Sarah Neill is the founder and CEO of Mys Tyler, a Sydney startup with a mission to make fashion more accessible and enjoyable for all women, and every body.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I started my career in marketing, working on both agency and client sides in Australia, the UK and the US. My focus was always understanding what and whose problem the product/service was solving, so we could best communicate it.
Over the years I shifted more into intrapreneurial type roles, and eventually had the opportunity to create my own business Doodad, while I was living in New York. That was back in 2012, and since then, it’s been hard to not execute upon ideas that I’ve had.
I went back into corporate when I had to shut Doodad down (I needed the visa, and was a little gun-shy). But after six years working in startups in the US, I was more than ready to give up a salary, pack my bags and come back to Australia to build Mys Tyler.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I like to work in an office setting, so as soon as I was allowed out of my apartment post-lockdown, I was back in a co-working space in Sydney – Tank Stream Labs.
In my past I always put work first, and never prioritized my personal life. When you have your own business, you have to be particularly conscious of this, for your sanity (but also that of your family and friends).
One way I do this is to treat my time in the office as business first, personal as an exception, and when I’m out of the office it’s the reverse. Business and personal always blend, but this set up allows me to be flexible while still having boundaries.
As a team, we have daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly metrics. The first thing I do is check the daily metrics to see if all is on track, look at social and customer support to see if anything is happening I should know about, and then review emails.
In a startup you’re always juggling a lot, so I have a list of all our team to-do’s and whenever something pops up, I add to the list, vs getting distracted by it. That way nothing gets lost but I can focus on what’s most important first!
In terms of what these to-dos are, it’s a blend. Right now we’re hiring our first employee (woo hoo) Holly! Prior to Holly, everyone was set up as a contractor, so I’ve got a lot of business admin – super, payroll, employee forms, etc.
The last couple of months I was fundraising, so that was my biggest focus, then – lots of researching, emailing and pitching. We’re also trademarking Mys Tyler and Fit Algorithm, so those are legal calls.
Beyond those event-based focuses, it’s an ongoing blend of community management, marketing and product development.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Theoretically, all I need is a computer and a laptop, especially right now when investor calls are on Zoom anyway, and live events haven’t really kicked back into play yet. But, I love being around people, and love, love the ad hoc brainstorm. So, I prefer to be in an office with my team.
The people who join the team prefer this way of working, and so for us it’s flexible in a way – if there’s a reason to work from home (i.e. you have an appointment, you have a delivery, you have an event, you have free rent in Byron Bay for a week, or obviously if you feel sick) then you work from home. And if not, see you in the office!
We generally keep the same hours, but again, if there’s a reason to start late/leave early, that’s fine. And because we care about moving the business forward if it means replying to an email or taking a call outside of hours, that’s ok too.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It’s taken me a long time to find this. Now I think it’s about feeling in control of how you spend your time, and understanding your priorities. I’m all about work, but if there’s something important happening in my private life, that can 100% take priority.
That’s where building a team of owners helps- it gives you a buffer so that when you do need to step away, someone’s got your back! And I always try to make sure people know that I’ve got their back in that way too.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’m always trying to create and maintain better habits, the one that I’ve had the most success with recently is reaching 10K steps a day. I don’t do it every day, but I make sure that by the end of each month, my daily average is 10K.
The last month that I didn’t achieve this was November 2019, so if I hit it this month, I’ll have one year in a row! Life gets busy, and some things fall away but this is my minimum, and I think it’s been so good for me physically and mentally.
I did see a “seer” when in Portland, Oregon last year, she told me that I was from a tribe of “walkers” so I guess it makes sense.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I love reading and have been a member of many a Book Club so I have so many favourites including The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society (sounds silly, it’s not!), A Gentleman from Moscow, and Half Broke Horses.
Podcasts, I really like Cake for Breakfast with my friend Jess Devine, it’s five news stories with a little banter (and I love hearing her voice), The New York Times The Daily, How I Built This and Inc. Founders Project with Alexa von Tobel. Also, just started listening to Unlocking Us with Brene Brown and the “Burnout” episode is amazing!
And newsletters, I read Cheddar’s Need2Know every morning. It’s 10 or so short, sharp notes about what’s happening in the world (skews US) but they always have a funny quote at the bottom which I look forward to.
Here’s a recent one that made me laugh out loud “the only thing more embarrassing than my browser history is my calculator history” – @ok_girlfriend. I’m subscribed to a lot more, but I’m so content overloaded right now that not much manages to get opened.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My phone. The most important apps: Mys Tyler obviously (don’t know how I ever lived without it), Health – so I can keep tracking my steps, Notes – to jot down my thoughts when I’m on the move, Gmail!
Coffee machines, I really love my morning coffee. Traveling a lot, you learn to travel light, so my phone really does most of what I need!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Maybe Chrissy Teigen, she seems to do it all, be fun, be motherly, be romantic, she cooks, she’s got political opinions, she models and hosts and panels. Plus she’s hilarious and so open and honest, so I’d love reading anything she wrote.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think it’s important to think about where you get energy. I’m extroverted, I get energy from being around people, and sharing ideas and collaborating. Other people would find that valuable but also draining, and need some time alone to recharge.
Find what gives you energy, and then build it into your day, and also think about what drains you, and space it out. Balancing your energy can help you be successful at work, and still have energy to give to your personal life.
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