Hollie de Cruz
Posted on May 25 2016
This week’s Wednesday Woman is the awesome Hollie de Cruz. Founder of London Hypnobirthing, Hollie a is social entrepreneur, empowering women in childbirth through to motherhood, and is also creator of the YESMUM affirmation cards. Read her story here:
Bardega: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you were like growing up?
Hollie de Cruz: I was born in Walthamstow and grew up in Ilford, and spent most of my life on that side of East London/Essex until I moved to South London in my early twenties. My dad ran his own business and my mum stayed at home with me and my brother, which I think I took for granted when I was younger. Now that I’m a mother myself I realise how much she sacrificed for us, and I find that quite amazing.
It sounds a bit cliché but as a child I loved school and was a high achiever. I had lots of friends and was always quite happy moving around social circles which made my school career a pretty straight forward one. I think because I found academic study relatively easy, I was naturally encouraged down the route of further study and university. I remember finding this confusing at the time, because even though I was good at it, I didn’t feel genuinely connected to it or lit up by it. I didn’t feel excited about it like my friends seemed to.
I got a place at university to read History & English, but before starting I got offered a summer job (via a waitressing/bar job I was doing at the time) at a small design agency and I felt totally at home in the hands-on environment there. I got offered a kind of paid apprenticeship there, and decided to defer my university place to give it a go. It was the best decision I ever made not to go to university, and I wish more was done to encourage young people to think about what they want to do rather than study and rack up debt purely because they’re not presented with any other real options. I’m not anti-university but I’m pro-options. Our society, and certainly our government’s approach to education, is still way too prescriptive for my liking. It’s like putting kids on a production line rather than inspiring creativity and independent thinking.
Going into industry at 18 felt like it switched on all the things that I actually enjoyed – being with people, problem solving, learning new skills and being part of the wider world. I found it so much more fulfilling to learn by doing, and I think that definitely gave me a lot of the confidence and initiative I use in my own business today.
Bardega: What inspired you to set up London Hypnobirthing?
De Cruz: Before having my son I was working in a very male-dominated environment at a big corporate design agency. I worked really long hours, juggled stress and fun in equal measure and lived for the weekend. My pregnancy was completely unplanned, and I found that all quite frightening. None of my friends had children; in fact I'd never even held a newborn baby, let alone looked after one. As such, I felt pretty scared and disempowered. Then I stumbled upon the concept of hypnobirthing about half way through my pregnancy and even though I was cynical at first it became a real game changer. Oscar's birth was such a positive experience that I knew from the moment I held him I wanted to be involved in spreading the word of such an empowering movement for women, and that’s what inspired me to quit my job, get my hypnobirthing qualification and set up London Hypnobirthing.
Bardega: We love the YESMUM affirmation cards - can you tell us how they came about and what the response has been like to them?
De Cruz: So I use a lot of positive affirmations with my hypnobirthing clients as a way of ditching the embedded fear we have around birth and reprogramming the subconscious mind with positive messages about the experience. When we change the way we think, the way we experience things changes and I see the impact of this every day in my work with women. I really wanted to apply this to the next stage of the journey, and create a tool that mums could take with them through to motherhood and help continue all the positive, mindful work they’d enjoyed in pregnancy. And that’s when the idea of the YESMUM cards was born.
I thought I’d just make 50 packs and see if any of my clients/friends wanted to buy them. They were more well-received than I ever could have imagined, and it really proved to me how much we need this kind of simple positive reinforcement in our lives. When I put them on Instagram I had loads of people tagging their friends and saying “we need these” and it kind of took off from there. I now have six ranges for mothers, pregnant women, kids, entrepreneurs and, people on a wellbeing/health journey and humans (in general), and ship to every continent on a daily basis.
Bardega: What have been the biggest obstacles you have faced as an entrepreneur and how did you over come them?
De Cruz: Entrepreneurship is amazing and testing in equal measures. I feel genuinely privileged to do something I love every single day but the sheer amount of work and responsibility can be overwhelming at times. I have to wear all the hats, from teaching to studio logistics, to finance, admin, bookings, social media, design, print buying, marketing – crikey, it makes me a bit nauseous just writing the list! I hate how much I’m on my phone/laptop at times, but I’ve recently started renting some office space which is a game changer. Having a space for my work self and a space for home/family self has been pivotal for my wellbeing, my family and the productivity of my business.
Another obstacle has been learning to work more strategically. I’m an ideas person and it’s pretty much a given that I’ll wake up at least three nights a week with an idea I’ve got to implement. The key has been learning which ideas to take forward and which to park. I think a lot of people see entrepreneurship as a constant stream of new ideas, but in reality, execution is everything.
Bardega: What advice would you give to other women looking to start their own business?
De Cruz: I’m really tempted to say “just go for it” but I think if I’m really honest and speak from experience I would say don’t rush into it and really take some time and space to think about everything it involves. There’s a real movement of women starting their own businesses at the moment and it’s ridiculously exciting to see all of these incredible ideas, products and voices coming from a historically unrepresented sector of society. I think we risk falling into a place where we glorify the idea of being busy at all times though, and I worry that women who chose to be at-home mothers feel like being a mother isn’t enough. It is enough. It is SO enough, and if you want to start a business do it because you’re insanely passionate about it, not because you feel you should be doing more. You don’t need to start a business to be a boss.
If you decide you do want to start a business, my advice would be to speak to other entrepreneurs to get a real sense of what it involves, and read around the subject too. There are some great books about building businesses out there – Start Something that Matters by the founder of TOMS shoes is my personal favourite, and The Four Hour Work Week. Also books like Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg and Thrive by Arianna Huffington give some amazing insight into redefining success.
Bardega: What / who inspires you?
De Cruz: I am genuinely motivated and inspired by so many people: The birth greats – Ina May Gaskin and the late Sheila Kitzinger; people who pioneer for education and freedom – Dr Maya Angelou, Malala Yousifazi; business women with heart and passion – Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington; and then entrepreneurs who have been successful whilst making a positive contribution to the world - Blake Mycoskie is the person who springs to mind there. His book, Start Something That Matters (mentioned above!), really shaped (and continues to) a lot of the way I work. On a daily basis I’m also motivated by the women around me – the pregnant women I meet who want to empower themselves and take charge of their own wellbeing, and the mums I’m lucky enough to call my friends and companions on this slightly bonkers ride. Also my husband and son who inspire me to be the best version of myself, even when I'm not feeling it.
Bardega: Lastly what advice would you give a younger Hollie?
De Cruz: I would say don’t be so worried about being yourself and going your own way. Not following the crowd will lead you somewhere exciting.