Family Run

Meet The Cheeky Family Who Used Their Humor To Create A Full-Fledged Greeting Card Company

"Siblings are great. They are a scapegoat for every occasion."

Family Run is an original A Plus Lifestyle series: Every month, we profile amazing families who work together in some capacity. From starting businesses, inventing products, collaborating artistically, and beyond, these family members are making positive contributions to the world together, and strengthening their family bonds in the process.

When life gave Stacey Dennis lemons, she didn't make lemonade. She made greeting cards — and wine labels, and wrapping paper, and balloons, and dozens of other novelty items that have become the signature offerings of her online store Love Layla Designs. The name comes from Stacey and her husband, Jay's, daughter Layla, who had just been born when Stacey was laid off from work, right as she began her maternity leave. Jay, a self-employed builder, had also recently lost his job after an injury. 

"We were sort of down to our last 20 pounds. We had no money, and we had a 1-year-old baby," Stacey tells A Plus. Starting with almost nothing, she relied on her wit to get their family out of this difficult situation. 

Stacey was drawn to greeting cards because she'd already made some for an LGBT charity and still had some leftover supplies. Despite early hesitation on Jay's part, she plowed ahead thanks to the encouragement of her best friend and honorary family member Vikki, who now reigns as Love Layla Design's "social media queen." 

Soon enough, Stacey created 11 original designs and launched Love Layla Designs. Those designs are still with them today, along with another 689 (give or take a greeting cards). "We have a fair few now," Dennis jokes. "... We were laughing at our bank account until our first year of turning over a million pounds, so we sort of went from zero to 100 very, very fast." 

Three years later, the UK-based company is now known for its "hilarious, cheeky and rude" seasonal and novelty items, and the funny family behind it all.

Stacey and Jay with their original 11 designs. 
Stacey and Jay with their original 11 designs.  Stacey Dennis

While Stacey and Jay remain the directors of Love Layla Designs, they've also brought on Stacey's brother Stuart as a manager in charge of sending out the cards. "It started off on the kitchen table with a few designs. Then, as it escalated and grew, they needed more and more staff and more manpower and experience," Stuart tells A Plus. "Stacey and Jay approached me and asked if I was interested, and obviously there's a greater return for me in this job ... I'm watching my sister's business grow and helping her along." 

The positive, close-knit working environment that only emerges among family members doesn't hurt either. "You're a little bit tighter as a unit because there's a little bit more than just a wage at stake ... So you know, some jobs you just turn up, get paid, go home," he added. "There's a little bit more in this ... You're emotionally invested as well as financially." 

Besides recruiting her brother, Stacey also brought on her brother-in-law Johnny and her close family friend Ross, who she considers to be an "adopted" member of the family. Both help with packing the cards.

"It was sort of just dragging everyone along with me for the ride," she jokes. "But obviously it's turned into full-time jobs for us all."

Stuart and Johnny, each holding one of their favorite cards.
Stuart and Johnny, each holding one of their favorite cards. Stacey Dennis

While the family has experienced much financial success with Love Layla Designs, starting a family-run company — even one that makes such lighthearted products for other families — hasn't been without its challenges. 

"It's really hard to sort of juggle the family/work life," Stacey explains. "We're seasonal, so when we're really, really busy, to still maintain [being] a parent and being a wife and a sister and a daughter, and the rest — that is probably one of the hardest things." 

She's also experienced the unique learning curve that comes with the daily ins and outs of running an actual business. "Working with family, if there's a dispute you have to just leave it and drop it and walk away, because, if you're working with your family, that can really linger on, and that can be quite damaging," she adds. "Sometimes you do need to step away and be a boss — take the family relationship out of it." 

That's especially true when you're not just running a business with your family, but with your spouse as well. "Working with my wife. It's not easy," Jay says. "To be honest with you, keeping the relationship while working with your wife — it has its challenges." 

"Thanks, Jay," Stacey jumps in with a bit of sarcasm. 

"I say that in the nicest possible way," Jay adds, quick to amend his previous statement. "There's not too many couples that can work together successfully." There's even less that could do it from home, as the Dennis family used to when the business was just starting. Once it took off, however, they moved to a separate office space that has since helped them maintain a healthy work/life balance, though Stacey and Jay still often work beyond regular office hours. These days, that means taking home their laptops to finish up a few emails, rather than being forced to stare at a room full of cards as they eat dinner. 

Jay and Stacey, each holding one of their favorite cards.
Jay and Stacey, each holding one of their favorite cards. Stacey Dennis

Regardless of the unique challenges that come with working together as a family, they wouldn't have it any other way. "I prefer working for a small, family-owned business. [...] I've worked for large corporate companies and literally being a number, whereas here I don't feel like that at all," Vikki tells A Plus. "When you walk in in the morning, everybody says, 'How was your evening?' I just genuinely believe that we are genuinely interested in what we all do." 

Besides the personal dedication everyone put into their individual jobs, they all rely on one another as a safety net whenever extra work needs to get done. Stacey explains. "I don't have to push for it as hard as you probably would with strangers." All her family members agree that trusting and respecting one another were two of the biggest benefits of working with family. 

Vikki and Ross, each holding one of their favorite cards.
Vikki and Ross, each holding one of their favorite cards. Stacey Dennis

But the biggest benefit for them seems to be sharing in the jokes and laughter. Frequently "cheeky" and often "naughty," they're always hilarious. Many of Love Layla Design's products are based on the family members' relationships with one another, their children, their parents, their siblings, and their friends. "That's how we come up with our ideas. We sit down and brainstorm everything, and [we] cross-reference because there's a lot of various situations that we're all in," Stacey says. "Some of us are stepparents; some of us have just got one child; some of us are dads-to-be ... so we're able to get a full, different opinion on [everything]." 

At the end of the work day, it's hard not to have fun when you're making something fun. "I think it sort of helps with the nature of what we sell, as well. Obviously, there's a lot of jokes and banter," she adds. "We're all sort of a lively bunch... We are quite a close-knit group of people."

Top from left to right: Ross, Jay, and Stuart; Bottom from left to right: Vikki, Johnny, and Stacey 
Top from left to right: Ross, Jay, and Stuart; Bottom from left to right: Vikki, Johnny, and Stacey  Stacey Dennis

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