When Stephanie Capuano’s boys reached their teens and started having skincare problems, she couldn’t find a brand that was natural, effective, or that they would actually want to use. So she did what all good entrepreneurs would do and set out on a journey to create a teen and men’s skincare line herself. As a result, 31st State was born, a brand that reflects Stephanie’s Californian upbringing, consisting of everything from the breakout-busting Foaming Face Wash to the cult Overnight Clearing Pads which help keep pores clear, a Spot Control Gel, and for street cred worthy hair, the Style and Shape Hair Putty.
Here she reveals what life has been like in lockdown and how, despite the immeasurable nightmares of the Corona crisis, working from home has, for her, been a work blessing.
Tell us about yourself…
“I am the founder of 31st State, a natural skin and body care range for teen boys and young men. Its named after California, my home state. California is a place and a state of mind, a way of doing things that’s a little more natural, where we all ‘untry’ harder. I tried to bottle that ethos and way of life for young guys everywhere. I’m also a founding partner in &Three, a boutique African safari specialist. It’s fun!
The two pursuits are a great compliment to each other – the skill set needed for each are a bit different, although both allow for a huge expression of creativity. I think it’s important to not have a single focus in life, but rather a variety of pursuits to challenge your thinking and way of doing things. I am certainly never bored.”
What’s your context outside of work?
“I am married with three teens. While originally from CA, I have been in London for 20 years. We used to travel a lot as a pastime, spending as much time as possible in Africa. I am so inspired by the landscape, the light and the people. Now we are obviously travelling less and fill our free time with lots of tennis, yoga and art tours of London with my friend’s organisation called “Art with Mary P”, when time and safety allows.”
What was your ‘normal‘ day-to-day life like pre COVID?
“Pre-COVID a normal day involved being up by 06.30, checking emails, checking sales from last night, checking in on orders going out that day, make coffee and getting my daughter off to school by 8 am. I was usually out the door by 9 am to meetings around London with agencies or networking on behalf of the brand.
I always tried to make time for some yoga, a run or tennis, but it was hectic squeezing in my own self-care with work, running the family and making sure there was food on the table every evening. So much of being a founder involves constant networking, which can take away time from sitting down and getting all the work done. I love that part, but it’s a huge challenge to get the balance right.”
What is your day-to-day life like now after Lockdown?
“My days are still the same but with far less pressure to take meetings around town. I get to spend so much more time working from home, which has made me massively more productive. I feel far less stressed in my day-to-day life, am sleeping better and generally feel healthier with more time to exercise and rest when needed. While I can’t meet people as I used to, I am doing a lot over Zoom or a phone call. While not as personal, it allows so much more time for actual work, family and my own wellbeing. I fully recognise that being able to run my businesses from home is a blessing and the many positive outcomes I feel from it, I think were already in the making, only accelerated by the pandemic.”
How has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally?
“Pre-pandemic, professional and personal had really become one for so many people, especially for working mothers like me. Pre-COVID we were already trying to change the way we work and live because of general burn out, especially for women also raising families and running households. The pandemic just sped that up.
The old way of working was fuelled by stress and burnout and being always “on” and “perfect.” When work was moved into the home for so many of us, it became vital to create boundaries between our work and our home lives. A big part of our “new normal” is a more human-focused way of working. For us, we are trying to build this around what actually makes us productive, creative and healthy. It is not without challenges, but I think it’s the way forward.”
What are you now finding challenging right now?
“I think I speak for many women when I say that even before the pandemic, we bore a disproportionate share of the mental load of running a household – beyond just housework, scheduling, dealing with school issues and problem solving. That undue burden of mental load takes a toll on our wellbeing. And that’s only increased since the pandemic. While I am blessed with an incredibly supportive and involved spouse, it’s very challenging to balance all of this with my professional life. It’s been vital for me to make time for my own well-being during this time.”
What do you miss about life before COVID-19 that you never thought you never would?
“I have discovered that there is very little that I miss about life before Covid. Genuinely, I only miss dinners, parties and gatherings with friends. Oh, and travel!”
What has got you through? What have been your coping strategies?
“The news cycle has never been more negative and well, beyond imagination. I try to set a news cut-off time at the end of the day. Of course, we want to be informed during this time of Covid, Brexit and the US elections, but setting limits to our media and screen time has helped us have a more restful night’s sleep and put the stressful news into perspective.”
Personally how have you managed your mind and wellbeing throughout Lockdown?
“In our house we have decided that it’s important to pick a time to declare an end to the day – even if work feels unfinished. This was easier when stopping work meant leaving an office and hopping on the tube or the bus home. To prioritise family life meant getting comfortable with incompletions! By declaring an end to the day with some exercise or a glass of wine, we’ve been more present, have had more time to connect with ourselves and each other, and are sleeping better.”
What are your thoughts on travel right now?
“I am DYING to hit the road again! I love all kinds of travel, be it business or pleasure and am missing every aspect of it. At the moment we are really not going anywhere and in fact, trips keep getting cancelled. So we are sitting tight, dreaming and planning future trips. With my safari company, we have lots of travellers planning for late 2021 and 2022. Fingers crossed!”
What are your current handbag essentials?
“I am a huge Amly fan, especially now when there’s a huge focus on more natural ingredients, and of course, female-led brands.”
My key products are the Amly Digital Detox face mist, the Amly Purifying Hand Mist, MZ Skin Tint and Protect Zamani SPF 30 tinted moisturiser, Axiology Balmies for lips, cheeks and eyes – zero waste and no harm to humans or the planet. Also no forgetting Caddis reading glasses, masks and mentos!”
How do you think COVID-19 will affect your future?
My hope is that this new way of working and living will allow people to operate from a place of strength, calm and empathy, which will boost their resilience and make the world feel a little bit saner.
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