My Early Hour: Rachel Conlisk, on hula-hooping

Single mum-of-one and hula-hooper extraordinaire Rachel Conlisk tells The Early Hour about teaching hula-hooping, performing around the UK, desperately craving a lie-in (but choosing to get up early) and finding it hard to delegate…

Rachel Conlisk, 41, is the founder of Spinsonic Entertainment – hoop fitness classes for those who face difficulties when it comes to getting to regular exercise classes – whether physical, psychological or mental health barriers. She lives in Birmingham with her eight-year-old son Sam.

What’s your home like?
We live in a small house set up on a hill, with two cats and the house is full of hula-hoops and books.

What time are you up in the morning?

What wakes you up?
The alarm on my phone, and sometimes one of my cats sits on my chest purring loudly until I wake up and feed them.

How do you feel?
Tired, happy, looking forward to the day.

What do you do first thing?
I shower, brush my teeth and drink two cups of strong tea.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Relaxed, fun, happy.

Tea or coffee?
Tea! Always tea. Strong tea. Milk and one sugar. English breakfast tea, ideally Typhoo.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
I make breakfast and take my little boy to school. I go back home, answer and send emails, work out the day’s hula-hoop class plans if I haven’t already. Make any hula-hoop orders that have come in overnight, then either catch up on paperwork with more tea or head straight out for a hula-hoop class. I often end up watching hoop videos for inspiration and procrastination instead of doing paperwork, and then needing to bust my hoop out for practice. Admin is usually left until the last minute.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What’s your workspace like?
I try to keep it decluttered, as it helps me work better, and think more clearly when it’s tidy. There is often a cat sitting nearby, trying to stop me working. I have juggling balls under my monitor as I am trying to learn to juggle. And a shelf for my ukulele and music right next to it. I play the ukulele – I even play it while hula-hooping at the same time. It’s called the hulalele. Lying around are usually random bits of hula-hoop tape to remind me what I need to order, and LED hoop batteries on their way to being recharged (they take specialist batteries). And always a notepad to write down ideas that pop into my head. I am constantly getting ideas I want to work on but if I don’t write them down immediately I forget forever.

Where is Sam when you’re working?
At school usually or in bed. I try not to work when he is at home so we can spend time together. Sometimes I have to, unfortunately.

I teach four-five classes a week with more on the way, perform regularly… and sell hoops worldwide

Tell us about your business…
I launched Spinsonic Entertainment in August 2014. I had begun hula-hooping a few months before, and fell into teaching when another teacher asked me to help her, and cover lessons for her. I loved it, and began my own classes near where I live in the West Midlands. More and more people started to ask me about hula-hooping, and for hula hoops – so I learned how to manufacture them, and began to sell them to friends at first, and then online. I was asked to perform, and slowly I taught more and more classes and performed more and more.

Now I teach four-five classes a week with more on the way, perform regularly (I do this when it’s convenient with my little boy) and sell hoops worldwide. I have just been nominated as one of the Small Biz 100 in the UK.

And I blog for the Huffington Post about hula-hooping, as well as physical and mental wellbeing. I have also appeared hula-hooping on Children in Need, and lead a hoop class for a dating show on Channel 5, called Stripdate.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Finding time to do everything by yourself. Making sure I am fully present for my son when we are together, and not always thinking of the business.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Knowing that the money I earn is all mine, earned from my own hard work and my own business. Being a good role model for my son, and showing him that it is possible to earn money doing what you love if you work for it.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
I don’t delegate – I find that extremely hard! My business is my baby at the moment and I like to do it all, the control freak in me won’t delegate. I will definitely delegate my accounts in the near future however – it is my least favourite aspect of running my own business and I would rather be hooping.

I find balancing work and parenting hard enough, but I struggle trying to fit in my relationship and seeing my friends

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I am a happy lone worker, but it would be nice to be around others in a creative workspace sometimes. I like to bounce ideas off others, and find inspiration around me.

What’s the secret to career success?
I would really like to know this myself. I think one secret to career success would be to remember it is not all about taking from/selling to people when you meet them and expand your networks. If you conduct yourself with the view to how can you help others, create a difference in society, or build a supportive relationship, you will find that you develop a strong and lasting network of people who lift each other up.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Oh god yes. So much. I find balancing work and parenting hard enough, but I struggle trying to fit in my relationship and seeing my friends. Luckily, they are extremely understanding and we just about fit in seeing each other. I enjoy me-time in the bath with a good book most evenings. I actually started getting up an hour earlier in the morning, just so I could fit in work and me-time.

Describe an ideal weekend…
Not getting up on Saturday at 6am for a hoop class for a start! So a lie in, with eggs benedict for breakfast and a lot of tea. Then a swim followed by hoop practice outdoors in a beautiful location. A lovely lunch, a nose around a market for fabric and sewing or knitting supplies, then meeting with friends for a fire/led jam – where we meet to practice fire hooping, eating, body burning and play with our LED hoops in the dark. Then a restful Sunday with lots of good food and time with my family, and maybe some sewing with my haul from the previous day.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
A paradise island, Bali, or Hawaii.