Mumbrella360: Pip Edwards says ‘no one touches on the emotional cost’ for startups

Pip Edwards launched her activewear brand P.E Nation in 2016 – but the hard work started around a year earlier by her estimate.

“I was 35, a single mum, raising a young nine-year-old boy, solo, working full-time as design director at General Pants,” she told a packed room during her keynote at Mumbrella360 on Wednesday afternoon.

She’d spend 8am until 6pm in the office, after which she’d sort dinner for her son, assist with homework, and then jump back online at 9pm to begin building her empire.

“My nights were the only time I had to hatch P.E Nation,” she recalled.

“And most weeknights would see me up to 3am. I did this for a solid year, and ran on pure adrenaline and the few hours of sleep in between.

“On weekends, Claire [Greaves], my co-founder and I, would work on product design, brand strategy, our plans for marketing it, mood-boarding, and how we were going to sell it in globally and nationally. It really was around the clock, and we never were not working.”

Edwards notes that, while it’s easy to equate time spent and money invested with real time costs, it’s often the invisible burdens that prove the hardest when building a business.

“In startup phase, everyone talks about the sacrifices you make when it comes to the time you give up, and the financial investment you part with,” she explains. “But no one touches on the emotional cost. Running out of emotional capital is a real thing. Burnout exists.”


Edwards calls burnout “one of the hardest parts about being so committed and emotionally connected”, saying that, when engaged and passionate, she “can run on adrenaline and keep going like a machine”.

While she concedes this early effort is a large part of why the brand was successful, she notes “it can come at a cost”.

“I was not only working around the clock, but networking within the industry, attending the right events, and always mingling and building important relationships,” she recalls of the early years of the business.

“It did not stop. But the reality is, it’s not sustainable long term, and even short term – it’s not for everybody.

“I’m wired to be unstoppable, and once I connect and attach to a purpose, I go for it,” she says. “The determination and perseverance to make P.E Nation happen ran through every inch of my being. It was like blood in my veins, and there was no other option.

“Nothing was going to stop me. And I make this point, today, because I feel it’s a really vital ingredient to a founder and start-up success, that that purpose connection, whatever it is, is all you need to keep pushing to get through and do it.”

Edwards and her partners worked on ‘sweat equity’, without any financial backing – a scenario she says she’d “definitely choose” to do again, despite admitting she’d “probably tweak a few things in the structural set-up and legalities.”

All that early effort helped them firm up the business proposition behind P.E Nation.

“It forced us to really believe and back ourselves, without investment, and really sweat the time.” It also meant she understood every part of the business she was building.

“From unpacking warehouse boxes to doing PR sit-downs, to being the fit model, to getting copies, seeing clothes, designing and raising products, to writing copy, to running an Instagram account, and all the photo shoots.

“There was no job beneath me – and there never will be.”

To watch this session recording and more from Mumbrella360, head to Mumbrella Pro.


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