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Balancing the Grind with Miranda Essex, Head of Growth & Partnerships at Thrift+

Miranda Essex is the Head of Growth & Partnerships at Thrift+, where she oversees growth strategy and brand and retail partnerships.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve always been concerned about climate change, and decided early in my life that I wanted to do something about it. My career so far has been a process of gradually getting closer to a job that tackles the climate crisis, building the skills needed as I go along.

I started life in Brand Management at P&G, and while I learnt valuable lessons and made lifelong friends, I quickly realized that a marketing job growing shampoo sales wasn’t for me. I applied for a part-time Masters in Social Innovation, and moved to ?What If!, an innovation consultancy.

The projects were interesting and varied, but many focused on innovation that would drive top line growth at the expense of the environment. I did what I could to do more impact-focused work, running a pro bono project with B Corp Toast Ale, and starting a partnership with tech & social impact accelerator The Baobab Network. 

When the pandemic hit in 2020, like everyone I found myself captive at home. I was fortunate to still have my job, but found that the eradication of any socialising ‘in real life’ gave me a lot of extra time.

After reading that millions of plants were going to be scrapped due to garden centre closures, I set up a social enterprise alongside some friends. We launched a zero-waste plant delivery service which prevented quality garden plants from being binned, supporting hard-hit British growers and donating the profits to charity.

After lockdown, my co-founder and I went on Bethnal Green Ventures Tech for Good Accelerator. As the programme neared the end, I decided that the change in market conditions, operational complexities, and insufficient impact potential meant that this wasn’t the right business for me, so decided to move on and look for a role in a mission-driven startup. 

I met Joe, Founder of Thrift+, a second-hand clothing resale platform on a mission to power the circular economy for fashion. I joined Thrift+ in March 2021 as Head of Growth, an exciting role in which I oversee our growth strategy and brand and retail partnerships. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

A typical day is getting up at 7:30 (despite attempts to make this earlier, I’m not an early bird and the January darkness is against me!) doing some yoga or meditation, doing a workout at 8am, and getting to my desk a bit after 9.

I’m usually at home but sometimes work in our co-work space on the South Bank. I tend to have at least 6 meetings a day, but try to keep chunks of time free to focus on big pieces of work and strategic priorities.

On a Monday, that would be our weekly team meeting, weekly performance reporting meeting, a session with tech & product, a check in with team members, and a couple of external calls like progress check-ins with a partner.

I always go for a 20 minute walk and stop for lunch, and then work until around 7. I try to keep evenings clear early in the week, but often see friends for dinner (when the COVID situation allows!) I enjoy cooking and trying new vegan / vegetarian recipes. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Thrift+ is very flexible which is great. Connecting with the team in person is important to me but for days when I have lots of external calls or analysis to do, it makes sense to be at home and saves the time of cycling to and from the office.

I love the fact that I can work in different places from time to time. Back in November, I worked from Barcelona for a couple of weeks, and spent time enjoying the city and brushing up on my Spanish!

Having flexibility makes it so much easier to spend weekends with friends or family – I have many memories of stressful post-office travel in packed rush-hour tubes with seconds to spare before leaping onto a train to go away for the weekend.

Not having fixed or strict office working rules makes life so much easier. When I was in the P&G business park I couldn’t do any errands during the week, so had to spend Saturday mornings doing admin and stuff like washing. Now I can fit those things into my daily life in small doses so that they don’t build up.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I think the main thing I appreciate is having autonomy in how I do my work. I’m lucky that I really enjoy what I do which means it never feels like a burden, but having the freedom to start late one day or take an extended break if you need it makes a big difference to daily life. 

I’m pretty active, and now so much work is remote, it’s really important to me to be able to maintain movement so that I don’t spend all day staring at a screen.

A nightmare day for me would be an early start with a lot of calls, and fixed working hours which meant that I couldn’t – for example – go for a run before work. It’s also important to have enough space in your role to learn and be curious, alongside relaxing moments with colleagues which are free of any agenda. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I’ve become quite obsessed with walking. Periods of COVID restrictions where you could only meet people outside meant that walks with friends were a great way to catch up. I now love walking, and think it’s a habit that will stick. 

6) Do you have any favorite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I love the Outrage and Optimism podcast. It’s about the latest developments in the unfolding climate crisis. While it’s a heavy topic, the hosts handle it with humour and empathy. Christiana Figueres is definitely one of my heroes. 

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker was the book of the moment a few years ago and it definitely changed how I approach sleep. I now appreciate its importance (as I’m sure people who wake me up earlier than I’d like can confirm). 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

A boring one but my Apple Watch. I have a tendency to run a couple of minutes behind so I have recently started using the timer to make sure I don’t get too absorbed in a task when I’m supposed to be getting ready / joining a call. It’s definitely helped. 

We also have an Apple Slicer at home and while it’s not exactly a necessity, there’s something very satisfying about getting 8 perfect segments every time I have an apple as a snack. The enjoyment to cost ratio for that purchase is definitely high! 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

Beyonce. How does she fit it all in?! (Good luck getting her to squeeze in an interview.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

While it’s great to be action-oriented and to get a lot out of each day, you can’t always be on your A game. When you have an off-day, be kind to yourself! And when things go well, reward yourself and appreciate how well you’ve done. 

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.