This Creative Director Says You Need Agility to Be Successful Today
In honour of our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s latest book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($22), we’re running an interview series featuring 17 questions (to parallel the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of inspirational female leaders who are at the top of their fields. So far, we’ve tapped Lisa Messenger, Pip Edwards, Kelly Wearstler, and more. Next up? Almira Armstrong of Lumira.
After a life-long love affair with candles and scents that inspire the senses, in 2013, Almira Armstrong, bit the bullet and founded Lumira, a fragrance company dedicated to bringing comfort to people's day. With experience in marketing and PR, Armstrong had already built a successful resume, and since starting Lumira has been able to take her skill set out of the boardroom and into her business.
We sat down with Armstrong to find out what it takes to build a company from scratch and to glean the lessons she's learned along the way. From the staff she employs to her daily rituals, see below for what she had to say.
I am the creative director and founder of Lumira, a fragrance house in Sydney, Australia.
I am very hands-on, so my day involves many activities. My job entails many aspects of the business, from product development, production, packaging, emails, team building, marketing, accounting, sales, and more. I wear a lot of hats in the business. I also speak with my distributors around the world, from Japan, Europe, and the US, so my work hours are often quite long.
My very first job out of university was for a legal publishing house. I wore a black suit with white shirt, which I think is probably the norm for the corporate world.
Grace Coddington. I would love to hear her story firsthand, right from the beginning.
I read a lot of Architectural Digest, Elle Decoration UK, British Vogue, Wallpaper*, and the Financial Times. When I'm working on new fragrances or products, it's less about what the industry is doing and more about finding inspiration. I usually head outside, which could be anything from visiting some of my favourite art galleries, going to the park, reading my favourite poetry or simply travelling.
Not following my passion and starting earlier.
I look for: Energy, a do-anything attitude, hardworking, friendly, and the ability to adapt and change when needed.
I usually dress casual-chic as I never know what my day will involve. It could be anything from carrying boxes to replying to emails, or going into back-to-back meetings, so my attire needs to suit all needs. It's usually Frame denim with a white tee, a black blazer (I love Viktoria & Woods), and Saint Laurent sneakers.
Super nice and easy-going.
I go for a walk as you never know what is around the corner. There is so much inspiration to be found in nature, streets and people.
I would suggest being honest and have no fear. Speak directly with your boss and meet over a coffee to make it less intense.
A chicken salad.
A lack of initiative is a huge mistake. Before you ask for the answer, try to solve the problem first. If you still don't know the answer, at least present a few potential solutions that can be workshopped. I think some entry-level staff are scared to offer suggestions or ideas in fear of being "wrong", but to an employer, this can seem like they don't have an interest in the brand.
I wake up around 6 a.m. and scan social media and emails in bed quickly before getting up and organising the kids' breakfast. While they eat, I quickly get myself ready for the day. Most importantly, I moisturise my face and skin and put on an outfit I feel good in. After picking up the kids in the evening, we get home and start dinner, baths, bedtime stories, all before relaxing on the lounge with my husband. Pre-bed, I always moisturise my skin. (I'm a bit of a fanatic).
If you have a vision, pursue it. Be assured, if you don't, someone else will. Dream big, but have that voice of reality to keep you grounded and focused.
Also, cross your Ts and dot your Is. Have at least a moderate understanding of every part of your business and be effective in your communication of this to anyone you enter business dealings with. It's so important to ask for support if you need it, but know what you're asking for and how that person can help you.
I have lots going on this year. I'll continue to invest in our candle ranges whilst experimenting with some new product lines. I love collaborating with other talented creatives. I feel so grateful that people love what I am producing and have helped me get to a place where I can start to experiment with even more product ideas and fragrances. It's the customers who love what I do that really inspire me to keep creating. I'm also spending a fair bit my time overseas introducing the brand to new markets which is so much fun!