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Lifestyle ReDesign: Consultant to creating employee happiness

Karina Brown from Gro Happy

Meet Karina, inspirational co-founder of employee happiness start-up GroHappy. Karina was a consultant at EY, and as you’ll read about in this interview she left and started her own blossoming company with her co-founder Jim.  I’m a huge fan of what they are creating and I would advise any company with employees to take a look at their software. As we all know, beanbags and beer are passé, next level companies are looking at providing employees with growth and emotional development.

I’ve known Karina and Jim for almost the whole time, that I’ve been working at Huckletree ( coworking space). We often end up sitting in the same area, so I’ve grown to understand their platform and the amazing service that they are creating for companies and their employees.

Having been to one of their workshops and had a one to one session on their platform (yes I pestered them as I loved the concept so much), I firmly believe that GroHappy is an invaluable tool for employers looking to sincerely improve employee retention and development.

Society and individuals are changing how we see the work of work. It’s an exciting and difficult time for employers, as they need to look beyond the fruit and the ping pong tables and seek out what will help us stay and stay happy while we are doing it. This blog post is handy if you are interested in delving a bit deeper.

In a nutshell, GroHappy’s platform helps companies to put development back in their employee’s hands. Employees have access to an online space where they answer coaching-style questions that help them get clear on how they want to grow and what a fulfilling career means for them. GroHappy then connect individuals with curated learning opportunities to help them reach their growth goals and unlock their career aspirations.

Let’s meet Karina, one of GroHappy’s founders close up:

What are you up to right now?

GroHappy is the business that I built with my co-founder Jim (James), as you described above. We sell it to companies to better support their employee’s growth and development. Right now, we are actively securing and working with our first 5 clients. We are pretty close. We offer the platform with and without consulting so we are always both working on something different, which is really exciting.

Where did GroHappy come from – why are you doing it?

It came from a personal experience I had at work. I really felt like I had no idea who I was at work and had no idea who I wanted to be. I had no support at work to help me through this and so, in the end, I just left. They really didn’t want me to go, but there was little support in helping me to navigate that point in my career so I left. I know I’m not the only one, that has been through this, so together Jim and I resolved to make it better.

What’s your favourite place to work?

I think it’s when I’m at Huckletree with headphones on and standing up. Somehow the standing really makes me concentrate.  I live near Greenwich and there’s a café where you can work upstairs near Blackheath and it’s not too noisy.  I really love it, as it has just the right amount of sound to get me focussed.  I sometimes do a day a week working from home, but any more than that I find hard.

Would you say you are a digital nomad? Could you work from anywhere?

At the moment no. Currently, I have to meet clients a lot in person, and most clients like to meet in person.  I have been thinking about using a quieter time to work remotely and really go somewhere else.  We are planning a company retreat, to go out into the countryside and get thinking space together with my co-founder.  Taking time to reflect, it’s important.

Today we meet at Huckletree, what do you really like about this space?

My favourite thing is the community side. We spent a lot of time going from coffee shop to coffee shop in the beginning and that just gets exhausting.  We went from a huge corporate to just us two, so we missed the social office. Drinks Thursday and events and the social feel. It’s really given us space to settle for a bit.

What are your favourite gadgets that you are using right now?

I love my mac, that goes everywhere. I really liked my Fitbit, but it’s broken. I liked that it said when I got to 10,000 steps. I’ve been listening to the Minimalist podcast, and have deleted a lot of apps since listening to that.  I use the podcasts and Kindle. I l like Blinkist a lot. I also use various Meditation apps.

Where do you like shopping for them?

Amazon normally

How do you get inspired?

I listen to a lot of podcasts, with lots of different themes. Psychology, science, a real mix of stuff. I listen when I commute, but also at home. I also like going to events and talks. On International Women’s Day, I went to a talk at Wayra’s offices with a panel of female founders where I met a lot of inspiring women, and I found it great listening to their stories. I left feeling energised and looking at how I could get to where they are.

What’s the one big event in your life that really changed you for the better?

A big mindset shift happened for me when my grandmother passed away. I had a lot on at work and I was juggling being with her right at the end and making sure that my career didn’t suffer. It was very a difficult stage for me. It made me realise though that family is the most important thing over everything. Ever since then I’ve made a concerted effort to put friends and family above everything else.

How do you stop yourself getting burnout?

I read Deep Work recently and it’s changed how I work. I block out my day and I try and finish and do exercise at 5pm. That’s my slump time. If I can I try and work home one day a week. I always take at least 1 day off at the weekend, sometimes two!

I quite often do getaways on my own. In April I rented a shepherd’s hut for 3 days. No electricity. Took books, walked and relaxed by myself. I do this at least twice a year. Sometimes I’ll mix it up with surfing. I’ll go on my own. I don’t need to compromise. I can just do what I want to do.  After 3 days, I need to talk to people though!

What city gives you energy? And why?

Copenhagen. I find it very mellow. The pace is slower and there’s lots of cool stuff. It’s near water and that really relaxes me. One day I do hope to live there. I’m half Danish, so I do speak the language.

What’s your ultimate holiday?

I do like unusual holidays. I do go extreme at times. I was 17 and went travelling round the world on my own, and did get myself in a little trouble, but it was worth it.

Surfing, culture and lying on a beach. Bali is next on my list. There are good beaches and there is a cultural vibe.

What travel tips would you give me?

The obvious one. Some of the best trips are on AirBnB, where the hosts are there and they help you out. Show us the local tips and trips.

Don’t leave your penknife in your hand luggage!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given

Ask forgiveness, not permission

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