Michelle Hu is the founder of Etoile Collective, a brand that makes storage solutions, professional lighting and travel cases for beauty lovers.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
After completing a Bachelor of Commerce degree with majors in Finance and Economics, I followed an often trotted path and kickstarted my career at an investment bank as a Mergers & Acquisitions analyst.
Very quickly realised it was not the path for me! Fortunately, in the summer before I started, I birthed Etoile Collective after years of wanting to create something and exercise the right side of my brain. Etoile is a beauty accessories brand to make one’s feel good moments even better.
To my surprise and with minimal effort from me in the first 2 years, my little beauty baby grew and grew. I told myself that when we hit a financial milestone, I’d take the leap and pursue it full-time. That happened in October 2018 and I currently manage a team of 4 with warehouses in Melbourne and Sydney!
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I try and get up between 7:00 to 7:30, grab a quick coffee and hop straight into the car for a 40 minutes drive to the office. I actually really like the long car ride as that’s when I consume a lot of my self-development content (business podcasts / books on Blinkist).
I get to the office at about 8:30. In the morning, I do a quick inbox cleanse and then glimpse over our latest customer reviews and support inbox. Yesterday, we spent an hour organising a product send out in collaboration with NYX Cosmetics and finalising our social content around a joint giveaway.
I then spent a few hours analysing inbound stock and liaising future order details with suppliers. We have an upcoming product launch in December (which I am SO excited about) so this included final packaging details, product name and setting up the product on our backend systems.
Along the same vein, I then brainstormed campaign launch ideas. A variety of other tasks (optimising logistics routes and carriers, reviewing content calendar and upcoming holiday promotions) got me to about 7pm. After dinner, I’ll then usually clean out the remainder of my emails for the day.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Until recently, it actually did not! We hadn’t automated our warehouse system so I had to be in everyday to print shipping labels. However, since we implemented our WMS, our warehouse capabilities are now independent of the ‘HQ’. Although, I still find myself going into the office everyday!
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Since working for myself, I’ve redefined what this means to me. Historically, this was a division of work and then life, and the line was very clear.
After making the transition into an industry that I naturally love, I found it extremely difficult to step away from ‘work’. E.g. my personal Instagram feed is full of content from people that could spark great ideas for Etoile: work.
Coupled with the entrenchment of social media, if I still had my historic definition of work-life balance, I would be failing miserably! Now, work-life balance to me is not wrapping my identity and self-esteem in the business.
In the first 2 years, my mood would swing directly in line with how the business performed and I was struggling to break myself away.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any one thing that I did to achieve my current definition of work-life balance. it was the mixture of time, many burnouts, the realisation that this was not sustainable, and the realisation that I was becoming an energy drain on the people closest to me. Oh, and a lot of meditation!
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Meditation! Calm! Headspace! Alo Moves!
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I love podcasts! Favourites include How I Built This, Shameless, Masters of Scale and Lady Startup. I also really enjoy The Information’s newsletter and this fortnightly newsletter by Michael Batko on startups, operators and investing.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
As mentioned above, Blinkist is such an epic product that I use almost everyday. It lets you consume the most important content of books, ‘blinks’ as they call it, in a matter of minutes. And, I probably couldn’t sleep without Calm every night!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Hmm! Probably Emily Weiss. Superwoman!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Given how difficult it can be to integrate work and life, I always take a pulse check every now and then to make sure 1) I still love work and 2) Life is spent with worthwhile people doing worthwhile things!
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