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Inside Job: Sian Sutherland, founder of Mio and Mama Mio Skincare
September 19th 2015
The woman behind ‘fit skin’ and mummy-to-be bodycare shares her top career advice, gives us a glimpse into her work day and reveals the secrets behind building a successful brand
What’s does it take to be a serial entrepreneur with a portfolio of successful businesses under your belt? Having been the brains behind a wide range of ventures since her twenties, Sian Sutherland, the founder of Mio and Mama Mio Skincare couldn’t be a better person to ask.
With a varied background in advertising, restaurants, film production and brand creation, Sian was an early winner of the National Magazines’ Entrepreneur of the Year for her first business (a Michelin Star restaurant in Soho aged 26), British Female Inventor of the Year and recipient of the coveted CEW Achiever Award. Fast-forward to nine years ago and Sian and her three partners’ goals were set to create a skincare company with a unique vision – one that helped women feel good in the skin they’re in. Out of that idea came the innovative Mio, for active women and Mama Mio, for pregnant women.
With products that count GTG HQ as huge fans (Liquid Yoga is one of our all-time favourites), we caught up with Sian, the brands’ Chief Founding Partner to gain a glimpse into the ins and outs of her job, her climb up the career ladder and to find out what a work-life balance means to her.
GTG: Could you tell us about what your role entails? What does a typical day look like for you?
SS: As Chief Founder of Mio and Mama Mio skincare, my job is really to drive the company bus. That means knowing where the business is going, how we are going to get there and most importantly making sure everyone is on the bus and feels a big part of the journey.
I look after our gang, our brands and our customers - deciding what new products and ranges we will make, listening to our customers about what they really, really want (rather than just following the beauty herd); working with our New York lab on the formulations and working with our amazing team on the whole customer experience - from the words on the website and the pack, to the way the bottle feels in your hand, to the smell of Liquid Yoga, to the know-how we aim to empower women with.
GTG: Could you tell us about your background?
SS: I am what is often called a serial entrepreneur. I started in advertising back in the heady 80s, created my first business at 26 (a Michelin star restaurant in Soho, London - where I met my lovely husband, Christian), then moved back to my marketing roots setting up a brand creation agency, Miller Sutherland (with Kathy Miller, still my business partner in Mio 24 years later), got involved in film production along the way and eventually - out of total selfish need - created our first range, Mama Mio, to help me through the nine month stretch of pregnancy. Nine years later, that selfish attitude is still with us as we launched our second brand, Mio - created for fighting gravity and giving you fit skin to cope with all the stages and needs of life.
GTG: What motivates you and what would you say is the most exciting aspect of your job?
SS: 100% it is the people. We meet the most amazing women across the world, women who inspire me with their honesty and sisterhood-ness; women who support us unconditionally and understand that we are building brands that are different - with real heart and integrity. Women are crazy emotional about Mio and Mama Mio. They write poems, sing songs and send us emails every day to tell us how our products make them feel - how incredible is that? That is what fuels and excites me.
GTG: How do you organise yourself?
SS: Badly. But somehow it works! I used to fret about the 8000 emails in my inbox, but now I don’t. Email is the most incredible over-communication tool and we all have a love/hate relationship with it. I try to focus my time on making new things happen rather than reacting to stuff all day long. I want to get to the end of the week feeling like I have really achieved something rather than ticked off a to-do list. My job is to come up with the next big thing for Mio, so my goal now is about creation and action rather than organisation.
GTG: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to do what you do?
SS: Know 10% more than the person sitting in front of you and you are a guru. Have total confidence, be happy to hustle but do not bullshit. People see that a mile off. Be genuine, be nice and be human. Treat people like they are your family - sometimes this might mean tough love; but most of the time it means being kind. People fall into two camps - builders or maintainers. Both have equal merit but need a different personality. I have always been a builder and love creating something from nothing, taking people with me. It is incredibly fun but it is not easy and definitely not for everyone.
GTG: How do you achieve a work-life balance?
SS: One of my fave questions! I am always concerned that we divide our day with these two words - work and life. It’s as if we think we are not living life at work. I LOVE what I do during my work hours and if I need to be working at 11pm, that is my choice. The ‘always available’ norm now is not really healthy though and I am grateful that we didn’t have smartphones when my sons were little.
My advice is always be totally present when with your loved ones. Checking your emails while talking to them gives them a terrible message! Eat together often, keep Sundays special and take as many holidays as you can. I live for our family sailing holidays round the Greek islands - no technology, just good family times bobbing up and down the waves in the sunshine.
GTG: What 3 things do you do to maintain energy, focus and motivation throughout the day?
SS: I take at least four girlfriend minibreaks a year - however much I love my family, my mates make me laugh till I cry and I love how carefree we are during a long weekend in Mykonos, riding our quadbikes from beach to beach, drunken shopping post-chili margarita-sundowners and mad silly dancing. Normal life stands still - and that has to be healthy, no?
I love to feel strong and fit, so exercise and sport is important to me. I play basketball every Wednesday with my fab team, The Badabings (come and join us - always recruiting!), a bit of weights, yoga and tennis is now my new passion. Tough as hell to learn a new sport at my age, but I am determined to get that topspin!
And more recently, I am learning how to be still. I use Headspace (a meditation app without all the weirdness) every day and am soon off to my third Wilderness survival weekend with Johan Schulman and Sille Lundquist (www.beinghuman.dk). This time I will be plopped onto one of the beautiful Swedish archipelago islands to learn how to reconnect with nature and restore my mojo. Will send you a pic!