Founder Focus: Sam Willoughby of Live Well London
As the founder of wellness festival, Live Well London, Sam Willoughby certainly has a lot to contend with day-to-day. BALANCE sat down with Sam, to find out just how she finds balance in her life while juggling the roles of MD, founder, and mum of two.
What was your eureka moment?
My moment came from feeling burnt out at work. I work in the events industry which is very intense and it was taking its toll on my physical and mental wellbeing – the effects of this constant imbalance made me realise I had to make a change. As someone who regularly exercises and has a well-balanced diet, I already knew a little about looking after myself but I wanted to learn more. As an events professional, I looked up a variety of events on offer but found none appealed to me; an over 25, working professional and mother of two! After sitting in a boardroom presenting my strategy for the 4th time to an uninterested group of
executives, Live Well London was founded.
That was three years ago and my vision remains the same, to make wellness accessible to all – every background, every circumstance, everybody – and a part of everyday life. I believe that wellness doesn’t just happen on the gym floor with an elite training programme, it encompasses a great many variables, from physical activity, emotional health, nutritional understanding and everything in between! Personal buy-in and interest are so important when you’re starting something from the ground up and this is where the Live Well London journey started.
What is your elevator pitch?
It depends who you are pitching to, but if it’s to consumers then I think the following applies – bringing together an inspirational collection of the very best in wellbeing, health and fitness, Live Well London, gives you the chance to learn first-hand how to take care of your emotional & physical wellbeing, discovering how to be the happiest and healthiest version of you.
Experience different styles of meditation & yoga, trial-run fitness classes led by the industry’s finest studios and most in-demand trainers, all from beginner to expert level. Dispel the myths, make informed choices and be inspired by talks from leading wellbeing experts, all whilst exploring and shopping a curated collection of leading brands.
How did you test your idea?
Research, networking, talking, listening…and as a result of that, I saw a gap in the marketing for an inclusive well-being event aimed at busy professionals like me, who are into healthy eating, exercise and mindfulness, but didn’t want to do just another hard-core fitness class focussing on the physical aesthetic.
Initially, my advisory board was a group of ten friends, who all fit the event’s target demographic. We would sit around my dining room table, refining the idea, and sharing details of people who could help with an element of the festival. Then I networked like crazy – I followed every introduction and attended every industry event I could. Three months later I created a new advisory board of well-being industry experts, which lead to the launch of Live Well and I haven’t looked back.
I am passionate about continually improving the event, and as such I will never stop testing or inviting feedback on what we are doing. This probably comes from my marketing training; test, measure, improve, repeat… and that’s what we’ll see next with Live Well Manchester in October too.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
My advice comes from what I wish someone had told me when I first started…
‘Back yourself’ and don’t compromise on your idea, but watch your costs like a hawk. Your greatest motivation throughout the struggles, long hours and late nights will be your power to make it work. Don’t be stubborn but improve it and evolve it with feedback, always stay true to yourself and your vision.
When to make-the-leap? Reality is there will never be a perfect time to start out on your own. Today is as good a day as any, just do it anyway. It’s certainly scary, and the pressure to deliver is huge, but it’s not the suffocating pressure you get in big corporations. Every ounce of my effort goes to delivering amazing experiences to my customers and developing the Live Well team to be the best they can be individually and collectively.
Seeing it happen around you is incredibly empowering, exhilarating and rewarding!
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
I had an amazing mentor who guided me out of my wonderfully secure but soul-destroying corporate role and helped me in the launch of Lime Events.
I also started seeing a personal coach a few years ago to help me work out what I should do and how to make that change that I had been talking about for years, but had never felt brave enough to make that leap. With their guidance and support from those around me, I now work in the wellbeing industry with the most amazing and inspiring people.
What’s your Plan B?
As tempting as it is to want the security of something to fall back onto, I don’t have a Plan B, I am fully committed to the vision of making Live Well London and Live Well Manchester the most amazing ‘life-enhancing’ experiences for as many people as possible. There’s simply no room for a Plan B. It’s all about advancing Plan A.
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
My team, no question. I have brilliant people around me. I like to work hard, but an event like Live Well London is a big team effort. Look out for us all at the festival, we’re the ones running around at 100 miles an hour, whilst laughing, joking and enjoying the festival vibe as much as the visitors. I handpicked the best, and as we develop as a team, we develop individually too.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
This isn’t related to my current role, but I worked on a Jewellery trade show for many years. We needed to find more growth and I came up with the idea of doing a very high-end Luxury Jewellery event, a brand extension, but it also needed to reach a lot of new customers. As a team, we worked our socks off between meetings and pitching to everybody and anybody in the luxury space. However, we struggled to make any progress with people, the event was looking to be a disaster and lose the company a fair bit of money…at one month out, I made the brave call to cancel and took the financial hit over reputational. I learned so much in going through this, from understanding gut feel, having the confidence to back yourself, to the importance of robust commercial due diligence. I learnt there’s never a lack of ideas, but unless there’s a genuine need and you are adding value for all involved, just don’t do it.
What is coming up for Live Well?
Other than the London Festival which is just around the corner, we have the launch of Live Well Manchester which is happening on the 3rd – 4th October 2020 so we’ll be busy working on that as well as London 2021. We’ll also be looking at other potential spin-offs so watch this space!
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
I have recently read The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi. It’s amazing for getting you to develop simple steps that help strengthen your willpower, so you can sustain motivation for the long haul. It gives you a process for changing your habits, all based on treating yourself with the compassion and kindness that you would normally give to someone else.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
I am not sure I do. This is probably where I need a mentor?! I put it down to being lucky to have two fantastic, active children as well as being able to work close to home. I manage my schedule using a simple urgent vs. important matrix. There is always too much work to do but I make it a priority to take time for exercise and fresh air to help keep me sane.