Elise Heslop is the creative founder of Plyroom, which creates sustainable and considered homewares and quality furniture that allow for a simpler way of living. Plyroom supports unique design with a focus on function, simplicity and timelessness. Elise established the business two years ago after her family returned to Melbourne from a year living in Italy. Her experience living a simpler life abroad inspired her to incorporate this way of life into her love of design. She started working with talented makers and doers from across the globe to create unique, sustainable and versitle furniture and homewares. What started as an idea that brought her passions and values to life, has transformed into a journey and a lifestyle that makes time for creativity, playfulness and the enjoyment of the little things.
Elise is not only a business owner, designer and women we love, but also a mother to two young boys, a wife and of course an expert furniture assembler!
We chatted to her about how she juggles the demands of running her own business and having a family, and discovered that this inspiring woman believes “you can have it all, just not all the time.”
Check out what else she had to say…
You started Plyroom after your family took a year ‘off’ to live in Italy. Tell us how this experience shaped or re-shaped your family and career?
As a family, we were traveling a well worn path – young kids, climbing the ladder, growing businesses, renovating, looking forward to a week holiday a couple of times a year. The year away from Melbourne was planned so we could reconnect as a family, and short circuit the ‘busy’ cycle we were in, and also give our children exposure to their Italian heritage.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Hmmm, I am trying to be a lot more structured in how I do my work, and making a better routine for myself but sometimes working from home can be distracting! I’ve just moved into a new space so I’m looking forward to going to work in the morning. At the moment though, my days look a bit like this:
Try to squeeze in a run before the kids get up every few mornings, once they are up, the morning is all about getting them ready for school so my work day begins at 9:15.
I plan out the key priorities for the day, organise deliveries on orders, followed by meetings and then getting across social media. Some days are more routine than others, but most work days finish at 3:30 and then start up again at 8:30 for a couple of hours so I can get in contact with suppliers in Europe due to time zones.
Before starting Plyroom you worked in marketing, did you plan your pregnancies around your career?
I thought that I did!
I was 28 when I had my first child so I felt like my career was just getting started. It took a few years of trying various part time roles and then moving organisation and taking on a full time position to get to where I wanted to be career-wise. Part of the decision to go to full time was based on our long term plan to move overseas for a year. We wanted to be in a financial position to be able to do it, and I couldn’t find a management position that was part time. In hindsight, I think I was too focused on career and being validated in the corporate arena, so moving away from it all was a gift because it helped me recognise that and come back to what is really important and real.
What surprised you most about becoming a working parent?
On the negative side? The preconceived ideas that came with being a working parent – and a seemingly well worn path that returning to work after having children was going to mean that my career would slow down and I would be pigeon holed into post maternity leave positions because I wanted to work part time.
The positive? There are amazing workplaces that embrace flexible work practices for working parents (not just mothers). What I love now about running my own business is that I can be there for drop off and pick up and work at night, rather than feel torn about going to pick up my kids and missing out on a critical meeting.
What has been your greatest achievement, or your biggest challenge as a working parent?
Starting Plyroom was a really big achievement for me. My biggest challenge as a working parent is switching off when I am with my children. A really simple thing I did a few months ago was turn off my notifications on my phone. Customers expect a prompt response, but I think they understand if I get back to them within 2 hours instead of 2 minutes. Kids absorb our behaviour and I want them to feel like they are the most important thing to me, not my business. I definitely have work to do in this area, but I’m aware of it and trying
What was the best piece of advice you received about managing motherhood and career?
You can have it all, just not at the same time.
If you want a career, somethings going to have to give. If you want to be 100% focused on your kids, a high flying career is going to be tough. Managing both comes at a cost, look after yourself – when you’re relaxed and content, everything else seems to work a lot better.
Do you have any advice you would pass onto other mums thinking of starting their own business?
Often the idea of a lifestyle business that can be managed while the kids are at home or young is really appealing – I think I underestimated the amount of work and self motivation I would need to keep things going at each stage of the learning curve. I would suggest finding a person you trust that you can talk really honestly with about your business. Not a whinge session and it doesn’t have to be a formal mentor, but setting up your own business can be lonely. Don’t be afraid to email someone and ask them out for a coffee, 9 times out of 10 they are incredibly generous with their time and advice and equally flattered to be contacted!