The business founder is trying to be more truthful about what it takes to succeed. This is what we learnt…
“Every day I have no idea what I’m doing,” Alex Depledge said during her talk at Stylist Live LUXE. Maybe not the confession you’d expect from the founder of two multi-million pound businesses, but Depledge is here to change that. That’s the one thing that the (very large) audience at her talk, Winging My Way To Success, learnt from the off. “I’m always asked how to start a business and have success. But I use my story as evidence that there’s no recipe or rules. Just fucking start.”
In a world where we’re led to believe everyone else has it all together, it was refreshing to hear that sometimes even the most successful of people struggle. And Depledge insisted that she’s not an anomaly: “Everyone is making it up! I’ve even been inside number 10 and I still believe that everyone is making it up but nobody admits it. After, you realise that you feel better about life.”
One of the reasons she’s so passionate about sharing that is because everyone else’s fake-perfect-front meant she felt massive imposter syndrome when she began her first business, Helpling. “We had spent months planning [to get funding] and I got four million in the bank. We went out and got sloshed. I got up in the morning, had a bacon sandwich, put the Good Wife on and suddenly just started crying. It was like a wedding – you plan the whole day perfectly but not the marriage. What do you do when it’s over?”
“My husband thought someone had died. I told him I was crying because I don’t know how to be a CEO, I had made it all up and now I had to execute it. He told me to have a shower and put one foot in front of the other and make it work because we had always managed to make it work.”
Depledge did make it work. But when she told people she was pregnant, she was told that she had “lied to and deceived” those who gave her business funding. That meant she went back to work after nine weeks and, after feeling like she hadn’t seen enough of her children, sold the company. “I took time out thinking it was easy being a mum and it wasn’t. I prefer work! So I started Resi [an online architecture practice] and it’s fun, but I’m still making it up!”
Speaking about how she manages to appear to do it all, Depledge gave yet another reality check: “I don’t believe in work life balance. Work is inside your life and you need to enjoy what you do.
“If you’re going to do something and do it well, it means sacrifice and I won’t sacrifice work or my kids so I have to sacrifice my friends. My friends are so good though, so when my kids are old enough that I have more time, my friends will still be there.”
That doesn’t mean that she flys solo, though. Depledge spoke throughout of her business partner, Jules Coleman. “The sum of me and Jules is greater than the parts. You need a Jules. Someone who when you’re down can pick you up and you do it for them.
“Everyone needs a side kick. Everyone needs a wingman.”
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).