Tired of her corporate job, Leah Andrews stumbled into the quirky world of snow globe making. But, these are no ordinary snow globes. We’re talking about miniature artworks, each unique, handcrafted, and delightfully imagined. Her work has caught the eye of celebs around the world, from Steve Martin to Quentin Tarantino. Here’s how.
TransferWise is a new way of managing your money internationally for a fraction of the price of a bank or PayPal. This is the continuation of our Lives Without Borders series, in which we speak to people whose careers and lifestyles have transcended borders.
“Oh I should tell you this is Steve Martin”
It all started with an episode of Sex and the City. I saw Carrie holding a snow globe that was unlike anything I’d ever seen, it was so beautiful. I searched online to find one, but discovered that they were quite rare – all you could find were tacky travel ones – so I decided on a whim to order some snow globe kits and figurines. Since then, making snow globes has become my life.
At the time, I was working in the music industry as a marketing and product manager and I’d been feeling overwhelmed in my job, so I was looking for a creative outlet. I’d trawled through online lists of “100 things to do as a hobby,” but nothing interested me. On the other hand, I loved the precision and technicality that goes into making a snow globe – the element of engineering. They’re remarkable little objects.
It took off as a business, and I started working on individual, custom snow globes. After a while I received a mysterious email requesting a globe to celebrate Steve Martin’s AFI Lifetime Achievement Award. I was so excited because I’ve been a huge fan of his since I was 13! I gave them a call to discuss some details, and midway through the conversation the voice on the other end said, “Oh, I should tell you this is Steve.” I’d assumed that I was talking to an assistant or somebody! I lost it a little – I just had to tell him how much he’s meant to me over the years.
I’ve been lucky to work for a few high-profile clients. A few years ago, I was contacted by a producer for Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show. They wanted me to create this little scene of Craig Ferguson and his two sidekicks. I knew that they were going to use it in one of the final shows, but I had no idea how they were going to use it – it was all very secret. It turned out that it was the closing shot of his final show. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it: My globe was in the very final scene! After that I was inundated with requests for copies – about 250 people contacted me, wanting to buy a replica of that snow globe. Unfortunately for copyright reasons I couldn’t do it.
It’s been incredible, I never could have imagined I’d have worked with all these celebrities. Jason Alexander even asked me to come visit if I’m ever in Los Angeles, which was a lovely invitation! Beyond the initial excitement that comes with that, though, It’s been very humbling to be trusted with these special projects by all these people, whether or not they happen to be famous.
I never thought this would be anything beyond a hobby
Before this became a business, I was trying to create something perfect. Naturally, you learn what works the hard way. For example, I began by using baby oil to fill the globe, but the oil eventually corroded the rubber gasket that sits inside the glove, ruining the whole thing. On the other hand, if you use water, the oxygen will create bubbles, no matter how watertight you make it. So I experimented and eventually found ways to prevent all these small flaws from cropping up. I was always intent on creating something perfect, and as it turned from a hobby into a business I maintained that focus on quality, on creating perfect, magical little worlds for people.
However, things go wrong. In fact, my very first sale leaked! It was a globe with a magnolia tree for a lady in Brisbane. She was very kind about it, and I naturally refunded her. But I realized I had to adapt and make sure that didn’t happen again.
As the business took off, it quickly became clear that the US was going to be the biggest opportunity for me, and that’s where 99% of my business comes from. Originally, it was from people looking to buy very unique, exclusive gifts for a loved one. In fact, I got a lot of requests from men buying for their partners – it made me realize there are a lot of good guys in the world. Nowadays, my work is mostly for corporates and gift stores looking to order very unique, quality pieces either as VIP gifts or exclusive sales lines. Although I started out making single custom pieces, these days I really enjoy producing large scale projects in the B2B market, with the help of my very talented production team.
However, as the number of US clients grew, I was increasingly getting paid from abroad, which was causing me a problem. I started to realize how much money I was losing to the bank because of the amount they were shaving off the exchange rate – both on the payments I was receiving and on bills I was paying to overseas suppliers. It felt like a massive ripoff. I found TransferWise and it’s saved me so much money. It’s been so solid – since I started I’ve never had a problem – and my payments go through faster too.
Since so many of my clients and supply lines are international, it’s a great help when I can improve those payments across borders. I sat down not that long ago and tried to figure out how much I was losing with my bank before TransferWise – it came to about $15,000. Now that I have an employee helping me grow the business, that kind of saving is invaluable.
|TransferWise is proud to help Leah get paid for pursuing her passion. We're there to help you manage your money across borders more cheaply and easily too. Join our 6 million customers at TransferWise.com, or through our Android or iOS app.|
As told to Chris Hockman exclusively for TransferWise. Photography by Kym Griffiths.
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