At home (and work!) with Zoë Foster Blake.
Originally published in Grace Magazine.
Zoë Foster Blake is a rare phenomenon. In her roles as businesswoman, mother, author, app developer and charity ambassador, it would appear that everything she touches turns to gold – or at least that singular peachy shade that has become synonymous with Go-To.
Her businesses (Go-To and the children’s offshoot Gro-To) have received international acclaim. Her children are among Instagram’s most adored. Her books and app have all reached the top of the bestseller lists, and she even acted as an associate producer when her book The Wrong Girl was made into a television series. Then, as if she didn’t have enough on her plate, she went and put us all to shame by being a proud and active ambassador for both Look Good, Feel Better and The Orangutan Project.
But it’s not these endless accolades that make her a rarity (though, admittedly, they do). Rather, it’s the way Foster Blake has been met by the Australian public. In a country that is defined by its ability to knock down the tallest of poppies, Foster Blake has remained entirely beloved. In fact, as I discovered first-hand while writing this profile, it’s impossible to turn sideways without being met by a glowing opinion of the woman, who could only be described as Australia’s favourite. “I’m obsessed with Zoë,” said one friend – a corporate lawyer. “She’d make my Ultimate Dinner Party List – alongside Martin Luther King and Freddie Mercury,” said another – a senior marketer. “I can’t get enough of her and everything she does,” claimed one more. It seems Zoë Foster Blake has captured our hearts, and frankly, it’s not hard to see why.
She is undoubtedly funny (the footer of her website simply says ‘Soey’, which links through to a Tumblr titled ‘Starbucks Spelling’ – a collection of misspelt names). However, she also takes her endeavours and her businesses incredibly seriously. Talking about the challenges she faces in business, Foster Blake says, “There’s so much fortune-telling involved, and I’m garbage at it. I prefer to focus on doing good work this day, this hour, this email, because I believe the future takes care of itself if you ensure what you do today is to the best of your ability. But since business is also about logistics and manufacturing and forecasting and staff and risk, we have a team of excellent people who are very good at what they do in those areas, so that I can be free to be good at what I do. As we scale up, hiring people with specific superpowers and creating a culture and an environment where they can thrive is critical.”
In terms of how she manages to get it all done (business, babies, books…), Foster Blake is honest in a way that’s often missing in the perfect-parent personas of today. “I don’t,” she says. “I’m as flustered and forgetful as the next person. My email strategy is to compartmentalise, so instead of being a half-assed mum and a half-assed professional, I can give each of them a decent shot. I also have a permanent auto-reply on my email so that people (Go-To aide) know I’m not going to respond. As for books, oh man, I miss writing books. It’s a total indulgence now to sit and write, which is why I don’t prioritise it.”
What she does prioritise, however, is sleep. Particularly with two young children, Foster Blake says it’s one of the cornerstones of good parenthood, which is something she continues to learn about every day. “I’ve learned that I will always be learning, and always feel like every other parent is more organised than me, which may in fact be accurate. I’ve learned that when I prioritise sleep, I’m a better mother and wife, and more efficient and creative, professionally. And I’ve learned that breakfast for dinner is absolutely fine.”
This is signature Foster Blake – always applying the best of intentions, but with a healthy dose of humour and slack (when asked how she takes her coffee, for example, she says, “Long macchiato or long black… For God’s sake, just make it long”). “I definitely need to chill on the sugar, but aside from that I eat a pretty simple, balanced diet,” she says. “Lots of eggs, lots of veges, lots of pasta. I do Pilates and spin once a week, and walk with the pram a LOT. I practice TM meditation about 0.02% as much as I should, but I like having it in my toolkit for when I need it. And sleep is a biggie. I aim for a clean seven per night. Between the kids, the possums and my husband snoring, that’s ambitious, but we all need goals.”
Goals and discipline are the foundations of Foster Blake’s personality and keys to her success, which may seem to contradict her largely self-depreciating manner. But her success hasn’t come by accident. “I’d probably say discipline is the thing that has brought me this far,” she says. “For me, discipline encompasses productivity, self-control, intention and accountability, which, as an ‘upholder’ (according to Gretchin Rubin’s ‘Four Tendencies’), I really thrive on, like some kind of deadline-driven sicko. If I take on a project, I will see it through and do the best I can. If it takes you away from your family, then make it worth it, y’know?”
That family – at least viewed from the outside – is something of a fairytale. Married to one of the country’s most adored personalities, Hamish Blake, and with two equally adorable children – Sonny (5) and Rudy (2) – they inspired her most recent venture, Gro-To, a children’s skin care line that appeals to kids as much as their parents. “I realised I was using my Go-To moisturiser on my kids’ rashy, dry body, and realised there was a gap for effective, clean and really fun skin care for babies and kids,” Foster Blake says. “There’s Bad Dream Buster, a soothing room spray that doubles as a monster repeller, Super Softy, a delicious, deeply nourishing and softening baby lotion, Sud Bud, a friendly, gentle plant-based body wash and bubble bath and Skin Wizard, a replenishing and calming body oil that is magic on dry, angry or itchy skin."
She continues, “The products are intended to look like toys, they’re colourful with silly faces (by illustrator legend Bec Orpin) because they’re for kids, and I wanted them to fit into their world. Gro-To is not another dull interruption from Grown-Up land, we want kids to take ownership of their bath and their body, and create good habits.”
It’s pleasing to hear that despite their bath products being created by their mother, Sonny and Rudy approach bath time like every other child world over. “As we have a very strong-willed, grabby two-year-old and a busy five-year-old in there together, it usually ends in screams and tears, because Someone wants the toy the Other One has, etc, etc,” she says. But of course the Foster Blake children were test dummies on all of Gro-To’s products. “In the bath, they choose from ‘the green one’ (Skin Wizard) or ‘the yellow one’ (Super Softy) and it starts getting very silly, because of course a compulsory nudie dance as they rub it in. We spend the next 10 minutes trying to get a grip on their slippery little bums for PJs/books/bed. It’s a well-oiled machine, literally, not figuratively.”
The family’s pre-bath time routine is also something we’d like to be a fly on the wall for. “We do three dances after dinner and before going up for bath. Lately it’s been MC Hammer, Single Ladies, Eye of the Tiger, Loveshack, Hey Ya, etc. It’s basically a really daggy wedding dance floor playlist,” says Foster Blake. Then, in a way that makes us think “yes, they really are just like us”. Zoë and Hamish’s nighttime rituals are oddly familiar. “Once the kids are down, my husband and I have dinner together, then we watch our shows, and try (“fail”) to stay off our phones. I very rarely work at night, for one my brain is pathetic after about 6pm, and two, we are in a complete TV renaissance, and I got shit to watch.”
What we’ve got to watch is Foster Blake. Because if one thing’s for certain, she’s going to be on our bookshelves, in our bathrooms, on our vanities and in our hearts for much, much longer.