CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Rachel Schmidt, CEO of Koéna Skincare

Rachel Schmidt is the CEO of dermaceutical skincare brand and social enterprise Koéna, where she commenced the role in 2019.

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

I started off my career in events working in the city of Melbourne. I loved the work and the lifestyle. However, I wanted to be a little closer to home and my dad used the opportunity to bring me into the family business, Daniels Health.

Our motto is “making healthcare safer” through reusable sharps containers in healthcare to reduce needle stick injuries. I was mentored by my dad and he ensured I had a good understanding in all areas in the business.

I started in People and Culture (HR), moved to Operations, then to Finance and finally landed as his Executive Assistant. I’m blessed to have exposure not only within the business and to his incredible team of executives but also across the different countries we operate in.

My dad met Dr Paul Turner many years ago and partnered together in a joint venture called Koéna where they decided all their profits would go back to helping people less fortunate.

From here he needed someone to take Dr Turner’s well researched formula to market and threw me in the deep end as Koéna’s CEO while still balancing work in the family business. It’s been an exciting adventure.

I’ve been able to utilise all my experience working in different departments, I have a true passion for skincare and I get to help others in the process, it really is my dream job.

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

The thing I like most about my job is that rarely two days look the same which gives me a lot of variety.

One day it could be visiting our local manufacturer to trial new products (what girl wouldn’t enjoy that), or it could be speaking with our charity partner Empower to hear about what they’re achieving overseas, other days it could involve death by zoom meetings.

It’s a mixed bag and I love that. There’s so much that goes into a small business whether it’s working with distributors, marketing, manufacturing or working with people, you’re never bored.

I still value structure so I typically like to start my work day early to get a head start on emails before getting pulled into meetings, phone calls and actioning the work in progress list. I have to really pull myself away to ensure I eat lunch as I tend to get consumed by tasks, so I try to be mindful to have a set time in my day to take a break and reminders to get up from my desk to get some movement

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

Due to COVID I think most workplaces are flexible and remotely working now. I’m more introverted and working from home really suits me.

I don’t get distracted as much, I’m able to balance personal appointments and see my husband more as he does shift work, with the added bonus that he also makes me lunch on afternoon shifts, he’s very good to me.

However, I do miss physically connecting with my team and others so looking forward to a time where there can be a balance of both.

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

Work life balance has become important to me recently. I think as you grow, you see the things you admire in leaders and mentors and things you want to do differently.

When I was younger, I worked long hours, sometimes weekends, was travelling a lot for work and constantly on my phone responding to emails. All of this was part of my development and what I felt was required to prove myself in a family business.

However, it got to a point where I decided I needed to create boundaries to ensure I switch off and can be present and that’s what balance is to me. I achieve this through prioritising time with my husband and family over tasks I know I can do tomorrow, sometimes easier said than done.

I’ve also made a no checking emails rule past 7pm when I’m with my family or friends to ensure that I’m present. All small changes and sometimes there are busier periods at work than others where I can’t always stick to these boundaries but it’s critical to show the people around you that they are important to you.

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

In the last 5 months I started growing a human for the first time and that has changed a lot of my habits and routines including skincare, exercise and eating to ensure I’m taking extra care of this little baby.

In terms of work, there are a few bad habits I started in 2020 that I corrected in 2021. The lockdowns in Melbourne have been especially hard however since rectifying some of these poor habits it’s made me feel more empowered and in control.

I’m sure I’m not the only one tempted to push getting ready for the day to lunchtime if there are no zoom meetings? And the couch always looks a tad more inviting than sitting at a desk. And taking a walk to the pantry to snack can seem more rewarding at the time than going outside for some fresh air.

While enticing, getting into a good routine and separating my work space from my relaxing space has truly helped my mindset and I don’t feel like the days are as daunting as being in lockdown.

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

My favourite most recent read is The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides for any thriller fan. My current podcasts include You Beauty for skincare, the Hamish and Andy podcast for a bit of light- hearted comedy and Hello Bump for pregnancy.

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

I know it’s mainstream, but I could never convert from Apple, all my devices effortlessly talk to each other and I just rely on that too much now. Especially my apple watch, there is nothing more motivating than trying to close my daily goal rings and track my health

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

Great question, I would love to read an interview by Zoe Foster-Blake. How she balances making multi-million dollar skincare deals, writing children’s books, motherhood and making it look effortless in the meantime. Would love to know her secret to the balancing act

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

Work and life will always have good and bad times. If you can’t find something good in your work life, try to balance it out with something positive in your personal life and vice-versa. I believe I’m in charge of creating my own happiness.

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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.