I spent 17 years building Pacific Direct before initially selling my share in the company from 99% down to just below 20%. During the years we were building the company I spent a lot of time travelling the globe, visiting clients and suppliers and establishing factories. In one year I spent over 200 nights in hotels and often found myself waking up in the morning, having to open the hotel room curtains in order to figure out where I actually was!
I learned to cope with extreme tiredness and did my level best to listen to my body, albeit usually leaving things late! I remember one time in particular when I starting winking at customers during meeting – a twitch in my eyebrow caused by exhaustion. I used to hold on to the arms of chairs so that I could make a conscious and very determined intake of breath, trying to force the air into my lungs.
I found the most difficult part of stress was that unless I put conscious thought into it, I was unable to breathe well. This was very tiresome and a bit odd sometimes, literally feeling short of the breath I needed to really relax. I could very easily have become unstuck during months and years of relentlessly short nights, changing time zones and the inevitable illness brought on by airline travel – nearly always in economy sleeping sitting up. (I often tried to avoid an expensive night in a hotel by planning my trips to maximise plane time, often going to meetings without thinking to check in and change first)
I managed to keep going and I do not regret one minute of the hard push I put upon myself to lead others. I have always felt a decent leader will lead by example and do what they expect others in their team to do also. My small luxuries did turn into bad habits though, with too much coffee being the worst. I used other, better techniques to ensure I didn’t suffer too much whilst travelling, but one which I found very useful was the use of aromatherapy.
Over the years, I probably tried every aromatherapy brand and product on the market. I would wash my hair with aromatherapy shampoo; take showers with essential oils; use those little roller-ball things on my wrists. None of them worked as I would have liked though. By the time I’d left the hotel, worked a full day in the city where I woke up, flown for several hours, attended meetings and checked into my next hotel, the benefit from any aromatherapy product was long gone. The scent from a roller-ball fared better, but those things do not cope well with travel and I ruined more than one handbag when the things leaked or even burst.
Once I had sold Pacific Direct then, and I had the time and the money to put into another venture, I teamed up with Fay Pottinger and we created Scentered. After so many years of juggling work and family, staying in different hotel rooms and working long hours, I knew exactly what I wanted. We market Scentered as portable, 100% natural balms, using aroma for therapy, for improvement in mindset, to help us engage new energy levels, to enable a STOP and rethink moment, or simply to help us wind-down and have a better night’s restful sleep.
I have to say that now 6 years into the development of our balms I’ve travelled all over the world either selling Scentered products or with my other brands – our balms have been thoroughly tested!
Today’s modern lifestyle can mean that for many busy people we are “always on” – we want wifi wherever we go; we want to be able to charge our mobiles in case we miss out on an important call or email. Business really is in some cases a nearly 24-hour thing. It can be so easy to get caught up in the relentless need to be in touch, to react, to not be left out, to react in case we miss an opportunity.
When you’re trying to keep a small business afloat there are sacrifices to be made. Too often the difficulty of running a company, the three years without holidays of any kind, the working on Saturdays and Sundays, setting up exhibitions and the relentlessness of work-day demands is seemingly overwhelming but that is why leading an enterprise will never be part time nor for the faint-hearted. Irrespective of all of this do not forget to take time for yourself.
I know that in those early years of Pacific Direct if someone had suggested I go for a spa weekend in the country, or even take an afternoon off to get a massage, I would have laughed. I had neither the money nor the time for these things. So I know there is no point in saying these things to anyone running their own business today. What I used to do is set myself goals and objectives and then reward myself with affordable treats. Sometime pathetically small benefits, which were quiet enough to re-energise and rekindle motivation so that I could do the best that I could do.
For women in particular, some individuals live in the outdated approach where partnership is not really equal. I am lucky here in that despite having a dependable mum the only area I could fault her in was her endless, ridiculous determination to be all to everyone when my Dad never did his fair share of family support, communication nor barely shared responsibility for my brother and I. I vowed very early that I would not allow a partner of mine to sit in a bar keeping the rest of the family waiting to go home while he drank. I made it clear pre-marriage, even to my mother-in-law that if my husband chose to be unable to cook he might starve. I have had to sometimes stick to my guns to win the balance for splitting workload but without my other half Pacific would not have succeeded.
Some people think that when you are running your own company you can do so single handedly without the support of family or at least great friends…I do not take this view. You cannot be expected to work as if you don’t have children, and then go home and be a parent as if you don’t have a job to worry about. You need to be in the board meetings, staying late to finish important work, but also at the weekend hockey matches and baking the birthday cakes. It’s hard. And taking a day out just for yourself is about as realistic as going to the moon for your summer holiday: maybe one day, but not this week!
Make sure you make your own small triumphs to fit in a few benefits as you make your way. STOP-INHALE-RESET on the side of a hockey pitch by fully engaging in the time you are with your children. Turn off the phone at all family events and always be honest with those around you when you need help to STOP.
Fay and I knew there was no point in coming up with a wellbeing brand that was focused on the idea of taking long, luxurious breaks. We wanted to cater for women for whom that is rarely an option. Scentered balms were designed to be carried in the pocket or in handbag and used as a brief moment of calm in a busy day. They’re for that brief, snatched moment to yourself between meetings or before you switch from being CEO to Mum to some day family wonder woman.
I wanted to set up a wellbeing brand that offers practical help and guidance, allowing a real break – however small – from the stresses of busy, demanding, modern life, we say “whatever and whenever.” The benefit to be had from great breathing, really deep ignition of pushing the oxygen throughout your body, is huge.
That said, we didn’t want the fact it’s often a small, snatched moment of calm to mean the products looked or felt cheap or rushed. A lot of time went into the package design, and we are committed to 100% natural balm products creating the best essential oil performance in annoyingly complex blends which took years to perfect. We question everything we do in packaging choices, aiming to be as eco friendly as possible. Ours is a premium yet affordable high quality product that delivers well – giving a small moment of luxury, helping you feel how you need to feel.
These days the idea of “wellbeing” is so much in focus it is almost laughable how timely our lucky entry into the marketplace has been. It has become much more acceptable that people consider wellness efforts of every shape and form and will even talk about the importance of investing in wellness in the workplace. People are more aware of the effects of stress, and more open to things like aromatherapy, mindfulness and natural stress relief.
Of course, in a business sense I wanted to tap into this – but on a personal level, I wanted to provide people like me with a product that I believe can genuinely help.
In my years in business I have seen many people – male and female – fall by the wayside because the stress took over their lives. That wasn’t because they were weak or not good enough; they just had too much demand in their lives and no tool or skills to improve their state and to give the smallest of boost of confidence to encourage continuity. I don’t believe it has to be this way; we can strike a balance, but it will always require constant attention to ensure the balance remains.
Scentered is about allowing that small moment of calm and balance into an otherwise hectic day. It makes up one of the many small efforts required in taking care of yourself: eating well, getting quality rest (the amount your body knows you need) and enjoying life whilst aiming to be the best you can be, never forgetting the requirement to put back into life what you take out.