Ashley Merrill of DTC darling Lunya made a name for her brand by rethinking sleepwear, but the founder quickly realized that the qualities of the pajamas she was making — comfortable and easy to wear, yet luxurious — were in short supply across all categories of clothing. So in the past 10 years of running the business, she's expanded it to encompass an entire category: rest.
Lunya's original hit product was comfortable pajamas in washable silk fabric, but now the brand's customers can buy dresses, sweaters, loungewear and even bedding and sleep masks in luxury fabrics like silk and cashmere, without having to worry about dry cleaning. (Merrill also founded a men's line, Lahgo.)
Though she spends her days thinking about rest, Merrill has had to learn to balance her schedule with the right amount of family time, work and personal time so that she actually gets enough of it. Read on to learn more about the founder and serial entrepreneur's habits and routines.
What's your morning routine?
I'm an "early to bed, early to rise person," so generally my day starts at 4 or 5 a.m. It's a calm time of day, so it's usually the time I get to my deep-thinking emails. I work in bed on my phone until about 7 a.m., when I get up, throw on Lunya layers and some moisturizer and go wake up the kids. My husband and I alternate days, but generally we make them breakfast and have them off to school by 7:35 a.m. I get back with just enough time to make a colossal jug of hot tea and start my 8 a.m. Zoom calls.
Image credit: Lunya
What's your favorite business book?
Favorite business podcast, TV show, movie or influencer?
I'm enjoying Blinkist as a way to quickly extract business learnings. Lately geopolitics and economic shifts are hitting companies in real-time, so I am loving CaspianReport and Economics Explained on YouTube. It's like a summarized, visual Economist.
Do you have any daily habits that make you a better leader?
I work out five to six days a week. During Covid lockdown, I got in the habit of working out at home using YouTube trainers, and I've never turned back. My favorite trainers are Sydney Cummings, Caroline Girvan and Pamela Reif. Working out is a way to practice pushing myself — to build up physical endurance and emotional perseverance. This gives me the energy and strength to take on my day.
How much sleep do you get? Do you wish you got more?
Of course, I wish I got more — I wish everyone got more. I spend many of my waking hours trying to make sure the world is better rested. Ironically I'm so obsessed with sleep because I've had a lot of waves of insomnia. For me stress, hormones and comfort are the biggest factors in getting rest. To manage my stress I try to stop working by 5 p.m. so I have time for my brain to wind down. I also do my best to track my hormone cycles, and before I ovulate I make my room as cool as possible and wear Cooldown Pima because I find I run super hot at that time. I sleep with nearly five pillows all around my body and between my knees. It's quite a process.
What's your work setup like?
I work from home most of the time and go to the office one to two times a month.
Do you have a work uniform?
I wear Lunya to work every day. While on one hand, this is certainly a perk of the restwear biz, on the other hand, a lot of our pieces are easily blended into daywear — bringing comfort into day-to-day life while still looking put together. When I have a big meeting I might throw on a blazer, but generally, I'm all about the blend of comfort and style, so even that might be layered over a sweatshirt.
Any favorite productivity hacks?
I use my inbox as a to-do list and attempt to keep it under 20 emails. This is a bit intense, but it really helps me to feel focused and clear. I tend to knock out the short, easy emails the fastest and save the more complex ones for quiet, uninterrupted moments.
What's your favorite way to decompress from work?
I love hanging out at home with my family. Typically in the evenings my kids and I will wander to the garden and see if anything is ripe that might be delicious for dinner. Cooking with the kids now that they've gotten older has become a major wind-down for me.
What's the best piece of leadership advice you've ever been given?
Clarity is the best gift you can give your team.