The entrepreneur and founder of the fashion editor’s favourite accessories and clothing brand Rae Feather, on running the entire company by herself, her newfound love of Peloton and why she misses driving during lockdown.
(Note the above personalised face masks will be available from next week)
Q: What’s your context outside of work?
A: “I live in the countryside in Oxfordshire and have four sons and 2 dogs – a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy that is handful and a little terrier that is very old and very blind.”
Q: What is your day-to-day life like now?
A: “I like routine and in the current climate, routine is really important to me. I work out in the morning, walk the dog, sort out my kids and go to work.
I’m running my business single handedly which is a great privilege in so many ways but challenging. My team are furloughed so I have a lot of plates spinning and I have had to learn a lot of new skills in the last few weeks.
I am mainly in despatch in the afternoons and when Royal Mail departs, I tidy up, do a supermarket shop and get home to prepare supper. Dinner every night has always been family time and never has it felt more important than now. We all get to catch up on our day and have quality time.”
Q: How has it impacted you personally and professionally?
A: “Personally it has been amazing for me to spend real time with my kids. I have a Peloton and have got quite fit as I have been religious about working out almost daily. I have also been way more experimental in the kitchen and also quite creative with ingredients. There have been some disasters but also some great successes.”
“Professionally there are positives and negatives. I have engaged with my customers in a really positive way. I am ‘Customers Services’ so I pick up the phone and speak to people and without exception they have all been so lovely! I have gone back to where I started and I am running my business alone and making my own decisions and that feels really good.”
Q: What are you finding challenging?
“I’m finding the the uncertainty challenging. I try to live for the day but for so many businesses this is really tough. For so many individuals, their future is really messed up.”
Q: Where are you finding hope and optimism?
“I am an optimist and think a lot of good has come from this. Both professionally and personally Professionally, it has allowed me to reassess so many elements of my business and I can see the mistakes I have made along the way.
Personally, I have got to know my kids even better than before. You think you know them but this time has tested us all. I have found their weaknesses and their strengths – long term this is so beneficial as I can support them in the areas they struggle with.”
Q: What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you would?
“I miss driving. I know that sounds odd. I take detours now so that I can sit in the car and listen to music for a few minutes more – is that crazy?! I also miss swimming, I knew I would miss it but not as much as I do.”
Q: “How are you getting through? What are your coping strategies?
A: “My belief is that this is out of our hands. We are told to adhere to the guidelines/rules laid out very clearly for us. I try to respect those rules for the sake of others.
I find working out is key – getting daily exercise is uplifting. Experimenting with new recipes has been great and creatively satisfying. I have also really enjoyed engaging more with my audience on social media.”
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 have some good days and some bad and I have a terrible habit of working in bed. Some days I am still in bed at 11am planning and researching. I get a huge amount done but I find I chase my tail for the rest of the day.”
Q: Personally how are you managing your mind and wellbeing and that of your family?
“I am mentally pretty strong, obviously like many, I have had bad days but I think it’s important to take the good with the bad. I made a rule very early on, that when the going gets tough, go to your room. It works and everyone respects it.”
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?
“For me this time has been life changing, particularly professionally. I am back at the helm and that feels so good and positive. Personally, I think the world has had to sit up and listen, whilst this time has brought so many negatives and great sadness to all those who have been affected by the loss of loved ones, environmentally and sociologically this time has brought many great positives.”
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.”
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).”