What is one thing we're always looking for but can never seem to find when we need it? Hair ties! When I first started getting serious about running, I learned that I needed a good hairstyle, and some really good hair ties. There were only two brands that I used to use, until last summer when I was introduced to Ponytail Mail, from the creator, and owner herself, Jackie Marwah-Chow! (If the name sounds familiar, it's because I like to use them for my tutorials and recommend them in the DIYs.) I met Jackie, through the wonderful world of social media, she messaged me and asked me if I'd like to meet up and have a coffee with her. Of course I said yes, and we hit it off right away! I think one of the reasons we hit it off so well is because of our similar interests and background, we've always been into sports, love trying out new fitness classes (yes she came to OWC) and we both love a good hairstyle for when you workout. She's also an instructor at Barre3 Toronto, so, I braided both her hair and mine and took her class! Jackie is so much fun to be around, she's the sweetest, and has been a huge inspiration for me since the day I met her! This is why I just had to have her on Behind the Chair!
Tell us about yourself:
After trying (and subsequently leaving) a number of "corporate" (aka full-time jobs), I finally decided to stop, drop and pursue a dream of mine... to NOT work at a desk. I knew very early on in my career (think: first summer job) that sitting at a desk was going to drive me bonkers. Fast forward 8 years, and I know now, more than ever, that I am happiest when I'm able to move. Whether that means teaching classes or running to and from my many current "jobs" - movement is the key my success. There isn't much I do outside of work...I crochet and knit, although I haven't picked either of those up this season because of all the of the hair ties to make! My hands are getting tired. I enjoy traveling, I have a small shopping addiction, and have always been in the health & wellness industry. I’m not a nutritionist, but was raised in my family’s health food business, so I definitely had almond butter back in the 90s, before it was cool ;)
What inspired you to start Ponytail Mail?
I started making these ribbon hair ties because I couldn’t find anything to hold my hair! It’s thick, and I have A LOT of it. I had been making hair ties for a few years, but didn't have a unique selling proposition (how business-school of me). It wasn't until I left a role at an e-commerce agency that I realized I had the skills to create a brand, open a Shopify store and start selling! A dear friend of mine helped me come up with the concept of a hair tie subscription business, because she loves subscription boxes! That's where the "Mail" part of Ponytail Mail comes from. It's really not more complicated than that... ponytail (holders) that come in the mail!
I was also looking for a creative outlet and something I could really commit to for the summer. Because of my “uniquely employed” status, I was able to get everything from photography to copywriting done in under a month. You definitely just have to START before losing motivation! Once I started, I couldn’t stop, and became a bit addicted to getting the store up and running.
How do you find balance between life and owning your own business? What is some advice you can give to someone who has started a new business but is finding it hard to balance life and work.
OMG well... the struggle is definitely real at times. I truly believe you need to be 110% passionate about your business before you launch something on your own. Wanting the money or the “freedom” isn't enough. When I started this business, I told myself that if I could re-coup my few sunk costs, I would be satisfied. How ambitious of me, setting the bar as low as possible. Ha! Although passion is really important, so is having a plan. Know what you are getting into, and have alternative routes you can take if the first one (or four) don’t go according to plan. The only thing in life that is inevitable is change, so remaining flexible and adaptable to whatever life throws at you will help you on your journey.
I think the key is knowing how to set boundaries for yourself, but also remaining true to yourself. I am not the type of person who works well during the confines of a traditional 9 - 5 workday. I accomplish the most after 9pm, when most of the world has settled in for the night. I find there are fewer distractions! I know people say the same about getting up before the sun rises… but I am definitely NOT a morning person. But know what works for you, and organize your life accordingly.
Remember that YOU are the boss, and you do not have to answer to anyone but yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of your(future) employees - would it be reasonable to ask them to work through the dinner hour just to complete something that night? Chances are, it can wait until tomorrow. But know that there are times where that might be necessary… but then know that if you wake up on Wednesday morning and don’t want to work, you don’t have to! Always make time for yourself, even if that time is just sleeping in. That’s my “treat” when I have worked for 7 days straight ;)
Why is fitness an important part of your life? How did it lead you to teaching at Barre3?
I grew up dancing competitively, and although I didn't realize it at the time, this definitely created my strong passion and love for movement. I was lucky enough to continue performing all the way through university, but upon graduation I figured it was time to "let go" of this activity. There were things about the dance industry that I didn’t love, so I thought it would be better to only have fond memories, and move on.
Working out quickly became something I leaned on to maintain my level of fitness. However, I quickly discovered that going to the gym a few times a week just wasn’t enough. I got SO bored, I hated machines, and earbuds barely stay in my ear… so I had to listen to all of the people grunting while lifting weights. Gross.
I turned to a regular yoga practice, which ultimately let me to complete my 200 hour yoga teacher training certification in January of 2015. I still felt like something was missing. It wasn’t until one of my closest friends begged me to try a barre3 class. She told me that I would LOVE it… but I was skeptical. To me, it sounded like a drop-in ballet class. No thank you! I could get that on my own. I finally listened, and of course, I fell in love. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to teach these classes, so when the studio owner, Aimee, asked me if I had thought about teaching I couldn’t believe it! That actually happened on the same day I was finally working up the courage to ask her about how to become an instructor… so it was definitely meant to be.
Teaching at barre3 is definitely my happy place, and it has taught me that you can actually LOVE your work. This was the first time I had really felt happy doing something I was getting paid to do - and let me tell you, it was shocking! My love for barre3 led me to leave my safe and comfortable corporate job to pursue a life in fitness. The fitness industry is not without its pros and cons (like anything), but I am definitely still working towards it, as it really does make me happy!
What is your favourite way to wear your hair?
My favourite way to wear my hair... definitely a top knot. I don't put too much thought into it, as long as it doesn't have too many fly-aways and it stays somewhere near the middle. It usually ends up there because I'm teaching or just haven't brushed it. Ha! I love braiding my hair as well, but because I’m always on the run (and wake up with 10 minutes to get ready), it doesn’t happen often. However… I know a gal who has great braid DIYs ;)
There you have it, I bring the hairstyles and Jackie's hair ties hold them in place! Don't forget to follow her on social media--Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. And if you're tired of losing your hair ties order some today!
Or sign up for one of my workshops happening this month and you'll get a pack of hair ties in your swag bag ;)
Have a great hair day! xo
ps Happy International Women's Day, keep being amazing boss ladies!!