Yesha Patel is the Founder of After, a company that offers textile waste collection across Australia for consumers and businesses.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
So, I was born in New Zealand and remained there until the completion of my undergraduate degree. I achieved my Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Auckland. As I neared the end of my degree, I felt a growing need for more. I had a strong desire to create impactful change in the world, yet I didn’t feel entirely prepared. Additionally, my ambitious aspirations seemed to outgrow the scale of NZ, prompting me to set my sights on Australia. In 2019, I relocated to Melbourne, where I enrolled at the University of Melbourne to pursue my Master of Entrepreneurship.
Until this point in my life, I had been an enthusiastic fast fashion shopper, largely overlooking its detrimental effects on the environment and people. During lockdown, I took on the challenging task of decluttering my long-neglected wardrobe. In my quest for ethical and sustainable means of parting with my worn-out, non-donatable garments (referred to as “unwearables”), I recognised the absence of accessible, eco-friendly disposal solutions, especially for everyday consumers like me.
This realisation prompted me to delve into research on the fast fashion industry. It was during this exploration that I wanted to revolutionise clothing disposal practices. I not only ceased buying new clothes but also incorporated sustainability into my personal life. With the objective of mitigating the adverse environmental impact of improper textile waste disposal, I founded my company, After.
After offers textile waste collection across Australia for consumers and businesses. We’ve diverted over 3.6 tonnes of textile waste from landfills and have visited over 370 households and businesses in Melbourne alone. We’ve recently launched collections in Sydney too!
Today, I run After with my co-founder Nehal and our small team of passionate eco-warriors. You can see me taking part in panels, educating consumers and businesses on textile waste, and connecting with other like-minded founders. I also work 4 days a week in a corporate job so juggling my commitments can be a unique challenge!
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
Every day looks quite different for me, which is something I truly enjoy. Mornings begin with me opening my laptop, checking and responding to emails, and addressing any customer inquiries. After reviewing my schedule for the day, I prepare for my meetings. A conversation with my co-founder, Nehal, follows, during which we discuss our strategic plans for the week. These discussions often extend beyond their intended duration due to our shared excitement about new opportunities and the future of After.
Around 10 am, I set aside time for a trip to the gym, where I usually encounter fewer people and can complete my workout more efficiently. My calendar typically features meetings from 12 pm to 5 pm, interspersed with pockets of time for focused work.
These meetings involve interactions with team members, advisors, potential customers, and industry contacts. On certain days, you might even find me on the road, personally handling textile waste collections, meeting customers, our recycling partners, and the team.
I attempt to wind down around 6 pm, although I often find myself returning to my laptop after dinner to tackle more tasks. Since I enjoy watching TV shows and movies, I usually indulge in some screen time before turning in for the night.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
Work-life balance, to me, entails dedicating time to activities I’m passionate about. Being a huge foodie, I relish trying out new cafes and restaurants. Additionally, I value spending quality moments with friends and family and engaging in travel (though being a founder can sometimes complicate travel plans). I strive to limit work-related activities on weekends, allowing me to switch off and focus on my favourite pastimes. During moments spent with loved ones, I ensure my laptop and phone are off, allowing me to be fully present.
My biggest challenge has been allocating time for myself. Historically, I prioritised work and others over self-care. The gym and running are the only moments in my day reserved for me. During workouts, I activate the “Do Not Disturb” mode on my phone to prevent distractions. On my phone, although I do have Slack and my emails, I keep notifications turned off, so I only check it when I absolutely need to. I don’t keep LinkedIn on my phone as that feels like just another social media app.
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?
Having a change of work scenery every week! I make an effort to work from different locations, injecting freshness into my routine. Most days, I operate from my compact one-bedroom apartment, which can sometimes feel constricting and monotonous.
My home, which should be my relaxation space, gets intertwined with my workspace. So now each week I try to bring some variation of where I work. Whether it is a co-working space or a café, I feel it’s been able to build a boundary with my home and work life. Plus, I can try out the newest cafes around Melbourne, adding a bit of excitement to my workdays!
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?
I’m an avid podcast listener! I’ve been engrossed in Jay Shetty’s ‘On Purpose’ podcast, which features insightful guests and covers crucial topics like mental, physical, and emotional well-being, relationships, and mindsets. Another favourite is Dr. Andrew Huberman’s ‘Huberman Lab’ podcast, offering a neuroscientific perspective on our thinking, movement, and emotions.
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?
Always remain connected to your purpose and the “why” behind your actions, especially during both challenging and successful times. This connection will provide grounding and guide you through tough situations. If your purpose doesn’t inspire and motivate you, it might be time to reassess your chosen path.