Q&A with 15th Degree founder, Papillon Luck
Papillon Luck, the Founder of 15th Degree, has often been described as completely irrepressible, resolutely positive and super high energy.
With constant determination and resilience, Papillon epitomises a serial innovator and visionary early adopter. A background in investment banking and start-up hedge funds working alongside senior executives who struggled to manage their health whilst travelling, led her to create these premium travel fatigue supplements none too soon in that she saw a clear gap in the market for a product that would effectively give travellers the gift of time without unnecessary fatigue. We caught up with Papillon to talk about her career to date and how she copes juggling it all.
What was it that inspired you to set up 15th Degree?
To support the wellness of the business traveller, the road warrior, the executives who are expected to be super human to get through their day. I don’t know how they do it. 15th Degree’s sole purpose is to support them and their wellness. As the founder, I care deeply about helping everyone travel the world without fatigue. Managing your health whilst travelling is no different to managing it at home, providing you take control of it. The subject of wellness whilst travelling is relatively new, so it’s hard to find the science around the areas we’re analysing because clinical trials don’t exist. Qantas have just undertaken a trial with the University of Sydney and I can't wait to read the outcome.
My role is to develop new innovation to help the traveller stay healthy on the road, ranging from technology solutions to consumable goods. Idea generation is never an issue. I’m also responsible for sales and marketing and ensuring the team share and execute the company’s long-term vision.
I’m in my element when I’m being creative, building new relationships and helping to solve someone’s problems.
What has been your career path been like to date? Any hurdles?
It’s been crazy, with no real solid structure except a consistent goal to start a business that solved a real problem and scaled globally. I hate routine; I love every day to be different and exciting, which most of my corporate investment banking days weren’t. It was only when I stumbled across a start-up hedge fund that needed help launching I discovered getting a business off the ground was pretty much one of the most satisfying things you could achieve. So, I did it again, helping to launch 4 start up hedge funds.
As with all entrepreneurs, I struggled at school and work with being told what to do. My employee days were never happy ones. The boredom outweighed the security. I was always felt in such a rush, like I had so little time on the planet to achieve my big goals. It was inevitable I needed to be set free to create something of my own.
I founded and sold 2 successful start-ups which I see as practice - dummy runs for the real thing; to test my limits for whether I had it in me to do it again for a 3rd time. This time the goal is bigger than ever. I feel aligned, in that the experience I gained in my working career has led me to my current challenge. Nothing has been a wasted experience. For the first time ever, I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.
What skill do you think has been most critical for your success?
Resilience, grit, determination and a positive mindset. The only way to develop them is through failure and adversity, it’s irrelevant what school you went to, what your degree was or your family wealth. The real-life skills can only be taught through personal experiences, both good and bad. There are lessons to be found in every experience. Once you realise you are where you are because of every single decision you have ever made, you can begin to create what success means to you.
What’s changing in the wellness industry that excites you the most?
I’m still astonished at the rapid explosion in London’s wellness scene. I was personal training, teaching boxing in nightclubs and parks and trying to motivate people to live healthily in 2011. It was hard work as people really weren’t motivated, it wasn’t trendy or cool and Instagram wasn’t on the scene. I always wanted the healthy Australian lifestyle to hit London, I may have been 7 years ahead of the trend, but wellness now just feels the norm. Strip the ‘fads’ and 'trends' aside and what excites me the most is that people genuinely care enough about valuing their health now to want to look after themselves. I remember pitching my bootcamps to corporates who couldn’t understand the value in healthy, fit employees. They couldn’t see the impact this could have on their business. It’s all evolved so quickly. Whilst it feels saturated in parts, there’s still massive innovation waiting to explode.
What would you like someone to invent to make your life easier?
I wish Elon would speed up the direct London to Sydney 1 hour flight as I could live in my dream location, Bondi and still be back in Suffolk for a family Sunday roast lunch.
If you could spend your time doing anything you wanted, what would you do?
I feel very lucky in that I am spending all my time doing what I want to do, if I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t be doing it. I’ve mentally challenged myself with my current business goal to not need to accept any more physical challenges whether that’s marathons or races. I’m pretty all or nothing and I can only focus on one big goal at once. Right now, I’m really happy enjoying the journey, becoming the person I need to become to achieve my business and personal goals. There’s nothing else I need or want to be doing right now and that’s a pretty special feeling.
In business who do you find most inspirational?
Obviously, game changing visionaries like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs who changed the world with their innovations, are always an entrepreneur’s inspiration, but deep down mine will always be my entrepreneurial parents. They taught me from a very early age that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to (however out-there it was) and they instilled in me the relentless ‘Luck work ethic’. It’s pretty brutal and very stoic in its philosophy, basically it teaches you resilience, so giving up is not even an option. Whilst being a Luck is sometimes exhausting, my parents are the reason I do everything.
If you could choose anyone, who would your ideal 5 dinner party guests be?
Could I have 6? Dinner conversation would be an epic conversation of the subjects I'm fascinated by most; discussions with Elon Musk about inhabiting Mars, both Professor Hawking and Brian Cox could discuss their theories of cosmology and quantum physics (which blow my mind and reminds me I’m a tiny speck in a far bigger universe which is both exhilarating and petrifying in equal measures). Putting it more into context of our current planet earth, David Attenborough could delight us with endless conservation stories. Chrissie Rucker could tell us how she launched, grew and scaled such a simple but exquisite White Company brand that changed our interiors for good. Lastly, James Norton because he’s dreamy (especially playing a vicar with a black Labrador in Grantchester).
Favourite way to wind down?
Always yoga, any flow practice for idea generation (which I do every morning). On stressful days, I’ll practice twice daily - a yin class enables me to put the day (& my brain) to bed. When I face a problem, I go straight to my mat. I’ve yet to find a problem I can’t solve after 60 minutes of practice. Logistically it helps having The Third Space literally beneath our offices. Their yoga studio is my immediate problem solver.
How do you like to dress for work and what can’t you not take with you to meetings?
I always carry my Aspinal leather folder and a fountain pen to take notes in meetings, it genuinely makes the other guest feel I’m valuing their time and input. Someone once said not to waste my special paper on a conversation with them. Surely all conversations are special otherwise why have them? Nothing looks ruder than tapping away on tech in a meeting. Following a meeting with either a new acquaintance or someone who has gone out of their way to support or help me, I always send a handwritten thank you note on Smythson paper, a kind touch I learnt from a colleague I once worked with. No one expects it and they are normally tough to decipher so it always gets a response, usually a thank you email, to thank me for my note.
I’m that person that always carries loads of bags, everyone always says to me when they see me ‘what’s with all the bags?’ – it’s very annoying. I leave the house at 5am and don’t get back until 9pm so my bags contain my entire day!! My trusty Mulberry handbag is now 14 years old, I love it more now than when it was brand new.
I don’t like my clothes to represent a brand, I like to be minimalist, contemporary and stay clear of anything too fussy. I get great mental peace wearing the same thing every day as it removes an element of stress and mental decision making. A black trouser suit and a crisp white shirt, or my favourite brown leather Karen Millen jacket make me feel smart but casual, like I’m always ready for business. Cashmere jumpers in muted colours are always good to snuggle up in if the day is stressful and you need some comfort. I always wear Nike trainers for dashing around town, with a quick high heel switch before a meeting (although I have been known to be so excited about a meeting the trainers accidentally stay on). Every morning I’m so excited for the day ahead, I don’t give enough time to preening, I just want to get on with the day but I would love to be more groomed.
Is there a scent that you love?
I’ve just discovered the inner joy of Neom when my sister in law bought me an energy boosting kit for those start up days when you’re desperate for a surge in power and you can’t take anymore caffeine. My thoughtful colleague also bought me a beautiful Neom calming travel candle (I think they are both trying to tell me something). Neom personally represents a hybrid between a beautiful scent and an additional coping mechanism. It’s dual purpose. It reminds of using scent to get through exams. My favourite scent is always Rose or Peony as it reminds me of my mother and acts as another stress release. I can close my eyes, inhale and be taken back to my happy place, the farm where I grew up.
Favourite work travel destination?
My favourite cities in the world are Sydney, Hong Kong and my hometown, London. Sydney fits my wellness obsessed lifestyle, the sun and beaches put it at the top of the list and nowhere has yet beaten it. Hong Kong was a bustling surprise on a 3 day stop over to Australia. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it so quickly and be so sad to leave. London, well London is the greatest city in the world (minus the weather and the lack of beaches). Whenever I get bored or stressed with London, I take myself to a different part of it. Each pocket of the city is totally different to another, it can make you feel you’re in several cities all rolled into one.