Live Your Best Life: Jane Lindsey
In this Live Your Best Life series we’re not talking about having a perfect life because that doesn’t exist. No-one has all the answers or is free from pain, worry or doubts. What we talk about here is living the life you want, contributing to the world in a way that feels right for you and focusing on being the best version of yourself each day, whatever that looks like.
I’m so pleased to share with you the next interview in this series, this time with creative business woman Jane Lindsey. I’ve known Jane for several years, in fact I still call her ‘Snapdragon Jane’ in my head because I first knew her by her Twitter name! She’s always been ready with advice and support and she’s a real inspiration to me. So of course I wanted to talk to her about how she’s living her best life…
Welcome, Jane! Tell everyone a little about yourself, what your life is like and the path you took to get to where you are today.
In 2000 I was working as Curator of British Art for the University of Glasgow. It was a great job, a hard won job, but it just wasn’t me. I hated not being in charge of my day to day work. I left, retrained in horticulture, and started a business growing cut flowers. That business failed for many reasons – the recession, the weather, my health – but I was lucky to be able to pivot and do something new. I had always had empty months when there were no flowers, when I made and sold embroidered gifts, and Country Living Magazine asked me to put together a showcase stand, using my vintage Citroen H Van, at their Glasgow Fair. The interest and sales at the Country Living Fair gave me the impetus to move from flowers to gifts.
Over the past ten years the business has grown from me at my kitchen table, to a great team of five in a purpose built wooden workshop that is in the middle of a perennial meadow in a field behind my home. Late last year, at about the time that we made and dispatched our 100,000th order, I became unhappy at the lack of connection with customers. I had started as a face to face garden gate kind of business and I wanted that element back in the business.
So in May this year I launched Snapdragon Studio, a limited numbers membership site where, for an investment of £10 a month, members get the opportunity to buy things at cost price. They get to see behind the scenes, have access to limited editions, exclusive downloads and a load of extras that are possible when we remove profit from depending on items sold. So far this has been an amazing success – it has done wonderful things for my creativity and for the way that people (not just members) interact on the business social media – it seems to have made us much more approachable!
Fantastic! Through these years have you found any inspirational quotes or mantras that hold particular meaning for you?
“Why walk when you can fly?” Mary Chapin Carpenter. This quote, from the album Stones in the Road, is written in big plaster letters on the wall of our hall. It is a reminder that the troubles of the world should drive us to play bigger, step up, take risks, rather than tone ourselves down.
What are the warning signs when you feel life is beginning to get on top of you?
I have an auto-immune disease which is well managed 98% of the time, and the other 2% of the time it acts like a mine-shaft canary pointing out when I am doing too much or becoming stressed. So when I get symptoms like vertigo, fatigue, blurred vision, I know that it is time to rein things in, delegate stuff and get some rest.
And what do you do to get back to how you want to feel?
Sleep and nature. I am a great believer in the power of sleep – I find that getting enough refreshing sleep underpins everything else in life, from creativity to relationships. I am incredibly lucky to run my own schedule and work from an office at the bottom of my garden. When I am tired or stressed I go for a nap, and then when I wake up I go for a walk with my dogs. We live in a very beautiful part of Scotland, and although the weather can be challenging, the mountains and lochs are as awe-inspiring and replenishing in rain as they are in sunshine. I also write a lot – if there are particular issues that are stressing me, as opposed to simple over-work, then I tend to write them into a formal essay – it will never see the light of day, but there is something about the planning, the organising arguments, the reasoning, concluding and the actual writing that takes the emotional heat away.
Along with Snapdragon Studio, what other plans, hopes and dreams do you have for the future?
Over the past few months I have been exploring a different kind of retail website. I am very bad at selling and I also believe that most of us do not need to keep buying more and more stuff. This is a difficult opinion to hold when you sell things for a living. In May I added a membership aspect to my website, which I can only describe as being a bit like having shares in a studio. I wanted to make the things that we produce more meaningful – and part of that is allowing people to see the process behind creating things. Working with customers, including their ideas, encouraging their own creativity, making limited editions and requests, so far it has been a fascinating journey and we are only at the very beginning. My plans are to give the membership side of the business its head – to let it set the pace and direction. At the moment we are closed to new members while we ensure that we are giving amazing value and attention to our existing members, but we are running a waiting list. My hopes and dreams are that it develops into a completely new way of running a small creative retail business.
It’s been wonderful to hear a little of your story, Jane, thank you. So, finally, what does living your best life mean to you?
It means having courage to try things. It means not looking at what anyone else is doing – their best life is unlikely to be my best life. It means being curious and connected and giving things a go. What’s the worst that can happen?
Jane Lindsey gave up her job in academia to start a creative business in rural Scotland. Over the past decade she has taken Snapdragon Online from kitchen table to workshop, and now employs a great team of five to help make and send out gifts throughout the world. In May Jane launched a membership scheme – Snapdragon Studio. Find out more at snapdragononline.co.uk. You can also connect with Jane on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.