This month I’m thrilled to be able to share the career story of one of my dear friends. Naomi Mdudu is an editor, podcaster, entrepreneur and business mentor, who I first met almost ten years ago. At the time Naomi was writing for the fashion news website, The Fash Pack, and Coco’s Tea Party was still in its infancy.
Since then Naomi has worked for two London newspapers, moved across to the pond to New York City, and set up the inspirational careers website, The Lifestyle Edit, which shares actionable tips from female entrepreneurs.
I’m always in awe of Naomi’s vision, work ethic and energy. And in this month’s #My9to5 interview she shares her fascinating career story…
Throughout your career you’ve worked in both print and online publishing, and made that balance look seamless. What first drew you to journalism? And how did you get your start in the industry?
I have always been in love with fashion and storytelling. And growing up I knew that I wanted to work in magazines. So, whilst I was studying, I started working in PR for an Italian handbag designer. I knew that PRs interacted with journalists all the time, and I thought it would be a good way to build a contact base. And from there I also began interning at magazines and assisting freelance stylists.
Throughout my time at university I was always assisting or working as a freelance writer.
One day I was at an exhibition and I met a girl who had just moved to London from the US. We started chatting and instantly connected over shared passions; and together we launched the fashion website, The Fash Pack.
The Fash Pack was a news portal, and we wrote about the latest magazine covers and creative director announcements. We were each writing between 5-10 posts a day, which is crazy to look back on now. The Fash Pack was a real education, because it taught be so much about the fashion industry – as well as what it takes to run a successful website.
I was still studying throughout all of this, though. And, because I’d done so much freelance work whilst I was at school, I was fortunate enough to land a job as fashion editor at City AM newspaper just two weeks after I graduated. They brought me board to manage the fashion pages, but because the team was so small I also got to write about travel, food and theatre. That really expanded my repertoire and gave me the confidence to look beyond fashion when it came to my writing.
After a stint at City AM I moved to Metro, which is another free newspaper in London. And whilst I was at Metro I had the idea for The Lifestyle Edit.
You left the Metro newspaper in 2014 to start working on The Lifestyle Edit. What did you think was missing from the online landscape at the time? And how did you go about launching The Lifestyle Edit?
There were multiple reasons for starting The Lifestyle Edit. Firstly, I love the process of interviewing someone, then going over the transcript to tell a story. And storytelling was getting smaller and smaller in print, so I felt like I wasn’t getting the chance to produce the type of content I actually wanted to read.
I also wanted to move away from the image-lead, click-bait content that was taking over the internet.
I’ve always been entrepreneurial, but I had never found a resource online that showed me what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. The business content out there at the time was very corporate. Very masculine.
I started by pinpointing the women in my network who were doing inspirational things. And, as well as being inspirational, had a certain expertise in business that they’d be able to share. So I started off small, interviewing and photographing women in my network. I think I went under the radar for about three months, because I was working on the website day and night.
My friends were like, “Naomi, you’ve got to launch, you’ve got loads of content!” But I always wanted more. It was like, “Oh if I just get one more interview it will be amazing.” I wanted to make sure that when people landed on the homepage they fully understood what The Lifestyle Edit was about.
How did you manage the fear that comes when you take such a big leap of faith? Because you left a steady job and an impressive title behind to launch The Lifestyle Edit…
I’m still afraid to this day, to be honest. But it’s been such a journey. I feel like fear is something that we all experience. It’s not like you achieve a certain level of success and then stop feeling afraid. And I think fear is like a muscle – the more you push yourself in those moments of self doubt the more you have a history of taking risks and seeing results that weren’t as scary as you first imagined.
You juggle a lot of different responsibilities running The Lifestyle Edit. So what does your typical workweek look like?
One of the best things that I’ve discovered is batch working. Before I started batch working I would spend every day switching between tasks, and it was so draining.
Now I dedicate Mondays to creating. These are the days when I write my newsletters and edit all of the copy for the website. As it’s the first day of the week I’m fully rested, so I feel more creative.
Tuesdays are podcast days. I’m a morning person, so anything that is outward-facing I try and do in the afternoon when I would be getting tired of looking at a screen anyway. In the mornings I go over the podcast edits and create all of the assets to promote episodes on social media. Then, in the afternoon, I record two or three interviews and send them off to my boyfriend Michael, who edits The Lifestyle Edit podcast.
Wednesday is my social media day, so I’ll do all the scheduling for the week and check in on the reporting to see how things have been performing.
And Thursday and Friday are my business strategy days. That’s when I’m thinking about new opportunities and focusing on the other projects we’re working on at TLE – whether it’s our supper clubs, workshops or sponsored content. And I also work one-on-one with female founders, so I fit those coaching sessions in on Mondays and Fridays.
How do you like to unwind after a long week?
I used to read business books before I went to bed, but they kept me in work-mode and I realised that was why I wasn’t sleeping very well. My mind was constantly going crazy with ideas! So instead I try to have a really nice bath and listen to a gentle podcast instead. I love Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays and The Good Life Project. I’m also really into meditation at the moment. And we’re really lucky in New York because there are so many great meditation studios.
What is the biggest challenge you currently face on a day-to-day basis in your career?
There’s this tension. It’s a constant push-and-pull. I think this is something that many founders and business owners experience – you’re so driven and ambitious that you constantly want to strive towards the next step. But the downside is making sure you have enough self-compassion and that you’re always taking care yourself. You have to constantly remind yourself to enjoy the small wins that you experience every day.
I think I’ve been guilty in the past of working so hard that I only rest when my body is not capable of doing any more. So my biggest challenge now is just being slow and steady. I want to create a business that’s sustainable and lasts the test of time.
And, on the flip side of that, what is the biggest perk of your career?
The biggest perk is having this amazing tribe of incredible women. I always pinch myself, like, “How is it my job to go and have a natter with amazing, badass women?” It’s amazing. When I first started on this journey it was so isolating and so lonely. I didn’t really know many people who have businesses, and now I have an amazing network of fellow-founders who have become some of my best friends. It’s been so amazing to grow my business and at the same time build incredible friendships.
And, finally, what is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given? And who gave it to you?
I’ve been given so much invaluable advice. But one of the most transformative soundbites came from Kristina Karlsson, who founded kikki.K. We went for coffee in New York recently and I said to her, “I’m having these growing pains in my business. I don’t know how to scale up. What do you advise?”
And Kristina answered, “Every quarter you need to make a list of the three or four things that are really going to push the needle in your business. The things that are really going to effect your bottom line, even if you don’t do anything else.”
Once you have these clear everything becomes so much easier! You don’t get distracted by what Jess Lively calls the “shiny pennies” – AKA those things that come up on the spur of the moment and seem appealing. The second I started following Kristina’s advice and became laser-focused about my goals, things really started to transition in my business. It became so much easier for me to distinguish between the “must-haves” and the “nice-to-haves”. It’s simple, but so effective.
Catch up on the previous #my9to5 interviews here >>