As business partners, we’re always interested to find out how other people work and where the idea for their business came from. Over the next month we’ll be sharing interviews from other business and creative partners, including Five Dot Botanics, new café Good as Gold and international artists Yara + Davina. As we kickoff our Duo Series, we thought we would start with us. Discover more about the founders, Charlie and Louisa, how Studio Luxmore approaches marketing differently and why community, sustainability and ethics are so important to us.
Can you tell us a little about your journey and how you met?
Charlie: I’ve been working in marketing for nearly 20 years. I fell into very corporate jobs at first, and while I loved the creative side of marketing, deep down I didn’t feel comfortable in the very corporate surroundings or those companies’ missions. I needed to work for people or organisations I felt passionate about, so after having kids I did just that. I loved working for galleries, creative startups and the Association of Photographers. It was after my third was born that I was pondering my next move. I couldn’t afford to go back to my role due to childcare costs, and was contemplating going freelance. It was at this point Louisa floated the idea of us working together, and I immediately got excited about pooling our expertise and working with her. We had met a few years previously while our eldest kids were at nursery together, and we still live around the corner from each other.
Louisa: I’ve had a lot of different jobs! I studied Politics and English Literature at university, and after graduating I worked for a publisher in Australia that specialised in the wine industry. It was great fun but I then became interested in the design and politics of public spaces and studied urban planning, drawn to it because of its multidisciplinary nature. I eventually found myself working in behavior change and transport strategy in London. Charlie and I met when our oldest children were at nursery and we both had babies, and Charlie would invite me over for a drink in the evening. I had just moved to Brockley so it was nice to make a local friend!
Where did the idea for starting Studio Luxmore come from? Who suggested it?
Charlie: Louisa and I were both having breaks from our usual roles. As soon as she floated the idea I was in. We knew with her strategic brain and my marketing experience we could offer something really valuable to clients that went beyond the traditional marketing offer. We’re all about being super strategic, holistic and human! We’re both intuitive people, we like to put ourselves in our clients’ shoes and think beyond what they’ve asked for, consider the whole picture. Often tweaking other areas – often mindset, has a massive impact.
Louisa: I had been consulting on my own for years but I was taking some time off. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do next but I knew I wanted to start something new. I knew how stressful it was to run a business on your own, and I really wanted to collaborate with other women who understood the juggle of parenting and working so we could support each other. I shared a lot of business ideas with Charlie before we settled on a marketing agency.
How do you find working as business partners?
Charlie: I love it! I’d never worked with a business partner before. It took awhile for us to get used to how to work (We’ve settled on Trello, google docs, plus many phone calls and text messages). Pre-pandemic we’d meet in person and now it’s all calls or online. We’re in a similar boat in terms of juggling work and kids, and are super understanding when plans have to change or adapt because life happens. It’s like having an extra, super understanding and loving wife.
Louisa: It’s great, but we have had to learn how to work with each other. We have very different styles! I’ve done a lot of consultancy and project management before so I’m quite methodical, some may even say OCD, and I like to have a plan for months down the line… but we are always organised because of that!
Do you always agree, or do you have different ways of thinking and working?
Charlie: We definitely don’t always agree and that’s what I love about us. We can discuss an issue from our different perspectives and then know that what we offer is absolutely the right thing because we’ve debated it so much! Having said that I think now we’ve been going a little while we probably agree more because our methods are more ingrained now.
Louisa: No, we don’t always agree. It was trickier at the start as we were both very careful with each other’s feelings as we didn’t want a friendship ruined, so it took us a long time to discuss and work out a solution. Which was frustrating in itself! Now we have a shorter way of communicating so it’s easier and we have a really nice flow. It’s really fun now because we can have a debate knowing that it doesn’t affect our fondness for each other.
Community is really important to you. Can you explain why?
Charlie: I’ve always been super fascinated by people, and need to know that the work we do makes a difference in other people’s lives. Sounds totally cheesy right, but it’s true! There’s got to be a real purpose in what Louisa and I do. Our area has a really strong community and we’re very attached to it. When we started Studio Luxmore our clients were all local businesses – that helped embed us as a local business, and it evolved naturally from there. We even chose our name because of a little park – Luxmore Gardens – in between our houses that we go to all the time.
Louisa: We’ve taken a really holistic approach from the start. We always wanted Studio Luxmore to be more than just a marketing agency. Most of our clients either work on their own or have a small team. We want them to feel completely supported and confident so that can take a breath. I’m very interested in mindfulness and, as a strategist, I don’t think anyone can think clearly and make good decisions when they’re stressed. So we really look after the person behind the brand, removing the stress so that they can also see the opportunities. I think when I started talking about this Charlie thought I was a bit hippy, but I’m originally from a surfing area in Australia so I’m ok with this!
You’re also passionate about working with brands that share the same values as you. Why is this so important?
Charlie: We spend so much time working it needs to feel good. It’s why I left the corporate world, I need to really connect with people I work with and know that we’re working for a great, positive purpose. This often means creative businesses or simply businesses with great ideas and values behind them. Louisa and I aren’t THAT fussy, it just needs to feel right – which means being sustainable and making a positive impact. Marketing is about building authentic relationships and it would feel wrong to work hard for something or someone you don’t genuinely care about.
Louisa: It’s so much easier to work with brands that you’re passionate about. We made a decision early on to only work with brands we believe in. There needs to be a commitment to sustainability and ethics. People need to be paid and treated properly, and the environment not exploited. This is a basic principle for us, and without this it’s not a sustainable business and we won’t be able to have a long-term relationship. Which is what we’re all about! Our clients and collaborators are for life, not just a season.
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
Charlie: Never assume other people know what you’re thinking! Face to face and ideally on a long walk is my prefered way to chat. I’m still mega awkward in photos.
Louisa: Charlie is beautiful! It’s like standing next to Scarlett Johansson! I think we’re both a bit shy so it’s been hard being the face of our business, but we know that as a small business people want to know who they are working with. I’ve learnt so much from working with Charlie! While we started Studio Luxmore in early 2019, we only properly launched just before the global pandemic. That was a really stressful time as we didn’t know what was happening, and we also lost a few clients. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is just to do it, keep going and have faith that everything will turn out ok in the end.
You’ve both travelled quite extensively, and both lived in Australia. Even though we can’t travel at the moment, do you still find yourself inspired by where you’ve been?
Charlie: Oh my goodness yes! I travelled tonnes before having kids and I’m so glad I did now that we’re basically in the house all the time. Looking through old photos and remembering all the adventures and smells brings me a lot of happiness. I can’t wait to get back to it one day. I have a growing list of must visit places!
Louisa: I’m from Australia so I’m still on my adventure! I came here for one year and I really didn’t expect to be here all these years later. I love thinking about where I’ve been but I’m so excited by all the journeys I’m yet to do with my family. I can’t wait to see their little faces light up.
What have you found to be the most effective way of marketing your business?
Charlie: Initially it was all about word of mouth. Even though we’re a marketing agency I found it really hard to market ourselves. I know what I’m doing with marketing but found it so cringey seeing photos of me on the grid and finding a tone of voice I was comfortable with was not an easy process – I’m much more about marketing other people!
Louisa: Charlie did really struggle with marketing Studio Luxmore! It was me doing a big push. It was a useful experience to go through as we understand the emotions around marketing. We’re pretty excited that some clients are starting to find us through Instagram. It’s such a nice feeling when someone feels a connection and reaches out.
What’s next for you?
Charlie: Hopefully kids back to school so I can do less homeschooling and concentrate on work more! We’ve been lucky to have some lovely new clients this year. I’m excited for more of that and see what the next chapter brings.
Louisa: We have some exciting new work with clients which is wonderful. We’ve been so lucky as it really wasn’t great timing being a new business with the pandemic. We’ve also got some amazing interviews coming out soon. It’s been great meeting so many other local businesses. It’s an exciting time and I feel really optimistic that it will be small, independent businesses shaping the future of the economy.