Welcome to My Quaroutine – our new weekly interview series on About Time, where each week we’ll be talking to an inspirational figure on their work, routine and life during lockdown. First up in the series is Marishka Dunlop, founder of life armour, a brand of award-winning 100% natural supplements. Read on to discover Marishka’s story:

What does your daily routine look like right now?

Marishka Dunlop, Marishka Dunlop interview, Marishka Dunlop life armour, Marishka Dunlop founder

My day starts in the same way pre-lockdown, in that I am up early with my toddler and doing breakfast for her and my 9-year old. We have set up a routine for my older one which starts with PE at 9am with Joe Wicks. I have learnt quite quickly that whilst it’s great to have a routine for structure, it’s important to flex it as everyone adapts to this “new normal” and spending a lot more time together.

I find myself having to explain to a 3-year old each morning that nursery, parks and soft play are all closed and then thinking up activities we can do. This often involves mess, which I am learning to adapt to myself; like painting, baking and play doh.

We try to have lunch together as a family around 12.30pm. I am currently managing work on life armour around my husband’s work schedule, which can be tricky. Normally I work full-time on it, but am lucky to get 3-4 hours each day at the moment.

Each day I make sure we all do some exercise, whether that be Joe Wicks PE lesson or something else. I did my first yin yoga session a few nights ago tucked in our office and found it really helped to de-stress during this uncertain time. I also am planning to start using the Calm app soon. I feel it’s needed to help clear the mind with so much noise right now.

What inspired you to start your company?

Marishka Dunlop, Marishka Dunlop interview, Marishka Dunlop life armour, Marishka Dunlop founder

We are already living in a stress epidemic, our lives are increasingly busy and we are all juggling as best we can. For myself and women around me, I could see the impact stress was having on our health and wellbeing and when I spoke to others they all said the same.

Many women including myself found shopping for supplements trickier than a science exam. From how to pronounce ingredients to what did they even do? The more I researched, I found quality was not always a given, and coming from a skincare marketing and innovation background, this really surprised me.

I thought I can do better and people deserve better so life armour was born.

How hard was it getting things off the ground?

I brought the brand to market in just 7 months and loved every minute of it. Having worked in large corporations where innovation takes 18-24 months, it was a pure joy to move as quickly as possible, without compromising on quality or packaging sustainability. Had I not been so focussed on launching in 100% recyclable pots for the capsules the launch would have been sooner. But this was really important to me.

I was fortunate to be working with some of the best UK suppliers and real experts in the area of formulation development who gave a great deal of support.

If I am honest, the hardest part of launching was losing my work wife and co-pilot Alix to breast cancer. Whilst life armour was my baby, she worked with me on so many things and as she got weaker, was still there to support and give advice on decisions I had to make. She saw life armour launch put passed a month later.

What advice would you give others looking to launch a wellness brand?

Believe in yourself, make a plan and then think of the steps you need to take to get there. It’s great to have big goals, that is what motivates and drives so many of us, but be realistic in what you can achieve and plan.

Focus and write down the successes as it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the never ending to do list. Remember it all comes down to you, no IT, or finance support!

Surround yourself with people who believe in you and will support you. Block out the negative thinkers.

Remember to sense check along the way, do consumers really want what you are offering? Will they like what you are doing? Be open to suggestions from others and do your market research.

The path is NEVER linear, be prepared to pivot as required. The current situation we find ourselves in with Covid-19 is a great example of how anything from fitness trainers to bricks & mortar sites are having to pivot to use digital.

How has Covid-19 affected your business? What are you currently doing as a business during this time?

Marishka Dunlop, Marishka Dunlop interview, Marishka Dunlop life armour, Marishka Dunlop founder

The number of calls and messages we have received from customers who want to talk about how anxious and overwhelmed they feel and which supplements would help has significantly increased. So my priority has been to support them.

We are also supporting our amazing NHS at wellness centres that have been set up at local hospitals with free products of our entire range.

Finally, we have been working on a new Drops of Immunity product for some time and have worked hard with our supplier to bring this to market within the next month to support our community. Acting as a first line of defence against a weakened immune system and containing proven ingredients such as echinacea, holy basil and elderberry along with other adaptogenic herbs to boost the immune system. About Time readers are actually the first to hear about this coming to market and it is currently available for pre-sale here.

How are you spending your time in self-isolation?

Trying to run a business around children that need to be homeschooled, entertained and fed (more often than you think!) can be tricky at times. We try to focus on the positives and each day list things we are grateful for. We have a lot of fun dancing and playing. We also try to connect with our family & friends as much as possible. I think this time will mean many people including myself will re-connect with others they have lost touch with. Exercise is also a key way for me to feel energised and de-stress so this is a key focus, daily as much as possible.

From a work perspective, it has given me the opportunity to reach out to people to provide helpful and supportive content for my community on Instagram at this time. This includes advice and Q&A’s from various experts including a GP, nutritionist and fitness instructors. If anyone would like to provide their expertise we’d be more than happy to share, so please do reach out over on our Instagram page @lifearmournutrition

Finally, I am trying hard to learn the art of patience. That’s very much a work in progress!

Do you have any tips for managing your mental health as a business owner?

  1. Connection is key. Have a close group who can offer advice as it’s tough being a solo business owner. As part of this, meet other entrepreneurs who will understand your world more than anyone else and will have experienced the highs and lows of managing your own business. Soon you will see you are not alone!
  2. Set boundaries. This is easier said than done as it truly is all consuming. But, if you don’t look after yourself your business will be impacted. Take time out to do what you love to clear the mind and de-stress.
  3. If you can, get a business coach. I was lucky enough to work with a good university friend of mine who was re-training as a business coach during the pre-launch phase and this really helped to provide structure and focus.
  4. Write down your achievements. It’s SO easy to always look at the never ending to do list. Be proud of the achievements you have made and look back on them when you are having a tough day

What’s next for you and your brand?

Coming from an innovation background we have a pipeline of products ready to launch that our community has been asking for. This starts next month with our drops of immunity defence, with plenty more to come. We will continue to build the brand digitally, particularly in the current climate, and continue the exciting discussions we were having with retailers to plan for a positive future, as and when we come through this challenging time.

Personally, I set myself the challenge of running 4 x 10k’s this year to raise money for Breast Cancer Now, which was a charity very close to Alix’s heart.