Sophie Marshall has never found it easy to ‘switch off’ from work and was a keen participant in the rat race for 27 years before 2018 when she was struck with a ‘brilliant’ idea one day in the shower.
Inspired by a love for ‘after work rituals’, she was going to sell incense.
Speaking to FEMAIL the 42-year-old Gentle Habits founder said she couldn’t escape the idea and ran out to tell her husband who looked at her like she was ‘crackers’.
‘It just popped into my head,’ she said.
Sophie decided to put $3,000 towards her new passion project, but never expected it would become a multi-million dollar business within three years.
Sophie Marshall, 42, revealed how she came up with a multi-million dollar business idea in the shower
Sophie pictured here with her kids, Duke, 13, and Ace, 7, and her husband Simon after they moved to Yamba where they have a focus on work/life balance
The mum-of-two said she had been suffering from ‘mum guilt’ for sometime before she was struck by the idea because her job as the global product manager for iconic surf brand Ripcurl kept her so busy.
‘I was travelling all of the time and constantly working with people in different time zones which meant being up in the middle of the night.’
Sophie had always been this way, she went back to work five weeks after her first son Duke, now 13, was born and just four and a half months off after her second son Archie was born.
‘I was searching for something to get me into mum mode, and assumed it would be a nice hobby to stop me from working 24/7,’ she said.
Gentle Habits was supposed to be a hobby, a simple side hustle. All she wanted was for it to be easy, self-funded and a place where she’d only deal with ‘good humans’.
She immediately registered a business name, Gentle Habits, and begun pouring her spare time into learning exactly how to make incense.
Sophie was excelling in her career and have become a global manager for Ripcurl before quitting to grow her own company
By February 2019, four months after coming up with the idea, she lit her first stick of incense and ‘fell in love’.
In September she was ready to launch her first incense range and put in an order for 200 boxes.
‘I had been working with a local family-run business with a long history of creating incense,’ she explained.
‘Then everything was packaged by my team in Torquay and still is,’ she said.
In December 2019 she had ten wholesale accounts. and by the end of the financial year she had turned over $400k.
Six months later she took the opportunity to hire her friend, who had been let go from Ripcurl, and the brand exploded.
Sophie says she never expected the brand to become so big – and was shocked when she quit her old job to put Gentle Habits first
Within nine months her friend had helped the business turn over one million dollars.
But the end of the 2021 financial year Gentle Habits had turned over $1.2million and this financial year Sophie and her team are on track to double that.
Somewhere along the way the rat race lost its appeal and Sophie began prioritising lunch breaks and daily rituals like journaling to help her mental health.
Her range expands every time she develops a new gentle habit of her own – she now sells dive masks
‘I would take my son’s diving mask to the beach and sit under water in my lunch breaks,’ she said.
And as she started including lovely, calm moments into her day he brand grew.
‘We now have our own range of masks, oils and a 66-page journal because it takes 66 days to build a gentle habit,’ she said.
Last year Sophie shocked herself and her boss when she walked into his office and quit – so she could focus on her business and her family.
‘I said ‘you know those hippy sticks, well they are taking me on a journey”,’ she said.
‘I didn’t think I would ever resign, I had worked my whole life to land that role.’
She also has a 66 page journal – with space to create the gentle habits
Money has always been a huge motivator for Sophie, who now earns much less than she did when she was at Ripcurl, and will likely never reach the same salary.
‘It has really opened my eyes up. But I am so much more focused on philanthropy and wellness now,’ she said.
She even moved her family from Melbourne to Yamba, where they have had a holiday house for the last eight years.
‘We are so much happier, and spend a lot of time together and at the beach,’ she said.
And while she admits her work habits are still ‘unhealthy’, mostly because of her habit of tapping away on her laptop well into the night, they are better.
‘I have been able to pick my kids up from the bus for the first time in their lives, and I make sure I go to their assemblies and go to their after-school activities.
‘Then my husband usually cooks dinner and I get in front of the laptop for a few hours,’ she said.
Sophie says she is now living her truth, despite walking away from an incredible salary, and wants to focus on charity work
Sophie has found great relief in ‘living her truth’ and slowing down to spend time with her family.
‘My eldest son is so proud of me, he tells me that I look happy,’ she added.
Sophie still hasn’t been to the bank for help with her business and says they have boot-strapped the whole way.
‘Everything is poured back into the business,’ she said.
Last year Sophie raised $25,000 for flood victims through Gentle Habits and this year $2 from every online sale goes toward The Black Dog Institute.
‘I look back now and think that $3000 I put in at the beginning was the best money I have ever spent,’ she said.
‘I am so proud, my incense isn’t about the pretty box it is about improving mental health and creating products which help people.’