Ask yourself before you read… Are you interested in learning more about how womenswear brand founder of Paper London, Philippa Thackeray can inspire other women in business? London is a vibrant, diverse city – discover the importance of leading a well-balanced lifestyle in the capital and take your motivation from Philippa’s success.
– Career –
Philippa Thackeray: We (Kelly Townsend and I) built up the launch that happened between April and October in 2011. Right in the middle, I had Zoe (the first daughter)! It was tough at that time because you really don’t know what you are in for before you have your first child. I thought it’d be easy if she slept loads as I could just work around her, but it was quite a steep learning curve because it wasn’t just simple as that. She didn’t sleep that well and it was always a race to get through the schedule on those days. Literally from waking up with her at 5 or 6 in the morning, the phone would start ringing from 8:30 and there were always a million problems to be solved. There were nights when she woke up four or five times, but then Sam also worked from home at that point, so we could share some of the nights if I got too tired. That’s fair enough?
Sam Thackeray: (Laughs)
Philippa: I didn’t really take any breaks. No… Probably only in the first two or three weeks when she was born. But then you could also email people while I was feeding. It’s not something…
Sam: There is something you still do (with the new-born baby, Indi).
Philippa: I meant you don’t have a choice about doing it. You just do it. You don’t really think about how bad it is -you just get on and do it. But when I look back, oh my god that was crazy!
Sam: Sometimes we were literally sitting around the kitchen table with laptops and she got sat in between us. If she got sick of us, we’d take her out for a walk and talk about stuff.
Philippa: Yea! We were like “Can you hold her? I have to make a phone call.” But with Indi, things are so much easier.
Sam: NOT until the third.
Philippa: I feel like much more relaxed mentally now. When it was the first time, (choking face). New baby. New business.
Sam: It was like you never know how to prepare for it and you just learn a huge amount on the job.
“You have to project clamness as though you know what you are doing but often you don’t know what you are doing.”
Sam: I manage the sales team in wine business and run a team of about 150 people who are based around the country and work from home.
Philippa: Probably because I haven’t done sales before. Like when I set up the business, his commercial knowledge was so much bigger that mine because I only had a bit of exposure through the legal work I have done (her previous job was corporate lawyer). Sales and commercial, probably sales wise as well. He taught me a lot – as much as I hate to say it! (Laughs)
Sam: I think we understand each other’s businesses very well, because they have supply chain and warehouse, and the actual sales process is pretty similar as well. But I probably have more knowledge.
Philippa: YES – Especially in the supply chain and logistic. I always bounce ideas off him and ask his opinions but I don’t necessary listen to him. (Laughs)
Sam: And the financial modelling for you. We did budgeting as well.
Philippa: And also, the first production, we were costing it all out and Sam helped me a lot with that. We used to do the spreadsheet around 11 at night when Zoe was asleep. We were doing it in bed as that was the only quiet time and doing it until 1 in the morning. Then we had to get up again to feed her. The best thing he does is when I completely stress out with my mind and I have no idea what I am doing. He just gives me constant moral support, he is really good at giving me a practical advice and helping me with solutions.
Sam: I am quite solution-focused. I rarely talk about how I feel about the problem and I just fix it.
Philippa: But sometimes, it annoys me because I need to get the emotion out of me before I can actually find the solution. I always try to keep the stress in within the office.
Sam: Maybe shout at me? (Laughs)
Philippa: I am quite grumpy when I get home.
Sam: It’s the hardest thing as leaders of the business. Everyone’s problems all come up to the top. You have to project calmness as though you know what you are doing but often you don’t know what you are doing. You must have a hidden side of you, in a way, and it’s difficult. You often bring the stress home as you said, so I often walk home and spend 5 minutes just rubbing my temples outside my house to let the day go away before I come inside.
Philippa: But they (three of the kids) do see us stressed out. We tried not to, but the problem is sometimes when we often come home and our heads are still in the office. And you are not present in the room when someone is asking you questions.
Sam: She called me a pain in the office because I bark out all these orders.
Philippa: He just came back and barks me like I’m one of his staff!!!
Sam: That’s my job! (Laughs) It’s not the best advice (How to distress) we can give. But career wise, you have to do something you love that inspires you.
“It’s important to know everything is out there and not have a strict mindset.”
Philippa: And also, my law school is very professional-driven and I never really thought outside the box, as they never encourage it. There is no awareness of other things you can do. Certainly, they did not encourage doing something creative and artistic. So, then I think it’s important to know everything is out there and not have a strict mindset. The best thing my former boss has ever said to me was you should always be true to yourself. You should always be able to behave in your job the same as you behave normally. Just be who you are and respect that. Everyone brings something different to the table.
– Work-life balance –
Philippa: Work-life balance is so important to me. When I was a lawyer, there was no freedom of choice about leaving the desk at 6. Even if you didn’t have any work, you should sit in your desk and pretend you are doing work. That’s so fake! Like if you know you are going to leave at 6, you can be so much productive because you are not just hanging around for the sake of hanging around and everyone is working very hard during the hours in the office. And the thing is, I still pick up emails in the evening but just coming home and seeing my kids and hanging out with them are so important. But it’s hard to balance sometimes.
Sam: I just get used to it when she works a bit before bedtime. The rise of electronic devices is not good for your health. It’s getting easier to do work in bed or email while the TV is on.
Philippa: Double-screening literally anywhere and everywhere.
Sam: You constantly get to work and stress. It doesn’t help me to sleep, so I tried to leave my work downstairs and tried to have two different phones as well. I have a personal phone and a work phone to put it away.
Philippa: To be fair, I had two phones before too and it didn’t really work. Everybody is just ringing both of them…
Philippa: He goes to his study for work and then he’d do two hours of work. And he comes out of it and plays with the kids and is present. I am trying to be more like that so when I go home and I don’t do any email until they are gone to bed. My favourite part of the day is sitting on bed and watching cartoon with the kids while I am like decompressing.
Sam: At the weekends, we always go someone’s house and ruin their house!
Philippa: We tried to… (go out for a date night from time to time)
Sam: I don’t! (Laughs)
Philippa: We did once recently in March.
Sam: We used to have a plan on Thursdays and get my mom and dad to come and visit. They help and look after the children. But then, we were always so tired and didn’t go out.
Philippa: And also, when we go on holidays, you are good at saying ‘do one hour of work now while I take them for a swim, and then don’t pick up again for a bit.’
Sam: I’ve found that I need to go away on holidays and be away probably. I used to check emails all the time, and now I switch off the phone, not doing anything if I am away. She’d be bad and constantly checks her email. She doesn’t have a holiday, she just moves to a slightly nicer location but she’s still working. And now, she does half an hour of emails in the morning and then switches it off and hangs out with the kids. We are now dictated by the school holidays so we are trying to go away every school holiday with the kids. Occasionally we may go away together once a year.
Philippa: Not sure it’s just once a year?
Sam: Isn’t it? (Laughs) We went away couple weeks ago five days to California, which was really nice.
Philippa: We went to Palm Springs for Coachella. He did it as a surprise for our 10 years anniversary. And it was really good to have some sleep because sometimes you can be so tired even though you will miss them (the kids) a lot.
Sam: We basically go to a nice hotel and SLEEP and eat occasionally.
Philippa: We didn’t talk for a couple of days. We were decompressing and like ‘Oh hi! There you are…’ (Laughs)
– Self-care –
Philippa: I love Pilates and I find it very calming mentally. You stretch a lot and it builds strength. I used to go to gym a lot and do loads of running but it didn’t make a difference in terms of seeing my muscles change. But with Pilates, it’s like on a routine. You are moving from exercises quite quickly and it’s really challenging. Barre as well! And again, it is required to use all of the tiny muscle, not just big muscle. I can just bulk up with normal exercise. Trying to be leaner and have a better posture.
Sam: I get bored doing repetitive things. I like tennis and football occasionally and also play quite a lot of golf but that is not so energetic. I used to run quite a bit but I stopped trying because my knee didn’t enjoy it anymore. Endorphin release exercises are amazing! I’d love to do it more. I feel better when I do it. And I also find that stress helps weight-loss too. (Laughs)
Philippa: Oh! Mars bar (a healthier mars bar). I always manage to miss lunch, and then, it gets 3 or 4 o’clock and I am starving. It hits the spot and gets me through the day, but I’d not advocate this as a great lifestyle choice. My favourite healthy snack is avocado! I love them and I can just eat them endlessly. I love with some forms of eggs like pouched eggs.
Sam: I am obsessed with coconut water. I like Rebel Kitchen one. It keeps me hydrated and also electrolysed. My big thing is that because of work I drink a lot of alcohol and it is hard to get fit. And it helps to replace all the rubbish.
Philippa: We have a really long bath with Epsom salt every single day. We actually have a chair in the bathroom. When one person is in bath and the other person sits, then talk about stuff.
Sam: I am very girly and obsessed with spa things. (Laughs) I like Aromatherapy Associates bath oils and they are amazing. Just puts a little bit in the water. You can sense the water with ambience. You can buy lavender flavour when you want to fall asleep or Revive Morning with peppermint.
Philippa: And you really need to put Epsom salt in the bath because it is restorative and it feels like it is cleansing the body. He used to hate it when I put it in the bath because he doesn’t like the concept of salt in the bath. He didn’t think that the salt can dissolve and thought it’d be very scratchy sitting at the bottom. When he actually tried it, he realised it works.