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December 6, 2011

Profiles In The Faith: Joni Harrison Lay

What do you get when you cross sophisticated, elegant bridal finery with chic, personalized nursery style, and tie it all up with a smart bowtie fit for the most dapper Southern gentleman? Though it may sound like quite the hodgepodge at first glance, Joni Harrison Lay has managed to combine these distinct ventures into a design endeavor that honors the Lord through her skillful talents, while producing stunning, one-of-a-kind results for her clients and meeting the demands of her young family.

I first met Joni when she was in elementary school, as my wife and I were in her father’s Sunday School class. From that young age, God was developing Joni’s heart to love and serve Him and developing her hands to craft true masterpieces. Since loving all things art related since childhood, she graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Design. In 2005, Joni began working with friends Emmie Howard and Reagan Howell as they launched Southern Proper, “a southern-inspired line of clothing, neckties, bowties and accessories for men who have a deep appreciation for style and heritage.” From that time forward, Joni has created tie patterns and other design elements for the company.

After longing to own a design business of her own, Joni launched Chocolate Butterbean in 2009, where she works with brides to help their daydreams come to life for their big day. Her work centers on custom wooden wedding signs and invitation suites tailored to fit the personality of each special couple. Last year, Joni’s design work took an exciting new turn as she and husband Chip welcomed their first child, Vivien Charles (most affectionately known as Vivi). During her pregnancy, Joni struggled to find nursery inspiration that matched her taste, so she launched Lay Baby Lay to feature custom nursery style boards, sprinkled with a few tidbits about life as Vivi’s mom.

Though she always expected to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, Joni was surprised to discover her deep desire to continue working after Vivi was born. She has often clung to the words of Proverbs 31, taking her cues from this woman who was an excellent caretaker of her husband, children, and household, yet also a wise businesswoman who still cared for those in need. Joni is hopeful that with the Lord’s help, she can do those things He has placed on her heart to do.

I appreciate Joni’s dedication in using her giftedness to the glory of God. In all of her design efforts, she works diligently and skillfully as unto the Lord. Whether tucking the weathered pages of old hymnals into a customer’s work of art, or praying blessings over a baby and a new mother as she creates the perfect custom signage, she strives to season her products with the Word and witness of the Lord.


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