Pensacola native Emily Ley and her son at a book signing for her new book, "Grace, not Perfection," in Tampa.
Emily Ley is a Pensacola success story. And she’s on her way back home.
The mother of three young children, entrepreneur, founder of Emily Ley Paper and Gifts, and now author, is looking to move from the Tampa area and return to her hometown.
Ley, grew up in Pensacola, graduated from the University of West Florida and became the executive director of Ballet Pensacola. She then worked in nonprofit management and public relations before launching her company, Emily Ley, in 2008.
After a successful online launch, Ley’s products – including her signature Simplified Planner – grew to be carried in more than 300 retail outlets across the United States and around the world. Her book, “Grace, Not Perfection,” is what Ley calls her “fourth child.” She wrote it over eight weeks in the hours between her children’s bedtime and closing time at her neighborhood Starbucks.
Amazon lists it at No. 1 under new releases in its “Christian Self Help” category. She plans a book signing at the Airport Boulevard Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Nov. 3.
“It’s very surreal to see a book with your name on it and to know your whole heart is in it,” Ley says. “I am floored at the whole thing really.”
Ley is returning to EntreCon Pensacola 2016, where she will speak on Nov. 4. EntreCon is a two-day business and entrepreneurship conference hosted by Studer Community Institute on Nov. 3-4.
EntreCon 2016 features 40 speakers and panelists, including seven keynote speakers and 12 breakout sessions.The speakers and panelists will share strategies, offer advice and provide information on starting and growing a business.
Seasons of business, life
Ley, whose line of stationery and signature planners are aimed at helping busy women “carve out white space” in their whirl of their lives for their families and themselves. It was born out of a Ley’s work in graphic design, as well as out of her desire to make it OK for women to admit, they can’t keep it all in their heads.
“Lately I have really tried to look at my life in seasons,” she says. “I’ve gone through a season of growing, growing our family, growing the business, and it was work, work, work, work. I think i’m entering a season of slower times. My kids are getting a little bit older (they are 5 ½ and 21 months old) and I think it’s time to direct my attention back inside the four walls of my home.”
She is prepared to sign a contract for her second book. And she’s learning that the care she took in building her business is paying off.
“As an entrepreneur, you think If you don’t work at breakneck speed, your whole thing is going to fall apart. I’m learning (the six employees she now has on board) are very capable. It has grown to be about more than me. And that’s good.”
Building a Well-Loved Brand
Ley’s keynote at EntreCon is “Building a Well-Loved Brand.” She certainly knows her stuff in this area.
Deciding to run debt free was something she and her husband were intentional about from the beginning. Starting with just the $1,000 computer she bought, Ley focused on selling $5 monograms on Etsy until she had enough money to pay for a really nice website. The growth was slower, but it worked for her.
Emily Ley's Instagram account is a way for fans and customers to connect with the author and her story. Credit: Instagram.
Eight years later, she is well on her way.
Wise use of social media helped power her company’s growth early on, and helps sustain it now. It is also a tool to support her growing business, for example, using Google Hangouts for the weekly “conference calls” she and her team — who all work remotely — have.
The connection between Ley and the story she tells with her products and the women who buy them is crucial to her success.
It’s a practice she honed in her early work with Ballet Pensacola and Covenant Hospice here in Pensacola.
“With those organizations, you are selling a story,” Ley says. “I want to talk about how to create a well-loved brand within an organization no matter how small or large it might be, and how to create those brand evangelists, followers and fans and customers who don’t just love what you do, but will tell the world how much they love it.”
For Ley, the key to doing that is hiring.
“I believe in hiring people because of the culture fit more than the resume,” says Ley. “I have six women who work with me now. They are all remote. I think because I’ve always been focused on core values of trust and integrity and can speak the brand message and understand the value proposition. When you have people like that, it makes managing people easy.”