Naomi Mdudu is the CEO and Founder of the Lifestyle Edit, where her compelling mix of content, coaching, and retreats help female founders find alignment and inspiration in their businesses. A former journalist and marketing maven, Naomi shares how she learned to leverage intuition for inspiration to live an intentional life in flow – and how her business grew faster once she rejected the “hustle”.
Melinda Wittstock: Naomi, welcome to Wings.
Naomi Mdudu: Thank you for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m so excited to hear about your journey and how you’ve gotten to where you are. Entrepreneurship, it’s like ups and downs, twists, roundabouts. When did you first know that you were an entrepreneur?
Naomi Mdudu: It’s funny because I’ve asked myself that question many times. I don’t think that there was this kind of one eureka moment. Now, looking back, it was like, “Duh, of course this is what you were going to do.” I think it was just sequences of events that just were pointing me there, even when, at the time, I didn’t really know that that was the thing. When I first started in my career, I had always wanted to work as a journalist, and that’s kind of how it all kick started. So, two weeks after graduating, my first job was as a fashion editor at a national newspaper. At the ripe age of 22. And I absolutely loved what I was doing. I was able to travel, I was able to connect with incredible movers and shakers in the fashion industry.
But, I think, it’s funny because it’s something that comes up in a lot of the conversations that I have on my podcast, on The Lifestyle Edit, that, very often, there is this moment where you reach the goal, the dream job on paper, and it’s not quite how you imagined it to be. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, now looking back, every role that I took on, it was almost as if it was my baby and I was running it as if it was my business. And the result of that was that I was the first person to get into the office in the morning, I was the last person to leave in the evening, I would take work home. When I wasn’t taking work home, I was so chronically exhausted by the weekend, that it was really having an adverse effect on my life. I would be so glad when friends canceled on plans so that I wouldn’t be the person that canceled again. Just because I needed to catch up on the weekends.
So, what on paper, was my dream job, very quickly changed and I was feeling it in a really big way. But, one of the benefits of what I was doing at the time was that I was able to connect with so many female entrepreneurs and, at the time, there were a lot of changes going on in publishing. What I loved about my job was that I was able to tell these incredible stories but, as the climate was changing, as things were moving online, the stories started becoming very bite-sized and was becoming very, “This person is creating a new collection. It goes out next week. Prices starting from this.” Which wasn’t the content that I truly believed in. And I would be able to have these incredible days and afternoons with these founders, and that is what the content would be reduced to. And one of the last interviews that I did was with Tamara Mellon, the co-founder of Jimmy Choo. It was just when her nondisclosure agreement had to come an end. And we spent an incredible afternoon with each other. She was just such a fountain of knowledge on business, on marketing, and what it means to truly scale a phenomenal business.
I went back to my desk and I had hours upon hours of transcripts, and I couldn’t use it. And as I was going through this transition where in my heart I knew that this wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. I knew that I wanted to start my own thing. I didn’t really know what that was going to look like. I started surveying the landscape and there just wasn’t a place that people were sharing content around the women that I was fortunate enough to work with, to interview.
The entrepreneur content at the time was on one side very kind of Forbes, Fortune 500 company and middle aged white guy. Or on the other side, in the consumer titles that I was working in, it was so aspirational that it bared no resemblance to the experiences that I was having, my peers. I really wanted to create a place that really bridged the gap. That really had long form interviews where women could share the totality of their experiences. The highs, the lows, the opportunities and the challenges. But also, pay it forward and really get down to the nuts and bolts of the strategies that have really moved the needle and have contributed to their successes.
I think, I was always entrepreneurial, to answer your question. But I just was waiting for that right idea. And I think sometimes, something has to break for you to have that breakthrough. And for me, that was the moment that everything changed.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, how wonderful. You and I both share a journalistic background. And I, like you, worked for a national newspaper, the Times of London. Where did you work?
Naomi Mdudu: My last role was at Metro.
Melinda Wittstock: I was a business correspondent on the Times of London and I was interviewing all these people and I was moving markets with my writing. Like I’d see the FT, the FTSE index or the Dow go up. Like, I was making people rich! And I’m like, wait a minute. Wait a minute. There is something wrong with this.
I had learned so much though from all the people that I was interviewing, and particularly fast-forward to my media correspondent days and I interviewed Steve Jobs and so many amazing people. And unlike a reporter, right? Who just reports and moves on, I really learned. Every interview I did it was like a mentoring session was how I approached it.
But it’s interesting. Journalists who have made that transition, and I’m curious what you think about this. Because in the commonality, every day is different. You never really know as a journalist, you get really used to change. Which of course as an entrepreneur you have to be very much embracing of change. It’s the one thing you can take for granted, right?
Naomi Mdudu: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean, do you notice that? How did journalism help your entrepreneurship?
Naomi Mdudu: Well for me, journalism helped a lot because I’m not sure what your experience was, but as a section head, I was responsible for the editorial side but also I was responsible for the commercial. So if I wanted more pages, I wanted more resources for my pages, I had to figure out how we were getting more money into our section. So it taught me so much about the brand side and what they were expecting, and about how we can create a harmony between the two, the creative and the commercial.
When I was looking through the receivables and how much money I was generating for my section, I realized that if I could even get a fraction of the revenue that I was bringing in, I would be fine. Of course, when I started the business, the Lifestyle Edit was a content platform. That experience enabled me to confidently go out on my own, because I knew how to commercialize editorial content.
Also, I was seeing how the climate was changing in publishing. I knew what makes a compelling story. I could see that the brands were really struggling at the time because all of a sudden it wasn’t enough to do a 24 by 4 in a newspaper and have the cash registers ringing. They needed to be in print, they needed to be online. They needed interactive influences, they needed events. They needed to create these 360 campaigns.
One of the ways I was able to make my business viable in the beginning and not have to rely on these one of plan partnerships or sponsored posts and things like that, that at the time would have diluted our content, was we created TLE studio which was the consulting limb of the business. A lot of the brands I was working with in my former life, when they found out that I was starting out on my own, they wanted to continue that relationship. So many of them ended up coming on as clients because they’ve worked with me before and they could see that I understood that kind of 360 approach. I understood what the pressures were on the brand, but I also had that editorial experience too.
Melinda Wittstock: Ah, yes. There are so many echoes in your story of my own. Even going back to student newspaper days where the student council was going to shut the paper down because we kept reporting stories that they didn’t like. You know, politicians and journalists never really change.
So they were going to shut it down, and I ended up leading this whole referendum to get our independence from the student government, which meant that we no longer had fees from students. So all of a sudden now, oh, well I better create an advertising department. Oh, I better increase the distribution like Montreal city wide, how can we do that? Oh! You know, Montreal doesn’t have English language entertainment listings.
Right? So being entrepreneurial with the journalism is an interesting thing. And not all journalists necessarily have that. I think one of the things that I struggled with though, at least to begin with, is that journalism is such a solitary sport. Really, you do have to work with other people. Other editors and all of that, and sources. So you’re working with other people, but managing a team is not necessarily a muscle that journalists get.
Like, being able to delegate things is … Gosh, I really had to reset a lot of my thinking and a lot of my habits to be able to become a good team leader. I really, really struggled with that at the beginning. I think probably because of my journalistic training.
Naomi Mdudu: Absolutely, yes. I’ve never really thought about that but it’s so true. You are really solitary, and especially for me. I became an editor at a time where the budgets weren’t what they used to be, so I never had writers underneath me. I never had assistance. I never had a team. We only had section heads. I’ve never really had that experience of running a team, which is why I think it took me so long to feel confident enough to kind of delegate and trust that somebody else would care enough about what we were doing as I did.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, so you make the leap and so here you are. I mean, you’re the CEO of a growing business, it’s a six figure business. You’re heading for seven figures. What are some of the big thing you’re doing or changing about the way you’re operating your business at the six figure level. What do you have to change to be able to succeed? First of all, get to the seven figure level, and then and succeed` at that level.
Are there things you have to change about yourself, about your management, about how you manage a team? Like, go through this, because I think so many women are stuck trying to get to a million dollars in revenue.
Naomi Mdudu: Yeah, yeah. Oh my god. There are so many things. And it’s funny, I was listening to a podcast and I’ve heard people say this so often that they’re like what got you there will not get you … What got you here will not get you there. And also, once you get to that next stage, very often the more revenue you’re bringing in, the less you’re working. I never really understood that, and I always thought that that is actually something …
You know, of course people say that because they can say that now because they’re there. And I’m finally kind of getting into that stage. So I’ll go back a little bit. The reason why I’ve been able to make that transition is because now it’s really about building a team and a network of people that have mastery in a specific section of my business, so that I can be so laser focused on the things that I can uniquely do.
The first thing was getting an assistant, and somebody that could take off a lot of the things I was doing that were not revenue generating. I think that is the key thing. It’s, what are the things that you’re uniquely positioned to do? What are the things that really move the needle in your business? If those tasks are repetitive tasks that you’re doing all the time but they’re $20 an hour jobs, they are inhibiting your ability to generate revenue.
Hands down, that’s been the biggest thing that I’ve done, is majority of my time now is spent doing the things that I am uniquely positioned to do. Whether that is creating content that generates leads, whether that is nurturing our community and really kind of loving up on them. Doing these interviews, our podcast, content creation, coaching my clients. Anything else that is not something that only I can do, I don’t do it.
I’m constantly looking at my business and thinking how can I create a system for that? Is there a tool? Is there an app that can automate that? Okay, leads. I’m spending so much time doing that. Can we have a CRM that also makes that and creates a beautiful customer experience? Really analyze where your time is going. First of all think, is there a system, is there a tool that I can use to automate that? And if not, are you ready to bring somebody on to delegate that task?
Melinda Wittstock: So Naomi, this is so important because not only are you as the founder figuring out what are your strengths, what are the things that only you can do and what are the things that you maybe didn’t like to do all that much or maybe you didn’t mind doing them but you had to do the in the early stages. And you can delegate them off. So true, of this is your team. There are probably people that you hire early on that are doing all parts of the things or they’re just doing whatever hast to be done, making sure increasingly that they’re getting into the right seats for them. That they’re inspired and focused. And that you’re leading them in that way. Talk to me a little bit about how that process is going for you.
Naomi Mdudu: I’m a big believer in hiring the person and then training them internally. My team at the moment, majority of my full time staff have come from junior roles and have kind of grown there.
I give the example of my first hire. She started off as my assistant and she’s now my Project and Operations manager. She’s the one person that works alongside me across the business. And especially as a small business it’s so important, I believe, to hire based on the person and the attitude. In the past I have looked for people who on paper have had that experience. They have worked in all of these incredible companies that I believed were kind of synonymous with where we wanted to go, and what I realized actually is that it’s not always like for like.
Another start up that is maybe five years ahead of us. Yes they may be a start up, but very often what I was finding was that those heavily funded organizations would have so many people that I’m looking on paper and thinking that person can kind of come in and hit the ground running. And very often that wasn’t the case. Because they were coming from these huge, well funded businesses, they were actually managing a very small part of big projects.
That was one of the biggest things I learned very quickly when it came to hiring teams. I would much rather have somebody who understood what it means to be part of the small business and just really ready to pull their sleeves up and kind of get mucked in. That’s exactly what Anna did, and now because she was so excited about the prospect of being in a small business and getting to learn so many things on the go, she’s been able to grow in the business and is now my right hand.
One of the thing I would definitely say, and like was saying earlier, running a business, running a team, is something that’s been totally new for me. But what I’ve tried to do is that as I’m bringing these people into the business and seeing what their strengths are, kind of putting them in roles that allows them to really tap into that super power. And once they’re there, supporting them but also making sure that they are empowered to make decisions for themselves.
My biggest thing with my team is that I’m very clear about the results that everybody’s responsible for and how that fits into the bigger picture. The how, I’m not so concerned with. That’s on you. You’re responsible for the results, but that’s where they’re able to step into their own and bring those kind of skills to the floor. It’s kind of figuring out the how.
And I think that is one of the things that a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. They still want to micromanage the how. The way I would do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way. I’m trying to constantly think of how can I support my team and really empower them to make decisions on their own. So long as it’s feeding into the bigger goals of the company.
Melinda Wittstock: I think it’s tricky sometimes to figure out how to get out of our own way on these things, right? Particularly this division between working on your business and in it. As women, I think we often tend to create businesses around things that we’re really good at doing. And then the mistake that we make is that we think we have to keep doing them. And then we’re just doing more and more and more. It’s almost like you’re on some sort of treadmill that’s speeding up faster and faster and faster because you’re doing this and it is completely antithetical to scale.
Changing your mindset from being a business doer to a business owner is a big philosophical or physiological shift. And not everybody can do that. We all need help from coaches and mentors and people who have been there before who can help us through that transition. I think, right? I mean, have you reached out to people who can help you with that? Cause who you have to be as scrappy start up person compared to who you are at six figures and who you are approaching seven, who you are once you start to get past a million dollars and maybe towards eight figures, you know, is sort of a different person.
Naomi Mdudu: It is, and the way that I approach it is I’m constantly asking myself how am I creating a curriculum for success?” And when I say curriculum for success, it’s the things that I am constantly feeding myself on a day to day basis. So, what I tend to do is I, kind of look at my big picture, where do I want my business to be in five years, 10 years time. Kind of break it down. SO, where do I want to be in the next 12 months? So, where do I need to be this quarter?
So, I typically focus on three things maximum this quarter. That I can do, that feed into that bigger picture goals, that if I attack these three things, it’s going to have knock-on effect, and kind of move me closer to those bigger picture goals. Once those three things for the quarter have been defined, I am super laser focused, because I think, “Diluted focus; diluted results.” So then I try and aw myself, so I’m making sure that yes, my reading, I love to read in the morning before I get started in the day. How is the book that I’m reading serve kind of giving me the information that I need to really kind of target that, so when I’m consuming books, when I’m consuming podcasts, when I’m going to events, conferences, coaches, they all need to feed into those three things that I am focusing on, because I think the exciting thing right now is there’s so much information out there, but it often leads to overwhelm, because you’re listening to a podcasts that’s talking about Pinterest strategy, to kind of ultimate your leads, then someone is talking about webinars over here, and like Instagram strategy, or you know, creating sales funnels, and you feel like you need to be doing all the things, and when you get to that state of overwhelm, very often you’re starting lots of projects, but your not actually finishing them. So, I’m always focusing on three things maximum.
What are the three things I can really go deep with each quarter, and how am I creating that curriculum for success, whether that’s the people that I’m talking to, the meetings that I’m going to, the conferences, the books, so I’m staying so laser focused, and making sure that I’m learning what I need to learn, to kind of overcome that.
Melinda Wittstock: So, tell me a little bit about your clients, your business. You do so many different things with your company. So, tell us more about the company, where it is now, and where it’s going, and in particular I know you work with a lot of creative female entrepreneurs, so just wonderful. Anyone who’s saying it forward to female entrepreneurs, is good in my book. So, tell me a little bit more about where you are now and where you’re headed.
Naomi Mdudu: I do.
Yeah, so we always laugh internally and say that we have mastered the art of the [pivot 00:43:02, in our business. Because its constantly changing, it’s constantly evolving, so like I said when we first launched we had to get a studio, which was the consulting them of what we do, so we would do strategy and also execution, and it was amazing because it enabled us to have this incredible passionate rich side of our business, so we really didn’t have to dilute our content, which was really, really important to me, but while doing that it really allowed me to grow this incredible community of female entrepreneurs, and they were seeing what I was doing for my clients under TLE studios. Big companies, and they were like, “Naomi, when are you going to be able to teach us some of these strategies that you’re implementing in these businesses?” You know, I’ve just taken the lead, I don’t know how to generate leads, I don’t know how to- all of these kinds of stuff.
So, that was what actually inspired me to kind of move away from a lot of our consulting work. So, now the majority of my time is spent working one – on -one with these creative female founders, because as much as I love consulting them of what I did, it wasn’t art of our big picture, and I think that is one of the problems that I see a lot of entrepreneurs face, is that because they started their business in a certain way, they feel like they need to stick with it. So, it really enabled us to make that transition to now working one-on-ones so I work one-on-one with creative females entrepreneur, kind of helping them move from ideation to scaling stage. I also work with groups, and group coaching programs, we have a three month business mastery program, that kind of runs women through the foundations that they need to know, from marketing … sales funnels, building your list, and turning subscribers into customers.
We also run retreats, and a supper club. Again, because we have this captive audience of these incredible women another one of the things they were telling me is that you know, its great to hear these stories from other fellow female entrepreneurs, but actually I don’t have community of these women. I have moved away from my corporate job, I don’t know anybody else that’s doing this. So, almost two and a half years ago, we started a supper club, here in New York, started with 20 people, we know take over restaurants, 60 people, creative female entrepreneurs, and very often by the end of the night I’d have to be pushing people out the door. So that’s kind of where we got the idea for our retreats, we could see that there was something, as much as we love being addicted to business, people are still really craving that in person connection. So, the retreat ended up being an extension of all of the goodness we were producing in the supper clubs.
So, when I’m thinking about how our business is growing, and evolving its always this two-way conversation with our community. So, I’m listening to them whether that’s on Instagram or through our email list. And IM asking what are the biggest things you are struggling with right now, how can we support you, so were there for you throughout that journey, so when your making that first transition from your corporate job, to starting your business, but also when your trying to scale, and when your taking it to that next level, how can we make sure we are there for you, across that trajectory. So, that’s where all of our products, or services come from. So, in the new year, were actually working right now on creating a membership program. Again, people want to be able to go deep and were not always able to do that in a forty-five minute podcast.
Melinda Wittstock: So, this is wonderful, how you’ve been able to grow and expand, and really listen to the needs of your customers, right? In allowing the growth of your businesses to serve them, while still being an alignment with you are. Now, I see a lot of women, and male entrepreneurs to for that matter get so attached to their product, that they forget to include the customer in the co-creation if you will.
Naomi Mdudu: Definitely.
Melinda Wittstock: How much does intuition play a role in what you do, Naomi? Is it all just like hard work, grind. Or is it more seeking inspiration, and following your intuition?
Naomi Mdudu: Intuition is my guiding force, and it hasn’t always been that way. When we started off this conversation I was talking about the feeling of burn out in my former job, and I thought by mistakenly, entrepreneurship would be the antidote to that, it was, now I’m doing something that I really believe in, and you know, that kind of hustle, that grind, you know would disappear. The problem with that, is that I thought it was an external thing, but yes, you know my externals would change, but I’m still the same person, I was still the same type- a slightly, neurotic, hustle, hustle, hustle; my whole self-worth, and Identity, was wrapped upon my output and how productive I could be, and these kind of external signifier of success, and when you know, hard moments happened, and I had those kind of feelings in my burnout and even in my business I had to really wake up, and do the inner work, because I could continue to move from project, to project if I am not kind of not dealing with this, then it’s going to be the same result.
And that’s when I started kind of really, taking into all things intuition, and that side of things. I always believed that when the student is ready the teacher will appear, and for some reason Danielle Laporte came up, and the fire starter sessions. I definitely recommend it if you’re going through this kind of transition. And, she really smart about getting in tune with how do you want to feel everyday, and it sounds so top level, but when you deep dive, like how do want to wake up everyday. I started mapping out, and started journaling about it, and you know, it was just the smallest things, I want to wake up everyday and feel in flow. I want to feel like I am making an impact, I want to wake you and be working with clients that inspire me to do my best work, and inspire me to show up as the best version of myself. And, I think once you get crystal clear with how you want to feel, it ends up being a compass in your business, too.
So, I have morning practice that I start, and I write out my goals every single morning. They say that the process of writing things down, kind of helps it cement in your mind. So I do that every single morning, and I really visualize the impact that I want to make, and again how I want to feel. And, tapping into that sets my day off and really kind of grounds me. SO, it enables me to not succumb to all of this information overload, and external stimuli we have just by being constantly attached to or phones, and also seeing what other businesses are doing all the time. It just really helps me become super laser focused, and you know the more I tap into that, and it’s just become just a part and parcel of my day, and the rituals that I do. It’s like a muscle, and its easier to do, and you start to get a history of where you’ve listened to that voice and its worked.
So, before the whole idea of saying, or even not saying no to business because it doesn’t feel right. Before I would have been like, “Come one Naomi, what are you talking about, it doesn’t feel right?” But the more I’ve listened to that and its actually worked in my favor, its enabled me to confidently trust that, and it doesn’t, sometimes everything on paper may check out, but you know intuitively that something does not feel right, and the more you trust that, and you start to get that experience of success to get that, it just becomes art and parcel of your everyday.
Melinda Wittstock: You know, I arrived at a morning routine to, and mine has changed over the years. I have an intentions list, and I think about where I want to be at the end of the day, or at the end of the week, or month, or whatever, and I visualize it, and I imagine it done, and I feel the gratitude for it, and it is really, sort of mixing the law of attraction, a little bit of intentional living, gratitude, meditation, kind of all in one. But gosh, you know. I was listening not to long ago to Brendon Burchard, talking about the two habits that hurt people, and entrepreneurs the most, if they do first off in the morning, are these two things, right, which probably most people do, is to wake up check your email. Automatically, if you do that you’re accepting other peoples agenda for you, right? And so no, don’t do that. And then, check your social media. Automatically your comparing yourself to other people right there. So, don’t do it. Don’t do either of those two things.
Naomi Mdudu: It is so true, it is so true. I’ve even now, I don’t check my email till about mid-day. Because I have that whole morning routine, and I look again at what are those three things that I said were my targets for the quarter, and I write three things I can complete today that will help me move towards that goal. So not, email this person, get in touch, start this, what results can I produce today, that can get me closer to that. So, I’m grounded in those things that really move the needle. So, by the time its mid-day, its lunchtime, I am checking my email. I can kind of engage in other peoples, demands or needs, cause I know I’ve already been intentional about moving the needle in my business.
Melinda Wittstock: Ah, that’s so beautiful. So, Naomi, I could talk to you for a lot longer, you’re going to have to come back on again, but just real quick, before we wrap up, I just want to make sure people know how to find you, and work with you, and all the great work you’re doing for all your clients.
Naomi Mdudu: Thank you, so definitely head to the lifestyleedit.com that is the best place to find out more about all of the things we got going on, and definitely join our mailing list. It’s always the lace where I announce things first, and then of course we have the lifestyle edit podcast, and you can follow us on Instagram at thelifestyleedit.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful, thank you so much, for putting on your wings, and flying with us.
Naomi Mdudu: Thank you Melinda, its been wonderful.