In a two-story converted historic building in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, you’ll find the eclectic home-slash-studio of Thimblepress® founder Kristen Ley. Art supplies abound. Treasured paintings adorn exposed-brick walls. Confetti is never far from reach. Each character-rich room is fully equipped for working, unwinding and colorful living—a testament to Kristen’s infectious passion, drive and instinct.
We invite you to take a tour of Kristen’s home (and the Thimblepress headquarters) below. Be sure to soak up her business-savvy suggestions as you click through—just like the Thimblepress collections, there are more than a few noteworthy gems!
Photography by b. mo foto
We’re longtime fans of Thimblepress here at Glitter Guide—but for readers who might be new to your brand, tell us how your design and letterpress business got started!
When I “started” Thimblepress (as a hobby!) in January 2012, I had no idea where it would take me—and I think that’s part of the beauty of it. I have completely relied on God to guide this business. I worked a full-time job at my former high school doing marketing and design for two years. I registered my business and got an LLC six months into my job at the school, but I wasn’t full-time with Thimblepress until June 2013. Needless to say, those two years of my life were extremely busy—but I loved every minute.
My background is in graphic design and marketing. I had a design firm in Charleston, South Carolina and Jackson, Mississippi (once I moved back) from 2007 to 2011. Having that experience in my back pocket made the initial setup and identity branding for Thimblepress a bit more of a breeze. Once I started doing craft shows across the country in 2012 (all while I still had my full-time job at the school), Thimblepress really began to take off. Craft shows are and will forever be my favorite because you are face-to-face with your customers. You hear stories, struggles, successes; you even see some tears. I love connecting with people. I finally came to a fork in the road—I couldn’t physically continue both jobs and perform at 100 percent at both. Eventually, after lots of prayer, I quit my full-time job to pursue Thimblepress. I moved my operations from my bedroom and half a garage to a sweet space in downtown Jackson.
Your building looks incredibly dreamy, both inside and out! How did you come across the space, and what made you decide to sign on the dotted line?
It is really great! I love it. The building I’m in is a strip of the oldest commercial buildings in Jackson. It’s charming, quirky and full of beautiful moldings, textured brick and beauty you cannot recreate. At the end of 2012, my friend Lesley Frascogna contacted me about possibly sharing a space downtown. I toured the space with her, but had to tell her that it would likely not be a possibility because I had so much equipment and stuff. She quickly let me know that the space next door was also for rent, so we walked over to check it out. I realized it was the exact same building that I had briefly dreamed about having a pop-up event in just two years before. The space was a bit of a mess, but I had a vision for it (the way I do for most things!), and I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty fixing it up. It was a total DIY job after signing that lease! I got friends to help paint. We drank a lot of coffee and beer, but the space was finally finished in September 2013. We officially moved into the upstairs portion this February.
Is it difficult to live and work in the same building, or does it simplify your daily routine?
I personally love working where (or near to where) I live. This February, we expanded the upstairs of this building (half of which is dedicated to Thimblepress). Both the downstairs and upstairs studios are roughly 2,200 square feet, so I honestly never feel “on top of” my work. The only Thimblepress operations upstairs are my office, a general meeting area, our photo studio and our team member Bekah’s office. The inventory, production, packaging, processing, managing and retailing aspects happen downstairs.
Honestly, living where I work has made me more intentional when it comes to making concrete plans and getting together with friends. Previously, when I left the studio each day and went home, home became my social time. Now, at the new space, I still have my home, but I definitely have more of a desire to get out more often. I see my friends more than I did before. I also have two dogs and a cat, so they have 4,400 square feet to roam around and play in. They come to work with me every single day. My team members also bring their pets to work if they want to, so we have the most wonderful office environment—animals running around, fun products, confetti and lots of laughs!
How do you think your location affects your business? What are your favorite things about living in Jackson, Mississippi?
I love being in Jackson. It’s big enough that you don’t know everyone, but small enough that you can make an impact on your local community. Also, some of our operating expenses (like rent) are much more affordable here than they would be in cities like Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco.
Another thing I love about Jackson (and Mississippi in general) is that the area is proud of its citizens. I have received so much love and support from my community that it makes me want to cry. My city and state have been a huge part of the success of Thimblepress, and I will forever be grateful. I’m proud to be from Mississippi.
Downtown Jackson is a quiet area with so much potential for growth. There are great little pockets sprinkled throughout—restaurants, food trucks, popsicle stands, shops, music venues, historical buildings. I feel like we are on the cusp of a major renaissance. I am so thrilled to be a part of it, and to support the city that has been so supportive of me.
What are your top five tips for running a successful small business?
1. Treat your customers the way you would want to be treated. Also, kindness. Kindness and a smile will always take you further than a frown.
2. You must have passion. Let me tell you: I do not do this for the money. I do it for the design, the stories and the celebration of life’s moments—big and small—along the way.
3. Cultivate an office culture and team that loves your brand and wants to walk with you on this crazy journey.
4. Have faith. I am a Christian, so for me, being able to lift up my crazy worries and letdowns is the most rewarding and freeing thing in the world.
5. Don’t forget to have fun. Running a business is a serious responsibility—but don’t be so rigid that you can’t enjoy the ride! Give yourself space to breathe if you feel bogged down. Travel, get out, clear your head, get reinspired! And remember: At the end of the day, everything will be okay!
How would you describe the Thimblepress brand in three words, and how are those words physically represented in your studio?
Happy, innovative and communicative.
Our studio is very happy. Our products are happy and hanging on the walls. Our upstairs has lots of happy plants bathing in the sun. All of our pets are always running around. We have a popcorn machine in the front of the shop, disco balls lining shelves and colorful artwork on the walls. We have a huge bulletin board upstairs filled with letters and cards from customers, retailers and other makers in our industry who have thanked us or praised us or told us stories about how our products made an impact in their lives. That board is a reminder of why we do what we do at Thimblepress. We read all the messages, Instagram and Facebook comments, reposts, shares—you guys keep us rocking and rolling and happy!
We are innovative in that we are constantly creating new, exciting products and trying to figure out how to run our business in the most efficient way. We are currently working on 11 new-to-market ideas that we want to produce. Will all of them make the cutting room floor? I don’t know. But that’s the fun part of product development and innovation!
Finally, we are communicative. We strive to make clear, open communication a top priority in all areas of our business. We are constantly meeting as a team in our studio to talk through everything. We know how important it is to communicate with our customers, and we’re constantly engaging them on our social media channels, in emails, in our retail shop or through surveys.
We had a blast collaborating with you on the Glitter Guide x Thimblepress collection. What was the experience like on your end?!
We had so much fun! It was so awesome to work with a brand that loves color, sparkle and positive thinking as much as we do. Thimblepress aligns with Glitter Guide in a lot of ways, so putting the Glitter Guide x Thimblepress brand into a swirl of paint, ink and color was one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on.
We got to create a line of products that reflects who we both are—and the fact that we get to offer these items to all of our customers and friends is pretty incredible. These feel-good products are positive and colorful, and they each have pieces of our hearts invested in them. Both of our brands love seeing people use them to make memories and celebrate life!
Name three apps that you couldn’t live without.
For social media: Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. For production: Photoshop for photo editing, IFTTT for task automation, Dropbox for file sharing, Dark Sky for weather (it’s freaking amazing), Asana for project and task management, Shoeboxed for receipts. (Okay, so I didn’t name just three!)
What are your favorite Jackson-based resources for art and furniture? How did you choose the pieces that are currently in your studio?
I am a huge estate- and garage-sale person. When I lived in Charleston, I found a lot of my pieces at such sales. Now, living in Jackson, I love Kalalou for all things home. Kalalou has a great sale section, which I’m all about—plus really unique products that you can mix in with your estate-sale and flea-market finds! I am a huge flea market fan. The Flowood Flea Market in Jackson is an eclectic mix of crazy collectibles, furniture, signage and much more!
I am very sentimental when it comes to the art on my wall. As a painter myself, I have a huge appreciation for art and what people create. I recently commissioned one of my amazing artist friends, Ginger Williams-Cook (also a Jackson resident!), to create a portrait of my dog Willow. She combined the colors of my furniture with Willow’s personality. The finished product is a detailed, eclectic, beautifully rendered painting—it’s by far my most treasured item in my home. I am definitely going to get her to paint my new pup Henry at some point! I also have a beautiful floral painting by Kate Freeman, one of the gals who works with me.
I’m also a huge fan of vintage art and paintings; I find a lot at local sales and on eBay. The prints I choose to frame and put on my wall are usually created by someone I personally know or became friends with at a craft show. I can tell you about a personal moment I have had with each of the artists whose work hangs on my wall (minus the vintage ones–but those gems have a story all their own!).
Do you have any tips for blending vintage pieces with new ones? How were you able to strike such a lovely balance between both in your space?
I have always paired vintage with new (both in my home and my personal style). As a high schooler, all I wanted to wear were my rad finds from Goodwill, the Salvation Army or a local thrift store. There is something thrilling about finding a discarded item and giving it new meaning and purpose. To me, mixing vintage with new gives a home a wonderfully textured feel. The story of a room is so much more interesting when different pieces have been mixed together. I also love being able to tell people the story of how I came to own a vintage piece.
When I decorated my home, I stopped thinking about it as a whole and just started taking on each room one at a time. I decided what I wanted a room to look like and how I would spend time in it. Then I tried to figure out if the room would interact with my business, and how I might blend everything together. My mom has a great eye for interiors, so I like to think she passed some of her skills down to me.
Do you have any tips for hiring and building a team?
This is such a great question! I truly believe that I have the best team out there. Everyone continues to rock it out and help make Thimblepress the brand it has become—and, hopefully, what it will continue to be. When you’re hiring team members, try to get them in with your company from the ground up. This way, they really get to know your brand and what you stand for at every level. I also do a lot of thinking about my personal weaknesses as a business owner, and then hire people who can fill those gaps and strengthen our team.
Where do you see yourself and Thimblepress in the next 10 years?
The market is always changing, so I can’t pinpoint exactly where Thimblepress® will be in 10 years—but I know we will be having fun! Ultimately, the culture we create and live is all about happiness and fun! We are an innovative company—constantly thinking about our customers’ happiness, celebrations and special moments—so I know that the products we create moving forward will be thoughtfully designed with our customers in mind! I would love for us to eventually have a huge warehouse with all-white walls, a loading dock and room for growth. I have the idea of utilizing part of that warehouse for community events, photo shoots, workshops, video shoots. I would also love to develop some sort of after-school arts program to help encourage children’s love for art and creating. If I hadn’t had encouraging parents or been exposed to art as a child, I may not have ended up doing what I love to do every single day.