Inspirational Woman: Abby McLachlan | Founder, East of Eden

Meet Abby McLachlan

Founder, East of Eden

Abby McLachlan is the founder of pilates, yoga, barre & meditation studio, East of Eden.

Here, she talks to us about the journey of growing her business, the challenges she has faced along the way and shares advice to her younger self.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role  

I’m founder of East of Eden yoga, pilates and barre studios in walthamstow. Prior to opening the studios in 2015, I’d had 15 years working in music and digital media for companies such as BBC, ITV, Yahoo, MySpace and Warner Music but when I became unexpectedly pregnant in 2012, I realised that career wasn’t really viable long term, not as a solo parent with no support. During my pregnancy and the early months of being a mother, I consulted for Napster while plotting to open a yoga studio, cafe and arts hub called East of Eden, and finally, in 2015, I opened the doors to the first iteration of the studio – a 1 room yoga and mat Pillates studio, with 19 classes a week and space for 22 mats. I invested just £13k, raising money via Seedrs 6 months after opening to expand in April 2016 and add the current light and plant filled yoga studio, plus the reformer Pilates studio. In 2019, I signed a new lease to add significantly more space and open a cafe plus a third studio and better facilities. The doors for this opened in March 2020 – and we know what happened next – however we got through the next few years to expand again in June 2022, and add a bigger reformer Pilates studio plus a dedicated Barre studio and hot yoga. 
 

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

Never. When I left university, I did a few internships for Goldman Sachs as they offered to fly me to Hong Kong for a year, but quickly knew I didn’t want to work in finance, so headed for the bright lights of music and media, without any real thought beyond the fact that it looked fun. And it was, for a long time, but once the lure of free gigs and festivals started to wane, I realised that it wasn’t where I wanted to be long term. I wanted to do something where I felt I could be creative, and impact positively on people’s lives. Having my son Raffy, and being forced to think about how I could change my life to cope with raising a child has resulted in me having exactly that type of role. The studio has been back breakingly hard work but I’m so proud of what it is, and the community of people that make up East of Eden. I’m not changing the world, but people’s lives are better because of the studio, and that makes me so proud.
 

Have you faced any challenges along the way? 

SO MANY! Aside from being a lone parent to a 2 year old when I opened the business and having to do my day job consulting, run the business at night AND look after a rambunctious toddler, it’s never been easy. From year 1 when I worked every day, to year 2 when my business partner who had longterm mental health issues decided to leave, to having to put VAT bills on my credit card and not earning enough to even be able to buy a coffee, to battles with the council over my leases and use of my reception space to opening the doors to my new expanded studios a week before the country locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The challenges have been varied and intense and if I’d know what I was stepping into, I wouldn’t have done it. But each time I navigate something, it makes me more resilient, and even though I know I have no idea what is round the corner, I now trust that I will be able to navigate whatever it is. 
 

What has been your biggest achievement to date? 

100% the diverse and inclusive community. We recently ran free solstice yoga in walthamstow in support of Unicef for Yemen. 458 people came from across the breadth of Walthamstow life. Old, young, black, white, in a wheelchair, all genders, shapes and sizes. I also run the yoga at the Natural History Museum, which I LOVE, but seeing yoga democratised and enjoyed by everyone, for me that was the best thing I have ever done.
 

Level Up Summit

 

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

I work really hard, to the detriment of my own mental health sometimes, but I’m getting better at that, better boundaries. I describe myself as a cautious risk taker, so I give stuff a go, but I make sure I’ve done the numbers and modelled out the various scenarios. And I like people. I chat to people, I listen to them and I enjoy making connections. I think that is super important in a local community business.
 

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?  

I haven’t got a mentor, nor do I mentor anyone but would love to do both.
 

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Better free childcare provision. That’s the killer, that it costs more to put a child in childcare than most women make working. This one thing would make a huge difference.
 

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be? 

Trust yourself, you do know the right path. And you are smarter and better than you think. Leave the party before it gets light, nothing good happens after that. 
 

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?  

Well, get the new studios off the ground, we are off to Wilderness festival in August, headlining The Sanctuary, and I’ve got a few ideas for other projects. – a bigger kitchen to be able to offer a bigger menu,  creche, maybe even aerial hoop and yoga.

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