My Early Hour: Helen Cordy, Wood Grey

“Houseplants have become my latest obsession, it amazes me how they can completely change the feel of a room.” Helen Cordy, founder of online lifestyle store Wood Grey, talks work and family life with Annie Ridout…

Helen Cordy, 32, lives in South Wales with her husband Steve and their son, Leo, two. She is founder of Wood/Grey – an online lifestyle store

What’s your home like?
It’s very much the style of Wood/Grey, the products being a reflection of what I’d choose or have chosen for our home. The rooms have white or neutral walls with a slightly industrial vibe. It’s all softened up with touches of pattern and colour through rugs, handmade ceramics and beautiful cushions. There’s also a lot of grey in our home! Houseplants have become my latest obsession, it’s amazed me how they can completely change the feel of a room.

What time are you up in the morning?
Around 6.30am is the usual.

What wakes you up?
Leo normally calls for me. If by some miracle he sleeps in, I still seem to wake up around the same time.

My Early Hour: Helen Cordy, Wood Grey -

How do you feel?
Usually a little groggy and wishing I’d gone to bed a bit earlier the night before but it doesn’t take too long to wear off.

What do you do first thing?
Get Leo up and head downstairs to make breakfast.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Messy, happy, chaotic.

What’s for breakfast?
Porridge with fruit and a glass of cold orange juice.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
After dropping Leo off at nursery, I start off the day by checking and responding to emails. I then pack up the previous day’s orders and organise the shipping. The rest of my day involves liaising with suppliers, sourcing new products and planning what’s ahead for the next couple of months. Before I know it, the day has flown by and it’s time to collect Leo from nursery.

Being able to switch off from the business is tough. But I’m trying to introduce a little more discipline, like not checking my emails after a certain time. It’s a work in progress…

What’s your workspace like?
It’s a little cramped as it’s a quite a small room and I seem to have filled it with samples but I do love my workspace. I have a minimal white desk from Made with some lovely Muji desk storage and some metal, industrial-style shelving racks for the samples. I’m really lucky to have a little office and to be able to work from home.

Where is Leo when you’re working?
Leo goes to nursery three days a week and then we spend the other two days together. On the days that he’s not in nursery, I try to cram as much work as possible into the time that he’s napping or asleep in the evening.

Tell us about your business…
I launched Wood/Grey in February 2016 after spending many years working in finance for large corporations. It was a huge decision to leave that career to try something very different and having Leo was definitely the catalyst for that change – I just needed a bit more flexibility work-wise.

Having my own lifestyle store was always the dream and in the last couple of years, I came across several US-based brands that were either unavailable in the UK or not easy to find. So I founded Wood/Grey to create that connection, with a unique edit of brands and products.

All of our brands are thoughtful; it could be because of the ingredients they use, their production methods, their inspiration or for philanthropic reasons for example. Many of them are Brooklyn-based – I’ve taken a huge amount of inspiration from the creativity and aesthetic that I’ve found in New York.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Being able to switch off from the business is tough. But I’m trying to introduce a little more discipline, like not checking my emails after a certain time. It’s a work in progress…

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What makes it all worthwhile?
Seeing customers respond positively to Wood/Grey.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
My previous career was as a management accountant, so I’m quite comfortable doing the finance side of things. It’s so important to use that information but also quite time consuming to pull together so I’m about to delegate this to an accounting firm.

I really want to spend my time adding value on the creative side. I love sourcing new products and learning about the amazing brands that we stock. I also really enjoy styling the photo shoots and developing Wood/Grey’s aesthetic. I’ve learnt so many new skills in a year, so many more to learn – it has been and will continue to be a rather steep learning curve I’m sure.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I do enjoy being able to chat with colleagues and bounce ideas around but I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of having to work out ways to get things done that I had no experience with, such as website coding.

What’s the secret to career success?
I’m not sure I have the answer to that! I feel so lucky to be doing something that I truly love, so much so that it doesn’t feel like work. The one thing that I know for sure is that creating a successful business is a long game, so continuing to believe in what you’re trying to do and not getting too disheartened by the obstacles on the way seems pretty important.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing motherhood/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Yes! I think it will always be a juggle, no matter what combination of those things a person has going on.

Describe an ideal weekend?
I do love a good brunch with friends or family. I also love getting out in the fresh air with Leo. Going to the beach, summer or winter, is a favourite.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
In New York, with my husband and son. I can’t get enough of that city. My husband and I got engaged out there and then returned a couple of years later to get married, just the two of us. It holds a lot of amazing memories and I really can’t wait to take Leo.