Born in London, 13-year-old Ruby Lakshmi has been an expat kid for most of her life, having lived in Osaka, Japan, Alexandria, Egypt and Penang, Malaysia. She arrived in Shanghai four years ago, and is the teenage creative force behind greeting card company Lakshmi Designs. We caught up with this teenage entrepreneur to find out more.
How did Lakshmi Designs come about?
I’ve been an artsy craftsy person forever, and I’ve been selling stuff I’ve made since I was about nine – from jewelry designs, customized notebooks to hand painted canvases – all branded with random names (Ruby’s Rubies, Ruby’s Crafts, etc).
I’ve sort of focused myself on card design now and landed on Lakshmi Designs; it’s my middle name and it sounds cool, I think.
What inspires your card designs?
I’m inspired by Japanese Kawaii style drawings and colors (usually pastel colors). I also take a bit of inspiration from the countries I’ve lived in and strong diverse women.
How do you come up with the puns?
Ooh, I get inspiration for them from all over the place! Some from funny street signs or t-shirts especially – when you We-Translate them – Christmas crackers and cringey stuff my mum and her friends say when they are having a chinwag.
What is the favorite card you have designed?
That’s a hard one – I love all my cards. ‘You’re One Fine-Apple’ (with the picture of a pineapple), mainly because it’s a good affirmation card for yourself as well as to the one you love. I also like the ‘Yes Girl Yes’ card we did for International Women’s Day for the same reasons.
When did you first decide to turn your designs into a business?
I started selling my hand painted designs when I was around nine years old and living in Penang, Malaysia; my school friend and I had a stall at George Town’s famous Hin Bus Depot market, and I really enjoyed it.
When I moved to Shanghai, I continued to make my cards for fun, but my mum struggled to find greeting cards here so asked me to make some for her friends. They liked the cards, so I started to do a few more and they proved popular. I eventually upgraded to an iPad and began to design my cards digitally.
My Year 5 teacher then encouraged me to sell them at the school bazaar one Christmas, and it went really well, so I continued from there. Then, when we were all at home during Covid times, I used my time to practice with different techniques and develop my design style.
How is business going? Are you filthy rich?
I wish I was filthy rich! I’ve recently had a lot of homework, and my maths teacher is killing me, so I’ve been trying to juggle it all, but business is going well and I make enough pocket money to cover my Taobao spending and Boba Tea addiction.
We hear you also donate money to charity?
My mum has always taught me that not everyone has access to things that I can sometimes take for granted and how fortunate I am. She encourages me to make sure I help others where I can.
I found out about both the charities I’ve donated to from my time as a Shanghai Girl Scout; we raised money for EGRC and Lifeline, both of which are really worthwhile causes.
If you’re educated, you have many more options to better your life. I’ve been really lucky to attend great international schools, but not everyone is so fortunate.
I also know how stressful it can be as a teenager – just life in general. So charities like Lifeline do a great job when you feel overwhelmed and need to talk.
What do your friends think about you having your own business?
Sshhh… they don’t all know. Although they will now, I guess! Ta dah!
What special days of the year do you make cards for?
I make cards for birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Diwali, thank you cards and my favorite – Valentine’s Day.
Do you make customized cards on request?
Yes I do! I need about a week’s notice and some details about what you’d like the card for, and I’m good to go.
Any more businesses lined up?
I’m a bit obsessed with baking, so I also make custom cakes for birthdays and other events. I’d like to do more of that. And I’ve started working on some cute wrapping paper designs, which I hope to put out soon.
Lakshmi Designs deliver across China. Add Ruby’s mum Mala to be added to the Lakshmi Designs WeChat group and keep up-to-date on all of Ruby’s latest designs and how to buy them.
[All images courtesy of Lakshmi Designs]