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Lauren Stokes is one of those few people who’s taken the risk of leaving her career path to start something entirely new in a completely different field. Her journey from nurse to fashion designer and business owner is one full of lessons, inspiration, and of course Southern charm. The brain behind Lauren James Co. is a true #bosslady and example of how going for the lifestyle you want is worth the work and risk.
Name: Lauren Stokes Location: Fayetteville, AR Title: Owner/CEO Company:Lauren James Co. What it is: Lauren James Co. is a women’s lifestyle brand designing and selling everything from dresses, to bikinis, to gift items! Educational Background: B.S. in nursing from the University of Arkansas
What inspired you to start Lauren James Co.?
I was working as a nurse when I was put on bed rest for 10 weeks while pregnant with my first son, Lofton James. During that time I started sketching dresses just to pass the time. After Lofton was born I really didn’t want to leave him to go back to work, so my husband encouraged me to turn my sketches into reality and start the company!
What was the hardest part of transitioning from a career as a nurse to a career as a designer and business owner?
Being a boss is hard, especially for women. I’ve never managed people before, so that was definitely the hardest transition.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day starts out as any mom—I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old! Mornings are crazy getting them fed, dressed, snuggled, and off to school. After that, I head to the HQ for meetings. I try to leave the office by around 5:15 so I can get to my kids’ school to pick them up and then come home, cook dinner, play outside, and get them to bed! After that, I answer a few more emails and relax.
What’s your creative process like when designing?
It’s pretty quick—I get in the zone and pretty soon I’ve designed a whole collection. I like to be alone so there are no distractions, and I just start thinking about things I would want to wear and I go from there.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started, what would that be?
I would remind myself that hard work always pays off. There were times when I would want to throw in the towel after a hard day or week, but it’s those hard times that made me so much stronger as a business woman.
Would you do anything differently?
To be honest, no! I’m extremely pleased at how everything has gone, and I couldn’t imagine it being any better—so if given the chance, I would do it all the exact same.
How do you define success?
Success is waking up in the morning with a smile on your face! I wake up feeling so blessed to be alive, to have my family by my side, to have two healthy children, and to have a career that allows me to focus my creativity on making things that people love. Success can mean so many different things to different people, but as long as you’re waking up with a smile, I’d call that a success!
What’s been the hardest part of starting your own business?
I think the hardest part is that nothing can really prepare you for starting your own business. You can read books, blogs, and articles and talk to people who have done it, but every situation in different. It’s hard to navigate something without a clear road map.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own business?
The most rewarding part is seeing our customers post pictures in their Lauren James items and seeing how happy they look to be wearing it. It makes me so proud to have created something that people love to wear.
How has social media helped shape your brand?
Social media is a free way to reach a LOT of people really quickly. We utilize social media every single day to tell our customers about new products, flash sales, and so many other things!
How do you make sure you stand out on social media?
We just try to post pretty pictures that showcase the clothes in the best way. People follow our social media because we’re always coming out with new products, so we want to make sure those new products have good marketing material around them.
What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not working?
I love to cook! I also love to garden. I have a huge fruit and vegetable garden that my kids help with. They love to help me pick the fruits and vegetables and then help me use them in our dinners and snacks. I also love traveling!
How do you balance your work with your personal life?
Well that’s extra hard for me because my husband and I work together. We have to try really hard to close our laptops and focus on each other and our family when we’re home, but so far I think we’ve done a pretty good job!
What’s next for you?
I think just pushing Lauren James to be bigger and better! We have so many new products coming out this fall and next spring, and I’m SO excited to see our customer’s reactions to those.
What advice would you give to other women looking to create a creative career here in the South?
I say just go for it!! The good thing about living in the South is that everyone is so friendly and talkative; anyone is willing to give you advice if you just ask for it.