In honour of Women’s History Month, we’ve created a series celebrating inspiring women who we have serious crushes on. From artists to entrepreneurs, all are passionate about what they do - we hope that sharing their stories will inspire you to turn your dreams into a reality.
For our second #WomanCrushWednesday we’re featuring Belinda Love Lee of Belinda Love Lee Paperie, a boutique branding and letterpress studio based out of Toronto, Canada. Belinda began her company when she was living in Wales, UK with her husband. After relocating to Toronto, she continued to work on her graphic design business as well as expanding into stationary, letterpress and blogging. We met her at her home-studio to discuss how she got her start, her creative process, and what it’s like to be self-employed.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Belinda Love Lee. I run a graphic design and letterpress studio based out of Toronto from my own home!
I originally grew up in Hong Kong, and then moved to Toronto and studied at Ryerson University. I then moved with my husband to Wales in the UK, I lived there for three years, and that's where my business really started. Fast forward to now, we decided to move back to Toronto because its a much bigger and exciting city. It was a huge change in terms of lifestyle and the way I do work. I had to adjust the way I capture things on Instagram and adjust my lifestyle. Having clients online helped with the transition.
What inspired you to get your start?
I feel like I fell into the whole freelance graphic design thing kind of haphazardly. I was trying to look for work in the ad world but none of the doors would open. I started getting a lot of inquiries from family and friends and from there I started running with it. Half a year into freelancing some of my work blew up online and that’s what inspired me. It made me feel like I was going down the right path and that's how I have international clients now!
What were some early signs in the beginning that made you feel confident that you were doing the right thing?
At the beginning, one of the biggest signs that I was doing the right thing was when I started getting featured in blogs, and a lot of book publishings. I think having people notice my work helped affirm that I was doing the right thing and I was in the right industry at the time.
What does your typical day look like?
I do a bit of everything. I do graphic design (logos and branding) and I do letterpress and I run my own stationary line on the side, and I blog on top of that. My day varies a lot depending on what I do that day. I start with admin and e-mails from 9-12pm. I find that when I do Instagram and e-mails in the morning, it helps me figure out my to-do lists for the day. My creative juices flow better in the afternoon so I will reserve printing or designing to the afternoon, usually from 1-5.
Tell us about your work process.
It depends on the project. I will start the process by talking to my clients, establish what their creative brief is and what they require the project to be or look like. We’ll usually get together (online) and make a pin board on Pinterest. From there I will take that inspiration and make it into something digitally. Then I make about three drafts and from there we’ll finalize the final look. If it’s a letterpress project it's just getting the artwork, getting on the press and then printing.
What do you hope for people to take away from your work?
I hope people take away that I really care and put my whole heart into everything I do. A huge part of creating is putting yourself into your work. When you do things with your heart instead of your head it's so much more impactful and so much more inspiring than just doing something out of habit or obligation. I think that having emotion behind your work creates a better story.
How has your style evolved to what it is today?
I would say my style has evolved in the way that it's just doing life and just creating. I wouldn't say my style is fully developed yet as a creative but when I talk to my husband or my friends they're like “Oh ya, I know you made that, that's so you!” But when I look at it from my perspective I can’t see myself in it. I think style is such a funny thing because it's constantly evolving. It's just doing life and creating and experimenting and finding what works for you, what fits your style and go from there.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you had to overcome in your business?
When creating for yourself and being self-employed the hardest thing is believing in yourself. When you work for yourself and you're self-employed, you're alone with your thoughts all day. There's no one to run through questions or doubts with, and that's the hardest thing. When you're down in a rut it totally ruins your day and I think by overcoming that obstacle you need to have a strong support system around you. Having someone that believes in you can make such a big difference. When you’re feeling down they can pick you back up and remind you why you're doing what you do.
What advice would you give to another woman looking to do what you do?
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else online or in person. Especially with Instagram, it’s so easy to be looking at someone else’s journey and life, especially when it's perfectly composed on a feed. It’s easy to think that they’re so much more ahead, that they’re the same age and that she's done XYZ. That’s the biggest thing I would say to stop doing. Unfollow people who make you feel bad or unhappy about your own journey. Surround yourself with motivational thoughts and inspiring quotes to remind yourself that your own journey is your own story.
Best advice you’ve received:
Compare yourself with who you were yesterday and not someone else. As humans, we’re constantly wanting to grow. That’s a good thing. There's always that desire in us to be better but the problem comes when we compare ourselves to others. It's not the same story or journey. But if you compare yourself to who you were yesterday and you improve on that, then you have so much more of your life to do and to do well.
Did you have any important female figures in your life, or was there anyone in particular who inspires you?
The biggest inspiration in my life would be my mom. She was a single mother and that showed me how she can work and raise kids at the same time. Especially running my own business, I question having my own kids it will be so much harder to do both at the same time. But if she can do it I know I can too
How would you define female empowerment?
Being comfortable in your own skin. I think that's one of the biggest things women struggle with. But I think when you are comfortable in your own skin and confident with who you are that's the most empowering thing.
Describe what you wear to feel most confident and comfortable in when you are working.
It's usually a jumpsuit. I love jumpsuits! They're stylish and still casual and comfortable. And not clenching your waist when you sit - it's so uncomfortable. So probably a jumpsuit or something sporty. Effortlessly casual yet chic.
What is the most important thing to you when getting dressed?
Being comfortable. My husband says I need to wear tight clothes but I'm not going to wear tight clothes, it’s too restricting - I can't breathe, it’s too uncomfortable. Looking effortless while still looking stylish and not restricting is my go-to!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m going to be at the One Of A Kind Show so if you’re in Toronto make sure to come by my booth:P44H. If you’d like to follow along my journey you can find me at belindalovelee.com or on any social media as @belindalovelee.
Thanks so much, Belinda, for welcoming us into your space. Loving #WomanCrushWednesday? Subscribe to our YouTube channel to never miss an episode!