Anna Hamer, 42, is director of Olivia and Oliver Design Studio, in Carlisle.  

Anna moved to Cumbria from Louisiana, in the United States, in 2002. She lives in the city with her daughter Caitlin, 21, and partner Stuart. 

I was born and bred in New Orleans, Louisiana, and I moved over here when I was 20.  
New Orleans is a fantastic place and I had an absolutely magical childhood. I was really into the music scene and I was in a rock band named Silverstone. We got on the big local news TV station playing the music into the commercial break and we had a bit of a following.  

My mum, Paige Pankow, was an artist but to pay the bills she started doing it commercially and she opened up her own agency in Houma, Louisiana. It was more of an advertising agency, but she did the graphics. 

I started with Photoshop when I was 16 and I started off doing typesetting for all of the work that she had coming in so I grew up in the advertising and marketing and graphic space.  

I met my ex-husband online and he was from Carlisle and that’s why I came here and I absolutely loved it from the moment I set foot here.  

I remember seeing the cathedral and the castle for the first time and I'd never seen anything like that because there's nothing in America that's more than 200 or 300 years old. I was just fascinated. And then I fell in love with the Lakes as well.  

People sometimes ask whether I am going to move back home and I reply ‘Are you kidding me?’ I love Carlisle, it's so central and you can hop on a train and you're in a big city like Glasgow, you could just pretty much step out your back door and in 10 minutes of walking you're in the most stunning scenery you've ever seen in your life. Why would I go anywhere else? 

In 2016 I decided I would go back to university and I started studying computing, with the University of Central Lancashire at Carlisle College. That reignited my love of design and I started off with a company just doing web design and then I started getting more and more into the branding side of things. I found that I absolutely loved it. I loved doing packaging and I loved doing graphic design and it grew from there. 

I had a friend who was setting up a company selling CBD products when that boom was happening in late 2018 to 2019. I began doing all their branding and web design and I made contacts through that and I became the go-to person for CBD branding.  

When the Novel Food legislation came in it meant CBD products had to be authorised by the Food Standards Agency before they could be sold. It made it difficult to launch new companies or products and one of the companies I was working for pivoted to begin selling CBD cosmetics instead. So, I pivoted with them and I started doing cosmetic packaging and branding. I now do a lot of work on cosmetics but I also with businesses in all sorts of sectors all over the UK.  

I work on packaging and branding and everything you can think of. My skills are really geared towards e-commerce companies. I work with a team of freelancers and we can do everything from your initial branding to your packaging to your website. I have a local company that I refer to for marketing as well.  

When I was a little girl, I would always say that I'm going to have twins and I'm going to name them Olivia and Oliver. My daughter Caitlin is grown up now but my business is my baby and I want to nurture it and protect it and grow it so that's where the name comes from. 

I just think that the creative space in Cumbria is amazing. There are a lot of women-led businesses and you've got ladies just absolutely smashing the creative scene. And everyone is so nice and it's just a nice little vibe that we have going here in Carlisle. 

I've never met a business person that I didn't like, or that didn't offer value to me and my business, even if it's just encouraging words. We just all have each others’ backs. One of my good friends set up Carlisle Women in Enterprise and I'm a founding member and I just find that group so uplifting. 

I would like to work more with Cumbrian businesses, especially women in business. I think that every woman has a business in her and I love working with startups as well. 

I would love to find the time and space to work with more local businesses and to have a creative space where freelancers can come and feel like they're part of an agency. My dream is to have a creative hub where creatives can work with each other and get inspiration.