Sandra Ebbott is the founder and managing director of Mizzie The Kangaroo, Australia’s original natural teething toy and educational toys.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Sure thing. To start off with, I’m originally French Canadian, born and raised, but I started my professional career after Uni over in Europe.
Prior to Mizzie The Kangaroo, I worked in marketing with some of the world’s biggest brands, in 5 different countries, including being at the BMW head office in Germany to launch MINI globally, at the UK/Ireland Pepsi HQ relaunching Pepsi Max and Diet Pepsi, and at Reebok Europe, in the pivotal time of making Reebok ‘cool’ again.
I ended up in Queensland with BMW 13 years ago and decided to make it my forever home. Career, training others and marketing were definitely my focus… until I had our daughter, and she was a terrible teether.
That’s when I used my marketing research, branding and market entry background and put all my energy into developing the perfect natural, fun, safe and educational teether and educational toy brand. That entire process took 2 years of research and development before I finally launched Mizzie The Kangaroo in 2015.
I am currently the managing director and CEO of the business, taking on all the strategic decisions and direction of the company, as we expand globally.
I am still designing and creating the products, as I am very passionate about that part of the business, and I absolutely love creating fun products that will develop young children, teaching them age-appropriate skills as they play.
It’s so rewarding to create a product from scratch, see it come to life, and then see young children all over the world play with it and learn.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Every day is completely different from a work perspective, but what doesn’t change is my daily wake up call.
Generally, at approximately 6am, I have a mini me jump on me, or a mini hubby come and cuddle me. I’m very slow in the morning and I do love my sleep, but being woken up that early in that way, definitely at least makes me wake up with a smile.
Once the morning rush (it’s always a rush) of daycare and school drop off are over, I’ll grab a coffee on the way to our pop-up shop in Ascot, Brisbane.
We work from behind the pop-up shop, so we can talk to customers, get their feedback, and get that very rewarding interaction. When we’re busy and feeling under the pump, it’s a good distraction!
Other than that, the day is a mix of strategy, planning, designing, speaking to retailers, customers, finalising orders, and planning our marketing strategy. I do tend to stare at a lot of spreadsheets, but that’s what running a business requires.
You need to know what’s happening within your business, besides the beautiful designs and products. It needs to be working, sustainable, and ideally, growing.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Being the owner, I can be completely flexible. I tend to work a lot, so it often doesn’t matter if it’s at 9am, or 9pm. I just need to get it done and fit it in my day. The flipside is that if I need to be at a school pick up or presentation, I can.
If I need to bring the kids to an appointment, I do it. I simply make up for it later. With the pop-up shop, someone does always have to be in between 9am – 5pm, so there is some coordination with the team. So far, we’ve managed to make it work.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I once heard someone call it ‘work-life fulfillment’, instead of work-life balance. I think that’s better suited for me, as I tend to work a lot, I’m very driven, but I also love it and it fulfills me.
Would I sometimes rather be relaxing on a beach somewhere, surrounded by my family and playing games with my kids? Yes. Would I be fully satisfied or fulfilled? Maybe yes, but I also love feeling the sense of achievement, and at the moment in my business, I have to work very hard to get that.
I’ve always lived by the motto ‘work hard and play hard’. The ‘playing hard’ part has changed and evolved over the years, but I’m still happy to work very hard, if I have other fulfilments in my life outside of work.
Whether it be sport, family, travel, house projects, or other, as long as I have that, I am happy. As you can imagine, this can change and evolve through time, and that’s when I also stand by another one of my favourite mottos: ‘when you have a lemon, make it a lemonade’.
In other words, how can you change the current situation and make it better. Things don’t always go the right way, and if they aren’t, after you’ve given them a really good go, you have to reflect and see how and what you can change.
This could simply be adding a daily routine of going for a walk to clear your head, or spending quality time with your loved ones, or really shaking things up at work. Work on the things that you can improve and make it a better situation.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Work-wise, I’ve outsourced some of the things that were taking too much of my time and not achieving a lot, and I feel so much better for it.
Sometimes, as a business owner it’s hard to take the step and outsource things that you know you can do yourself. It’s actually helped me be better focused on the important parts of the business that I can really have a positive impact on.
From a personal perspective, I’ve had a back injury for the last 3 months so I haven’t been able to go for my runs, which are often how I like to clear my head and feel better. It’s certainly not a habit I wanted to get out of, but hopefully I will soon be able to start up again, or find something new.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I have so many great books, business books, marketing books, inspirational books. I love books, although at the moment, the only time I get to read is when I’m on holiday.
Then I aim to read 2-3 books, typically in French (my connection back to my youth and ‘roots’). One of my all-time favourite authors is Paulo Coelho. I specifically remember reading The Alchemist during my uni days, and how it invigorated me to think differently and open my mind.
I subscribe to a lot of newsletters to stay in the loop about our industry, from trade publications such as The Bugg Report to consumer parenting sites like Kidspot, Babyology, Mama Disrupt and Mouths of Mums.
I also love to listen to inspiring business-related podcasts when I’m in the car or running. Some of my favourites are Lady Startup, Lady Brains and The Mentor.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
So many products and apps that keep Mizzie The Kangaroo running and help us to engage with our community!
To name a few; Instagram, Shopify, Xero, LinkedIn, Transferwise for international transfers and our global websites, Camera, Spotify, Dropbox and Facebook Pages.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Probably Richard Branson. I think he’s done it well.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think it’s a very personal thing. I love my work, and I work very hard. I love my family and personal life, and that’s why I work so hard. One without the other doesn’t fulfill me, so I try to find the perfect balance that works for me, which is most definitely not for everyone!
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