“Everything is temporary” With Penny Bauder & Christy Laurence

Everything is temporary, including this pandemic! I take absolute comfort in knowing that no one is really in control and my family and I are doing the best we can to take care of our immunity and health. The entire world is in the exact same position, so take control of what you can and […]

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Everything is temporary, including this pandemic! I take absolute comfort in knowing that no one is really in control and my family and I are doing the best we can to take care of our immunity and health. The entire world is in the exact same position, so take control of what you can and practice daily gratitude.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today.
Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christy Laurence.

Christy Laurence is the 5x award-winning founder of Plann, an Instagram Management tool she self-funded to over 2M downloads in 160+ countries. After 4 years, Plann is listed in the top 800 grossing apps in the world, has a passionate global team and a website visited by millions of people every month.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Absolutely! Happy to be here!

To go right back, Plann was born from a freak brain trauma. I woke up one morning with a weird strain of the flu — instead of it going to my body and just giving me a temperature, it went into my brain and completely destroyed my vestibular function. That’s the part of your brain that controls your balance and spatial skills — it left me hideously nauseous and dizzy.

I was working in corporate advertising and after a couple of falls on the way to work I decided to stay home and work on getting better. I spent a lot of my time illustrating which was always a passion of mine.

From there it all happened quite quickly! Friends would ask how on earth I was selling so much of my art online (it wasn’t long before I was making good money) and next thing I knew I was consulting other creatives and female entrepreneurs all around the world, all from home. I wanted to reach as many people as possible.

There are so many talented people in the world; if only they knew how to successfully market themselves, they could create secondary incomes or move from passion projects to full blown business owners too!

What if there was software that could help you brand your Instagram feed, that taught you when to post, what to post, and why to post? I knew it was a brilliant idea, and someone was going to do it — why couldn’t that be me?

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

Great question! After working on Plann for a little over a year, we were seeing rapid growth and it wasn’t long before another company offered to buy Plann from me.

After a few discussions with them it made me realize just how valuable Plann was, how I wasn’t finished building the platform yet, and just how much I still wanted to do.

At the time there were only 3 of us in the team. I turned the offer down and immediately grew the team from 3 to 12 people, starting on a webapp product. It was the perfect jumpstart I needed to see the potential in my product, and myself!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re always working away on new crazy and innovative ideas. As a team we’re so obsessed with asking our customers what their challenges are and coming up with creative ways to solve them.

We recently integrated Canva into Plann, which is a very popular, and very powerful design software that has helped millions of people around the world already. The integration helps remove social overwhelm, team stress and content creation challenges for millions of global teams, optimizing the entire social media publishing workflow so it can be done inside one beautiful place.

Adding Facebook scheduling to our offering is something we’re furiously working away on now, as is adding free stock video footage to make sure all Plann’rs can make content that captures the attention of their audiences quickly.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband, Tim, has also sacrificed a lot to get us to where we are now.

When he came home from work one day and I announced ‘Babe! I’m going to build an app!’, he asked if I knew how to build one, and when I said ‘Heck no! But there are 2 million in the app store — it can’t be that hard?!’, he didn’t even bat an eyelid and was immediately in my corner. I guess it was hard to argue with my ridiculous optimism, passion and an entire fleshed out product roadmap, business plan and marketing plan.

I’d always said I wanted my own company and I’d had many hairbrained ideas during our relationship, but he was able to see definite potential in this one.

Going down to one salary and me becoming a workaholic, his life also changed but he never complained, always encouraged me to keep going and gave his blessing for me to move to the US for months on end, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

After a few years building Plann (and getting him to help me with the accounting in the weekends) he’s now a fully-fledged Plann’er. He left his role in finance to join full time as the company COO and helps me make really important decisions. I guess you could say he’s bought in!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place. We would like to learn how you have pivoted to tackle these challenges. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

There is a lot of uncertainty right now and we know first-hand how important it is to work remotely, optimize efficiencies, and take any friction out of workflows. The first step we made was to integrate Canva with Plann, we saw it as the perfect solution where we could help and add value to our customers straight away.

We’ve always been obsessed with what we can do to deliver over and above what our customers expect, there was no exception here. We continued to focus on what we know will move the needle for them — delivering a product that actually helps them during this time.

Previously, Plann users had to switch between two different platforms, download images, re-upload into a scheduler, and continue to repeat if there were mistakes or changes that needed to be made. Now users can quickly edit directly from the Plann Desktop, saving time and allowing for more work to be completed.

Looking at the community feedback so far, I’m happy to say it has been a success!

  • “ The kind of good news story I needed today. Two brilliant Aussie businesses coming together to create a positive impact felt far beyond our shores.”
  • “ So lovely to see such great news amongst all the corona-chaos.”
  • “ This is everything I didn’t know I wanted!!”
  • “ NO WAY! My favorite apps to use for my business, I have no excuse anymore!!”

Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?

Unfortunately, I’d say that Covid-19 has affected all founders in some way, regardless of gender, pandemics don’t discriminate!

We’re all having to revisit expenses, timelines and deadlines, cash flow, and staffing projections to ensure we keep our teams together, motivated and on task at home.The pool of female founders to reach out to and ask perspectives and thoughts on how to safely get through this period of uncertainty is definitely smaller, but everyone is banding together to help which is the beauty of the startup community.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

I’m no stranger to tough times, and the resilience I’ve built up over the years is certainly helping me apply what I believe is the right perspective to get the team through this hurdle.

Keeping things a little more light hearted, facilitating keeping the team connected, making an effort to send gifts, and make thoughtful gestures and reaching out with phone calls is helping keep the internal anxiety at bay as to not project it externally, which is what we want to happen.

Giving back to the wider startup network is equally important in these strange times, it’s tough for everyone! We’re doing our best to continue to support other startups by not churning and reaching out to others to talk about API integrations which has been exciting.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Controversially, I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘balance’, but that you have a life and you fit what you want into it, as and when you want to, as if everything is all in one big soup, relationships and all.

When you set your own hours, you have to keep yourself motivated, focused and stay incredibly self-aware. For example, I quickly noticed that I have my best hours before the sun comes up and can be fairly unproductive (read: useless!) between 2–5pm in the afternoon where I read books or play the piano, then have a second wind in the evening to coincide with my international team members’ work day.

Being aware of my body’s rhythm helps me stay productive and not waste energy when I know my brain is literally fried mush.

I’ve taken up a new hobby (some might say another obsession) — painting with soft pastels! Having something that I am passionate about outside of work helps me with the stress that comes from having a business that is growing quickly and forces me to disconnect from my devices and get some clarity.

I’ve been working with my husband for a few years now, so the biggest change lately is making sure we’re still putting time aside for ‘date nights’, whether that’s monopoly, making cocktails off YouTube, drinking wine in the middle of the day or binging a Netflix show. One night we even turned our living room into a roller rink and roller skated around the house which was a huge laugh.

Balance for me means fitting in my entire life, in whatever hours I need, to feel fulfilled.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?

Call me crazy but I’m thriving at home. All the things I said I’d do once I’ve got time are getting air time, creative hobbies are getting picked back up and I’m finally catching up on TV shows I’ve been told about for ages!

To stay sane, I make sure to move my body every day, however possible even if it’s just yoga in front of the TV. If you’re craving your own space, talk to those in your household about what’s possible for everyone and how that can work.

As people live and work in different schedules, understanding the routine others in your household are on will help not interrupt or distract them to help with their days too. It’s really all about communicating.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Embrace The Future Of Work

At Plann we’ve already embraced working remotely, and the current ‘shelter in place’ is a great way to show your company, and your boss, that you’re just as productive at home as you are in the office.

By being just as productive, if not more, you’ll open up more flexibility on the other side!

Spot New Opportunities

So many great companies are born out of recessions as what people need changes. What can you do to pivot your existing company, or create an entirely new one, to service who is now underserved, and will continue to be underserved as life slowly returns to normal?

Online Shopping + Advertising

A lot of online businesses are worried, but the truth is there are WAY more people glued to their phones, and WAY more people online shopping! This means that as many businesses stopped their online spend, it made advertising SO much cheaper — and much more accessible for you to dive in with your own products. Plus, if you’re a shopper, you’ll pick up dozens of great deals!

Side Hustle?

Always wanted to start your own thing, or wondered if an idea you’ve always had has got legs? This is the PERFECT time to upskill, learn and test if it could really take off!

We’re all in this together!

Everything is temporary, including this pandemic! I take absolute comfort in knowing that no one is really in control and my family and I are doing the best we can to take care of our immunity and health. The entire world is in the exact same position, so take control of what you can and practice daily gratitude.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Listen and provide empathy and really understand why your family and friends are feeling anxious. Find out if they’re looking for solutions or just want to be listened to, as they’re two very different conversations!

I’m very solution focused so I’ll offer support where possible. For example, I’ve offered to play facetime filters with my nephews to take some pressure off my sister. Additionally, there is an older lady in the neighborhood who is feeling incredibly isolated (she doesn’t know how to facetime), who will sit in our front garden and sing songs to us from her choir. I love giving her the chance to connect with people through her passion for singing.

If I start to feel a little anxious, a few sprays of rescue remedy, turning the news off for a few days and soothing the nervous system with baths, scented candles, creativity and calming jazz music usually does the trick! Knowing yourself well and what you need to get yourself through this phase will help.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is ‘I wouldn’t wish boring on anyone’ and is very relevant to the way I live my life!

A lifetime isn’t very long, and I never wanted to live the 9–5pm lifestyle, retire, routine. I always craved something different and wanted more out of the short time we have, but to embody and embrace that came with great risks that I was willing to take.

I have a huge zest for life and love doing so many things. I continuously tell myself that I can do everything that I want, just not everything all at once. The amount of interests, loves and hobbies I have bring me a very full and happy life.

How can our readers follow you online?

Sure! You can find me on Instagram at @christyladylaurence, or @plannthat if you’re looking for heaps of great Instagram tips, hints and hacks.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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