I originally met Gayle from popping into her shop, Carry me Home (formerly in Kingly Court), numerous times over the years, having come to rely on it as a location to buy brilliant gifts for friends and families babies. When it came to my own pregnancy, I popped in and chatted to her and found out that not only was she also pregnant, but that she had a new business that she'd kicked off during pregnancy. A true Master of Many.
Gayle's shop is now an online entity, and she's developed the brilliant brand marketing and PR consultancy, Hustle and Fox, with her business partner Cat Sims (also known as @notsosmugnow, the successful blogger), who was also pregnant during the agency's inception. Together they develop 'creative ideas for brands that want to get noticed', often working with start up and parent run brands. I caught up with Gayle to find out more about her journey to date, and her next plans for Hustle and Fox, her latest baby.
Tell us about what you’re doing now and your journey along the way...
I'm now doing three things. I still run Carry me Home (but in the last six months Hustle and Fox has taken over most of my time) and then my third thing is that I'm a new mum.
I met Cat, my partner at Hustle and Fox two years ago. We had the launch party in May, but we'd started with our first client last November. Friends had introduced us, and Cat did an event in my shop for her blog @notsosmugnow. I'd done a bit of consultation work with people, but I got frustrated with people who came into the shop for a chat, and were essentially pitching to me in the shop. I really enjoyed it, but I was also at work, and I wanted to make it more of an official thing. Cat felt exactly the same, as people would email her and say 'you're brilliant at writing, could you do x for me'.
That evening we went out for drinks and we talked about what we wanted to do and literally the next day Cat emailed me and said 'this is what we talked about last night'. I read the email out to my boyfriend, saying 'look we're going to do this for real'.
It was perfect timing. The lease on Carry me Home was coming up, and I knew the landlords weren't going to renew it. Having worked on my own for 11 years, and never having had a 'proper' job per se, I really wanted to work with someone else.
Cat was originally an English Teacher, and at the time of having her first daughter, she was working in music, and touring, before doing her blog full time. We're completely ying and yang. When we first started to work together, she sent me an email saying 'before we send an email out maybe we should check them?' I was laughing as I read it, as I'm completely aware that grammar and spelling aren't my forte. We work brilliantly together. Her work ethic is brilliant and we're both going through new baby stuff together (she's just had her second), and it just works. We work with a lot of clients who have started their business since having children, or have children and are working around it, or they have a product for mums or babies.
We're not a full-blown PR agency. We're more of a consultancy that helps you with whatever you need help with. We start with a consultation, which is £300 for 2 hours with both of us, and we also have an intern. After the consultation, a week later you receive an extensive document of what we talked about and your next steps as a business. From there you get a proposal of what we can do for you, and what we'd charge, whether it's a monthly business sounding board, or an event, or social media, or PR. There are lots of different options according to what you can afford. We tailor it to each company that we work with, and there aren't set prices. It means that everyone who needs us can be part of the circle.
In January we have hired Fount London , in London Fields, for a month, so we'll have a pop up there for the brands that we're working with. It's really nice, and next to a cool nursery, and it'll be a permanent space for us to run events in.
How did Carry Me Home come about initially?
I actually did 5 years at college to train to be an actress. I came to London, like everyone else, when I was 24, working as a waitress. I was doing bits of acting, but never enough to stop being a waitress and be a full time actress. It's a soul destroying, hard life, and it's completely out of your control.
The company pushed me through the ranks, and at 26 they asked me if I wanted to be a manager of a restaurant. I realised I didn't want to do it at all. I had started making T-shirts for friends, and then started a stall at Spitalfields market in the week, and then at the weekends, selling adult t-shirts, that I'd customised. I tried designing a few baby things, and within a couple of months, everyone was buying the baby stuff. At the time there was nothing like it being sold at the market.
A customer's mum was the owner of Schoon, and Echo Shoes, and she started to wholesale from me. I was also stocked in Selfridges, via a concession store. They sold my stuff at three times what I was selling for in the market. I realised my product wasn't being displayed as beautifully as I would display it, and yet people were still buying it at that price and it could sit in that environment and work. Someone at the market told me about Kingly Court as an opportunity, and it went from there. I gained a lot of knowledge at Spitalfields market, particularly from the older market traders. I never had a plan, everything just rolled into place in a really lovely way.
How often have you felt like Hustle and Fox wasn’t going to work?
We haven't felt like that to be honest. The responsibility and commitment of a shop is massive, and with Hustle and Fox I don't have that, so it feels less stressful.
Carry Me Home is still bobbing along on the website, although sometimes I'm in consultations telling people what to do with their business and I think, I should have done that for Carry Me Home! But you're in it and sometimes don't have time to do it, even though you know you should.
What do you find difficult about managing multiple jobs?
It's difficult having the time to do everything, and you want to spend time hanging out with your new baby.
Is there a guilt factor doing this when you have a young baby?
Always! Even now, we're talking and she's on my knee, I feel like I'm not properly interacting with her. But, she loves a chat and she's listening to my voice all of the time, so it's not like I've dumped her in a corner, she's always with me.
What do you do to spur yourself on when you get the fear?
I talk to my partner about it or my little sister, who is brilliant. She's worked in various design companies, and she's very like me in terms of how we look at life and deal with people. I generally think that everything is just going to be fine. That's the brilliant thing of working with Cat, we can chat things through together. That's why we offer the business sounding board service, because I know what it's like not to have someone to talk to.
What or who do you find intimidating?
For Carry Me Home, I was young and stupid, and felt totally in control. Although any time you have your own product and you're taking it to people, that can be scary. After I'd been in it a while though, you realise that some people like it and some people don't, but if you're making money consistently from it, it can't be that bad!
In relation to Hustle and Fox, if I'm arriving somewhere with Cat, I'm not that intimidated, but if I'm arriving somewhere on my own, you can feel that way. Normally you get talking to someone though, and you realise that everyone feels intimated at those kinds of events.
What’s the best compliment you’ve been given?
Working for yourself isn't like a normal job, where you have a formal pat on the back and a pay rise; you have to give yourself that. I can't think of a specific compliment, but when you're helping people and they say nice things, or even customers who come back time and time again, that's a compliment in itself.
What drives you, your legacy, or enjoying the moment?
It has to be enjoying the moment, and continuing to have countless moments to enjoy. A legacy is a weird thing I guess, it's that egotistical thing of thinking what people would remember you for. If you don't enjoy the moments, they pass you by very quickly.
How do you define success now?
It's always been a hard one for me, because success to me was doing something that I thought I wanted to do when I was young and that was being an actress, so I haven't been successful in that.
Other people use the word successful when they describe me, so I accept it now. I survived having a business for years, when I've seen countless other shops come and go. I've been able to do what I wanted to do, so I suppose in a way, that's successful.
Where would you like your businesses to get to?
In an ideal world I'd love someone else to look after the Carry me Home website for me and I focus on giving the overall direction. For Hustle and Fox, we think we'd like a permanent base, a place that people could come and see us, with a showroom of our clients products, and a beautiful neon sign - that would be the ideal!
How do you structure your day?
Some days I have structure, and I think I've been really productive, but other days I'm watching Housewives of Cheshire at 10am! That's the beauty of working for yourself. On the days I do have a structure, I think 'I should do this all the time, and this is really productive'. Having spent 11 years with a fixed structure with the shop, I don't have that so much now. It's a work in progress as to how it works best for me, but I'm hoping that will come. When you have a baby, it's that hard decision to make when she's asleep. I could do an hours work, or I could do nothing for an hour and have a coffee and look at social media and really enjoy it!
What will you tell Roxy about working out what she wants to do in life?
If she's anything like her mum and her dad, she'll have about a billion jobs and that's fine. When she's 16 and at college and doesn't know what she wants to do, I'm going to tell her not to worry about it so much - just to do what makes her happy, and find some way to make money out of it.
What's the single best piece of advice you’ve been given along your journey?
It's wanky but 'you can only do your best', and 'follow your gut and don't listen to other people' are important pieces of advice. It's easy to put doubt into your head, and sometimes you just have to go with what you think. When I first started making t-shirts on my bedroom floor, people asked what I was doing it for, and now they ask me how.