Who helped you grow? And what advice has led you to where you are today? We catch up with friend of Beards & Daisies and founder of two book subscription brands, Molly Masters, to discover the pearls of wisdom that have helped her thrive.
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I'm Molly and I'm the founder and CEO of Books That Matter and Brave Girls Book Club, two book subscription box brands serving to empower and inspire women and girls through amazing books and unique reading experience. I am proud to say that I run the UK's leading and largest book subscription box brand in Books That Matter, and I have the most incredible team by my side making this bookish magic happen! Before BTM, I was an English Literature Graduate, I studied at the University of Sussex in Brighton, which is where I developed my love of reading and was introduced to a myriad of female writers I had never discovered before. I was always passionate about books and had some incredible English teachers in my life who heavily influenced my passion for books, plays and poetry, and it was always a clear path to me to continue studying it. However, it was only until I got to university that I realised how limited my reading had been, in that I'd only really studied male authors and playwrights until I was in higher education. The curriculum leans heavily in favour of the Wordsworths, Shakespeares and Coleridges of the world, and I'd only really read Jane Austen as part of my GCSE and A Level studies. I was immediately gripped by the likes of Virginia Woolf, Jamaica Kincaid, Zadie Smith, Jean Rhys, Mina Loy and so many others who were on my syllabus at university, and I wanted to bring this feeling to as many women as possible, given the fact we don't often get to see female writers at the front of the bookshelves, and many women (especially women of colour) struggle to get published at all. And thus, Books That Matter was born!
Describe a typical day in the life for you.
Well, life at the moment is a bit different to my "normal" which would usually include commuting to the office in Bristol, weekly trips into London for networking and podcast opportunities and publishing meetings. It's a little less shiny, but the last year has been incredibly fulfilling and completely formative for BTM. As we quadrupled in size last year, my day to day work looks a lot different to how it was when we entered this pandemic. Typically it involves waking early, toast and Nutella and orange juice, early morning reading (at the moment, I'm working through Ana Sampson's poetry collection that we featured in our March box, She Will Soar), and then hopping into my inbox and socials at around 8/8.30am. I try not to work beyond 4 or 5pm if I can help it, I'm trying better to set my boundaries with work and ensuring I have lots of time for reading! But mostly, my days at BTM involve absolutely wonderful jobs like interacting with our community on socials, liaising with publishers and suppliers to get our boxes sorted, curating boxes and themes with my beloved team members, writing our social posts, networking with other female founders; as well as sometimes the boring and unglamorous bits like bookkeeping and keeping ourselves organised. My absolute favourite part is getting to chat books with the team and be able to be in contact with our favourite authors and publishers on a daily basis, it is such a privilege and a pleasure to do!
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
One of the best bits of advice I've ever received is "nobody knows what they're doing!" It was from my friend Fi who runs She Can She Did, when I was recording a podcast with her. It was honestly the most reassuring thing I'd heard, at the time I was only a year or so into BTM, spinning loads of plates, newly full time and feeling totally out of my depth. I felt very in over my head, and as though I had no one to turn to with business experience, being not only the first in my family to go to university, but also the only person I knew who started or indeed ran their own business. However, through connecting with amazing, inspiring and lovely women like Fi, I was able to see how transparent, honest and uplifting the female founder community is, and how we're all just muddling along towards this 'finish line' moment in our businesses that actually never arrives because we're all aspiring for more and coming up with new ideas all the time! But at the time, Instagram had me fooled, and I was seeing lots of female founders winning at life and I felt like a complete novice who was getting it all wrong, but Fi's advice made me feel less alone, and more trusting of what the years ahead had in store for me in teachable moments, progress, and experience.
What’s one thing you do every day for yourself?
READ! In the busiest times of the business, when I felt my head was fit to burst, I really struggled to find time for reading, which felt so hypocritical! Reading requires energy and the ability to switch off in order to enter new worlds and think up these wonderful characters carefully crafted by writers who have lived with them in their heads for so long; and the more I burned myself out, the less I was able to creatively bring to my reading, and it was when I realised this that I knew something had to change so I could get that creative spark back. Now I try my absolute hardest to set boundaries with working in the evenings and weekends (though I'm not perfect!) and shutting off when I need to, and this always involves reading at least once a day. Even if it's just a few pages, or an article, even. It keeps my little book loving brain happy, and really helps to stimulate my creativity when I need it most!
What’s your favourite houseplant and why?
My partner and I have recently moved and have loved filling our house with plants! I have a little Musa plant on the go which we've lovingly named Helga, and she's going strong. I find polishing the leaves so therapeutic!
What do you do to switch off?
One of my favourite lockdown down-time activities whilst shielding has been focusing on small acts of self care. Simply a hair mask, sheet mask, or doing my nails is a little act enough to make me feel peppier and happier at the end of a long week or a long day's work. I've also got really into puzzles, which is something I never thought I would say! But there are loads of brands out there now who do really beautiful and artistic puzzles with independent artists that I've loved doing!
What do you never leave home without?
A small book, reusable tote bags, hand sanitiser and a mask (of course!), a notebook for jotting ideas, roll on Stress Relief essential oils from This Works or Scentred, and usually an emergency hair scrunchie!
Who do you go to for advice and why?
On rotation: my amazing mum, my sister, my team members Hannah and Issie, and my former business partner now close friend Chloe, from whom I learned virtually everything about business! The strong women around me keep me strong, and I do my best to return the favour!
What makes you happiest?
If this last year has taught me anything, it's the little things that bring me the most joy. A quiet Sunday with a homemade brunch, cocktails from a tin on a weeknight, taking care of my plant babies and my fur babies, finishing a book, a good hair day, early morning walks, afternoon naps, taking pride in my house, writing a chapter of my novel, long chats with friends and family, kitchen dancing with my partner, the smell of fresh pages on a new book!
What would you say to your younger self and why?
"Everything is going to work out just fine - you got this!"