When Sophie Matson launched luxury towel brand Købn in 2017, she had no idea how to run a business. “I had to learn everything,” she says. “Wholesaling, importing, accounting, marketing, cash flow. Everything was a challenge because it was all new.”

Matson had spent 14 years working in homewares and wanted to branch out on her own. “I saw a gap in the market for beautifully designed towels to complement the interior, but also for use by the pool,” she says. Drawing on Danish-inspired minimalism, Købn’s luxury towels are made in Turkey and feature beautiful fabrics and muted palettes.

Like many new business owners, Matson initially learned by trial and error. “I Googled a lot, and I relied on my supplier to see how other people were doing things,” she says. She engaged a warehouse to take care of third party logistics and packaging while she focused on other parts of the business. A small business marketing workshop run by business coach Fiona Killackey she attended proved invaluable. “It made me think about things I hadn’t considered,” she says, “[such as] how I use language in marketing the product, and thinking about what I’m actually trying to get across.”

Until October 2019, Matson worked a full-time job in addition to running Købn. “It was exhausting,” she says. “I was working at night and all weekends; it was too much. [Now] I feel like I’ve got a lot more time than I used to have.”

Matson works from home, which she enjoys. “I’m never really at my desk for a nine to five day,” she says. On a typical day – before the pandemic – Matson dropped her two children, aged five and eight, at school before heading to a cafe. “I’d have a chai, write my list for the day, and get my mind into work mode,” she says. “If it’s not happening, I don’t put pressure on myself. That’s the beauty of working on your own – you don’t have other people relying on you to complete something for that day.”

Maintaining relationships
Relationships are vital to the success of any small business and even more critical for a sole trader. “My most important relationships are with stockists,” says Matson. “I am particular about who I stock to, and I have a good relationship with all of them. I’ve kept it tight and small because I want it to be personal.”

Matson also has a network of people she reaches out to for different reasons. “For design, I’ve got a great friend who I’ve worked with at a few businesses, and I really trust her eye,” she says. “I know she gets my style. I’m always bouncing ideas about colour and photoshoots off her. She also has a small business, so we support each other.”

Social media is another source of support. “I connect with a lot of people over Instagram, which has been really interesting,” says Matson. “We check in with each other.”

Keeping perspective
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular programming for Matson, who, like most working parents, found little time to focus on her business during social isolation with her children home from school.

She took a step back from Købn to focus on her family and adjusted her expectations around what she could achieve while the restrictions were in place, adapting Købn’s schedule to the new circumstances.

She focused on orders and wholesaling, delaying her plan to complete a business mentoring course until the restrictions lift. “Trade times and costs have gone through the roof,” she says. “Because I’m not a fashion business, I’m not churning out ranges as quickly. I put everything on hold.”

Adjust goals
During the upheaval of social isolation, juggling home-schooling and running a business, proactive stress management became a priority. “I’ve had to set myself achievable goals,” says Matson. “Some things are too stressful – you’ve just got to let it go, take time out and go for a walk.”

To learn how to build better relationships, even when you work by yourself, try the Small Business Program in the Smiling Mind app here.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with MYOB and Smiling Mind, together bringing you the Small Business Program. With mindfulness meditations for navigating stress, building resilience and finding balance, the program is designed to help business owners thrive. So let’s make mental health everyone’s business. Try the free Small Business Program under the “At Work” section in the Smiling Mind app today.