The Leap Stories #47: Lloyd Fenn

Welcome to the second half of our leaping pair story. Last week we met Jane Fenn, founder of jewellery brand WhiteLightly. This week we’re talking to her other half, Lloyd Fenn, full time industrial designer and co-founder of urban farming brand, Glowpear.

Lloyd’s story is interesting because his leap is currently a sideline gig, and one that he’s done with three other business partners. Which I love. Because leaps don’t have to be a mighty all or nothing affair. Nor do they have to be taken solo. 

That said, being a full time employee, side-line entrepreneur and business partner, husband and father of three, is not without it’s challenges. You’ll read that Lloyd is mindful of the time and energy it takes to juggle family, work and life commitments, and sometimes the best way through that all is a merge – if you visit the Glowpear website, or check out their latest Indiegogo campaign you’ll see that many of the promotion images and videos feature Jane and their children (undoubtedly future entrepreneurs in the making!).

Unlike Jane who retrained from a financial consultant to become a jeweller, Lloyd leveraged his existing experience, connections, heritage and interests to produce a product he wish existed, while still working full-time. The upside of this for his very supportive employer, is that Lloyd’s empathy and insight for his clients has expanded, because he himself now sits on both sides of the fence.

One of the things I often ask my coaching clients is ‘who else can help with this?’ And there are often long pauses, because we feel like we have to do everything themselves, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness or not coping. Infact it’s the very opposite. Reaching out for what you need to bring your ideas to life, is one of your greatest measures of courage – it’s having the wisdom and insight to know that you can not do this life on your own. It’s also one of the most brilliant ways to initiate collaboration, connection and to take a leap!

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT! For all you urban gardeners out there, Lloyd is generously offering all Of Kin readers 10% off their Glowpear order using the code ‘glowkin’. This code is available exclusively to YOU lovely leapers and is only available for a limited time so hop to it and embrace your inner green thumb. (And check out their latest Indiegogo campaign too!)

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Lloyd Fenn, founder of the wonderful Glowpear, and Jane Fenn, wife, fellow leaper and founder of the beautiful Whitelighty.

 

What did you want to be when you grew up and why?

As early as I can remember, I wanted to be creative. I’ve always had a passion for art. At one point I think I wanted to be a cartoonist or an illustrator or an artist of some kind. Drawing, painting and sculpting, outside of school hours, is something that I carried on doing through senior high school. When faced with the prospect of being the first person in my extended family to go to university, I came to the conclusion that I would be an architect, drawing on my experience of working school holidays with my father, a builder, and having a keen interest in 3D form and all things technical. On the suggestion of a clever high school teacher, I then discovered the world of industrial design and have never looked back. The only variation being that I found a degree that offered the possibility of studying both design and engineering.

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What did/do you study?

I studied product (industrial) design as well as mechanical engineering. I was one of the first groups to go through a unique Australian university degree designed to bring the worlds of design and engineering together and produce graduates that are highly creative while also being fiercely practical and methodical. In my first job out of uni, I worked for a company designing automated screen-printing machinery. This involved working intimately with both engineers and the technicians on the factory floor who had to put my designs together… this was a massive eye opener! After a few years I successfully migrated into design consultancy work, my dream job, and have stayed in this field for the past 11 years. I design almost anything for almost anyone. Designs include packaging, tupperware, toys, consumer electronics, power tools, kitchen appliances, medical and lab equipment, solar systems, robotics and custom machinery and processing equipment.

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One of the gorgeous Glowpear self-watering planters. Check them out here.

What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?

Probably leaving home, from a small country town, and moving to Melbourne at 17 to start university. It was all new and unfamiliar, but intensely thrilling. With hindsight I’m surprised I managed this as well as I did… But I did have a partner in crime, my wife-to-be, Jane. I’ve always been independent and I guess, at that age, I was also highly optimistic, over-confident and invincible… So we kind of just got on with things.

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What were you doing before you made your leap?

Designing successful products for other people (who then became successful), watching, learning, and looking for ideas to put my own stamp on.

Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?

It’s hard to single out major influences for me. I feel like there has been a constant stream of clever and talented educators, friends, employers and colleagues who have helped to shape my professional experience. I’ve always tried to be a sponge when it comes to technical knowledge, but that aside, there are other skills I’ve observed in people I admire, and now aspire to. Careful consideration, true patience and humility are now what I work on.

It seems a funny thing to say, but becoming a father (of three) has changed my work ethic forever. Moving to a lifestyle of little sleep, working all day, then coming home and caring for children at night, made me appreciate a new level of hard work. For some reason, at this point in my life, I decided to start a business on the side. People often say ‘energy creates energy’ and I truly believe, had I not been energised by looking after a young family, I wouldn’t have created time and energy to leap into a new business.

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What did you have in place before you made the leap?

I’ve been lucky enough to continue a full-time job and have very understanding and flexible employers. They know about my side business and are more supportive and accommodating than I would ever have expected. In fact, they are actively interested, which is nice. Things are always beneficial for those with a positive attitude, and so far my employers have also benefited from the new contacts, processes and skills I’ve picked up along the path of starting a business. I’ve definitely developed a newfound respect and understanding for my clients and what they are faced with outside of the design work I do for them.

The other significant safeguard to leaping into a new start-up business has been doing so with three other equal business partners. We each have full-time employment outside of our side project, and have been able to share the capital investment and massive time commitment.

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What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?

There hasn’t yet been a point where I’m not enjoying the type of work I do in my day job. I still love designing interesting products for people. In fact the driver for my leap into a new venture arose from a somewhat naive deadline. My business partner, Simon and I, studied together at university where we became great friends, and we decided, upon graduating, that when we turned 30 we would reconvene to start a business together.

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How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?

I think I’ve always been optimistic and confident in what I do. I was also driven to make the leap by the fact that I had three other partners who all agreed that it was a good idea, and were all prepared to share the risk. In fact, it’s probably more frightening now that we are up to our necks in the business and failure is not an option.


Learn more about Glower’s design here (and see the Fenn family in action!)

How did you fund your leap?

A four-way split of capital investment from each director plus masses of man hours plus the security of each having other income streams. We have also been able to negotiate and maintain a flexible payment structure with our manufacturer. This has allowed us to amortise the high manufacturing start-up costs over a few years of production.

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What other leaps have you made in the past?

Getting married at 24 and moving to London with no real plan or job to go to… It was chaotic, but heaps of fun and I’ll never forget the experience of travelling around Europe.

What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?

Moving to London didn’t really work out. I had planned to gain professional design employment, but ended up working in construction (earning good cash money), and spent it all on travel. We moved home after 12 months for stability and to get serious about our careers.

What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?

I’m probably most afraid of letting down my family and my business partners. I dread the idea that there’s going to be a mistake or something I’ve not done that might derail the business. Everyone involved, particularly the families of the business partners, have sacrificed a lot to support us. I deal with this fear by being as devoted to the business and my role as I possibly can be. I try hard to never get complacent or lazy with the tasks that fall under my responsibility.

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How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.

About eight, I think. It’s pretty rad, and I love the excitement of watching the Glowpear brand grow, but it’s a huge amount of work and responsibility. I’m bleary eyed most of the time from working day and night.

What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

The sense of excitement and achievement every time we have a little win. It’s exhilarating to feel like the sky’s the limit, and see new and unexpected opportunities arise.

What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?

The biggest downside is the feeling of missing out which comes from (occasionally) losing time with my wife and three young children. I get through it because my wife is super cool, and I do the majority of the work after dinner and once the kids are in bed on weeknights. I try to keep the weekends free as much as possible, and if I can’t, I try to include the family in whatever I’m doing, like testing or building prototypes, gardening, shooting photos and videos.

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What might be your next leap?

As a business we are making two leaps this year. We are just about to launch our second major product and, to do so, are planning to run a crowdfunding campaign. The second leap is breaking into the European market. This one is very daunting and is going to take a huge commitment to back our decision and just jump in head first.

Outside of Glowpear, I can’t see myself ever wanting to stop developing interesting products. So the next personal leap might involve a new design direction or new companies.

What are your favourite words to live by?

Happy wife = happy life. Ha ha ha… This reminds me what’s truly important in life, and no matter how busy I get, to prioritise my attention on the people who deserve it the most.

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Beautiful Lloyd and Jane Fenn, a pair of creative and courageous leapers.

Who do you admire who also made the leap?

My wife Jane, who has left a career in finance to focus on jewellery design and making, under the name WhiteLightly. She is creative and incredibly driven. Jane generally gets 2-3 days a week without kids and it’s amazing to watch just how much she can achieve in such a short amount of time.

I also admire Nathan Pollock, one of my business partners, who previously made the leap from managing a highly successful Melbourne design consultancy to relocating his family of five to Byron Bay to start his own consultancy. He was chasing the perfect work life balance, and it’s been amazing to watch him achieve huge success over the past six years while still managing to surf each morning.

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A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?

Think about what you’d like to do carefully, then do more research than you think you need to. Talk to people close to you about the plan and if it all still makes sense…GO FOR IT!

Right now I’m:

Hearing: Big Scary, Tame Impala and the entire Bowie back catalogue
Eating: Masses of fresh herbs (from my garden) on everything!
Drinking: Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir OR Negroni cocktails
Reading: I’m nerding out on the last book of the Game of Thrones series
Loving: Art by Michael Peck, Ghostpatrol, Twoone, and Thomas Jackson

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With the long weekend upon us here in Australia, it’s a good time to plant seeds for both your veggies and leaping ideas! Lloyd will water beets. We’ll keep fertilising your imagination.

Lovingly, Kylie x

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