childcare. Such a privilege I know and only two short days a week, but it took me a long time to accept that I couldn't be healthy and happy AND grow my business around two babies.

Stuffing it all into the fringe hours (hello packing up final orders through contractions), staying up late to try and stay on top of it all (when I knew I'd be up throughout the night), rushing as if it were all a race... it wasn't sustainable. I should have waited and then maybe I would have enjoyed early motherhood more and made wiser decisions.

What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without?

Biscuits.

What’s one thing that you would stop if you could?

Eating so many biscuits.

And questioning myself. I think we all do it to an extent, especially when putting something we've made out into the world and asking people to buy it or book it. It's something I'm working on (the second thing, anyway!).

What one piece of advice would you give yourself 5 years ago?

I think I would have asked myself "Is this what you really want to do? What actually makes you happy?".

I had just cut down to three days a week in my recruitment role (ugh, recruitment. So not me. I loved the careers advising aspect, but just wasn't aggressive enough to push people like that. Which is why I made no money, ha), so I could work out what I really wanted to do. I took courses in copywriting, art history and journalism, joined a mentoring programme, got offered an amazing subeditor role... and then got throughly distracted by letterpress!

What one piece of advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

Oh my goodness, I don't know. So much advice! I would have been 24. I was working in the advertising industry (which I hated), and living in central London (which I loved). I was in a truly toxic long term relationship but was about to meet both the woman who'd become my dearest friend, and the man I'd marry.

It sounds clichéd, but I think simply "trust your gut, and follow your heart" was all I needed to hear at that point. And I did, luckily.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned at work?

"No" is not as negative as you think. "No" is so very necessary, and also completely acceptable to keep your workload manageable and your head above water. And no one will say no for you. In your own business you make the decisions, you say yes or no, you do the work, you make and sell the thing. It's scary, but put it out there. No one can do it but you.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned at home?

What I'm capable of. What we're all capable of. Early motherhood pushed me to the very edges of my emotional and physical limits and the pay off from that is that now almost everything seems easy in comparison. And that most things can wait. I can spend time being a monster and chasing my girls around the garden (with my huuuuge claws, rooaar!), and I can get to those emails later. Fun, happiness and wellbeing first.

Coffee or cocktails?

Coffee. Even before twins, the answer was coffee! I've always been a complete lightweight.

Did you expect to be doing what you’re doing right now?

When I look back at who I was at school, and who I almost became five years ago, yes it totally makes sense where I am now. Sometimes I wish I had got here sooner, but running my own creative business gave me so much amazing experience, not to mention the wonderful community that I became a part of. They're my support network still, so I would never wish that time away.

Are you done yet? What’s next?

Never. Surely none of us are ever really done. Next is hopefully qualifying for my coaching diploma at the end of this year, and dreaming up more workshops and events that tick both the "ooh that looks like a lovely day out" and the "ooh that would be so helpful to learn about" boxes.

On the personal side, a move down Dorset way before the girls start school is on the cards so we can be nearer family, friends, and countryside. My dream is to find a little bit of land where the girls can run wild and I can run outdoor workshops!

What does the idea of a ‘Woman in Progress’ mean to you?

Someone who is working on herself in a positive way. Whether that's learning a new skill, trying to form good habits, changing careers or just letting go of something that doesn't work. I think it's a brilliant way of looking at life. Letting go of perfectionism and comparison, and accepting we're never going to be that finished article. Life is always going to be a slightly messy, but really rather wonderful, work in progress.

If you are starting out, a creative finding your work / life balance and could do with some guidance or just want to connect with Jen, you can email her on jen@sillyheart.co.uk.

Jen’s gorgeous little squares are on Instagram, her twins (below) are bonus to her work photographs, and for those of you who love a wander through Pinterest, her account is here. Thank you Jen for the insight, advice and for telling us about your work and plans for the future.

Silly Heart Co. twins in the wild.

Silly Heart Co. twins in the wild.