Founder / The Sheet Society
It’s a huge day when you meet someone that instantly makes you want to unleash your creativity of the world. I’m saying it now… Hayley Worley is my spirit animal. Insanely smart, curious, stylish and a bloody smart businesswoman. Hayley is the dreamer / founder of The Sheet Society, a sheet company that is literally waking up the industry.
From her amazing concept store in Melbourne, Hayley told us about her down to earth childhood that helped to ignite her entrepreneurial spirit, why further education wasn’t the best path for her following high school and why running her own business, and managing 40 odd staff is so different to how she imagined it would be. As you would expect, her #careerstory is deep, with plenty of twists and turns and real life accounts, it’s all the stuff we know you will love, and all the tips that will help you carve out your next steps. I seriously can’t recommend enough, that you read to the bottom and get stuck into Hayley’s top resource list. It’s, So. Good.
Let’s dive in…
Hayley, thank you so much for giving up your time to share all of your career wisdom. Let’s start at the very beginning. Where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I grew up in Eltham which is a lovely leafy suburb around 40mins from the Melbourne CBD. My parents spent most of our teenage years renovating an old mud brick home so I had a lot of exposure to getting stuck in and doing it yourself. My parents also ran their own business and I remember Dad coming home when I was around 8 or 9 saying that he’d quit his full-time job and that things might be tough for a while but it was for the best in the long run. Looking back, that was such a great example of being able to start up a business and paving your own way.
I completely resonate with that answer, such a great example. So, when you were a young girl what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never really knew what I wanted, and tossed between different skill sets. People always tend to say you’re either creative or analytical but I found I’d switch between both. I went through a weird emo phase (didn’t we all…?) and that made me really appreciate the way fashion was such a great way to express your vibes. Then, around year 11 I decided that Fashion was the path I wanted to head down.
Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to Eltham High School which is notoriously known as a hippie school! We never had a uniform and there were people who turned up to class without shoes… It was such a fun experience and I never felt any pressure to succeed or be top of the class. My VCE results weren’t that important to getting into my fashion course, so I probably wasn’t the ideal student.
Love that! Looking back know did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
In some ways it did, and in others it didn’t. I guess the creative nature of the way the school was opened up more of a creative outlet for my career but my achievements at high school didn’t have any sway on my further education.
Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I did! I worked at Beat Magazine for my year 11 work experience. It was a great exposure to an office environment but made me realise journalism wasn’t for me. I had a part time job through year 11 and 12 that taught me all about a strong work ethic. I worked at Hoyts and did most weekends as well as weeknight shifts till 9pm. I really enjoyed working and of course the freedom that a little extra cash allowed. I think having that work ethic early on was so important in establishing the hustle I have now.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
I applied to the Fashion Design university degree but I didn’t get in. In hindsight, it was absolutely for the best as I ended up completing a Cert 4 in Clothing Production & Design. The TAFE course was so much more ‘hands-on’ which better suited my style of learning. We had a different course each day, so we’d have a design day and then a sewing day which all cultivated into a collection of garments we presented at the end of the year. I absolutely loved it, but going straight into TAFE from High School was a bad decision as I was probably a bit disengaged. I ended up dropping out after year 1 and taking a year off travelling to the USA to work on a summer camp as a rock climbing instructor. Rogue, I know.
I love that you brought that up. Going straight from High School to TAFE and further ed, is not for everyone. Let’s jump to your career journey. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?
I started my career in Fashion as a Production Coordinator for a fashion wholesaler and I worked on the Target Womenswear category. I worked on the City Dressing account which meant coordinating thousands of pairs of black pants. I really enjoyed it and had a super supportive manager which really helped my development. I was there for two years before I met my now husband on a dancefloor one Sunday night. He is from England so after being together for only a few weeks I decided to pack up everything and move to the UK to be with him. When I was there I got a job at Ted Baker in the menswear design team which was such great experience. They are a brand that do both quality and tone of voice really well so it was such a great company to be with. I spent 2 years in the UK and when I returned home some family friends who started a brand called Tiger Mist and were looking for a Production Manager which was a great fit for me at the time. I played such a big part in setting up their design and production team but after a few years of working in ‘fast-fashion,’ I fell out of love with clothes.
Gosh what a journey, and interesting that fashion fashion made you fall out of love with clothes. So how did you start The Sheet Society?
I wanted a role where I could still use my skills of fabrics and colour, but with lower product turnover. I wanted to explore the idea of bedding that’s led by fashion trends, as it’s really the same concept with fabrics and colours that evolve every season. The product was the easy part for me when starting my business, but it was when a few pallets of sheets turned up the fun really started. I had no idea about marketing so that was a big learning curve, but I’ve managed to hustle my way through to now. We employ over 40 people at The Sheet Society and have a 3000m2 warehouse and such a great product with some pretty awesome customers – I couldn’t be prouder of what it’s grown into.
This is HUGE, honestly – you should be so proud of yourself. Can you tell us what the hardest part of your business is?
Dealing with people and supporting our team. It’s quite ironic that the bigger the business has grown, the less of my actual job I get to do now. And the struggles aren’t how to do things anymore, it’s more about deciding what to actually focus on.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current role?
Well at the time of writing this we’re in day 8 of quarantine with two kiddies. It’s been a wild ride to say the least. It’s usually so varied, but I typically spend time with our clever Product & Design team on new collections, or our Marketing team on campaign or brand development plans. We’ve been hiring like crazy since last year, so I might have a few interviews lined up too.
Who has been your career hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
That’s a really tough question! The first name that comes to mind is Zoe Foster-Blake. I just adore how she seems like she has it all together – creative, flawless and family-orientated. I’ve listen to her on a few podcasts now and just how honest she is about the hustle of running a business and having a family is really inspiring, and I bet my marketing team wished that I was as comfortable at being the face of the brand as she is.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your job?
- Favourite Websites: The Local Project, The Design Files, Mecca, Incu, Sight Unseen, The Hustle.
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: @PeppaHart
- Favourite Podcast: On paper, How I Built This with Guy Raz but the guilty pleasure podcast is Shameless
- Who is your mentor? Cathryn Willis who owns the brand Sans Beast
- Favourite all time book/s: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
- Favourite App that you use every day: Shopify, obviously!