Alice Whiteley founded Yawn to help women feel good and relax, but running a startup can be a stressful enterprise. Here is she’s tackled the issue of a work-life balance.
As part of our new Problem Solvers series, run together with KPMG Small Business Accounting, we will be exploring some of the hurdles small business owners have had to overcome, and the lessons and advice they would pass on to other budding entrepreneurs. This time Whiteley explains the pitfalls of stress and overworking yourself, and what led her to create her relaxation company.
Yawn is a nightwear brand for women, established with the mission to “make women feel good and help them relax”. It was founded by Alice Whiteley back in 2012, and after two years of research, factory hunting and establishing production, the business was officially launched in 2014.
As part of our new Problem Solvers series, we will be exploring some of the hurdles small business owners have had to overcome, and the lessons and advice they would pass on to other budding entrepreneurs.
Whiteley has a background as a high-flying management consultant and her last employed role was very comfortable; it took a big push for her to take the brave step of creating a startup. One of the motivating forces for Whiteley was a car crash on the way back from a meeting with a big client that led her to question what she was doing.
Around this time, while out shopping, she was struck by the lack of characterful, colourful brands of nightwear. This prompted her to start her own brand of flattering pyjamas, with a real focus on relaxation. Ironically, this would prove to be a stressful path, although at the same time something she would go on to find deeply rewarding.
We caught up with Whiteley to hear her tips on balancing work and home-life, which is one of the chief problems she’s had to overcome in her entrepreneurial journey.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in starting and growing your business?
Ensuring my own well-being whilst managing the competing pressures of being a mother and a business owner. One of the main reasons I set up Yawn was to help other women to relax as we live in a very pressurising time.
Ironically in the process I have created a full-on existence for myself – a startup can eat you alive unless you are very careful, as it is all encompassing. Initially I found it extremely hard to take a break and was always “on”. I also find the financial pressure hard but have grown better at dealing with it.
Were you expecting it to be so stressful?
I had been in business before so luckily was realistic about how intense it can be growing something from scratch. This time round I knew at the outset that I would need to train myself to be focused and patient and not to worry as much about the future.
Why was it particularly important to overcome stress for the future success of your company?
If I am not healthy then the business won’t be as I won’t be able to make clear decisions.
I am improving but it is a work in progress. In the first year or two I found the financial side of things – investing our own hard-earned money and knowing we won’t see it back for a very long time – very hard to deal with. I have got better, I focus on the progress we are making.
What kind of strategy did you draw up to deal with it, and what advice did you seek?
Given that I am building a business about relaxation I am very conscious of the benefit of switching off as much as I can. I am very disciplined with social media, which I don’t use personally – it is an added distraction I can do without. In terms of advice, I seek it from lots of people – I read a lot of business books and apply for a lot of help (there is lots out there).
I recently won a mentoring scheme through trade body UKFT. My mentor meets me every month and has been very helpful in focusing me on being a bit less risk averse and more relaxed with the stage of growth the business is at.
How has KPMG Small Business Accounting helped you with the stresses of running a business?
I have a very honest, direct relationship with KPMG, whenever there have been any issues they’ve been solved quickly. My accountant is very pragmatic and supportive, and I’ve been impressed by how much they care.
I’ve also been to a few of the SME evening events organised by KPMG, which have been good because you meet other like-minded, growth orientated entrepreneurs.
What have you learnt in dealing with stress that you think would be useful for other business owners?
That a lot of it is in the mind – the more positive you are the more positive things can be for those around you in the business. I also think an ability to focus on “baby steps”, take it one day at a time and see business growth as lots of little wins is very helpful.
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