What makes 5 successful women feel powerful

September 13th 2016 / Victoria Woodhall

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Five top women in the wellbeing industry tell us what makes them feel strong - and how they turn it around when insecurity strikes

Women just seem to do power that bit differently - it’s all about trusting your team, staying strong in body and clear in mind, as well as taking time to power down. To celebrate the launch of Sweaty Betty’s Power Leggings, we asked five top entrepreneurs and MDs for a brief CV and their insights into feeling powerful.

Rebecca Hopkins: Joint MD of Balance Me skincare: "I am at my most creative when I am working out."

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CV

Born: Sheffield, 1971

Studied: French, Nottingham University

Career springboard: I spent the third year of my degree with L’Oréal in their Paris HQ. I rejoined the company in London several years later working in PR. L’Oréal is where my passion for beauty began.

Current role: Joint Managing Director of Balance Me. My sister Clare and I retrained in yoga and reflexology respectively in the early noughties and spotted a gap in the market for a natural, solutions-orientated skincare brand that would focus on results and wellbeing. Following a call from Topshop who had sampled our kitchen-table made and aromatherapy-inspired skincare, we launched a pop-up shop in their Oxford Street store in 2005.
I love the fact we create products for people like us who juggle busy lives but want high-performance natural skincare. The brand is called ‘Balance Me’ for a reason. I love the fact that our products will solve skin concerns without creating others. There are many challenges with a growing business, especially as we’ve lived through a recession. We’re still self-funded so cash is king, but we have a fantastically talented team of individuals who work with us and are as passionate about Balance Me as we are and who are our best brand ambassadors.

GTG: Tell us about yourself... What makes you feel powerful?
RH: Working as a power duo with my sister. We totally trust each other, are on the same wavelength but have very different, yet complementary skills. We have just clinched a major new partnership deal for Balance Me, that will be game-changing for the business and very motivational for the team. It will open up our natural skincare to a totally new audience, which is what gives us a huge buzz of excitement.
I like to keep fit as I juggle family, the business and our own health and wellbeing. I practice Iyengar yoga with my eldest daughter on a Saturday morning, which is great for the mind as well as the body, plus I can spend quality time with my daughter. I also run regularly as I can fit it around my schedule and can process my thoughts while I pound the common! I am at my most creative when I am working out. I don’t listen to music, I listen to nature as I find it extremely grounding.

GTG: What's the biggest lesson you've learned that helped you get to where you are?
RH: Stay in control of your own destiny and cash is king.

GTG: What kind of boss are you and what leadership qualities do you admire?
RH: I believe in empowering people and inspiring them to follow our vision. Clare and I surround ourselves with a team who are better than we are in many of the key skills required to run a beauty brand.
I try to be fair and provide support, but evoke confidence in people to allow them to succeed. I have mentored a number of people including industry contacts and alumnae of my old school network, the Girls Day School Trust. Equally, I have been mentored by a number of amazing individuals. I hugely admire Tracey Woodward who is now CEO of Aromatherapy Associates. She is one powerful, warm-hearted lady who exudes beauty and creativity. She’s a real game-changer yet always puts others’ needs first.

GTG: In what circumstances do you feel out of your comfort zone or unconfident and what do you do to put your best foot forward?
RH: I’m a naturally shy person but I have always believed in the power of networking. There are so many amazing people out there brimming with ideas and advice. I take a deep breath and smile and introduce myself and I can always offer luxurious skincare or one of our amazing Balance Me facials in return for an introduction or favour - so I have excellent bargaining tools and a huge black book of contacts!

GTG: How do you power down?
RH: I surround myself with my family and immerse myself in my role as a wife and mother. My family keeps me young in spirit. I hide my mobile downstairs at night so it doesn’t enter the bedroom and buzz.

balanceme.co.uk Follow Rebecca on Twitter

Cassandra Stavrou, co-founder of Propercorn popcorn: "Every day at 10am is ‘power hour’: no phones, no internet, no emails."

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CV

Born: London 1984

Studied: Law, University of Bristol

Career springboard: After university I started working for an advertising agency in Soho. Every afternoon at 3pm, the team would pop out for snacks. They’d come back with packets of crisps or sweet treats and then feel guilty, or occasionally buy the odd piece of fruit, which would leave them unsatisfied. I saw an opportunity to create a snack that neither compromised on health nor taste - and Propercorn was born.

Current role: Co-Founder of Propercorn. It has been an incredible journey over seven years. From trying to be taken seriously, to the crazy pace of the start-up world, up to now where I find myself responsible for an amazing team of 40.
My days vary greatly from meetings with accountants and financial planning through to creative brand workshops and - of course - tasting new flavours. Every day presents new challenges and I am constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone, which is the best place to be.

GTG: Tell us about yourself... What makes you feel powerful?
CS: I think you feel most powerful when you are healthy and happy. For me, this is about ensuring there is balance in my life. Little things such as walking to work to start the day with a clear head, leaving the office on time to see my friends, or indulging a bit over the weekend make all the difference. When I strike this balance, I feel my strongest and most able to conquer anything.

GTG: What's the biggest lesson you've learned that has helped you get to where you are?
CS: Be prepared to take risk. The worst that can happen is that you end up back where you started, but there is everything to gain by going for it.

GTG: What kind of boss are you and what leadership qualities do you admire?
CS: I hope that I lead by example and that I recognise that the team will often know the answers to problems better than I do. Our team is based on empowerment and trust; I don’t believe in micro-managing.

GTG: When do you feel out of your comfort zone or unconfident and what do you do to put your best foot forward?
CS: I’ve never started a business before, so each new step is in unknown territory. I deal with that with a total passion for what we are trying to achieve as well as confidence - and little bit of a blag always helps.

GTG: How do you power down?
CS: We have ‘power hour’ in the office at ten o’clock every morning, which means no phones, no internet, and no emails. It’s an hour when you can really plan what you need to achieve that day, or work on some of those bigger, slightly trickier, projects. It also means that no matter what happens between 11am and 6pm, you’ll still have made progress that day.

propercorn.com Follow Cassandra on Instagram

Alice Liveing, aka Clean Eating Alice, blogger, author and personal trainer: "It’s so important when trying to grow a business to remember never to close a door."

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CV

Born: High Wycombe, 1993

Studied: Degree in Professional Musical Theatre, Bird College, Kent.

Career springboard: My journey began at university when it became obvious to me how bad my eating habits had got. After about a year, I began blogging about the changes I made to my lifestyle. After three years at university, I entered straight into a professional contract in Annie: the Musical, toured the UK with for a year performing between eight and ten shows six days a week. During this period, I also wrote my book The Body Bible (£7.49) qualified as a level three Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS) accredited personal trainer and grew my blog.

Current role: I am currently taking time out from performing to focus on my second book, as well as learning and earning further qualifications to become a truly credible source within the wellbeing industry. I spend two days a week personal training one-to-one clients, plus one day a week working at home on brand projects and content creation. I spend another day devoted to studying - reading and working through course notes and seminars for my nutrition course (I’m studying an AFN - Association for Nutrition - certified nutrition course with The Nutrition Academy) and then the rest of my days are taken up with working on projects such as brand collaborations, teaching exercise classes or giving talks.
I love the diversity of my job. No day is ever the same with blogging and the unknown keeps things exciting. The drawbacks are that I find it difficult to switch off. Having become so accustomed to being busy while working on the show, I find it difficult to incorporate down time in to my week. Working for yourself, it’s very easy to find weekends taken up with work only to realise you’ve not really switched off for seven days straight.

GTG: Tell us about yourself... What makes you feel powerful?
AL: If I’ve completed something that I found particularly challenging, overcome adversity to achieve something, or made gains both physically and mentally I often feel empowered.

GTG: What's the biggest lesson you've learned that helped you get to where you are?
AL: Take each failure, setback or down day as a lesson. Instead of looking at these times in a negative light, I try to find a positive outcome by striving to find a lesson I can build on. I feel this is what allows me to remain positive day-to-day.

GTG: What kind of boss are you and what leadership qualities do you admire?
AL: I will treat everyone how I wish to be treated - it’s so important when trying to grow a business to remember never to close a door. You never know when you might meet that person again and so remaining in their mind as a positive energy might help you down the line.
As a self-employed person, I find it requires a different level of motivation to orchestrate your business and achieve your goals. I found books such as Thrive’ (£6.99) by Arianna Huffington and Ambition (£5.03) by Rachel Bridge an excellent way of recharging my energies to push myself in business and life in general.
I also admire people who are entrepreneurial and fearless in achieving their goals. I’ve always held my godmother Carolyn McCall in the highest regard for her achievements as a businesswoman, and I only wish I could emulate her success. She is currently CEO of Easyjet and has just been made a Dame, while also raising three children. I will always go to her for advice.

GTG: In what circumstances do you feel out of your comfort zone/unconfident and what do you do to put your best foot forward?
AL: With a career in blogging there is no rule book and it’s sometimes difficult to not compare yourself to others and criticise your decisions. At times like these, I have to check out of the social media world. I take 10 minutes to refocus on what is important and what I personally want to achieve, instead of creating skewed visions of my goals through looking to others. I’ll get out for a brisk walk, ring my mum or dad, or head to the gym for a no-phones-allowed session to clear my mind and remind myself there is a whole world going on outside of the internet. It’s often important to look bigger than just your phone screen to achieve great things.

GTG: How do you power down?
AL: I find the gym an empowering place. Entering the weights section for the first time two years ago helped me to not only gain physical strength, but has made me a stronger person all round. Putting on some Lycra, putting my headphones in, shutting the world out and focusing on me for my gym session, I come out the other end with clarity of thought as to how better to achieve my goals.

facebook.com/CleanEatingAlice Follow Alice on Instagram

Nicola Elliott Creative Director, Neom Organics: "80 per cent and done is better than perfect."

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CV

Born: 1977, Leeds

Studied: History of Art, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Career springboard: When I left university I did placements on different magazines. It was a great way for me to learn journalism on the job and showcase my talents. I went on to work on Minx Magazine as an Editorial Assistant and then worked my way up across various titles; Marie Claire Australia, Heat, Glamour and Instyle. I was in the glossy magazine industry for seven years, working mainly on the entertainment side with celebrities which was great fun, but towards the end I was crying out for a ‘normal’ job, where I wasn’t being called in the middle of the night to change a celebrity’s nail appointment or something similar! I felt burned out at the age of 26. It was then I thought “I have to take stock and look at taking a different angle.”
I was surrounded by women who were really stressed - they were either having problems with lack of energy or sleeping badly, or were just generally in need of a mood boost. I had started training as an aromatherapist and nutritionist after work, so I started creating little essential oil blends and tinctures for them. It was really obvious to me from the beginning that my products had to be 100 per cent natural and, where possible, organic to actually work. It’s all about the purity of the essential oils, the complexity of the blends and the highest level of inclusion. At the same time, my sister was having trouble sleeping. She is a staunch ‘greeny’ and was working for Friends of the Earth - she only ever uses organic products. So I made her a blend and called it ‘Tranquillity’ and it really helped her.
My next lightbulb moment was when I was looking for some organic pampering gifts, again for my very green-minded but glamorous sister. Eleven years ago, what was available to buy in the shops was pretty uninspiring. I had to either choose something glam that was full of synthetic chemicals or head to a health food shop, buy something with great organic credentials but stuffed in a brown paper bag. To crack the market, I realised my essential oil blends had to look good as well as do good. So in 2005, my business partner Oliver and I started Neom with just five candles, the first on the market to be made only with 100 per cent natural wax and pure essential oils.

Current role: As Creative Director at Neom Organics, I love that every day is different, I can go into the office first thing for a meeting with our product development team, then meet with our digital team on our ‘Sleeptember’ campaign, and then we’ll be Christmas planning. I have final sign off on anything creative, whether that’s online, in store, or for press events.
I have made sure that I have the best team around me - great people are everything. Their skills, their insights, their passion are the biggest asset. The Neom team all believe in our joint goal - to inspire busy people to lead naturally healthy lives.

GTG: Tell us about yourself... What makes you feel powerful?
NE: Having a strong point of view, hitting the gym and a week when (most things) go right!

GTG: What's the biggest lesson you've learned that helped you get to where you are?
NE: 80 per cent and done is better than perfect. I'm pretty good at seeing the big picture and that's so important for not tying yourself up in knots. Yes, details are crucial but sometimes you just have to move forward above everything else.

GTG: What kind of boss are you and what leadership qualities do you admire?
NE: I think I’m pretty fair. I always try to empower my team, we have 45 people at Neom now. I certainly don’t know the answers to everything, so I always ask the team to come to me with their ideas first and then we can have an open discussion. I take inspiration from Arianna Huffington; I recently read her book Thrive (£6.99), where she writes that there is far more to being successful than just earning a big salary. Success shouldn’t be defined by money and power; it’s not about spending hours in the office and constantly working for that big promotion - to truly thrive we should be looking at shared adventures, small acts of kindness, generosity and overall happiness!

GTG: When do you feel out of your comfort zone or unconfident and what do you do to put your best foot forward?
NE: I’m quite confident in most situations, but I have suffered with crippling anxiety in the past and I still experience it every now and then. It really kick-started my wellbeing journey and the things I’ve had to incorporate into my life to help achieve balance. When anxiety strikes, I try to up my exercise to clear my mind, I cut out caffeine, I talk everything through with my friends and my husband. Of course, I use the Neom therapeutic blends of essential oils, and generally try to take a 360 degree approach to wellbeing; the right nutrition, the right exercise, the right way of thinking.

GTG: How do you power down?
NE: I make time for myself every day, because if I don’t I can’t be firing on all cylinders for my family and colleagues. I love to run; it clears my head and becomes my time, where I can’t be reached. I feel more energised with a focused mind when I’ve been running. At night, I always try to take a calming bath with the Tranquillity Bath Oil, to bring down my stress levels. I read for 20 minutes with the Tranquillity candle (£45) burning next to me and then drift off into a nice sleep! Taking time out, and looking after yourself is definitely not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

neomorganics.com Follow Nicola on Twitter

Rhian Stephenson, CEO, Psycle: "Resilience, a growth mindset and being coachable have been so pivotal for me."

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CV

Born: 1982, Toronto

Studied: Batchelor of sciences, registered practitioner in nutrition and naturopathic medicine

Career springboard: The job that started it off for me was at Balance, a clinic on the King’s Road where I worked as a naturopath and nutritionist. It was so busy that I would see ten clients per day. It was such a great starting point because I had exposure to so many different cases, from lifestyle issues, chronic illnesses to celebrities and children. It really ignited my passion to be able to reach more people and be able to be more creative in what I offered, so I left and started my own practice.

Current role: As CEO of Psycle, I'm responsible for the business, its expansion and how we express ourselves as a brand - everything from hiring and training instructors, to operations, finance, new site acquisition, the blog and nutrition. I've been there for two years and absolutely love it. It's been incredibly challenging and I've had to learn about the business aspects that I had little experience in.

GTG: Tell us about yourself... What makes you feel powerful?
RS: First and foremost, I need to feel healthy, so exercise and physically challenging myself make me feel great. I need to do it every day to stay strong, for example I'm doing a four-day adventure race in Norway in March called the N60. Finishing that will feel like a huge accomplishment and give me so much strength and confidence.
I feel powerful training the team and seeing them perform with greatness; they inspire me every day. And then there are things as small as seeing people transform through our programs and advice. Knowing that we have power to influence people's lives in a positive way makes me feel amazing and makes all the challenges worth it.

GTG: What's the biggest lesson you've learned that helped you get to where you are?
RS: For me it's the discipline I gained from being a competitive swimmer - I swam for Canada for 13 years. Resilience, a growth mindset and being coachable have been so pivotal for me. When I took over the running of Psycle, there was so much that I didn't know, I had to continually lean on others and push myself to learn.

GTG: What kind of boss are you and what leadership qualities do you admire?
RS: I think I'm a visionary, motivator and am very collaborative. I'm very empathetic and care a lot about the people who work with me. I know there's a lot that I don't know, so I like to surround myself with the best people who have complimentary abilities, so that as a team we can achieve more. I admire authoritative people who are clear and firm but fair and kind. It's a tricky balance but I think it can give incredible results.

GTG: When do you feel out of your comfort zone or unconfident and what do you do to put your best foot forward?
RS: When I have to make major decisions in areas that aren't my primary expertise without a lot of information. I try to get advice to sense-check things, but at the end of the day I just try to step back, look at the full picture and trust my gut. The most important thing to do is back yourself. If you make a mistake, own up to it and learn so you can move forward without repeating it.

GTG: How do you power down?
RS: Exercise, cooking, yoga, massages, time with friends, nature.

psyclelondon.com Follow Rhian on Twitter

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