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Claire Burrows is the founder of the shoe company Air & Grace, which include boots, trainers and a vegan collection. Having worked within the shoe industry for twenty years she set up on her own to create shoes that were as comfy as they are stylish (our very own editorial director Susannah Taylor is a big fan of the vegan Cru Signature trainers which she has described as ‘Genuinely the comfiest pair of trainers I’ve ever worn’).

Here Claire talks to 35 Thousand about what it’s been like running the business throughout COVID-19, why she’s not a fan of doing her accounts, how the Worth Retail Award kickstarted her business, why she is really missing travel and why she now makes time for the gym as well as gin in her life.

Describe yourself in 3 words…

“Determined, caring, tired!”

Tell us about your work…

“I started Air & Grace 6 years ago following a 20-year career working for international footwear brands. I was over fast fashion, I wanted quality and design that would stand the test of time and wasn’t defined by seasons. But most importantly I wanted to combine that with comfort, but not the ugly kind. I wanted shoes that looked as good as they felt. So I created our patented “Tender Loving Air” footbed which Trinny Woodall says is “Like walking on butter” and launched Air & Grace.”

Air & Grace
Cru Signature White, Red and Blue Trainers, £159
Do you work in the spare room, a skyscraper or other?

“Definitely other. Air & Grace is based at a design studio on Bermondsey Street near London Bridge, it’s a lovely place to be but we’ve all been working from home since the first lockdown. That’s come with some extra complications for me as we were mid-way through renovating our home. The kitchen got ripped out the night before the lockdown announcement, (there’s been a lot of BBQ’ing) and we had a huge hole in the back of the house so we had to chase foxes out most nights! It’s still not finished, but thankfully we’re warm, watertight and fox free now. I’ve started working at the studio again a few days each week, it’s nice to be back.”

What parts of your work give you energy?

“Without a doubt reading customer reviews and comments. This is everything to us. When customers say “The perfect trainer, and the perfect fit! It really is like walking on clouds” we can’t help feeling energised and uplifted.”

What parts of your work drain you?

“Accounts – ironic really being as I was nearly an accountant. I ran away to work at a bar in Tenerife for a couple of years instead and the rest is history. I’m of the opinion that some tasks are better to outsource, so I have an amazing accountant and bookkeeper. Both are thankful I ended up designing shoes.”

Most pivotal point of your career so far?

“Winning the Worth Retail Award for the ‘Brands of Tomorrow’. This was the moment that made Air & Grace a reality. I had spent every penny I had and more creating a sample collection, but I didn’t have the funds to go into production. I saw the competition in the Metro newspaper and applied. I went through a series of stages culminating in a “dragon’s den” style pitch and won first prize – an investment of £150K. This meant I could finally produce my shoes and create my website.”

Best piece of advice you received that you now pass on to others…

“It sounds simple, but don’t run out of money. Get to grips with cash flow – it really is the ‘be all and end all’. So many great ideas fail due to poor cash flow. I used to spend every Sunday morning updating a mammoth cashflow spreadsheet. It wasn’t my idea of fun, but it got me through the difficult times. I could see in advance if I was facing credit crunches and would shift outgoings accordingly to keep us afloat. Now we use an app called Float which integrates and automatically syncs with our website and accounts platforms. It’s been a revelation; I’ve got my Sundays back.”

Air & Grace
Alto Indigo leopard print high tops, £179
What’s your context outside of work – do you have family, other people counting on you, pets, hobbies, external commitments?

“I’m pretty simple. I work hard, play hard. I really value my downtime as I don’t get much of it. I adore cooking and Sundays are sacred – no work! Instead, I love cooking up a feast, it relaxes me, and having people round to enjoy it is the best. I live with my long-term boyfriend Jason in a house we are renovating in Hither Green. In normal circumstances we see my mum and brother often and visit Jason’s parents in France several times a year. I also love a party night out with my girls. I can’t wait to get back to normal.”

Describe your pre-pandemic day-to-day…

“Busy! But it’s still busy. So there’s not much change. It’s never the same each day, I designate time for design, but a lot of my day to day is reacting to what’s going on. This can be anything from a surprise post of our shoes by Fearne Cotton to dealing with customs delays. It keeps me on my toes.”

How has your daily life changed, what’s your new normal?

“Like everyone my life changed overnight. I went from working in the studio with my lovely team each day to shouting “Can you hear me?” on Zoom. I haven’t visited our manufacturing partners in Europe since January 2020 and I’d usually be there most months working closely together creating our shoes.  But we’ve figured it out and got on with it. As a small business we’re pretty nimble, so we’re able to adapt.”

Has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally? How?

“Immeasurably. I did not realise that I was running at a pace that was not sustainable until this happened. I’ve been running on empty to keep everything going for the past few years. I’ve now woken up and taken steps to rectify that. It’s a cliche but I really do now make time for me, carving out gym time, no excuses! As a business 2020 has been incredibly challenging, our manufacturers closed for 3 months and we’re still playing catch up, but we’ll get there. For me personally, lockdown afforded me the time to take a step back and think about what I should be doing and what I| wanted to do… It’s led to closing our wholesale channel and going back to our roots of being an online only brand. We’re feeling the positive effects from that decision already.”

What, if anything, keeps you up at night?

“My to do list!”

What have been your 2020 coping strategies? Do you have any objects, routines or tools that you found particularly uplifting? Gin or Gym?

“One of the moments I look back to with fondness is our charity collaboration with Gaby Roslin for The Prince’s Trust. This project had been in progress for over a year and all launch plans had to be cancelled due to lockdown. We switched to a virtual launch and sold out in less than 4 hours raising nearly £10K for The Prince’s Trust Charity. It was a moment of positivity in a year of challenges. 

As for gym or gin? A bit of both. I have 100% found fitness during lockdown. I’ve been gym shy my entire life and now I don’t even recognise myself – I’m working out every day. I’ve finally made some time for me. But there’s always Gin time.”

What has kept you sane? And kept your family sane?

“Walking has been my big thing. I’ve always loved walking, but it’s taken on a new meaning now that it’s a safe way of meeting with friends and family. Meeting for a walk and a chat is a pleasure I have enjoyed and will continue to.”

When we are allowed to travel again will you be travel ready? Where do you want to go, with who or would you rather stay home?

“Absolutely travel ready! I can’t wait. I usually make approx 10 trips a year to visit our manufacturing partners in Portugal and Spain and I am missing it so much. I love being hands on in the sample room, working with our amazing craftspeople and sourcing materials. These trips are where the magic happens. It’s not been easy for me doing that process remotely, but I’m lucky to have brilliant partners in location who have been able to step in and bring my visions to life.”

Bardot Tan Suede Ankle Boots, £99.50 (in sale)
Finish this sentence: “In my handbag you will ALWAYS find…”

“Leather swatches and most probably a few shoe components.”

What are your WFH saviours? (routines/ products/ coffee/ music?)

“I’ve found getting into a routine has really helped. In the beginning I really missed the mental transition of travelling home from work and found it difficult to switch off. To combat this, I started taking a walk after I called it a day working on the sofa. Now Winter has drawn in I’m lighting scented candles and changing into loungewear to signify the end of my working day.”

Describe your style?

“I’m either fuss-free or high octane, there’s not much in between. 2020 has definitely been a year in gym gear, but it doesn’t take much of an excuse for me to glam it up. I love design that transcends time so I invest in well cut, beautifully made pieces that will transcend seasons. My designer go to’s are Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. I have pieces that are 25 years old that I still love and wear. I’m a pounds per wear girl. It’s the same ethos I apply at Air & Grace – longevity in design.”

Name your 5 essential items of clothing

“White silk shirt, well cut blazer, biker jacket, leather leggings, leopard maxi dress.”

How do you see your business in two years from now?

“Unusually for me, I’m not forecasting so far ahead. We are building on our successes, but not being over ambitious. With so much uncertainty I feel it’s best to take a cautious approach and anything else is a welcome bonus. I’ll always be happy if we continue to make our customers happy.”

What’s your go to mantra or life motto?

“Work hard and be nice to people.”

If you loved this article, then you will love our interviews with many other inspiring women such as Whitney Bromberg-Hawkings of FLOWERBX and journalist Sarah Vine

PR Becky Stevens runs Stevens PR with her sister-in-law. Here she reveals how she’s managed to juggle 10 clients with her 5 children (number 6 is on its way!) during Lockdown and the life lessons she’s learnt as a result.

Tell us about your work

Stevens PR is my own PR business that I set up 15 years ago which I now share with my sister-in-law. We look after health, beauty, fitness brands and aesthetic doctors. We have 10 clients in total.  I work mostly from home and I’m a member of a gym where I can work from the cafe but I also pop over to my business partners flat ten minutes away and do what we call ‘hours of power’ together.

I love that it’s an expanding and ever changing industry. I’m a people person so meeting new clients and journalists boosts me mentally. I also love linking people together, be it a client to another client or a journalist with another journalist or PR.”

What was your ‘normal ‘day-to-day life like pre COVID-19?

“I would wake up at 6.30 am to stir four out of the five kids who are all at school. I have Lettice and Edith who are 11 (twins), Ottilie 9, Tattie 5 and Foy, 2 (and I am pregnant with another girl). In normal times, my twins get the bus to the French Lycee, so it’s just a case of making sure they are fed and on the right bus. I then do the school run with my younger two which is a 10 minute car journey or 30 minutes depending on London’s glorious traffic.

I would then squeeze in a workout in the gym for around an hour on the way home (that’s my me-time and puts me in a better fighting mood). Then it was home for my coffee and I would work through till 5.30pm.

My little boy, who is 2, is at home with me but I have a live-in helper who takes care of him during most of the day, and I tend to have a cuddle and lunch with him. I try and mark out a day for meetings so I don’t spread myself too thin – I normally organise about 5 press meetings a week and about 2 client meetings. 

Pre COVID the twins would come home at different times on the bus, so I wouldn’t need to worry too much about them (although I’m on ‘Find my friends’ a LOT until they walk through the door).  I have a French Teaching Assistant who normally brings my other two back from their school to help with their homework.

Supper for kids pre COVID was around 6.30/7pm. I do supper if I can and always do the witching hour which Ed and I take a deep breath and share together. Then it’s bath time (not every night), and the slow haul to bed that could be between 8.30 to 9.30pm. Ed and I don’t have much time together most week nights. Supper is always homemade with a large glass of wine and then bed by 10.30pm to rub essential oils everywhere, drink Pukka Relax Tea, put some meditation on and zonk out. Our Corona Kitten joins us and mostly sleeps above my head!”

Pr Becky Stevens in Majorca
What is your day-to day life like now? 

“We have got used to blissful lie-ins until around 8.30am – even the toddler sleeps til 9am. Then I squeeze in a Zoom workout online. I have just taken on a PT as a client, so I switch between her classes and my American client, P.volve (read about this unique online body sculpting training programme here.) After the Zoom class I have been used to school Zooms that would start at 10am, and I would get to sit down and do work, although it’s very fractured.

My husband managed to sneak off to the office throughout most of Lockdown (his excuse was ‘Too many children at home to concentrate’). I needed to make sure the tweens were up for 8.30am as their Zoom calls started then (between all 4 they’d have about 6 to 8 calls a day). This has been interspersed with ‘Mummy I’m hungry! Mummy I’m bored!’

I have tried to feed them at 12pm before they snack on yellow food all day but I have on many occasion been so knee deep in work I have forgotten their lunch. I have therefore stockpiled Charlie Binghams Lasagne, Fish Pie and Cottage Pie.

In late afternoons I have met mothers in parks so my kids can still get to play with their friends. I feel this has been essential to keeping me and my children sane! Bedtime has been getting later and later for everyone. We nearly all go to bed at the same time now which is 10.30pm/11pm even for the toddler!”

What’s your context outside of work?

“I’ve just bought a Corona kitten and I take Friday’s off to hang out with my two year old boy. My hobbies are fitness and commitments are my children and husband!  I love to see my bro who has constantly popped round during Lockdown as he lives by himself and gets lonely. Also my business partner Holly has a little boy.”

What are you finding challenging right now?

“The juggle, and patience. To spend time with each child whilst putting the same effort into work. At the moment work is slipping as I have been homeschooling four kids with a toddler nipping at my ankles. Then there’s the guilt: the guilt that my children aren’t doing enough work; that they aren’t outside playing in fresh air; that my tweens are constantly staring at their screens.”

Do you feel that Lockdown has changed your outlook and if so how?

“Yes totally. It’s changed my outlook on schooling and how much I respect the teachers who spent time and love on the Zoom calls and homework. It was a challenge for parents and teachers and kids and we all had to work together to make it work. It’s also shown me how much my kids need a routine and highlighted the most important things in life. It’s now less about work, work, work, if I manage 3/4 hours of work a day that’s actually enough screen time for me.

Lockdown has proved that I don’t need to be at my screen all day or attend pointless meetings for meetings’ sake. I have the confidence post Corona to say ‘no’ more. Previously I used to run myself ragged saying ‘yes’ to everything.

I’ve also realised my children need me more – for playdates, or taking them out to stretch their legs in the park. It’s important I’m more present rather than fretting about meetings and work.”

What raises your stress levels and how to you manage that?

“The witching hours between 6pm – 9pm. Toothbrushing and laziness also stress me out and the words ‘Mummy I’m BORED!’

Other people’s reaction to Lockdown have been stressful too. I had to really bite my tongue on a few occasions with close friends – it seems we all lived out Lockdown in our own way and we all needed to respect each others’ way of coping.”

Who/ what has been the biggest inspiration to you in life?

“I think clients have inspired me as they have believed in me. Even with 5 kids, every time I was pregnant I won new clients. I’m lucky as the industry I work in is more female so there is a sense of community of women supporting other women. 

Holly, my sister-in-law who joined me 5 years ago has been a total boost. She joined me when I was pregnant with number 4. I realised I needed support but its very hard to let go/ share something you have built up yourself. I trust her and she brings a youthful edge and outlook to StevensPR, especially when it comes to social media and tech.”

Are you travelling currently?

“Yes we made it out to Mallorca, our second home, on 5th July. I did the antibody test which came back positive. I did feel very ill at the beginning of lockdown and I was 16 weeks pregnant so it was worrying and a very confusing time for me. I now feel more positive and less worried. I did start wearing masks when we travelled in the airport and now in Mallorca the rules are very strict. There are masks everywhere – wearing one is slightly claustrophobic when you are heavily pregnant in the heat!”

What do you wear for work?

“Mostly fitness gear! I’m always rushing from the gym to meetings,  but I do style it up a bit and splash on some foundation. Most press and clients know me so well they know the busy life I lead, plus I did look after a very stylish fitness wear brand so I wore my client to meetings – great excuse. If I’m not in athletic apparel I wear easy breezy clothes, sometimes I dress like a teenager in dungarees. I have never needed to wear a suit for work.”

If you had to edit your wardrobe to 10 items what would you keep?

“Floral floaty dresses, flat sandals, pretty puffy shirts, my mom jeans, white trainers, (Reebok or Veja!), leggings, sports bra and fitness vests. “

What are your handbag essentials?

“SPF 50, Vitamin C Serum (mostly La Roche Posay), Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation, Hourglass Arch Brow `Microsculpting Pencil, Hourglass Caution Extreme Lash Mascara, Deodorant, my toddlers Wet Wipes (SO handy) and a diaper. I always have one in the bottom of the bag and sometimes by mistake I haul it out at meetings! Maybe there’s also a toy truck or a Shopkins from my 5 year old girl. Oh and a mobile phone cable as I never have any battery.”

Becky is a fan of Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush Flawless Foundation
What are your home working essentials?

“My mobile phone, coffee, and Pukka Tea throughout the rest of the day. Ashwagandha and magnesium supplements, DoTerra Oils to keep me alert and/or calm, and green apples. I’m also addicted to Tabasco and I put on everything – my poor gut!”

Who or what do you rely on for managing life’s juggle?

“My live-in cleaner/nanny who we adore and is part of the family – she helps with my toddler as he isn’t at nursery yet. She clocks in at 7am – 10am then 5pm-8pm. I’ve always had to pay for extra help as we don’t have parents nearby who can help – my lovely French helper is so supportive if I’m running late for school pick-up which is always the case .”

How do you manage your mind and wellbeing on a daily basis?

“I have finally have got into meditation. I took a 4 day crash course with Jillian Lavender who I love who runs the London Meditation Centre (there is also a New York Meditation Centre). I use the Calm App at night and do breathing techniques I’ve learnt via healers and the DeRoseMethod. I find Instagram has been a huge support during Lockdown and I’ve found new healers and ways to Zen from gong baths to sound healing sessions. I also use essential oils in my Neom diffuser. An episode of Friends helps OR any cooking program I find very relaxing as I adore my food! 

Now I’m in Mallorca, I’ve just a day retreat with 10 girlfriends and done crystal healing, Yoga and meditation topped of with dancing where we just leapt around at 8pm.”

How do you stay healthy?

“I live for fitness. I adore Heartcore and Paolas Body Barrre online. I love my supplements but I’m so keen to learn and try the next or newest fitness craze or find the newest healing craze.”

How do you relax? 

“By seeing friends, walking or bicycling around London or having sushi and a bottle of Cremant and seeing my brother who lives down the road from me. Ongoing projects I do in Mallorca help me. I love interiors too and I put my heart and soul into doing up our finca over the past 5 years. Im awaiting to do up a ramshackle building on our land – my mind is boggling with interior ideas.”

If you could speak to yourself when you were just starting out your career, what advice would you give yourself that would have made the most difference to you?

“Don’t compare yourself to other PR agencies or PR’s – there’s enough room for all the PR’s out there. Saying ‘no’ is just as powerful as saying ‘yes’. I sometimes underestimate how much we nurture our clients. We go above and beyond for all the brands that we look after and even clients have told me I shouldn’t undervalue my services. Sometimes’ I need to remind myself that I’m ‘worth it’!

Finally, if a journalist never replies its not because she doesn’t like you it’s because she get thousands of emails a day. Be patient and persist.”

Development Director of BRANDstand Communications, Millie Kendall MBE, tells 35 Thousand how she is juggling this role and her other as CEO of the British Beauty Council in lockdown. She talks us through her newfound love of Tai Chi, life as a workaholic and how she misses travel right now.

Q: Tell us about your work…

A: “I am a multi-tasker so I have two jobs currently. I am the development director of BRANDstand Communications, a boutique beauty PR agency. We have an office in central London where I have two partners, Andrew Perera who is the worlds nicest guy and a successful and talented publicist, and Anna-Marie Solowij, former Beauty Director of British Vogue who I have known for over 25 years. We met when I was running the cosmetics brand Shu Uemura and she was the beauty editor at Elle Magazine.”

“I am also the CEO of the British Beauty Council, a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising the reputation of the beauty industry by enhancing education and investing in innovation. We are pleased to support a successful, innovative and inclusive beauty industry. We have defined and valued the industry of the past year and it is worth an incredible £28.4 billion to Britain’s GDP which is something to be proud of. We create open source reports and hold events to showcase our industry to the public and future-proof it for generations to come.”

Q: ‘What’s your context outside of work?

A: “I have two daughters – one is Lucia, 13, who lives with me part-time and spends a few days a week with her Dad, and my older daughter Sadie, is 23 and lives in LA, which is where I grew up and where most of my family live. I live in Highgate, London, which I love. I like the vibrancy of life here, the 4 seasons a day, the nightlife and the people.

I have no pets – I can barely keep a cactus alive. I’m a workaholic and it is my downfall, but I am learning Tai Chi to counterbalance the work load and the fact that my mind never switches off. I also like going out – still at 53 if you ask me to go down the road for a drink and a chat, I’m there. I rarely say no!”

Q: What is your normal day-to-day life like?

A: “I am an early riser and I like the quiet time in the mornings. I like my own company, so a shower and half an hour at my dressing table is absolute bliss for me. It’s like my own type of meditation. I’m not much into staying home and watching TV at night, so I’m usually socialising or chatting to friends (though I can pull the odd coach potato day at the weekends).

I do try to cut my work week off on a Friday night and recharge over the weekends. When I became aware that all I did was work, I realised that if I didn’t make the disconnection at the weekends then I just wouldn’t live very long. I like long walks on Hampstead Heath, pretending I have a dog.”

millie kendall ceo british beauty council
Pr Executive and CEO of the British Beauty Council, Millie Kendall
Q: What is your day-to day life like now currently during COVID-19?

A: “Well it has changed dramatically. I thought I worked hard before, but my goodness I’m up at 5am usually sat at my desk by 5.30am. I take a walk in the mornings, around 9am and then do Tai Chi in the garden at 10am for an hour. I work through lunch and try to finish at dinner, but lately, with trying to support an industry and workforce of almost 600 thousand people I find I am working until I go to sleep. I am also currently all Zoomed-out.”

Q: How has it impacted you personally and professionally?

A: “I have good days and not so good days. It’s hard because whilst I love spending time alone I can’t see my daughter in LA. I have cancelled a few trips abroad, so that’s a huge shame – I was meant to go to Jamaica, Bergerac, Iceland, Amsterdam, Paris etc…I had so much travel lined up and was really looking forward to it but am focused on rebooking those trips for next year.

Professionally I am just swamped. Our industry has really come together over this, but my role at the Beauty Council really means I am having to step up and remain calm and concise.”

Q: What are you finding challenging?

A: “Not being in my office, not being outdoors enough and the intense increase in work. Homeschooling and just motivating my 13 year old is also a challenge.”

Q: Where are you finding hope and optimism?

A: Just the thought of seeing my daughter really. I feel hope just watching her thrive throughout this awful time in a country 5000 miles away.”

Q: What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you would?

A: “Coffee made by someone else. Walking past the BT tower every morning. My call to my best friend on my way to work. Sleep! I am not sleeping much at all.”

Q: How are you getting through?

A: “Honestly the Tai Chi has been a life saver. I had a friend called the Barefoot Doctor who practiced Tai Chi every day. He passed away earlier in the year and I was really quite shocked by his passing. When lockdown started I noticed a group of people in my communal garden practicing – people of all ages, around 8 of them. I sort of longingly looked out my window hoping they would invite me to join and then one day they did. We are all spaced responsibly throughout the large garden and we practice Qi-Gong and Tai Chi every morning at 10am rain or shine. I love it.”

Q: What is your mindset about how to use your time at home (Hustle harder with newfound time, be still and soak up the gift of time, dive into unexplored creative pursuits?)

A: “I thought I would relax more and have more time, but I am cooking, cleaning, homeschooling and working. I am definitely hustling. I haven’t found relaxing very easy.”

Q: Personally how are you managing your mind and wellbeing and that of your family?

A: “My beauty regime is a big part of my wellbeing, because it’s my personal time with me. I am not one to share my beauty routine on social media, because in a way it is so private to me.”

Q: Despite all the negatives and the brutality of the virus are there positives you feel are coming out of this  – a silver lining perhaps?

A: “Gratitude and kindness. Hopefully a renewed respect for the NHS and our nation’s hairdressers too!”

Brandstand Communications

British Beauty Council

The makeup artist and cosmetics entrepreneur Trish Mcevoy talks to 35 Thousand about how she’s maintaining her business and managing her health in these turbulent times

Tell us about your work…

“I am the founder and CEO of Trish McEvoy Beauty. I started my career in New York City as a makeup artist, launching my own line of skincare, makeup, and brushes in 1975. To this day, I run my business out of our New York office on East 57th Street where I work with my fabulous team; some of whom have been with me for 35+ years.

My favorite part about my work is the way that I am able to interact with people and make them feel good. My brand’s mission is to help demystify beauty in order to help women and men feel their most confident. Being able to help others in that way has truly been a blessing.”

trish mcevoy
What’s your context outside of work (do you have family, pets, where do you live, hobbies, and commitments)?

“Despite living in Manhattan for so many years, it will never lose its magic touch for me. I spend much of my time outside of work continuing to explore the city. I love walking my dogs in Central Park and catching up with friends over dinner at local restaurants, both new and old. Outside of New York, I love to travel. London is among one of my favorite cities. I can’t wait to go back.”

What is your normal day-to-day life like?

“No two days are alike, however if I had to describe it, I’d say it starts with a scroll through Instagram. I absolutely love using Instagram for inspiration. People share the most amazing things and I love being able to share what I find with my team. We meet daily at 9 am to review any and all inspiration for the day before diving into upcoming tasks, meetings and events. After a busy day of meetings and calls, I unwind by staying active. Whether it be a walk with the dogs or a run on the treadmill, I find it helps me to clear my head.”

What’s your day-to day life like now currently during COVID-19?

“I am so fortunate to say that it hasn’t changed much, aside from the fact that I now do everything from my apartment. Our team has quickly adapted to Zoom meetings and we still kick the day off with inspirational pieces, whether it be a post from Instagram or a song to help lift our spirits.

In terms of staying active, that’s gone virtual, too! I do virtual workout classes with 305 Fitness and Bandier.

The Trish McEvoy Power of Makeup makeup planner is the perfect companion for busy women
The Trish McEvoy Power of Makeup makeup planner is the perfect companion for busy women
How has it impacted you personally and professionally? What are you finding challenging?

“There isn’t one person in the world that this hasn’t effected both personally and professionally. I feel so blessed to have my health, family, friends, and business, but there certainly have been obstacles.

As I mentioned earlier, I love the human interaction of my job. While Zoom is a fabulous way to stay in touch with friends and colleagues, it isn’t quite the same, as I’m sure so many can relate.”

Where are you finding hope and optimism?

“As I mentioned, I love the sense of community that Instagram brings. I’ve found countless people—such as Kirsty Godso and Tanya Zuckerbrot via Instagram who bring such positivity and light to a dark situation. Having this time at home has also helped me find new music, which truly helps to set the mood. I absolutely adore Dua Lipa. Her song “Physical” is my go-to for an instant pick-me-up. I love to run on the treadmill while I listen! I’m also a fan of Maluma, a Colombian singer a friend of mine introduced me to.”

What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you would?

“Truthfully, I’m not shocked by what I miss. I miss it all and can’t wait to be out exploring the world again.”

How are you getting through?

“When faced with uncertainty, my biggest piece of advice is to recognize how you are feeling and allow yourself to feel that way. Even if what you are feeling is uncomfortable, it’s important to take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to relax into that feeling.

Once I allow for that to happen, I sit down, write out my plan for the day to give myself some structure. Then, I have my sense of purpose for the day and can physically cross things off my list, which truly allows for a sense of peace. When I need to go deeper, I will write out what I am feeling in my journal or FaceTime someone that will uplift the mood that I’m in. It’s so important to remember we are all in this together, and more often than not, others close to you are feeling the same.”

What is your mindset about how to use your time at home (Hustle harder with newfound time, be still and soak up the gift of time, dive into unexplored creative pursuits?)

“It’s made me stay motivated. I work with my team tirelessly to brainstorm new ways to engage with our community and to think of ways that we can help be their source of hope and optimism.”


Tell us about your work…

“I’m the Chief Marketing Officer of Chili’s Grill and Bar based in Dallas, TX.  I love getting to think about making people happy every day.  My email subject lines often involve Margaritas and baby back ribs.”

What’s your context outside of work?

“I’m married to a corporate pilot and have two sons, 8 and 5, plus a dog, Bo, and a fish called Dory.  We live in the ‘burbs outside Dallas.  I love to cook, read, travel, plan parties, and binge watch TV with my husband (after the kids are in bed).  We spend weekends (non-quarantine) at the pool, gym or ballpark.  Our families live far away, so we count on our nanny to help us.”

What is your normal day-to-day life like?

“Usually, we get the two boys off to school (Shoes! Teeth! Backpack!) and traverse the one hour commute to the office.  I talk (hands-free) on the drive to make the most of it.  Usually meetings all day, back to back at the office including working lunch.  I have about 8 hrs of meetings a day, varying from leadership team to agency recommendations/decisions to coaching and 1:1s.  There are lots of decisions.  The drive home is another hour.  Then begins dinner, bath and bed – usually our nanny will have helped with homework and to straighten up the boys’ spaces.”

Ellie Doty multitasking in her new home office
What is your day-to day life like now currently during COVID-19?

“The morning routine is much more chill – my husband and I usually both have calls beginning around 8, so we take them while the boys are on devices and eating breakfast. Then we tag-team homeschool in between obligations as best we can.  Truthfully, he does most of it.  I still haven’t figured out how to access all the portals.  Plus our 8-year old is dyslexic and has ADHD, so he needs lots of breaks.

All the usual routines are off as we are in survival mode (with me in restaurants, him in aviation).  I have put in place daily video chats with my team to stay connected.  I like having no commute though.”

How has it impacted you personally and professionally?

“Professionally we have been hit hard with restaurant dining rooms closed – that’s significant revenue loss.  Same for corporate aviation which has ground to a halt.  We’ve had a few ‘state of the union’ convos, refocussing on a new budget and new savings horizon. 

Personally, it has been delightful to be with my children and husband more than usual though.  We have been swimming and cooking almost every day, which fuels me up!”

What are you finding challenging?

“Managing fear and uncertainty for myself, especially in isolation.  Being fuelled by interaction with other humans, it’s a big change to me to lead from afar.  I also find leading others in fear and isolation a new challenge.  I’m working on practicing transparency, vulnerability and community – which still works even now.  The biggest one has got to be HOMESCHOOLING though!”

Where are you finding hope and optimism?

“It is encouraging to see how easily and quickly we come together in a dramatically new normal.  It gives me hope that no matter how this ends up going, we’ll be changed for the better on the other side.  Particularly, at the restaurants, there are millions of stories of the ‘helpers’ – teams helping guests, guests helping teams, and teams helping each other.” 

What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you would?

“I actually miss going to the office – this life with no commute, time to cook and time with my kids has long been a fantasy of mine. But, man, it’s hard to get the sort of work done I need to without being in person with the team – it’s dozens of people and millions of dollars.  Those cats are easier to herd in person.  Also the gym.  Which I usually dread.”

How are you getting through? What are your coping strategies? Do you have any objects, routines or tools that you are finding particularly uplifting right now?

“Well, if I said a vodka drink at 5pm, would you judge me?  Seriously though, my husband and I have been coping by getting those household tasks you always put off , done (my closet looks amazing) which is super satisfying.  Music is helping too – whether peaceful Hawaiian to help everyone chill out, Edith Piaf for cooking, or loud pop hits for a kitchen dance party, there’s nothing like some tunes to shift the mindset.  Oh, and all those built-in speakers are now functional thanks to coping tool #1.”

What is your mindset about how to use your time at home? (Hustle harder with newfound time, be still and soak up the gift of time, dive into unexplored creative pursuits?)

“A little bit of all three.  The hustle was ON in the first couple weeks when we could barely break away from our phones as one blow after another hit restaurants and aviation.  Now, we are feeling grateful every day for the gift of time – with each other, with the boys, with our home.  In some ways, it is exactly the sort of full stop needed to kill the inertia of life’s obligations.  Like a flood or a forest fire, life is now ALL about the important things like togetherness with your immediate people, creative nourishment, and quiet ways to care for yourself.”

Personally how are you managing your mind and wellbeing? and that of your family

“I’ve noticed a real difference in the way extroversion and introversion preferences show up right now.  As an extrovert, I need social interaction for my wellbeing so I have been very proactive about reaching out, facetime happy hours, Zoom birthday songs, just checking-in texts.  But I hear from my introverted friends that they are in heaven! “

Despite all the negatives and the brutality of the virus are there positives you feel are coming out of this  – a silver lining?

“YES.  A dramatic reprioritization of what matters and how to show up for others. Perhaps this ‘crisis like collaboration’ will help us find the muscles to accomplish other things together like environmental protection.  It forms a case study for government in action (across all countries and states) that may open our eyes to previous rhetoric, bias and advocacy.  And, for me, on a small scale, it is such a gift to have this much time with my boys at these ages.  I feel like we are making memories we never would have made otherwise (in a good way).”

Jennifer Trejo is a naturopath whose company, The Abundant Life Wellness Centre in Fort Worth, Texas, offers advanced, natural health services, She educates her clients about how to live a healthier and more holistic lifestyle. Here, Jennifer talks to 35 Thousand about telemedicine appointments,the joy of unexpected time with her family and why it’s a tough time for naturally ‘huggy’ people right now.

Q: Tell us about your work

A: “I own Abundant Life Wellness Center in Fort Worth, Texas.  I am a Naturopath and love helping people find solutions to their chronic health conditions.”

Q: What’s your context outside of work?

A: “I have been married for 18 years and have a 17 year old daughter and a 13 year old son.  We have two cats, two horses and one tortoise.  We live in Fort Worth and I love to read, spend time with my family and serve at my church.” 

Q: What is your normal day-to-day life like?

A: “I work Monday through Thursday at my wellness center seeing clients and leading my staff.  Evenings are spent going to my children’s activities, overseeing homework and having long talks with teenagers (if they feel like talking that is.)  Fridays are when I take care of myself and do administrative duties for my practice.  Weekends are reserved for family and church.”

Q: What is your day-to day life like now currently during COVID-19?

“I am offering both in-office and telemedicine appointments for my clients due to the virus.   And after I have worked all day, I now get to go home and help to homeschool my children so that is unexpected!  They are older so it definitely could be worse; I am grateful I don’t have to homeschool elementary-aged children.  Not having to rush to sporting events or school meetings after work has also been a big change.”

Q: How has it impacted you personally and professionally?

A: “It has impacted our family travel plans personally.  We had an 11 night Italy and Greece cruise planned for the summer so that will definitely not be happening.  My children are sad that they can’t see their friends whenever they like.  Professionally, my staff have had to stop providing certain services but other services have increased greatly so there has been a balance. 

I have not had to lay off any full time staff – I have been creative with assigning work duties but no one has lost their jobs.  I have an amazing staff and they are willing to do what it takes to serve our clients.”

Q: What are you finding challenging?

A: “Helping my son with 7th grade math!”

Q: Where are you finding hope and optimism?

A: “In less than 18 months, my daughter will be leaving for university, so before all of this, I was trying to savor every moment I could get with her.  Now, I have her undivided attention so much more.  We cook at home more than we did before, and we have more time for family game nights which I love.”

Q: What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you would?

A: “I am a natural hugger; I hug most of my clients, my staff and my friends.  I can only hug my immediate family now. It feels uncomfortable for me to say goodbye to many people and be unable to give them a hug.  Physical touch can be so healing to many people.”

Q: How are you getting through and what are your coping strategies?

“My Christian faith is what is getting me through.  I have always had a morning quiet time with the Lord before my day started but now I have an extended time to help calm my mind before the craziness of the day hits.   I love to listen to praise and worship music and pray on my drive to work because it gets my mind and spirit in the right place.”

Q: “What is your mindset about how to use your time at home (Hustle harder with newfound time, be still and soak up the gift of time, or dive into unexplored creative pursuits?)”

A: “I am being productive because my practice will be moving this Summer to a larger space that will include adding more services.  My family will be selling our home and moving about 45 minutes away to a new home.  So this time has been a Godsend to be able to brainstorm and get organized for the many changes coming later this year.”

Q: Personally how are you managing your mind and wellbeing and that of your family?

A: “If there is a glimpse of sun outside, we make sure we are walking or playing outdoors.  Exercise and fresh air does wonders for our mind and wellbeing.  I am also ensuring my family is supplementing with immune boosting nutrients like healthy food, Vitamin D, C, Zinc and probiotics.  Getting plenty of sleep and exercise is also invaluable to our wellbeing.”

A: Despite all the negatives and the brutality of the virus, are there positives you feel are coming out of this  – a silver lining perhaps?

A: “I have much more family time that I truly never thought I would have at this stage of our lives.  Our pace of life is slow and sweet and I am so thankful for that.”

The Abundant Life wellness Centre

Kelli Valade is a Dallas-based CEO within the restaurant industry. She talks to 35 Thousand about how her world has changed in lockdown, from the management of her team to virtual Happy Hours and the coming together of her neighbourhood.

Q:Tell us about your work…

A: “I’m currently the CEO and President of Black Box Intelligence. We are the leading provider of data, analytics and insights for the restaurant industry. Our portfolio of products are used by restaurant operating companies to drive superior performance. Prior to joining Black Box Intelligence in 2019, I spent 22 years at Brinker International.  My last position was COO and President of Chili’s Grill and Bar. I am passionate about restaurants and I am passionate about helping those that work in, and support restaurants.”

Q: What’s your context outside of work?

A: “I grew up in Upstate NY, though I have lived in Dallas Texas for the last 27 years. 

 I am a mother to two awesome children, Morgan, a 19-year old freshman at OU #boomersooner and Christian, a high school junior.  My husband Don has been my partner in life for over 26 years; we have been married for over 21.  We have an awesome Golden Doodle named Lucy, who is particularly curious about post COVID-19 life, wondering why we are all home so much, and in general is just loving the extra attention. My hobbies are working out, especially attending hot yoga classes, cooking Italian food, and binge-watching fixer upper shows on HGTV.  I believe that I have a knack for design, though I have no formal training, but I have flipped a couple of houses . When we travel, and we do a lot (or at least we used to), we divide our time between new places and countries we have never been to before, and our second home in Boston’s North End.”

Q: What is your normal day-to-day life like?

A: “My normal day-to-day was leading and managing our Dallas-based company.  My focus has been on taking a founder and family-owned company to the next level to realize our full potential in the marketplace.  I spend my time driving innovation, leveraging strategic partnerships with our restaurant clients, speaking at industry events, and helping others understand industry trends, insights and best practices.

My new normal is doing some of the same, but my time is now being spent thinking about what our business will look like post COVID-19. Because the restaurant industry has been hit hard, so have we.  I used to travel about 25-30% of the time, speak at a dozen or so industry events a year, and teach/coach on leadership topics. That has all changed and it looks like I will have the summer off, like many others.  My day is now spent thinking about how government funding can help my company and the restaurant industry. I had to lay off a third of our team, only after exhausting all other measures to keep us financially viable and sustainable.  It was heart-breaking, but it was a decision that had to be made.

We’ve also used this time to offer our assistance to the industry at large, and we have been very busy trying to answer questions and help our customers who are in desperate situations. We are now running our data and reports for free, and letting customers defer their payments to us, in hopes that they remember us when this is all over.  It’s a risk, and I can only hope I am making the right decisions for our future. Aside from my team, the recovery of the restaurant industry is my first priority. It’s an industry I have always loved, and I have never appreciated it more.”

Q:How has it impacted you personally and professionally?

A: “Personally, and as a mom, I am a natural worrier when it comes to my family.  I have become pretty fanatical about handwashing, and cleaning products.  I have also tried to follow ‘Shelter in Place’ 100% because that is the way I believe we will stay safe, and because I believe it is our responsibility in doing the right thing. I have been at odds with family and friends at times, and that has been difficult.  I am also a rule follower, and these are the rules, so I will follow them and hope it creates order in a time of chaos. That said, this is one of the scariest things I have ever experienced, and I hate it. I hate it so much, and I want someone to tell me with certainty that everything is going to be ok.   I’d also prefer it if that same person can tell me exactly WHEN we will be okay .  Until then, I am not ok, and every day there is a black cloud that I see above us all.

Professionally, I bounce back and forth.  I think I know what my company needs from me, and I have a job to do, and that brings me energy.  It doesn’t bring me satisfaction, but there is energy for it and urgency.  I also believe the most important thing I can do right now is provide a steady and compassionate hand.  Leading with purpose has never been more important, and that same purpose is being tested and questioned every day, but it is the only way.   I’ve tried to stay calm, even when I don’t feel calm.  My leadership team has been there for me, and done an amazing job of being courageous and taking care of their teams.  I am grateful and learning from them every day. 

No one has a playbook, and no one has the answers, but I am grateful for the friends and leaders in my life that are giving me strength.  I’ve also learned to do wellness checks with people on the team – I learned that from one of my leaders, and it has been helpful.    Finally, like everyone else that is now working from home, we are finding ways to stay connected beyond the typical conference call. We’re doing Zoom meetings and finding ways to “see each other”.  We’ve even done Zoom Happy Hours as a team. Connection is so important right now, and seeing people faces on a screen makes you feel at least a little connected.  I also started doing virtual Happy Hours with peers in the industry and friends – it has helped to know I am not alone. “

Q: What are you finding challenging?

A: “The uncertainty; the fear for my own safety and the fear that people that I love could be hurt.”

kelli valade
Kelly in work mode pre COVID-19
Q: Where are you finding hope and optimism?

A: “In addition to the above, I am finding hope and optimism in talking to others. In some cases, I am reaching out to those that may have stronger faith than me.  Leaning on folks that process things completely differently than me, has been helpful.”

Q: What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you would?

A: “I DO NOT miss my long commute to my office every day, but I miss the time to think and listen to music, and think about the day ahead. I miss NOT worrying to this degree.”

Q: How are you getting through?

A: “I have tried to stick to my routines as much as possible. I still get up early, even though I have saved 2 hours a day in commuting.  I get up now at 6 am and work out, which is a whole hour later than I used to get up, so I appreciate that.  My daily workouts and yoga are critical for me.  It’s also been critical I get “dressed” for work each day; though I am certainly not getting dressed in the same way – yoga pants are the daily uniform for me right now, and make-up is definitely NOT happening, unless I am on a Zoom call.”

Q: There is a new part of my routine that has emerged since all of this started….

A: “Once I am done working out, I sit on my front porch and try to just breathe for a minute. The mornings are quiet, and the weather’s been beautiful…It’s a chance to try and still my mind and thoughts.   Every day, however, feels exactly the same. The same potential is there for it to be a great day, but the potential isn’t really there…not now anyway.  And I find it ironic – in the quiet of the morning, you can’t feel the fear, and the chaos and the deaths. The sun keeps shining, and there’s another day upon us, another day full of potential. Yet how can that be?”

Q: What is your mindset about how to use your time at home? (Hustle harder with newfound time, be still and soak up the gift of time, dive into unexplored creative pursuits?)

A: “What a great question. I have many days tried to think about what I should be learning from this time, or what other things I should accomplish with this extra time.  Hug my kids more? Definitely.  Clean my closet out and donate my clothes?  Done. Read that book that’s on my nightstand? Not yet .   Beyond that, I’m also kind of exhausted most days and I feel like I am doing ok, just sticking to those few things. That’s a big enough list for any of us right now. 

We have, though, started doing puzzles and formalizing movie and game nights as a family, and I am proud of how my family has come together to connect and just talk.  My kids have inspired me more than anyone else. They are young adults with their own opinions, and they too are having to adjust, yet they have been concerned for me and tried to be extra helpful right now; I have truly never been more proud of them. 

Additionally, I have made closer connections with those in my neighbourhood.  We have shopped for each other, had social hour sitting in our driveways and watched people up and down our streets come out to say hello and be seen.  I believe profoundly right now, that “being seen” is one of the most powerful things you can do for someone else right now.”

Q: Personally how are you managing your mind and well being for your family?

A: “Walks, and workouts.  Everyone in my family is working out more, and walking together when we can. “

Q: Despite all the negatives and the brutality of the virus are there positives you feel are coming out of this  – a silver lining perhaps?

A: “The silver lining is the time with my family, and not taking things for granted. I believe we will forever be changed for going through this, and I believe that in some crazy way, that is the lesson that we are supposed to take away.  “Be different for getting through this, slow down after this and make the most of everything you have.  You have it good”.

From lie-ins to home office hustling and family meals together, Nicola Elliott, founder of Neom Organics talks about how Covid19 has affected her family and her business at this difficult time.

Tell us about your work

“I founded Neom Organics in 2005 and I still own it, working as creative director.”

What is your context outside of work? (Do you have family, pets, where do you live, hobbies, commitments)

“I have 2 kids (9 and 12) and 2 dogs. I live in the countryside, in Harrogate in the UK and my hobby is… ferrying kids around!”

What is your normal day to day life like?

“Head office is Harrogate but I’m in London every week. We have an office and team there and I have many meetings so I stay over most weeks.”

What is your day-to day life like now currently during COVID-19?

“Lockdown comes with ups and downs. I lie in a bit longer, I enjoy a slightly slower pace of life and eating every lunch and dinner together makes it seems far less hamster wheel-esque. However, I’m still working pretty hard so being in my home office for hours is tough and not being able to unwind with friends or change the scenery.  I’ll be happy when these things start again.”

nicola elliot neom home office during lockdown
Nicola at-home in her office during lockdown
How has it impacted you personally and professionally?

“We are selling via online channels now as our shops have had to close, of course, so it means changing quite a lot in the business. We don’t know what’s coming (like everyone), or when, so it’s really hard to plan in business. I say plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

What are you finding challenging?

“Not seeing my sister and mum.”

Where are you finding hope and optimism?

“Everywhere. I genuinely believe what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’m loving the sense of community and kindness that we are seeing, personally and through the brand. Our tribe are getting involved at NeomOrganics.com so much – be that through meditations, Work out Wednesday, paying forward kindness, nights in with Neom… it’s just a lovely vibe.”

What do you miss about life before COVID19 that you never thought you would?

“Driving around.”

How are you getting through – what are your coping strategies?

“Taking regular breaks from my home office, trying to stay out of the lounge until evenings so it seems like a different zone, home workouts, and not putting too much pressure on myself to home school!”

nicola elliot neom wellbeing pod
The Neom Wellbeing Pod, is an essential oil aromatherapy diffuser, from $100
What is your mindset about how to use your time at home? Hustle harder with newfound time, be still and soak up the gift of time, dive into unexplored creative pursuits…?

“Bit of all of the above. I keep thinking I’ll get a veg patch going (I’ve bought the books on Amazon) but not sure. I’m enjoying the extra hour in bed. Oh and I’ve bought some pink hair dye, if I don’t do it now I never will.

I’ve got a weekly fish delivery, as well as meat, veg, The Mindful Chef and milk man just in case one goes down! And I enjoy cooking anyway but we are definitely eating well (and more!)”

Personally how are you managing your mind and wellbeing and that of your family?

“Pretty well to be honest – you’ve got to be pragmatic. Giving back and doing what you can for others helps, I think. Taking care of your basic wellbeing needs is absolutely crucial – fresh air, eating well, moving, taking that bath every night and taking time to reset is so important. My Neom Wellbeing Pod is in overdrive, obviously.”

Despite all the negatives and the brutality of the virus are there positives you feel are coming out of this – a silver lining?

“I think we’re having our eyes opened to a new pace of life and how that needs to change, plus how we need to heal the environment and connect with community more.”