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Seek & Thrive: With Melanie Goldsmith, CEO of Smith & Sinclair and Pollen

A conversation with Melanie Goldsmith, CEO of the innovative CPG brands Smith & Sinclair and Pollen, winner of the Great British Entrepreneur Award, and named in Business Insiders Food 100, on how unleashing your inner child helps you enjoy the ride.

Monica: Melanie, so glad to chat with you! There’s something incredibly fun and refreshing about the companies you’re spearheading. What first drew you to this space?

Melanie: I’ve absolutely always been a candy addict – it’s the shameless ‘big kid’ in me who was always trying to find a way to play + get the people around me to be equally indulged in their most relaxed self. 

Candy is a funny one – it’s such a unique signal (learnt from such a young age) and an invitation almost to take a moment and enjoy. Everything that motivates me to do the work I do now is what motivated me to start the business – it’s to make being an adult more fun. Our products are a signal for permission, but our brand is what takes you on our journey – of inclusive and shameless creativity and play. 

Before we started Smith & Sinclair + Pollen, I used to host board game nights in my London flat – it was open to all and we’d sometimes get as many as 30 people showing up for a very squished game of articulate. It was these nights – where it was laugh until your stomach hurts moments – with different drinks, childhood nostalgic snacks which triggered us to create products that would facilitate these moments in other people’s homes.

Monica: Love that you’re bringing childhood memories back through your brands!  How do you see these experiences playing into everyday life? 

Melanie: It may have started with candy, but it’s evolved into a much bigger thing. From researching and acknowledging what ‘fun’ was to understanding consumers, we were able to recognize a generation who had a different perspective on ‘fun’. It is closer to a feeling of serenity – and not about play or explosive energy. it’s about not feeling anxious or getting a fantastic sleep to feel calm the next day – which is where Pollen was created.

Everything we do across both brands is aimed to support people in different ways. To give people a reason to smile, laugh, socialize, and experience something extraordinary, and to support people in coping with everyday life.

Monica: I so appreciate your attention to the different facets of life that show up.  How do you see this approach show up in the way you live your own life and keep it all in balance with your own wellbeing?

Melanie: I’ve never been the best at keeping to a schedule – whether that’s a regular gym-goer, a specific diet, or a sleep pattern.  I’m a big believer in “everything in moderation” for health and happiness – I love cake, chocolate, candy, wine, eating out, and doing dance classes. 

Health to me is lots of fresh air and walking, exercise that makes you feel good (rather than feeling like a chore), not overindulging but certainly not depriving yourself of delicious things. Happiness is lots of laughter, warm weather, surrounding myself with loving and true people, adventures and lazy Saturday mornings staying in with my husband.

The thing is, your health and happiness is never the same as someone else’s.

We unfortunately live in a world where FOMO is a genuine daily battle with the exposure to a curated version of lots of people’s lives. I think it’s incredibly important to take time to really explore the weird things that make you wonderful, and make sure you hold tight the true triggers for your personal happiness – and flex them every day (in some big or small way).

Monica: When we slow down, it’s easy to see that it’s the simple things in life that are worth savoring.  How do you keep that in perspective when life gets chaotic?

Melanie: It’s hard, I definitely don’t get it right all the time. The biggest drivers of wellbeing for me are sleep and fresh air – which is hard when I’m on quite a relentless travelling schedule. During those times, it’s about finding the right moments to switch off. 

I envy people that work productively on planes, whereas I sit down and am immediately drowsy so I let myself switch off on flights. I read and watch the movies that I don’t normally watch as part of my non-travel schedule.

When it comes to workload management, I try to bite the bullet in the morning for things I find most stressful and try to get them done from home. That way, when I go into the office I feel like the deck is a bit clearer. I take myself for walks often since we live right on a big park, so that’s easy. I sometimes have to just force everything off and take myself out to give me mental clarity for the next day.

Monica: That type of self-awareness is so important when you’re building a business, how do you see it having a positive impact around others?

Melanie: I want to do things that have impact – I need overstimulation and I love to solve problems (whether that’s the business, for others, or for our team).  I think this translates most directly to the people in our team. I want everyone to feel overly ambitious but also supported. So whether it’s an extreme career progression, helping them drive their entrepreneurial objectives, or supporting them to skill up by owning a huge project or campaign – I always want to create the room to ensure we facilitate the tools that make everyone around us feel most proud and unafraid of pushing beyond the unknown.

For myself, I didn’t know what I was doing when I founded our first company. I did absolutely everything that you could do wrong, and I can share countless honest stories ranging from hilarity to horror.  But through the mad rollercoaster of growing a business, it’s the treatment of others that will lift you up the highest. No matter who you’re meeting – be kind, be yourself and don’t take it all too seriously. 

Because at the end of the day you need to go to bed knowing you’ve done yourself proud, or at least tried your absolute hardest!

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