This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
Clio Wood on…
- Being compassionate towards yourself as a founder
- Gaining traction through PR
- Not being tied to your original idea if it’s not quite working
Hello Clio! Tell us a bit about you.
I run &Breathe, a family wellbeing company, inspired by my birth experience and postnatal journey with my now four year old daughter, Delphi. I live with her and my wonderful, feminist husband, Bryn, in Hertfordshire and enjoy projecting a perfect life whilst pedalling frantically under the surface… 🙂 Fun fact: when I was 7, I spent a year sailing with my family on a boat my dad built to Singapore, missing a year of school.
And tell us more about &Breathe.
&Breathe runs award-winning (yay!) postnatal and family fitness retreats in France, the UK
How did the idea of &Breathe come about?
Ah man. Where do I start? I hated being pregnant, had a traumatic birth and suffered from borderline postnatal depression afterward. We struggled to breastfeed, had no clue what I was doing, had pelvic floor issues, slightly hated my husband and hadn’t slept in about a millenium. I found becoming a mum HARD.
I needed space to feel like myself again, come to terms with my new identity, reconnect with my body (to rehabilitate and build strength) and also spend time with my husband. I wanted a retreat that I could bring my baby and husband to and that was appropriate for postnatal women (most fitness retreats are not) but there wasn’t one that existed, so I created &Breathe!
What was the moment that everything changed for you? Describe that moment when you decided to fully commit to your idea and the first few steps you took to make it possible.
What were the initial challenges you came up across and how did you overcome them?
Oh, so many! The trouble is from the outside, especially when you have a good idea, everything looks really easy and like it’s going amazingly. It’s so much harder on the inside.
The main problem we had was that postnatal retreats were such a new and unique concept, it was actually really hard to get people to know about them. Now, parents might search postnatal retreat (and we’re the first 2 pages of Google, huzzah!), but no-one was looking for that when we launched. So getting the word out was, and still is
Also getting people to understand what the experience is – once people attend, it’s obvious how magical the concept is, but before that, it’s hard to convey what’s so special in words and pictures. We need to do a video soon, which will help, but I need to find some money to do that first!
What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something?
The Guardian piece came out in February after the first real retreat (September 2015) and we got six bookings from it. It really felt like people needed &Breathe as I had.
What has been your best investment?
PR and digital marketing. There are a lot of DIY PR courses and I can see the argument for self-serving with the press, but it takes a lot of time in the beginning, especially for traditional travel press. I was lucky enough to find two amazing freelancers who work together on &Breathe and through them we’ve been featured in The Times, The Telegraph, Harpers Bazaar, Red, The Guardian, HuffPost, The Irish Times and more. I am now more able to have conversations and get press myself (I’m writing articles now too) but it definitely feels like that’s only come as we’ve got a bit more established. For digital, I just don’t know how small businesses got the word out 10 or 20 years ago! Facebook ads are a game changer for start-ups.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share them with us?
Oh gosh, yes. Hundreds of small ones, I’m sure. Big ones too. And actually I like to talk about them; it’s cathartic for me but also I think it’s really important that other female founders and self-employed women know that it’s not all easy. As women,
Last year, I lost sight of the core values of &Breathe and veered slightly off course with a different retreat which focused more on yoga, and felt a bit more ‘earthy’ and spiritual. Absolutely lovely, but really not where &Breathe comes from which is a bit more ‘
What’s been your greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
I’m still learning it in life as well as business: compassion for myself and not to judge myself so harshly. Mistakes are mistakes, you didn’t do it deliberately and just because something went wrong, doesn’t mean you’re a failure or a bad person. Try not to focus on other people’s negative reactions, because they’ve probably got something else going on in their lives for them to react that way to you, especially if you’ve done everything you can to rectify it.
Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?
I have a ‘work wife’, Lucinda Hutton, who’s been growing her business at about the same time as me in a similar field (Nurturing Mums postnatal courses) so it’s been great to bang heads together from time to time. She’s super practical and quite a different personality to me, so she offers a
What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?
Oh, so much! I’m in an amazing group on Facebook called Doing It for the Kids, which is usually very supportive but really highlights some of the issues that parents (and unfortunately mums more so) experience with childcare balance, guilt and carrying the household manager burden too.
It’s old school, but I have found that women do seem to shoot themselves in the foot a lot too, they fall into the bitchy, bullying stereotype, probably because they are insecure a lot of the time. I’ve experienced a lot of subtle (and not so subtle) bullying (think Mean Girls) and unsupportive
What books or podcasts would you recommend?
Profit First, which my coach recommended to me about a new way of accounting which gives you your profit/salary back (honestly more interesting than it sounds!);
How to Fail podcast, so good to hear the other side of the story, especially when social media gives a really glossy, successful view of people’s lives.
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
Give it a go, and don’t be tied to your original idea if something feels sticky. I’m particularly bad at this (holding on to my idea when it’s not quite right) so I can definitely speak from experience. If you really believe in the concept behind what you’re doing and it impacts lives positively, know that that’s also an important way to measure success as well as making money.
How can readers get in touch with you?
Found & Flourish readers receive a 10% discount on any weeklong retreats or 20% if you bring a friend and book together – just quote Found & Flourish when booking!
Thank you Clio! – Frankie & Lara
About the Author
Lara Sheldrake is an entrepreneur and co-founder at Found & Flourish. Lara writes and speaks on the topics of entrepreneurship, motherhood and social media for business. She also hosts the Bossing It podcast, aimed at empowering the next generation of female founders in the UK. Send Lara an email.
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