When you are “with them”, be “with them”. Easier said than done of course, but if you are taking them to the playground for an hour, go all in. No phones, only running, swinging and playing!
As a part of my series about “C-Suite Moms” I had the pleasure to interview Lily Liebel. Lily is the Creative Director of Entourage Collection, a group of companies based in London with an office in Hong Kong comprised of Entourage Projects, Entourage Concierge and Entourage Events (and soon to come, Entourage Travel!) providing bespoke services, tailor-made for individuals and global brands alike. She is also a Brand Strategist for several female-led, smaller luxury and sustainable brands. Lily was born in Houston, TX and grew up in New York; she attended Bryn Mawr College where she majored in Political Science, and received her Master’s Degree in London at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Today she is based in London where she lives with her husband Simon (the Founder of Entourage Collection) and their two young children and two dogs. Philanthropy is an extremely important area for her, and she is on the committees of the Old Vic Theatre, the English National Ballet, Cancer Research UK and ArtSocial, among others.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?
In a previous life I did the in-house PR for Graff Diamonds, which I loved more than life itself! The chance to work directly for Laurence Graff himself, and to learn so much from him (and to see, hold and learn about the rarest stones in the world), was a priceless experience; it is very rare for true luxury houses to still have the Founder at the helm, and I was in such a fortunate position to be able to have that opportunity.
Around the same time that I started at Graff I met my future husband; he was working for a big events company at the time, organising events, parties and weddings all over the world. I told him he should start his own events company. Around the time we got married we launched it literally from our dining room table; it was originally called Simon Liebel Designs. As we grew, we changed the name to SL Designs and moved into our first office, and then eventually did a massive rebrand as we grew and expanded further into Concierge and Projects, eventually creating our current company, Entourage Collection (comprised of Entourage Events, Entourage Concierge, Entourage Travel and Entourage Projects). Today I am the Creative Director, and I look after the “Face” of the company (including our website, social media, events we do as a company, PR and Marketing, business development and client relations). I also do Brand Strategy for several other amazing brands, all of which are women-led, smaller luxury and sustainable brands. I love what I do, I love the amazing creative, talented people we get to work with on a daily basis, and I love my clients and what they are building! Of course having your own company comes with an emotional roller coaster and set of extreme highs and lows like nothing else in the world (well I guess like parenting, to be honest!) but I truly feel blessed to do what I do, and I go into our office excited every day!
Can you share with us how many children you have?
I have two children, a boy who is 6 and a girl who is 3; their birthdays are a week apart, and all 3 of of us were born in May but I am a Taurus and they are Geminis… boy are they ever! Having children this age is both exhausting and exhilarating; I love watching the world through their twinkling eyes, it just puts everything in perspective. Having my first really changed my priorities, made me more confident in myself, and (though of course sometimes I want to pull my hair out when they are not listening!), the two of them just bring me such genuine joy it is such a blessing.
Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?
I had just left my job at Graff when I had my son, as I wanted to focus more fully on him and starting our own company; it was a huge shift in dynamics needless to say but such a privilege to be able to have that time with him, and to balance work and mom life.
Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?
Absolutely. From a young age I really wanted to be a mother, I have always loved children, family has always been really important to me, and creating a sense of home, and traditions, have always really been important as well. Though when I was younger (before having my first child) I used to want 5 children (maybe because I am an only child?!), but after having my first whilst starting a business I definitely changed my tune! Now with two, especially one of each, I feel I can really balance work/mom life well, and give both a fair amount of attention.
Did motherhood happen when you thought it would or did it take longer? If it took longer, what advice would you have for another woman in your shoes?
I was very lucky on that front in that I always wanted to have my first child before I was 30, and I was able to and didn’t have any issues. I have so many friends though who have hard pregnancies, or are having a hard time getting pregnant. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be such high achievers, and if things don’t go to plan we can really feel like failures. But we are our own worst enemies, and I truly believe that women need to support each other and encourage and praise each other, and keep it real and be honest. I wish I had known before I had my first just how hard those early days of a new baby are; I was totally unprepared for that and I had a very difficult first 6 months. But then the fog lifted, and I started getting my confidence back and started loving it. My experience was totally different with my second, as I knew what I was doing, she was an easy baby, and the whole thing was so lovely and I appreciated it so much more! I genuinely felt with my first sometimes like, Oh my God, is this my life for the next 40 years?! And of course it’s not, but when you have no frame of reference you don’t know that! So with my second I had that experience, that hindsight, that made me not stress out as much and enjoy it and be in the moment so much more. I didn’t freak out as much, saying Oh it’s 1:07pm why isn’t he napping yet?! Omg why won’t he eat broccoli at the restaurant! With my second, I was so much more chill and knew things would happen when they were meant to, and that there was always another nap or piece of broccoli around the corner when all they want to do is stay awake and eat plain pasta!
Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?
I am fairly strict with my schedule so that I can balance my “work life” and my “mom life”, and am very blessed to have the freedom and flexibility that comes with having my own company to do that. I am in the office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Tuesday and Thursdays are spent with my daughter as those are the days she is not in nursery yet. I pick my son up every day from school around 4pm and the afternoons are spent with my children. My husband and I tend to go out around 3 nights during the week, mainly for work-related things, and if I am not out I work at night from home as well, but weekends are exclusively for family time. I really try to be very strict about this and not go to meetings in the afternoons or the days my daughter isn’t at nursery. This time with them is so precious and it flies by and it’s so easy to say yes to everything and be out all the time, so I am just very upfront about my schedule. I have never had an issue yet with someone not being okay with the reason why I can’t meet on a Tuesday morning; if anything I think it shows people that it’s good to have a balance, that it can be done.
Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?
It’s so funny because I was just talking about this idea with my husband the other day, if we would be doing anything different if we didn’t have children, or if we had had children later in life (we were both fairly young when we had our first, compared to most people we know) but to be honest I don’t think we would! I think because it’s our company and we have that flexibility, not much has changed or would be different. I always knew (or hoped) I would have my own company one day, that was always a dream of mine. I think if we worked for someone else, or in a more traditional industry though, yes of course it would be very different.
Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?
I would say so, yes. It makes me be stricter/better with time management, it helps me to relate to my clients and contacts more who are also working mothers. I did a lot of sports at school and it’s the same as when I was in season; I had less time to do my homework, but as a result it made me focus more and I actually always got better grades when I was in season! Also having children makes you want to work harder, because you are building a company to give them a better future, maybe even to create a legacy or create something to pass down to them? It gives you a goal you can properly visualize and work towards.
What are the biggest challenges you face being a working mom?
Just always striving for a healthy balance, better time management… sometimes I am a bit sad (not guilty, I don’t believe in guilt I think it’s a wasted emotion, make a decision and stick by it for the reasons you have! Don’t feel bad!) that I can’t put them to bed every single night because I have to go out for work (or want to go out!) but I have a part-time nanny who they love MORE than life itself and so I know they are in the best hands. Also it’s good for me (and all moms!) to have a break and to have my time and go to the interesting things we get to go to and are involved in for work in the evening, so I am okay with it! And the weekends are purely for family time, so it’s a good balance.
Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?
As I said above, I had quite a hard time when I first had my son; I thought it would be so easy and I found it such a shock, I really wasn’t prepared! I had never even held a newborn or changed a diaper before I had my son (and I am an only child) so I found everything so hard and frustrating and felt like a failure, and of course all those crazy hormones didn’t help! But what I learned was that No, this is not your life for the next 40 years, it does get better/easier/more fun! Try to enjoy it, because it really does fly by in the end, you will eventually get back to sleeping, and you only look back and remember it fondly (that’s how they trick you to have more!).
Are there any meaningful activities or traditions you’ve made up or implemented that have enhanced your time with your family? Can you share a story or example?
Traditions are super important to me, especially around holiday time. During the week, family dinner is super important, and we almost always do a big Friday night dinner together. Holidays are really important to me, my husband is Jewish and I am Christian and so I try to be sure we celebrate all the holidays and do the traditions. All our traditions usually revolve around food or a meal, we are a big foodie family and both my husband and I love to cook and entertain. And of course we always do Elf on the Shelf at Christmas time; our Elf is named Bouncy, and my husband and I compete against each other to find the best hiding places for him for our children to find in the morning. We take it VERY seriously!
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 3–5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
1. When you are “with them”, be “with them”. Easier said than done of course, but if you are taking them to the playground for an hour, go all in. No phones, only running, swinging and playing!
2. No phones at the dining table. Ever.
3. Try to put them to bed as often as you can, and when you do read to/with them. In fact, read as often as you can to them!
4. Try to have as many family dinners as possible during the week. Even just 1 is better than none, and use it as a time to reflect, catch up, talk and hear about their day/week. It’s amazing what children will tell you if they feel like you are really listening.
5. If you have more than one child, make sure you give each one some one on one time alone with you. Of course not every day is possible, but during the week really try to give each one at least a bit of one on one time if you can.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I always tell my children to dream big! When they tell me places they want to go or things they want to do or what they want to be when they grow up, I always say YES! Be encouraging of their dreams, and be positive that anything is possible if they try their hardest! My son wants to invent a flying car and my daughter wants to ride a unicorn, yes of course that’s amazing! I think one of the most important things a parent can be to their children is to be their biggest cheerleader. Life is tough, we are tough on ourselves, people are tough on each other. At least if your parents can have your back 100%, then you feel like anything is possible, and that you always have someone in your corner. I was very blessed to have parents like that — and they still are — and I think it really helped in giving me confidence and the sense that of course anything is possible!
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Two books I read recently were both very inspirational, and I highly recommend them for everyone, not just parents. The first is I’ve Been Thinking, by Maria Shriver. I can’t recommend this book enough, especially for mothers. I have bought so many copies for mother friends of mine, or girlfriends going through tough times. The second is Beyond Religion, by the Dali Lama. It’s a great book on morals, ethics and how to live a good (in the larger sense of the word) life and what we should be teaching our children.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?
Not everyone will always like you, and you won’t always like everyone, and that’s fine, but you must always, always be respectful and KIND! And like you said above funnily enough, Dream Big! The world is full and exciting and you get a chance to live it every day, so live it to the fullest!
If you could sit down with every new parent and offer life hacks, must-have products or simple advice, what would be on your list?
1. For babies, get those things that clip on to their pacifiers and then on to their clothes so they can’t throw them or lose them. I didn’t have one for my son, I didn’t even know they existed, and when I got one for my second, my daughter, OMG how my life changed!!! No more wasted thrown pacifiers on the floor!
2. I love the Little People, Big Dreams series of books by Isabel Sanchez Vegara. I have almost all of them, and both my son and daughter love them, as do I! I give them as birthday presents (because who needs another plastic lego?!) to all my kids’ friends, I highly recommend them.
3. You and your children are just human beings, trying to figure out how to live together and relate to each other in a crazy world. Sometimes you will really yell or get angry, as will they, but you will resolve it and move on. Holding it all inside and pretending everything is great is not healthy. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, or them. You are trying your best, and you’re doing a great job!
Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.
About the Author:
Jessica Abo is an award-winning TV journalist, social media navigator, author, and speaker. Her debut book, Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media, sold out on its first day when it was published late last year. Jessica spoke about her research and her #liveunfiltered movement on The TODAY Show, Access Hollywood, ABC News, KTLA, and in dozens of publications including Forbes, Fast Company and SHAPE. Women’s Health Magazine named Unfiltered #1 on its list of self-love books, and it was chosen for the official GRAMMY Awards gift bag. Jessica celebrated her book launch with an Unfiltered collection of statement tees and hoodies that she debuted on a runway at New York Fashion Week.
With her savvy insights, practical advice, and heartfelt humor, Jessica appeals to people of all ages and stages, resonating with millennials and their parents. She is sought after nationwide as an inspiring keynote speaker and thought leader, and has presented at Facebook, Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Weight Watchers, TEDx, the United Nations and hundreds of conferences, nonprofits, universities, and schools. She speaks authoritatively on career building, entrepreneurial challenges, leadership, digital transformation, living and parenting in the digital age, creating community, effective philanthropy and activism, and many other topics.
A passionate philanthropist who believes “affluence is not a requirement for influence,” Jessica has raised more than $1 million for causes by organizing her own charity events. She sits on several boards and committees and contributes to their recruiting and fundraising efforts.
A multi-award-winning television journalist, Jessica was a successful television anchor and reporter at several media outlets, including NY1 News, for 15 years. She has appeared as a social media and relationship expert on The TODAY Show, ABC News and KTLA. As a VIP contributor for Entrepreneur, her empowerment, leadership development, and employee productivity and wellness videos appear weekly on Entrepreneur.com. Through her production company, JaboTV, she creates branded content for companies and profiles athletes, celebrities, CEOs, entrepreneurs and changemakers for her YouTube channel.
Jessica received both her bachelor and master’s degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New Yorker at heart, Jessica now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their daughter.