I’m sure you will agree that the line between our work and social lives is becoming increasingly blurred. So how do we balance the two and not end up just working 24/7? We ask Linn Toremalm, Co-founder of Ceylon Sliders, the most beautiful boutique hotel based in Sri Lanka, what her thoughts are when it comes to building a brand based on community and how she separates her work and personal life.
Can you tell us a bit about your beautiful hotel and how you ending up living in Sri Lanka?
My boyfriend and I met 10 years ago and we shared the wanderlust and spent years travelling the world. We would come back to Sweden to work so we could earn money and travel even more. During those years we dreamt about actually being able to live abroad. During our university years we kept coming back to Sri Lanka on our holidays. During all our travels we always documented everything with our cameras and gathered all our photos and thoughts in a blog called sunshinestories.com. One thing led to another and after university we opened up a surf and yoga retreat in an old colonial villa in the jungle of Sri Lanka. We created our perfect Sri Lankan experience, a different way to travel. With a weekly stay that included visits to our favorite monk, surf, yoga and all our favorite food. The first guests who booked were people from all over the world, USA to Poland to South Korea, who had read our blog and now wanted to be a part of the manifested Sunshinestories. We then opened up Ceylon Sliders as a compliment for those who did not want a whole week experience but rather a room, a yoga session or simply a coffee.
Is community an important factor in your work and how do you use friendships to build your business?
Community is everything! Sunshinestories was built with the community we created around our blog and our first travels. It was the support from those people we managed to make the dream reality. With Ceylon Sliders we have been able to take collaborations even further and we can host artists, photographers and other makers. One of my favorite things is our artist residencies. The latest one was Nina Brooke who came out and stayed in one of our rooms while painting, surfing, living life and then exhibited 10 sri lankan pieces in a fantastic art show. All was filmed and documented by our in house photographers and it turns into a creative collaboration (watch it online at Ceylon Sliders)
The Wanderlust Life fine cord necklace is one of our best sellers in our shop and it’s in there thanks to Georgie who stayed in one of our rooms. We get to meet so many cool people who does or create the most cool stuff. Most stuff in our shops is by friends or guests. Like Seea suits, Bing surfboards, EQ sun care, Quality Peoples, Mumbai Atalier, Samudra, Live whole yoga mats and more.
Do you separate your work and personal life and what boundaries have you put in place to work on this?
My role in Sunshinestories & Ceylon Sliders is officially creative director so I get to work with the fun stuff. I’m in charge of the branding and social media. But being a business owner I also have to make sure there’s money in the bank to make sure to pay salaries, do the boring accounting etc.
It’s a thin line between work and leisure when you have a business, or three, but for me, a separation is very important. We used to live on site which meant being on call 24/7. I’m a person who depends on my alone time to function. I try and declare some days or afternoon off. Though I usually end up working on my free time too... It’s when I get most creative. But I work with other stuff like my little kimono brand or my small jewellery collection.
Do you employ friends and how does that work?
I have never hired a close friend but some of the people I have or are working with have become really close friends. I recently turned a friend down just because I wanted to keep her as a friend outside of work. In our companies, we’re all friends though and with us all living far away from our original homes we usually hang out together all of us. But it’s nice to have some friends completely outside of work so you can’t drift into work-related topics when you meet.
Can you think of any women in particular that have helped you through phases of transition, growth or even just been there in a time of need?
I’m lucky to have some really strong women in my life. My mum and sister is always just a skype call away, very grateful for that. My mum even jumped on a flight to get here during a very hard time last year. Maria & Ellen has also always had my back and been there for me, funny thing they’re also the general manager for Ceylon Sliders respectively Sunshinestories.
Do you have any mentors and / or role models you can share with us?
I really look up to Kristin Lagerquist shes a very inspiring and motivating woman. I love how she captures beauty in everything. Even the ugly things. She’s a quite new friend, we met when we were about to open up Sunshinestories. Which now when I think about it is quite long ago.. Time flies! And we haven’t hung out that much but every time we meet it’s like we have never been apart. And I can tell her everything, the beautiful things and the ugly.
I also look up to Jennifer Binney of Samudra. She’s like a creative explosion and I want to be like her. She has such style and grace and a really creative eye.
Both of these women travel the world, creating and shooting for their brands. They also have husbands and kids back home. But their creative life didn’t end with them getting family. For me it’s really inspiring.
How do you balance work and social life?
It’s not easy and it’s probably what I have been struggling with most for the past 3 years as we have been moving to a new country, setting up two businesses and employing 50 + staff... The only way to manage that is to work hard. Like super hard, almost too hard. One year in I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a thyroid that does not work, and it has forced me to slow down. I depend on rest and alone time to live a normal life and to be able to be sociable in the evenings... The best thing I know is to meditate. I tried the app Headspace first and just couldn’t let go of thinking the guy who did the talking sounded so Mr Know it all. I tried the app Calm instead and now I’m hooked. I usually sit down and meditate each morning before I start the day. It’s a good way to tune in and to listen to what my body says. If I don’t find time in the morning for some reasons I do it before I sleep. It’s addictive. Try it!
If your friend gets fired or let go what is the best advice you can give them?
I would probably say that “everything happens for a reason” and that this is the perfect time to start with that project she has always talked about or to apply to that job she never dared to apply to. OR to book that trip to Sri Lanka that she has always dreamt about.
How important are female friendships to you and do you have any anecdotal stories you can share with us? Mother, sister, grandmother, friend, new friendship, old friendship, rekindled friendship, work friendship?
Moving to a new country is hard for many reasons, and also wonderful for maybe even more reasons. But I have struggled a bit to make new friends in the midst of working hard. A few weeks ago we called some of the amazing girls together for a ladies surf. That reminded me of how many kind, funny and beautiful women I have around me. Also, a lineup with all girls can be one of my favorite things in the world. There’s something special when there’s only girls. It feels more giving, forgiving and free. Read about it over at Ceylon Sliders. Changing country also makes it hard to keep in touch with old friends. I have a handful that are still my closest friends. We can pick up where we left off 6 months ago and it still feels very natural. A month ago they surprised me with a trip to Barcelona, as my hen party. They had hand-picked everything from hotel to cafe’s that was gonna match my taste. We spent 3 days together roaming Barcelona and it was one of the best trips in my life, I almost start to cry when I think about everything they did for me.
Linn's favourite pieces: