Founder and CEO on The Importance of Sleep

Plus how she finds time for working out.

Thrive Global: What's the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Ashley Merrill: My morning is filled with emails and kids. Not sexy but real. I usually wake up very early, just ask my team who's inbox I fill before they wake up. I'm a morning person and those are my most thoughtful and productive hours. My kids usually come in when their clocks turn green (this is the best parent purchase I ever made) at seven. Once my feet hit the round I’m making breakfast, getting small people dressed and running out the door.

TG: What gives you energy?
AM: Sleep, working out, and thoughtful people. Sleep is my foundation and as a mother I know what sleep deprivation will do to my mind and body. When I get good quality sleep I know I am off to a good start. I also work out 5-6 days a week. I don't relish working out but I hate not working out (if you know what I mean). That feeling after a great workout is hard to compare to - full of power and energy and ready to take on the world. Thoughtful people are more of an adrenaline rush than your standard daily energy. When I watch a great documentary or show (Handmaid’s Tale, What the Health, all the Economist Films), read a good book (The Accidental Superpower, The Holy Man) or have a thought provoking conversation with someone I walk away from the experience feeling almost euphoric and full of world conquering energy.

TG: What's your secret life hack?
AM: I workout at lunch. It’s important to me so finding a time to make it happen was difficult until I parked it mid-day. It’s a great way to clear my head and ensure Im energized for second half of my day. I’ve been doing this since since my very first job but I recently started doing classes with some team members at Lunya and that has made it even better!

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
AM: The Alchemist. Like Santiago I see myself as a dream seeker. Someone recently presented me with a metaphor that says some people see life as water and some see it as clay. I have always seen it as clay and I am only now beginning to realize how powerful that is. I also see life as a bit circular, Santiago's treasure was always right in front of him but he had to go out hunting for it to be able to see and appreciate it. When I was young I sought money and physical goos more than I do now. Now I want freedom, to do art, to have long dinners with friends and to travel. I had some of this in my youth but I’ve had to delay a lot of these simple joys in my life while I’ve been grinding to build Lunya and as I’m beginning to add them back they taste even sweeter.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
AM: Sadly yes. I know it’s not supposed to, but as I mentioned earlier, those early morning emails are my most productive. I tend to get most of my "phone time" done in or around the bed and that allows me to be more present with my family.

TG: How do you deal with email?
AM: I’m crazy with email. I generally try to have less than 10 emails in my inbox at any one time, as my inbox serves as my to-do list.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
AM: I assume you mean if I have 15 minutes to use any way I dream up, i.e. all my emails are caught up and there is food in the fridge? If so, I would browse interior design on Pinterest. I can get lost in mid-century chairs for hours.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
AM: I go through phases with this. I felt a little burned out the end of 2017. The pace I’m keeping right now is burn out pace and has been since I started Lunya (and had kids). People talk about balance but I try to think about balance from a macro life perspective. I have embraced this point of view because I honestly think that if you try to be balanced at all points in life, then you will have trouble accomplishing the most challenging and often most rewarding things. I’m in the grind period with young kids, building a house and building a business, so I will craft my next phase to balance this one out. Expect to find me turning over compost and crafting my own kombucha in the future. As I always say, I want to earn my time by the pool, so once I’m there I’m able to fully enjoy it. Sometimes things get to be too much and I try to give myself little breaks to turn off...weekends away with the hubby or even by myself so I can clear my head. Staying positive is very important for my team so I look at it as my job to know when to step away and recharge so I can bring optimism to them.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
AM: As a mom I’m always worried I’m failing my kids and that I should be doing more. I try to talk myself through it, reminding myself that they are part of the reason I’m reaching for my dreams and that I want to show them that hard work and perseverance is a gift. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. On the business side it’s hard to see mistakes without acknowledging the lesson you learned from it. The only time I get mad about failure is when I repeat a mistake or I make a bigger mistake than I needed to. At Lunya we try to avoid this by holding retrospective meetings after experiments and trying things on a small scale before we roll them out in a larger way. Fail small is my motto.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
AM: "Be the change that you want to see in the world." Growing up I was frustrated that there wasn't a woman I could point to who embodied the future I aspired to. There were a handful of women I knew who were successful business women, wonderful mothers, inspiring creatives, but most of the women I saw in media were more one-note and it left me wondering if being all these things rolled into one was actually possible. This actually became a motivator for me, I wanted to be a version of a woman who embodied all of those things at once. I think this quote can be inspiring in all facets of life because it reminds us we have a responsibility for making change and that if we do there is no limit to what our future can be.

Ashley Merrill is the CEO and Founder of Lunya, bringing a unique problem-solving approach to designing sleepwear for the modern woman. With a BA and MBA from UCLA Anderson, Ashley is committed to Lunya being a vehicle for positive change - utilizing her background in tech & investing to build a successful and rapidly growing fashion brand with a deeper mission. Beyond building Lunya, Ashley is deeply involved in Girls Inc., where she serves as a board member, and she also works to invest in other female run businesses. She currently resides in Santa Monica CA with her husband and two children.


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