The Female Focus: Michelle Morgan, Founder of Pjoys

Michelle Morgan headshot_ Pjoys.jpg

This superstar female is trying to make mental health an everyday conversation

On World Mental Health Day we talk to Michelle Morgan, Founder of Pjoys, an innovative new brand using the joy of art and the comfort of PJs to share helpful and hopeful stories on mental health. Michelle is an award-winning founder of 5 purpose-led businesses and winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award. She came up with the idea for Pjoys after experiencing first hand what it’s like to mentally burn out and sink into anxiety and depression. During her recovery, the pyjamas that had held her back became her inspiration.

The things that make us vulnerable to poor mental health also make us superstars.

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

Not really. If I was pushed, I would say Cagney and Lacey – a female cop US drama. They were inspirational characters; a single woman and a wife and mother.

How do you think your early years have influenced what you do today?

If you’d asked me a few years ago I’d say they didn’t influence me at all. But now I know they did. There are so many clues. From failing my exams – I wasn’t academic and I got chucked out of college. To my parents splitting up and my dad leaving. We are reunited now but I wasn’t in contact with him for a long time. The impact my mum had on me was huge, getting me into volunteering early on. From the age of 15 I was helping Barnardo’s

Looking at myself now, I am driven by purpose and making a difference. There are different parts of my life that have brought out the need to prove myself. It was my wilderness years where I came to find out what I enjoyed, realising I was quite good at advertising, as well as volunteering. I have taken some strange steps and funny jobs, for example, working for a careers service in Brighton. But these are all clues in my drive to help people and exercise my creativity. When I got into agency land and met Sam Conniff Allende, we wanted to save the world through marketing and we set up Livity to do this. 

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 You’re the epitome of a successful entrepreneur. First, setting up the very successful youth marketing agency Livity, to more recently taking your Mental Health First Aid programmes into organisations. And now Pjoys. But it has come at a price - your mental health. What happened and how did you deal with the struggle? 

Entrepreneurship has always appealed to me and has ultimately shaped me. It gives me the freedom to feel like I can race along and make a difference. At Livity, we were trying to prove a model not proven – of giving equal focus to purpose and profit, for the benefit of young people. We started up a challenger agency in our 20s and we didn’t have much experience. I spent 15 years in the day to day of Livity which were fun but it came at a cost. A year into it I met my husband and 2 years later I had a baby, juggling work and motherhood. I reached physical and mental burnout at the end of 2016 - from intense years at Livity and pressure I put on myself in the years previous. 

I work hard on not working hard. It’s a daily discipline. When things are on a roll I have created businesses I’m passionate about but this means I also have to be mindful of spotting signs and symptoms of working too hard. Thought patterns, brain fog, forgetfulness. They’re all signs I’m squeezing too much in and not being kind to myself. 

We’re really excited about the Pjoys concept. What’s your ambition for the brand as it starts to take off? 

It depends what day you ask me! I’m trying to live by the mantra of ‘slowly and joyfully’, which means one day at a time. I haven’t done anything in the right order. I’m trying to set up a product business, which is different to what I know. I have gone into it wanting to enjoy it. I came out of my burnout, depression and anxiety and I took time to recover. When I teach mental health first aid, recovery looks like different things to different people. I still have a vulnerability to depression and anxiety because I throw myself into startups and purpose led businesses, which do require that extra mile and risk of burnout. On ambitious days I want Pjoys to be the Patagonia of pyjamas - from the get go Patagonia thought about ethics, sustainability, the ability to campaign and be joyful. Through Pjoys, I want us to celebrate art at a global level where we all (if possible) can be joyful and have a sense of purpose and meaning but that is not draining us of the planet’s resources. And most importantly create a brand and business that is helping to make mental health an everyday conversation.

Pjoys has been going for 4 months completely organically, with crowdfunding behind us. We’ve seen how by wearing Pjoys and talking about mental health, people have opened up about their mental health in return. Things have started to happen quickly, with Fenwick agreeing to be a key partner and our first retailer relationship in the lead up to World Mental Health Day and an amazing 5 days of showing at London Fashion Week.

It’s time for businesses to embrace both the ‘moral imperative and commercial advantage’ of talking about mental health more easily and openly.

Are businesses doing enough to support good mental health of staff? 

There is a big sea change - businesses are starting to do more. I am a proud ambassador for MHFA England and we’re seeing that growth in support is not slowing down. A lot of this has coincided with Prince Harry and other high profile people being brave enough to speak out. When I was in the middle of my mental health crisis, I felt like I was getting all these messages on the radio / TV talking about the stigma of mental health. The idea was helping me with the recovery. 

But there is still a long way to go and many businesses are still behind the curve, whilst lots are engaging rapidly and for the right reasons. It’s time for businesses to embrace both the ‘moral imperative and commercial advantage’ of talking about mental health more easily and openly. If you can’t do it from a moral perspective then do it from a commercial point of view. The majority of people who experience poor mental health haven’t sought help and they’re showing up at work. There is a cost to business as well as their own health, of course. But what people don’t realise is that looking after our employees’ mental health is big in business benefits. The things that make us vulnerable to mental health also make us superstars. 

If we know that white middle class men in their 40s and 50s are the highest contingent taking their own lives, we need to focus on the underlying reasons and take the whole group in helping them talk more. We could help reduce suicides and at a macro level address the male dominant streak - without the act of talking being perceived as ‘feminine’. 

Do you have a piece of advice for those looking to start a business?

Without a doubt; make it something you love. It’s an often given answer for a reason - you will have to put your heart and soul into it. Doing it slowly and joyfully might make the journey more enjoyable and protect you and other people along the way. When we go more slowly things happen that wouldn’t have happened if we were racing. We’re the lean bit of a lean startup - we’re not going as fast as we could. Sometimes this means we have to ask for forgiveness, such as delays on deliveries, because getting it right and without causing damage to people and planet is critical to us. We’ve also been able to make improvements to our supply chain by going slower. We like our intention: to be able to be thoughtful about our supply chain, from our banking to our fabric suppliers, to our artists. We’ve been given a BCorp pending status because of these steps.

I would also say, don’t dismiss the idea of a side hustle. Give it a new name if that makes it easier to embrace or play with. It’s a great way to have a go before having to give up all your security of income. And test it out. Ask your employer if you can do 4 days a week, which could bring in loads of benefits to their business. You’re no less of an entrepreneur by doing it in baby steps. The harsh reality of running a business is that you’re not going to be brilliant at everything and you won’t be able to do it all, so get people in to help you wherever you can.

How do you keep learning more while on the job? 

By putting myself into a sector and type of business I’ve never done before! I could just be a consultant and deliver training (and have a lot more time to myself) but I love making these businesses that feel bigger than me. Even though Pjoys is still very little, we are touching so many lives. I don’t mean to sound trite but the evidence is there that talking about mental health removes the stigma and people are more likely to get better more quickly. There’s something exciting about making pj’s with beautiful artistry and receiving messages from customers of how they’re changing their lives. One woman who was suffering from postnatal depression told us she could have done with some Pjoys 2 years ago. We hope we open up thousands more conversations like this. 

What have been the essential factors that have enabled you to get to where you are today that you think you'd struggle without?

The things that make me vulnerable to poor mental health are the same things that have made me successful. It’s a combination of risk and protective factors that influence mental health. I look at using a similar formula when looking at my own success and the motivators. Failing academically at school and taking a long time to find something I liked doing and was good at doing held me back. But my patience and determination - the things that make me me - helped to motivate me and find the creative world and eventually Livity, which straddled purpose and creativity.  


What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

It takes a lot of effort and commitment to make an organisation diverse from a process, operational, cultural and leadership place. Livity was always a champion of diversity but sometimes, without intention, we’d enter the office and wonder where did everyone go? Business is business. But actually it’s not rocket science. It goes back to that commercial advantage, which is just as relevant to diversity as it is for mental health. Why aren’t businesses spending time and effort towards this? We know that diverse teams make better work. If you look at Pjoys we have a bias toward women. You might say it’s good but it’s still a bias. We must address this across our network and supply chain so it evens out. It’s not easy. And we’ll remain conscious of it as we build the business and try to address it. 

Who's a woman to watch or someone you admire in 2019?

Watch out for MadC, who is one of our artists. Her name is Claudia but called herself MadC when she became an artist to stay ungendered. She’s German, a mum of 2 and she inspires me. She didn’t use the colour pink in her artwork in the first 5 years because she thought it would open up judgement about her gender. She moves around the world with her family and is so strong and tiny at the same time.

Keep up to date with Michelle on Twitter and her Pjoys journey on Instagram and Twitter.


Ever wanted to have a dog but know you can't because you don't have enough space or you have a busy job that means it's kept home alone a lot. Meet Rikke, the young passionate Dane connecting people in the UK and Ireland to 4 legged friends through BorrowMyDoggy. She talks about her drive to create positive impact through the platform and build a friendly community that's keeping people and canines happy and healthy along the way. Read on, this woman has got packs of passion....

1. What drove you to create BorrowMyDoggy?

It all started five years ago when I borrowed Aston, my neighbour’s beautiful Labrador, for the day. As a young girl I had always wanted a dog, but my parents never acquiesced since my mother is allergic. Now as an adult, I’m not in a position to own a dog either. I absolutely adored my day with Aston, who instead of spending the day stuck indoors, enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the park, attended a garden party, and met some new friends. I soon realised that lots of dog owners could use a helping paw looking after their dog, and that there are thousands of people, like me, who would love to take care of a dog for free, simply because they love them.

When I began talking with potential members, what I found was incredible. Story after story of dog lovers and dog owners who felt that they'd benefit emotionally and physically by connecting with like-minded people in their area. There was the the man who had an operation and needed help walking his dog, the family whose dog would always welcome more games of fetch and countless people who felt lonely. The stories kept coming in and it was clear there was a need. When a little girl told me her story of how much she wanted a dog, I cried. It was like hearing me as a young girl desperate for the loving companionship of a fluffy creature.

What started with me manually matching people and dogs has now turned into an online platform with more than 600,000 members across the UK and Ireland and an ever-growing social media community.

2. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up BorrowMyDoggy?

For anyone considering starting a business, make sure there’s a demand and that the business idea is solving a problem. With over 60% of startups destined to fail in the first 3-4 years, make sure you do something you love. There will be many failures and when the going gets tough, the tough needs to get going.

3. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?

Knowing that setting up a business takes a lot longer that you would expect, especially when it comes to funding. This would have been useful for my peace of mind!

4. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

No. Just knowing people’s first-hand stories of how much BorrowMyDoggy is creating positive impact on local communities has kept me going. From neighbours forming new friendships to dogs being ring bearers at borrowers’ weddings, it is not an option to give up. I want to create more and more of these amazing stories. It’s my mission to make as much of a positive impact we can via our lovely community.


5. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

I would say the journey has been full of small ones so far. With every small milestone you realise how much further you’ve got to go. For me, the milestones need to do one thing: leave ‘Pawprints of Happiness’ on the lives of dogs and people. This is our goal as a company. Through the platform people are being more active, overcoming loneliness and making friends, whilst dogs are gaining more exercise, love and attention.

6. Who is your inspiration?

My parents. They set me up with the values of trying to make a difference. They’ve always been very active and engaged in supporting the local community and making time to help people. I hope I can bring some of my values into what I’m doing, both inside and outside of work.

7. What keeps you motivated?

The knowledge that the more we do, the more we can help and see the positive impact we want to see.

8. What business or brand do you look up to?

Being Danish, I am going to be impartial and say that I love everything that Joe the Juice is doing. From the hiring of talent, to matching the brand to the interior design and delicious juices and sandwiches, they’re getting it right. And of course Lego. They may have gone through some tough times, but they’ve stayed ahead of the curve and their product lines have always fed my imagination ever since I was a young girl.

9.  If you weren't doing this, you would be....

My answer is different today than it would have been 5 years ago. I think right now I’d be helping more people become entrepreneurs, including encouraging more women take the jump. Otherwise, I would definitely be doing something in the charity sector. Anything I do now or in the future needs to make me feel like it has a positive impact.

Bertie, the chocolate labrador

Bertie, the chocolate labrador


Meet Casey Bird, who is trailblazing the advertising, marketing and design world to give freelancers the chance to anonymously share their experiences and get a heads up on agencies others love, or loath. The Freelance Circle is helping to change the way businesses think about and work with freelancers. We take our hat off to this lady....

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up The Freelance Circle?

I’d say one of the biggest lessons from launching my review site, The Freelance Circle, would be to ‘trust your decisions’. As a founder you need to really trust your own opinion and thinking – you know the answer, so why ask others? Don’t get me wrong, opinions matter, but only from the right people. Otherwise, you end up with an overload of different opinions and confuse yourself, when the only one that matters at the end of the day, is yours.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?

Be patient. Don’t expect miracles overnight. When I first launched The Freelance Circle, I wanted to wake up the next day with millions of freelance reviews from all over the world and Beyoncé tweeting how badass my idea was. You have to work hard and dedicate thinking time to build a credible brand. These things don’t happen overnight.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

It’s been one year since ideation and 6 months since the official launch – so I’d hope I don’t want to give up yet! Over the last few years I’ve had many business ideas, however with this idea, I knew there was a real insight into it and a real need, and thankfully that ‘spark’ hasn’t died and instead fueled me to keep going.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the organization so far?

In just 6 months we have now reached 200 organic reviews – no paid advertising, no paid search – just freelancers genuinely wanting to share reviews on their experiences and agencies ready to listen. That has to be one amazing milestone so far. The second would be 2 London based advertising agencies contacting us already to ask for more information on the reviews and asking to collaborate to use our insights to make their workplace better, not just for freelancers but permanent staff too.


5. Who is your inspiration?

Generally speaking, anyone who is pursuing their dream and saying no to the status quo inspires me – people who put themselves out there and maybe fail or succeed, are inspiring. I am also constantly inspired by people who stand up for what they believe in, and stand up on behalf of those who can’t – or whose voices aren’t heard. But if I was answering the question in terms of just business I would say a mainstream inspiration is Richard Branson and an industry inspiration is Cindy Gallop.

6. What keeps you motivated?

There are 2 things, firstly the goal to make a difference to freelance and work culture and experiences both for the freelancers and agencies. And there’s the fact I love being my own boss.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

Facebook and Virgin, both as businesses and brands. As brands they treat their employees fair and equal, offer brilliant maternity /paternity pay, work-life balance, unlimited holiday, flexible working. This is the future of work and how you retain great staff.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

A travel writer.



Richard Sinclair is more than ambitious, he's a daredevil. A former Executive Producer of the BBC, he's constantly pushing boundaries and his latest expedition is turning over millions. He is the founder of SNO, the ski holidays provider with the goal of making travel more accessible to more people. That's no mean feat. This guy is inspiring in bucketloads.


1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up SNO?
Always be recruiting. Truly great people are hard to find, but they change your business, and your life. Constantly seek them out, to come and join the mission. In my former life as Executive Producer at the BBC, incredibly ambitious and motivated talent was literally on tap because everyone wants to work there. If I had a new cunning plan, I could speak to HR and find a small cadre of experienced film makers and Oxbridge grads to grab it by the scruff and go make it happen. The real world is not populated with over-achievers, so the trick is to be constantly searching for SNO men and women. We’re always looking for people “like us”.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?
Hire A-players, then enable them to get on with it themselves. I see why the likes of Jobs and Musk constantly looked for amazing people to join the mission. If you lead well, these great people don’t need to be managed, so you can focus instead on removing barriers and being an enabler for them… these A-players can achieve goals creatively and autonomously, and they’ll feel much more fulfilled having created their own solutions.

These people also constantly have a growth mindset and, like me, take great pleasure in constantly learning. They love figuring out how to do new things, or do the same things better… working hard on the business but working hardest on themselves. There’s nothing more powerful than striving for mastery, to make you stand out in a crowded world, filled mostly with the ordinary.

At SNO we’re always looking for people who are fun to work with, but also very ambitious and switched-on. Culture is so important so I’m always quietly trying to figure out if this person is a SNO man or woman.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
No. Never. I should qualify that. There have been times when I thought I should carefully consider if it was the right thing to do, when the extremes of work-volume and financial-stress were too much for loved ones around me, or risked being damaging to my most important relationships… but I never wanted to quit, I just took time to consider on a few occasions whether I ought to.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
Probably passing the £5m revenue mark. It’s an abstract goal, but signifies much more to us, as we’ve reached the ability to do many more exciting things.

We were in profit by year 1, but only just, and with little more than cash for very meagre growth-funding and self-sustenance. Fortunately, I was happy to live in penury for the first 3 years, to liberate those extra few per cent for growth projects. My better-half was less enthusiastic about watching our car and clothes and house slowly age and wear, but utterly supportive, first taking on the role of FD and later COO. While I’m pimping the engine, she keeps the wheels on!

Business coaching tries to help you delineate working on the business versus working in the business and it’s dead right. My first job at SNO (after initial setup) was to quickly engineer myself out of the day to day operations, which has allowed me to work almost entirely on growth. This approach is essential if you want to scale, and goes back to your first questions, because the answer is to hire A-players and then also create processes, so that the day to day functioning doesn’t rely on the founder in any way.

5. Who is your inspiration?
I think, like most people I have many, but I learned a lot about what a human is really capable of, on a month-long expedition to the Magnetic North Pole with the remarkable Dr Mike Stroud. He was partner to Sir Ranulph Fiennes on their famous unsupported expeditions to the South Pole and many other epic endeavours. I found great strength after being tested beyond a level which I’d have considered breaking point.

I was 4 weeks away from land, out on the frozen ocean, having lost over a stone in weight and struggling to lead a film crew who were also far out of their comfort zone. Taking the battery we wore in our underwear (to keep at body temperature and ready to work in an emergency) I turned on the satellite phone for a rare call home. I vividly recall in mid-conversation, beginning to weep, for no good reason other than mental and physical exhaustion. My partner later said she was quite afraid for me, having recently seen pictures come back of the polar bear who came to eat us, and the team members with frostbite. I think that was awakening for me, from which I draw strength even now. To feel so utterly spent, and then find will, we can still go on. It’s powerful. Afterwards I put those lessons to the test by completing Ironman on six months of training and a few swimming lessons. I take huge strength from those learnings, that our limits are actually much greater than we know, if only we can steel the mind to go on.

In my day to day life I have to say it’s probably my boys Jimmy (9) and Charles (7). Their amazing combination of naïve joyfulness and a constant thirst to learn and know more, is a kind of nirvana to me, and a lofty goal for adults with more complex lives. My ideal is to combine that growth mindset with the imperative to recognise and grasp those moments of joy whenever they present themselves (often with those boys).


6. What keeps you motivated?

I’m not sure how to pin it down to one thing. It’s all incredibly exciting. I think what really floats-my-boat is the knowledge that, when we have 10 times our current spare-profit (to use as growth funding), I can immerse myself almost entirely in growth projects. We still have more than 90 per cent of our ideas still in the tank, waiting to go. That will move things forward enormously. It’s exciting because it’s a compounding effect. I can feel the curve steepening, as our profits increase and we get our hands on more growth money, to fund more and more ambitious projects.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

I like the approach of the Virgin group, in focussing on a great brand (customer experience and brand marketing), and not being industry-specific. I’m not from “travel” which means that, while we want to be successful in this industry first, I think a memorable brand like SNO can do almost anything, if it’s careful to be about a promise of a particular kind of experience. Beyond that, we’ll make SNO itself a brand to look up to, as we work on our mission to democratise travel. After universal access to healthcare and education, I think travel is the third great boon of our age. If we can make travel easy and ubiquitous for the world (not just the wealthy part) I believe that is our best chance of fixing the horrible disconnect and misunderstanding that plagues mankind. Technology, well-combined with people, is the way to genuinely disintermediate the travel industry, and we’re working on something that I think will change the world. How we’re going to do that, I’ll have to let you wait and see.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

I might return to my university passions, where reading Cognitive Science gave the thrill of learning fundamentals in AI, neuroscience and psychology. This influence will feed directly into SNO in our upcoming machine-learning projects. Or possibly still making TV. The BBC was central to my formative years, where I gained my consumer-centric instincts at Watchdog, slaked my thirst for science and tech at Tomorrow’s World, and then found my passion for travel while running Holiday. These great influences and more from Auntie and its incredible people, can be found now at the heart of SNO.