Balancing the Grind with Frances van der Velden, Founder of AIRYDAY

In our latest Balance the Grind conversation, we spoke with Frances van der Velden, the dynamic COO of Keune ANZIS and Founder of Airyday. Frances shared her inspiring journey, from her early start in the workforce to leading major companies and launching her own successful sunscreen brand.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

Over the years, I’ve worn many hats, from entry-level positions to leadership roles.

From an early age of 11 I was sweeping hairdresser floors and dropping off pamphlets in letter boxes. At the time I thought it was God awful, but it was part of the journey and I’m glad I have those foundations. 

Over the past 20 years I’ve worked in every single department of our company; and I still enjoy heading down the warehouse to pack out orders  – it makes the whole thing real when you can actually see what all the work amounts too.

Currently, I’m the COO of Keune ANZIS (Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia & Singapore) and the Founder of Airyday – a sunscreen brand I created to change the way people view sunscreen after a small skin cancer scare. 

Both these companies are two completely different beasts, but I love what I do and am very lucky to have found success like this.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I’m usually up at 5am and to the gym (not going to lie… I don’t always make it to the early class). Kids are out the door by 7:45 and I’m at my desk by 8:30. Then the chaos begins.  My husband calls it “many small fires”, and a normal day is a mix of meetings, strategy and operations sessions, and hands-on work.

In my experience, the higher you get in a company, the more small fires you’re dousing with water.  There’s a certain thrill in the unpredictability, but it also demands adaptability, willingness to always have contingency plans and a good sense of humour.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

I try to keep my weekly schedules routine where they are as much as possible on repeat & compartmentalised. For me routine helps me to know the time I have allocated to something as it allows me some notion of predictability which gives me a feeling knowing I am (mostly) in control. 

For me, work-life balance is more about integration than separation. Instead of aiming for a perfect equilibrium, I focus also on making conscious choices that align with my priorities.

Some days work takes precedence, and other days it’s all about the kids. I hate to sound defeatist, but I have never achieved work life balance, so for me it’s about being present where I am and understanding that balance also needs to be a fluid concept, which I work to try to control with my routines, to ensure things don’t spiral out of control. 

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

My husband and I had an argument once about my lack of work/life balance…. I was doing emails on my phone while being wheeled in for my daughter’s C-section.  He was probably right on that one.

After kids I’ve realised that embracing change is vital for personal and professional growth. I’ve made deliberate lifestyle adjustments and despite my tendencies to fight it, I’ve set clear boundaries between work and personal time. 

It’s an ongoing process, I’m constantly tweaking and refining my routines. I find that sometimes even the smallest changes like turning the lights out by 9:30 pm instead of 10pm, have allowed me to perform better during the day as a mum, wife and professional, but like anything, sometimes getting good outcomes is more about mindset than specific actions.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Books like How Brands Grow and The Long and the Short of It have been invaluable to help mould my thinking about long- and short-term effectiveness.

I also love podcasts.  Earphones in and 30-40 minutes of me time; it’s amazing. Check out “The Lazy Ceo Podcast with Jane Lu” if you’re interested in hearing about all things business, mindset with marketing discussions and ideas from amazing entrepreneurs.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

In the pursuit of balance, it’s crucial to acknowledge that perfection is a myth. Embrace the messiness of life, make choices that align with your values, and surround yourself with routines, people and systems that support you. And don’t feel guilty about it!  I spend way too much of my salary on support systems, but when you’re giving everything, you have every day to kids, businesses, loved ones… having people & these systems around you is the only way I can do it without burning out.

Work and life aren’t opposing forces, but they also aren’t complementary in most cases. Find joy in the mess, celebrate small victories, and do it in your timeline and not anyone else’s. 

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.