When it comes to following their dreams, LVLY owners and besties Hannah and Verity are absolutely nailing it. When fate brought them together working in Sydney, their creative minds and entrepreneurial drive saw them putting their heads together to create LVLY, a gift delivery service. Through it all, they have also held each other’s hand as they have both become mums while juggling a thriving business. We love their sage advice about not overcommitting and always being ‘kind to yourself and prioritis[ing] self-love and care’.
Can you tell us about your career journeys?
Hannah: From about the age of 15 I knew I wanted to follow a creative path in my career. Advertising was a really natural fit for me—it never felt like a conscious career decision more of a natural path I needed to follow. After graduating from uni with a marketing degree, I joined a small ad agency in the UK (where I’m from) and embarked upon a 10 year advertising industry hiatus which eventually led me to a digital agency in Sydney where I was head of strategy. That’s where I met Verity, and also my husband—so it was obviously meant to be! Growing up I was very influenced by my dad who’s a serial entrepreneur. I knew one day I’d start my own business, I just didn’t really know what it would be.
Verity: I finished a Masters of Multimedia/business-marketing at Swinburne Uni and quickly slipped into the digital world, naturally fitting more into the account service and operational type roles. I worked in London for three years in a small digital agency as an account manager, then back to Melbourne where I got a similar job for Visual Jazz (now Isobar), where I stayed for nearly seven years. Part of that seven years I moved to the Sydney office, where I met Han and Mike (my now husband) and we were put on the same client together. As Han said, I guess it was meant to be that we were all to meet here. This is really where it all began.
You’ve started a fabulous business together called LVLY. Can you tell us a little bit about how you started it and why?
Hannah: I’d been dreaming up ideas for start-ups most of my life but had never felt confident enough to take the leap of faith. I think Verity was kind of the same, and as luck would have it we both felt like a new challenge at the same time. Starting a business in the digital space was a no-brainer. It’s where our experience lay, and after lots of chats over lots of wine, the idea for LVLY was born. We already knew we worked well as a team, and with our strengths and skills combined we gave each other the confidence to take the leap of faith together. Looking back, we made some very naïve assumptions about launching a start-up, but thank God for ignorance because we’d never have done it had we known the challenges we’d come up against.
Verity: We were both living away from home at the time being in Sydney and we were struggling to find ways of spoiling/connecting/reaching out to our family and friends across states or even countries. It wasn’t just the birthdays or the big-ticket occasions, it was when your best friend had a bad day or your brother had a massive win at work—those moments that you’d usually be present to share with them, share a glass of wine and hug or high five. Without being physically present, how could we send them something to let them know they mattered to us and that we were still ‘there’ even though we weren’t. That’s when the idea emerged for an affordable gift delivery service that could get some fun, beautiful gifts to recipients ‘just because’.
Verity, you have a young child and Hannah has just recently welcomed a new baby. How have you juggled your business and becoming mothers?
Hannah: Ha ha! I don’t feel qualified to answer this. I’m only ten weeks into motherhood and I’ve never been great at balancing life and work. In the past I’ve been a classic overcommitting, double-booking, meal-skipping, workaholic whirlwind, but all that has to change now. I’m chomping at the bit to get back into work but my milk guzzling son is my absolute priority, so it’s important to create a new set of boundaries. I’ve learned a lot from Verity over the past 18 months in that respect. It’s been amazing watching her become a mum, she’s always been better than me at self-care and setting boundaries and she’s found a great balance between parenting with work. I think the key is flexibility. We’re incredibly lucky that we’re not shackled to the dreaded nine to five routine. We’ve learned that ‘work-hours’ are much less important than ‘outcomes’, and as long as we’re still achieving the right outcomes, it doesn’t really matter when the work is done. Often that means working on the weekends and the occasional late night, but so what? We love what we do so it’s never a chore.
Verity: It has definitely been tough. Moving into motherhood and owning a business is completely daunting. It’s such a big void of an unknown—how will I juggle? How will I keep the balance right? But I was so lucky to have Han by my side. She kept the ship sailing so that I could focus on finding my own feet as a mum. Being granted this time to figure out my motherhood style, my child and letting my family be priority, it let me understand how I needed to work moving forward. I ended up finding a great balance and Han supported me wholeheartedly through the whole process. Having the flexibility to work from home if I needed or switch days or have conference calls rather than meetings, saved it all from being a burden. Since then, Han got pregnant and has her little bundle of joy and I am so happy to be able to give that back to her now that Gracie is 18 months and a bit more self-sufficient.
What are your tips for any small business owners preparing to become mothers and taking parental leave?
Hannah: As a business owner, parental leave doesn’t really exist in its purest form. You can’t simply wave goodbye to your colleagues and check out for 12 months. You still have to be connected to the business, be involved in key decisions and pay attention to the numbers. But with the right team to support you, it’s definitely possible to take time away and not feel stressed about not being there. I was really anxious about being away from work, and honestly it’s been so much easier than I expected, all because I have complete trust in Verity and the team.
Verity: Don’t overcommit, don’t assume anything and you won’t be let down, be kind to yourself and prioritise self-love and care. Overcommitment is a huge one—as women we are the kings of multitasking and don’t want to let anyone down. This has to change. We need to set expectations upfront and be OK with what we can achieve. As Han said, outcomes are all that you should focus on, not how many hours you can now work. What I’ve now become good at is focus and prioritisation on work tasks because I just have to.
Do you ever miss your pre-mum life?
Hannah: I feel like I lived my pre-mum life to the absolute full, so I’m happy to move on to the next phase and make the most of having a gorgeous little baby to share adventures with.
Verity: Ha ha that’s a strange one! I look back fondly on pre-mum life especially those moments like sleeping in, being spontaneous on the weekend and more time for self-care. But I don’t miss it at the same time. I’m so completely content and satisfied right now being a mum, a wife, a friend and business owner. I couldn’t be more grateful.
What advice would you give to someone reading this who wants to do what you have done?
Hannah: Just get started. Don’t waste time making your idea perfect, just make it tangible. Do something, anything, to move the idea forward. Action creates momentum which creates motivation. Start-ups evolve so much over time—the quicker you start, the quicker you make mistakes and learn what’s going to work.
Verity: My biggest piece of advice would be don’t stress over launching the most perfect service/product from day one. The brilliant part of being a small business is the ability to be flexible and adapt, so play that to its advantages and refine as you go, or you’ll never start in the first place.
Favourite time of the day is…
Hannah: I have lots of happy moments throughout the day. Seeing my son smile, walking the dog, small wins at work. But I love that feeling of collapsing on the couch at the end of the day with a glass of wine. My husband got really good at foot massages during my pregnancy so I’m trying to keep that little ritual alive!
Verity: Now being a mum, it would have to be 8pm. Baby is in bed, dinner is on the table and I get to have a glass of wine and chat with the hubby.
Instagram sites that inspire you…
Hannah: I’m less and less inspired by the fakeness and sameness of Instagram content, so anything that stands out as authentic and unique gets my attention.
Verity: All of the new businesses like Circle In that are all about supporting women/mums in business. It was a missing piece of our start-up journey in the early days.
I’m happiest when…
Hannah: The sun is shining, I’ve found time to exercise and I’m laughing with friends.
Verity: I get the balance right. Family time/friend time/me time/work time.
I’m addicted to…
Hannah: Saying yes to too many things. It’s a problem.
Verity: Potato chips!
Favourite wardrobe staple for work…
Hannah: White kicks! I’m usually in my converse, denim and a tee. It’s my uniform.
Verity: Jeans and springcourt shoes
Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend…
Hannah: Nike runners. Now I’ve had my baby I’m excited to start using my activewear for something more active than eating brunch!
Verity: Not much different from my work attire + a bit more activewear for park visits.
My role model is…
Hannah: I’m surrounded by role models. My sisters, my girlfriends, my husband.
Verity: My mum and all the wonderful women in my life
Heels or flats?
Hannah: 99% flats but I do love a good pair of killer heels.
Verity: I’d second that!