When she’s not studying her Design Master’s degree, working as a part-time print technician or taking care of her daughter who underwent a lifesaving liver transplant – Lesley-Anne Pace is also setting up her own business.
And to help balance her busy life, independent mum Lesley-Anne has turned to the University of Sunderland to help kickstart her new enterprise, The Angel Press, drawing on her design skills to create luxury letterpress stationery.
The University’s Digital Incubator supports students and graduates with digital skills to explore the possibility of working for themselves as freelancers.
“The Digital Incubator has been a fantastic support, helping me organise all the admin jobs from tax and pricing to social media, all the stuff I don’t want to do as a creative,” explained Lesley-Anne, 47, from Low Fell, Gateshead.
“I was not even sure where to start and kept putting these jobs off, but the Digital Incubator has motivated me to keep all those things in order. Being part of a community and having a support network has been great too, and certainly helped with all the things I have going on.”
Lesley-Anne’s life has been a whirlwind since the birth of daughter Phoebe 11 years ago. Two weeks shy of her second birthday, the mum noticed Phoebe’s skin seemed yellow while they were out swimming. Following a visit to the GP, Phoebe was referred to Leeds General Infirmary where tests were run and doctors broke the news that the little girl was suffering massive liver failure and need an urgent transplant within 48-hours.
Since her transplant, Phoebe takes medication every 12 hours and undergoes regular three-monthly health checks, but that certainly has not held her back and she has since gone on to win three gold medals for swimming events at the World Transplant Games in 2019.
The dramatic changes in life also made Lesley-Anne reassess what was important to her, and after years of moving jobs in office and admin work, recruitment, an estate agent, to working as a forklift truck driver for The Royal Mail, she decided to follow her childhood passion for design and began studying a Textiles and Surface Design degree at the Northern School of Art in Teesside.
After graduating in 2018, she was then offered a part-time role as a print technician on the same course, helping the students in her care achieve their own ambitions.
Still hungry to develop her skills further, Lesley-Anne, decided to move on to a Master’s Degree in Design at Sunderland, to further develop her techniques in areas such as graphics, print and linoprint.
“I wanted to go to art school when I was 16, but my parents said there were not many jobs in this area at the time, and suggested I did secretarial work, so after many years of doing all sorts of roles I am now fulfilling my ambitions,” said Lesley-Anne.
She added: “Sunderland gave me a new direction and inspiration, and was incredibly flexible and open to what you wanted it to be and that was appealing.
“The lockdown also gave me this sense to re-organise my priorities, I took Phoebe out of school as she needed to shield and re-evaluated all the time we were able to spend together.
“The idea for setting up The Angel Press, was around using my skills to earn an income, while working part-time and ensuring I could be there for Phoebe, who is very accepting of the life we live and has such a positive outlook.”
Using a small printing press at home to create stationery, Lesley-Anne, is already receiving orders from around the world since launching The Angel Press on Etsy. She is now in the process of setting up a website to expand her business with the support of the Digital Incubator, creating stationery individually designed to her client’s specifications, from wedding invites, birth announcements to notecards.
Project Manager for the Digital Incubator, Louise Dixon, said: “It’s been a real adventure starting the new Digital Incubator in the middle of a pandemic. We support students and graduates who have a digital skill or idea to explore the possibility of turning it into an opportunity for freelancing. We opened our virtual membership in September and one of the standout aspects has been the enthusiasm of our members.
“They haven’t had the chance to meet face to face and use the physical space, yet, but they have already formed a real community and are always willing to support each other and offer feedback.
“We are really looking forward to opening our doors and meeting our new members in person and we can’t wait to see how their start up ideas develop and grow. It’s great to that Lesley-Anne is already benefitting from the support on offer and we wish her every success in her new venture.”
Anyone interested in Digital Incubator membership can contact the team via email at digtialincubator@sunderland,ac.uk. The Digital Incubator provides access to hot desk facilities, which include access to technical equipment and software. The team works with external partners to deliver workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities to enable students to develop essential enterprise and employability skills.
Lesley-Anne's story comes as Universities UK launches #GettingResults - a campaign demonstrating how universities are at the heart of the economic and social recovery from the pandemic.
Find out more about #GettingResults campaign at www.universitiesuk.ac.uk