Laura Earnshaw, myHappymind
Being the founder of a business that helps children to develop healthy habits, Laura Earnshaw is lucky to be able to use some of those habits to help her own work-life balance. We caught up with her to discuss the importance of loving what you do and the significance of a thank you.
What is it the company does?
myHappymind is an innovative curriculum delivered to primary schools to help them develop resilient, balanced and happy minds at school and at home. We have brought together the best technology and scientific research to create a product which is easy and fun to teach, that children love and that parents can interact with too via our app.
No-one knows how our world will evolve as our children grow, but we do know that resilient children who know how to celebrate themselves and others, build positive relationships and persevere to achieve their dreams will thrive. myHappymind’s sole purpose is to help children build these habits and skills and keep them for life.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Where to start! Being the founder and CEO of a company isn’t easy as there is a constant juggle between setting the vision and delivering to customers, but it is a challenge I enjoy! Broadly, I split my time three ways; being with customers - hearing what their successes have been and discussing new product developments; speaking at and attending conferences and meetings with partners and of course, meeting potential customers. I would be lost without technology, the ability to work on the move and constantly be connected is so important to being able to keep everything moving.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
After graduating with a first-class degree in business from Kings College London, I decided to join Accenture as a management consultant, I stayed there for 7 years and was lucky to work with clients across healthcare, financial services, retail and Government.
After leaving consulting I pursued a career as global HR director, which took me all over the world. Mostly, I worked in large FTSE 100 Global companies helping CEOs and their teams to manage their talent and strategic workforce plans. Essentially, this was all about identifying, developing and retaining the most senior leaders in those organisations and helping them to reach their full potential.
Critical to this was a deep focus on developing leadership skills around resilience, leading change and managing diversity, and I was lucky to work with some of the world’s most prestigious universities such as MIT and Harvard Business School in developing programs for these senior leaders.
While I had a very successful career, I felt that I could do more, be more and make more of an impact. So, in April 2016 I decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship, to follow a dream and personal passion to positively impact the mental wellbeing of young children and so, myHappymind was born!
What do you believe makes a great leader?
How long have you got?! I think the key thing is being clear on your vision, listening to others and collaborating for success. Even the most incredible visions can’t be delivered without the help and engagement of others. I also believe that as a business leader, it is absolutely critical to remain customer focused at every stage. It is easy to become obsessed with your product and lose sight of what the customer actually needs and so spending time with customers is crucial.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
This one is easy, time.
As a mum to two small children trying to run a business is not easy. I must meticulously plan so that I can be mega efficient with my time and not give my kids beans on toast every night for dinner! I often find that the ‘forced’ break between 3pm and 8pm during which I insist on spending quality time with my kids away from any device (!) is some of my best thinking time and helps me to keep my feet on the ground too. So, I work two shifts, 9am-3pm while the kids are in school and then 9pm into the early hours… it’s the only way and for me it works but it is definitely hard!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
It's lucky for me that myHappymind is all about having a positive mind-set and mental wellbeing! Since I am dedicated to building these habits in kids, I know how important it is for me too. I would love to get to the gym more than I do (see above time constraints!) so for me it is often a walk with my puppy Max or just time out with friends. I find that even 10 minutes in the fresh air is enough to clear the head and refocus.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was at primary school, I wanted to be a newsreader! I used to practice in the mirror reading without moving my eyes from side to side! I went off that idea when I got a little older and can honestly say that that until last year I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up...
Being the founder of a business that helps children to develop healthy habits – that’s what I want to be now.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Lack of gratitude. There is nothing worse than someone not being grateful for what someone else has done for them, it really makes me mad! A thank you costs nothing and can make someone’s day, however much or little they may have helped you. So, when I come across people who lack this trait, I tend to over compensate and REALLY show my gratitude to them by explaining exactly why I am grateful for what they have done and why they have helped me. They usually feel pretty awkward, but hopefully it’ll rub off on them…
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We have big plans – in 5 years we expect to not only be helping hundreds of thousands of young minds develop positive habits, but we also want to look to support teachers and older children with this too. There is no doubt that our country faces a mental health crisis and we want to be part of what will need to be a multi-faceted approach to changing the conversation around mental health and preventing issues developing any further.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
I know this has been said many times before, but it really is critical to love what you do. Trying to lead, inspire and go the extra mile when you are not engaged, committed or genuinely passionate about the outcome is very difficult. So, find what you love.
Secondly, you must know who you are, what makes you unique and how can you use your strengths to be your best self. Then, listen to people, collaborate, share and set a clear vision with measurable goals. Oh, and always remember to show gratitude to others.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I think the best learning comes from experiencing the tough times. I don’t want a short cut, I want to figure it out and learn for myself, that is how I will become successful. I choose to embrace every experience, positive or negative and ruthlessly extract the learning from it so I can be better the next time.
I believe that if you back yourself you can achieve amazing things; I hope I am proof of that.
I believed I could, so I did!