Behind the Scenes with Emily Ley + A Giveaway!
September 9, 2015
Behind the ScenesOffice TourAt Work
Where oh where do I begin with Emily Ley? She's just as darling as they come, but above that she's truly genuine. A good soul, who just so happens to be incredibly talented. She's just the kind of friend anyone would be lucky to have, so we are beyond thrilled to have her on SMP today. Her planners have changed our busy lives for the better, and lucky for all of you, she's giving one away to a lucky reader today! So cozy up, and get to know your new favorite bosslady.

SMP: Tell us a little about your business.

“Emily Ley” is a brand of planners, gift products and organizational tools for busy women. Its evolved from $5 monograms on Etsy to packing Simplified Planners into boxes in my living room (I used to beg my girlfriends to come over and help me with the promise of a yummy lunch) to a brand sold in over 400 stores world-wide and in our own online shop. Each of our products is designed to bring joy and simplicity into the crazy days we all live

SMP: Some words you live by?

The days are long and the years are short. Life with three kiddos under five is bananas sometimes… ok, all the time. But in those crazy moments when EVERYone needs my attention, I remind myself this is a crazy, exhausting and precious season that will be gone all too soon.

SMP: What did you think your dream job was before your dream job found you?

I always wanted to be a children’s book author. It was the perfect combination of creativity and writing – my two loves. Then the stationery and gift world found me and here we are. I couldn’t be more grateful to have a career I really love.

SMP: Your secret to success?

Don’t take life too seriously. My husband engrained this in my head. The minute you start taking life too seriously is the minute it stops being fun.

SMP: What's your favorite quote that describes your creative process?

“Good design is as little design as possible. Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity. Back to simplicity.” – Dieter Rams (Doesn’t that just feel like a breath of fresh air!)

SMP: What was the tipping point in your business that made you feel like it was going to thrive?

When I first started to see our products posted by busy, overwhelmed ladies who deeply desired more of what matters in their lives on Instagram, I realized we were onto something. Women were posting pictures of their kids drawing with crayons on past pages. They were showing their Simplified Planners on their paper-covered desks as they gathered overwhelming to do lists in its pages. Instead of just making a pretty product, we’d made something that women really, really needed. We’d created a tool that helped women connect with that ache in their heart for more white space in their days and more brain space to focus on their families. There’s nothing magic about the Simplified Planner. It’s beautiful and it’s designed very simply on purpose – to be a fresh start every day. The MAGIC of the Simplified Planner is the ways that its simple aesthetic and easy functionality help any woman using it connect to what she truly cares about.

SMP: What is the hardest lesson in business you've ever learned?

Learning how to delegate. I love this work and I like to think I can have my hand in everything. As we grow its just impossible. Thank goodness for my awesome team.

SMP: If you could do it all over again, would you change anything?

I had to think long and hard about this question. At first I wanted to say “Of course! I’d NOT make that huge mistake placing my first print run incorrectly. Then I would not have had to shuffle six thousand dollars worth of products to the curb with tear stained cheeks and a weary heart that wondered if I was cut out for this.” But the entrepreneur in me smiles a little and remembers how determined that experience (and many others) made me. I worked harder and harder to refine my skills and learn the industry with my bare hands in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t take back any of those mistakes. They were painful, but those skinned knees made me strong. The scars remind me that I’m capable of picking myself up, dusting myself off and trying again.”

SMP: What’s a typical workday for you like?

Ha. It’s hectic, but I love it. I take Brady to school, get the twins settled with our nanny, make a quick cup of coffee, throw on my headphones and check my inbox to see if anything is on fire. Then, I make a to-do list in my Simplified Planner. It typically contains lots of things I’m not going to be able to get to, but it helps me stay on track. I try and block my time by designing with my inbox closed or answering email with Illustrator closed. I connect with our mostly-remote team via iMessage and Google Hangout throughout the day. I try and get out from behind my computer screen a few times a day to sit at our big white table in my office and draw things out / brainstorm on poster board (a funny habit of mine). Around lunchtime I go out to hug the babies and grab a quick bite to eat. I come back to wrap things up and head out to pick up Brady from school. We run errands together and come back to do dinner as a family.

SMP: Why do you think your business has done so well?

I think we’ve done well because we’re open and transparent. We don’t create planners because we’re awesome at planning and organizing. We make them because we GET IT. We love big and work hard too. We’re creating solution-based products for women who desire the same things we do. It’s an honor to be part of their lives like that.

SMP: Best moment of your career so far?

At the National Stationery Show in 2014, I was talking with retailers in our booth when all the sudden there were TV cameras and media people and the Director of the show suddenly came in. It was our first year presenting our brand and I had been fearful we’d be lost in the shuffle. They handed me the Best New Product (for the Desktop category) and I burst into tears. It was such a gut reaction. I wasn’t expecting it at all. But that’s not the best moment… the best moment was checking Facebook later that evening and seeing that my Mom had proudly posted the photo to all her friends. Best moment ever.

SMP: What's your best tip for balancing work and personal life?

Find a system that works for you – whether it’s a paper planner or an app or iCal or post its on your fridge, make “getting organized” a priority and set aside time for it every week. On Sunday mornings, my husband and I compare our schedules for the week and I writing everything down into my Simplified Planner. I write out dinners, appointments, days he’ll be home from work late, schedule time for just Brady and I, schedule time for just the babies and I (even if its just a few minutes – intentional time with each means so much). Our little system works for us – but only if I make it work. So many times I think we, as women, go out and purchase an “awesome planner” or subscribe to some great system and then we never get it messy. We never make it work for us. Pretty planners don’t serve you well sitting displayed on your desk. But they can make a huge difference in your life if you scratch things out in them, stuff your bills and stamps and thank you notes in the pocket, color code your activities – whatever helps you get a handle on things.

SMP: Your most prized possession?

A photo of my grandmother and I. I didn’t know it was taken until years after she passed away. I’m looking at the camera and she’s looking at me with more joy and laughter than ever. Her enormous heart and quiet faith are forever a part of me.

SMP: What is your favorite item in your home?

This is a hard one. I’m a big scrapbooker, but lately I haven’t had time to get into it as much as I used to. I have a couple Project Life albums full of favorite Instagram pictures (such an easy way of memory keeping) as well as my kiddos’ three baby books. I couldn’t find a baby book that wasn’t overwhelming and stork-covered, so I created our Baby Book. It’s simple, easy and one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. Every month I try and spend a little time writing notes to my infant twins and preschooler (especially while they’re itty bitty). I think giving your kids a book full of some of the most precious memories from their lives and yours is priceless. I get teary eyed when I see other women using our baby book for their children. It’s just really special because I know how much mine mean to me.

SMP: Any guilty pleasures?

Really good wine. Really big coffees. And late night queso / reality tv dates with the hubs. Don’t tell him that I just told the world he watches The Bachelor.

SMP: What design trend do you think will stand the test of time?

Gold. I think gold foil is here to stay.

SMP: Three things every home should have?

A giant kitchen table for everyone to gather ‘round. A treasure box (for extra special memories and mementos). And a great big bathtub.

SMP: One small design change that can make a big impact?

I heard this quote once “When you put on your outfit in the morning, take one thing off and then its perfect” (or some version of that). The same is true for design. If you’re stuck, take a few things away and you might find it to be absolutely perfect.

SMP: Number one interior design tip?

Make use of natural light. We painted our walls a light, light grey to bring as much of the outside inside as possible. It’s so open and airy. Light, fresh color on the walls can transform any space.

SMP: Your top 5 design tips?

1.Don’t waste your money on “filler” for your home. Wait until you have found and are ready to invest in pieces that are meaningful and special. We still don’t have barstools in our house for that very reason. ☺
2.Adorn your walls with artwork and photos that make your heart sing. No more random paintings of flowers.
3. When in doubt, choose the comfortable over the stylish.
4. Light colors make a space feel open and fresh and airy
5. If you don’t need it or love it, donate it. Don’t let it become clutter. Physical clutter is mental clutter in my book.

SMP: Stranded on a desert island question... what's the one cocktail you would take with you?

Summer Water Rosé

SMP: If you could buy yourself a single gift of any cost, what would it be?

A vacation home on Pensacola Beach – my hometown. I love that place.

SMP: One place everyone must visit in their lifetime?

Maui. I’ve never felt my heart so free and inspired as it did on the beaches there with the sun on my skin and salt in my messy hair. Just a remarkable place.

SMP: The best job you ever had?

This one. I couldn’t be more grateful to do something I love every day..

SMP: Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Don’t take everything so seriously. You’re going to mess up. You’re not going to be perfect. And it’s all still going to be okay.

SMP: Your favorite instagrammer?

@BevCooks. She has boy girl twins also and she is HYSTERICAL. I find myself choking on my coffee every time I see one of her posts captioning her twins antics.

SMP: Your go-to recipe?

Chicken noodle soup from my friend Gina Zeidler: carrots, celery, onions and green bell peppers (extra points if you get them pre-chopped!) and a half a stick of butter in a pan. Cook ‘em up. Shred a rotisserie chicken and throw that plus some chicken broth into the pan. Add a bit of water, maybe some rice (or quinoa pasta, yum!) and you’re done! If you’re feeling extra fancy, whip up some grilled cheeses and everyone will love you.

SMP: Your most memorable moment?

Can I have two? The day my babies were placed into my arms. I replay those moments in my head like a first date. Nothing better than knowing every day of your life led up to this.

SMP: The best advice you’ve ever received?

Be still, Emily. (my sweet grandmother)

SMP: If you could dine with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

My grandma. I miss her a lot and I’d love to introduce her to our babies. I know she’d love them to pieces.

SMP: What was the first job you ever landed?

I was a hostess at a local restaurant (and I had my eye on a cute bartender… named Bryan Ley). ☺

SMP: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Right here doing this very thing, loving life as a busy mama of a nine year old and kindergarteners.

SMP: If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

Grace not perfection. This phrase has not only become a cornerstone of our brand but a personal mantra for myself on a daily basis. For many years, I tried to do it all, by myself, in six inch heels with awesome hair and made-from-scratch dinner on the table at six. (Are you exhausted just reading that? I am). It took falling flat on my face during a summer of sheer exhaustion and anxiety to finally let go of the idea that I had to be perfect at everything. That standard is simply impossible to live up to. Our Simplified Planner was born out of that summer – from the exhausted mind of a new mama trying to balance her first baby on one hip and a laptop on the other. I needed a tool to give me a fresh start every day – a simple place that felt underwhelming and useful rather than another thing to do.


Emily is giving away her super fabulous gold pineapple planner to one lucky SMP Living reader! Simply leave a comment below on why your life needs organizing and we'll pick a winner at random! Good luck!

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