Meet Naomi Mdudu, the beauty and brains behind The Lifestyle Edit! This fashionista knows a thing or two when it comes to starting and maintaining a successful biz, and we recently had the chance to chat with her about entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and more!
What we love about Naomi and her business is that it’s all about empowering women. The world we live in today is competitive, so it’s refreshing to see brands like The Lifestyle Edit who encourage positivity and celebrate our differences. Keep reading to get to know Naomi and learn about her inspiring journey!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How did you get to where you are today?
I studied law in university over something ‘vocational’. I was very academic growing up and came from a very academic family so studying something like journalism wasn’t on the cards for me. Looking back, I’m so glad that I did. Studying law taught me to think analytically, write succinctly and taught me to think in a much more expansive way – great foundations for everything I’m doing now.
Throughout school, I assisted a whole host of different stylists and magazine editors. As soon as my lectures finished, I would be rushing off to prep for a shoot or jumping on the Eurostar to Paris for fashion week. I loved styling but after four years, I realized that I was more drawn to words as a form of storytelling.
Two weeks after graduating, I landed a job as a fashion editor of a financial newspaper (at the ripe age of 22) and worked in newspapers until I left in 2014 to start The Lifestyle Edit. Looking back, it was a huge amount of responsibility – in my first newspaper job, I was the their first-ever fashion editor and in all my roles, I was fortunate enough to be given free rein to shape the editorial tone and voice of the style sections. I learnt so much from how to craft a great piece to how to manage people. I’m immensely grateful.
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When I first started my business, I’d scroll through Instagram and feel disheartened. Everyone seemed to have their shit together and it felt like people were popping up out of nowhere, becoming overnight successes. It made me riddled with self-doubt. I kept asking myself, when is it going to be my turn? Will it ever be my turn?? • It’s taken me these past three years to realise that there’s no such thing as an overnight success. Or at least, not most of the time. • Since starting The Lifestyle Edit, I’ve interviewed over 350 women and their journeys have been far more complex and less linear than Instagram would have you believe. But more than anything, meeting so many different female founders has taught me that the type of success I’m looking for – the type that leaves me energized, not depleted; aligned, not compromised, and creates a legacy that I’ll be proud of in years to come – doesn’t happen in an instant. It’s not supposed to. • That kind of success isn’t fast. It isn’t easy. It’s about the journey and not just the destination. • If you’re in feeling discouraged, stuck in the comparison trap, I want you to know that I feel you. In moments like this, narrow in on the legacy you’re trying to build and remember that sustainability and authenticity is at the heart of creating something that lasts. Don’t be distracted by the noise. Double down on who you are and what you have to offer and it’ll never steer you wrong.
What inspired you to create The Lifestyle Edit?
The Lifestyle Edit was born because I wanted to create a platform that firstly, celebrates the incredibly dynamic female founders and executives that make things happen behind the scenes at the many of the businesses we all know and love. But more importantly, I wanted to create a space where these women could talk candidly about their journeys and share actionable advice that our community can take away and immediately action in their lives.
Looking back, entrepreneurship was always on the cards for me but when I decided to take the leap, there was nowhere for me to turn. At the time, there were fantastic resources for women in the fashion realm – but when it came to unpacking the careers of prominent women and talking in-depth about the factors that have influenced their life choices – I couldn’t find anything out there. I wanted to know how these women navigated the professional realm but I also wanted to know how their approach to wellness and both physical and mental health feeds into that. I wanted to read stories that were honest and that reflect some of my life experiences.
Starting a business is scary and it can often feel isolating. The Lifestyle Edit was always designed to circumvent that by creating a community of women going through the same journey but from a wide range of different life stages, all rooting and supporting one another.
It’s funny because we’re often called a modern self-help destination but we’re not about being preachy or prescriptive at all. Our mission is to use these stories as a vehicle to share different lessons women have learnt along the way.
"I wanted to create a space where these women could talk candidly about their journeys and share actionable advice that our community can take away and immediately action in their lives."
You also have a podcast! What is the TLE podcast about, and what can listeners expect?
We launched the podcast at the start of the year as an extension of the in-depth interviews we run on the site. We wanted to delve even deeper into the strategic decisions these women have made that have led to their success. This season we’re talking marketing 101, the ins and outs of management and building a team, making love and business work, how to navigate the ‘gig economy’ as a freelancer, everything you need to know about raising money and so much more.
The podcast truly is a reflection of the conversations we have with the women in our network. We have long chats about managing revenue, making time to look ahead, oh and the ongoing quest to be a present friend, partner and the rest…
Being able to connect with some many incredible women is one of the most rewarding parts of my job so I love being able to share some of those conversations with our community.
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Running a creative business online, sometimes it can feel hard to cut out the noise. Just when you think you’re clear on what you’re doing, you hop on to social media, see what everyone else is working on and instantly start doubting whether you’re on the right track. • Honestly, if you’ve fallen victim to that, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there… • Whether you need an accountability partner 🙋🏽 or someone to bounce ideas off of 👋🏽 I want to support you because I truly believe that each of us have something special to offer world that only we can. There’s space for us all to soar so I want to help you do just that. • We’ve got a few one-on-one sessions available for September and we’re opening bookings for October so sign up now via the link in our bio to secure your slot.
On your blog, you feature all kinds of women from different backgrounds. What has been one of the most inspiring interviews you’ve done?
The number one question I get asked is how I choose the women we feature but it’s so difficult to articulate. As an editor, it’s my job to make sure that the stories we feature are inspiring but also that our community has tangible advice from each and every story we run. I’m always looking to see how the expertise or experiences of the women we feature can provide a framework for our community. Honesty is really important too. Before I started the business, I struggled to find entrepreneurial stories that reflected mine. None seemed to touch on the moments of self-doubt, the fear and the missteps that are part of our journeys so we’re always on the hunt for women from different stages in life who are willing to explore that.
I can’t pin point one interview that’s a favourite. We put so much work into finding the right people and planning our stories – it would be too hard to pick just one.
I recently interviewed Merrill Stubs and Amanda Hesser from Food52 though, and their story blew me away. As a fellow publisher, it was so inspiring to see how they’ve carved a niche for themselves and managed to scale their business over the years without compromising who they are and the audience they serve. That interview was just as a valuable and eye opening for me as I’m sure it was for our readers. I love moments like that.
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Name recognition. • Like it or not, it means something. In fact, when I left my newspaper job, it was the first thing people spoke about. “Aren’t you worried about what it’s going to be like now you’re not Naomi from so and so.” • Stepping out from the shadow of that name was one of the most liberating experiences of it all. It fuelled me to want to create a brand name and legacy of my own. • The same was true for Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. The pair were introduced by a mutual friend, before joining forces to create The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Amanda was food editor at The New York Times and Merrill, a regular writer. Amanda and Merrill’s relationship was a steady evolution from work colleagues to friends and ultimately partners. • The pair decided to give up their “plum” writing gigs to launch @food52. • What I love about their story is that it’s a true testament to what happens when you follow your instinct no matter how many no’s you initially get. • You see, back when they started, their community-driven content model didn’t fit the traditional VC mold. As two women, in their mid-to-late 30s at the time, with children, they’re the first to admit that they were a-typical startup founders and “basically had everything working against us.” • Today, the company has grown into a multi-faceted, commerce and media platform reaching over 11 million readers every month. • Read the full story via the link in our bio #TLEWomen
You travel quite a bit. How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance as a busy #girlboss?
I don’t think there’s such thing as a work-life balance. Particularly as an entrepreneur, your life tends to steer towards work, which is fine if you love what you do. Instead, I’ve made a point to set some non-negotiables in my life that I prioritize, even when things are busy with work. Sleep is a big one for me. Some people pride themselves on how little sleep they get, like it’s a badge of honour. Not me. I need sleep. I also need to eat well, have time to meditate, exercise and spend time with my friends and family. Most of the time I only manage to get a handful of those things right – it’s definitely not perfect but that’s life and I’m trying!
I’m trying to have more boundaries with myself. Loving what I do doesn’t mean that I’m defined by it. I think as business owners there’s a conscious push and pull between being ambitious and constantly striving and the awareness that for our own mental wellbeing, we need to carve time for self-care and compassion. I find that very difficult but it’s something I’m working on.
Travel has always been a big part of my life. Nowadays, I’m constantly on a plane between New York and London and in the beginning, it disorientated me. Now, I’ve been doing it for almost two years so I’ve been able to create routines in both cities so it’s easier to stick to healthy habits no matter where I am.
What advice would you give someone looking to leave their current job and start their own business?
Wow, where to start? I could be here all day but first things first, it’s so important to do your research. Ask yourself why you’re starting your business. Is there a real need for it? What gap in the market are you trying to plug and what kind of resources will you need to get it off the ground? It sounds obvious but it’s one of the things people don’t do enough when it comes to starting something of their own. Working through these sorts of questions in your mind before taking the plunge will show you whether your idea is worth taking the risk for and will also help focus your thinking if it is.
It’s also so important to get financially prepared too. As a rule, I’d say aim to have at least six months’ worth of savings put to one side before leaving your job. That amount should be enough to cover all of your bills and living costs and will take the pressure off in those initial months when you’re still finding your feet.
Be prepared to roll your sleeves up and put the hard work in. For at least the first year of any business, you should be prepared to work long hours, on weekends and more often than not, without paying yourself. In the beginning it will be challenging but if you really invest, you’re bound to see the rewards. Stay positive, work hard consistently and it will happen.
What has been the most rewarding part about being an entrepreneur?
Hands down, the most rewarding part is being the architect of your own destiny. There’s something empowering about having the ability to actively design your life rather than living by default. As a business owner, I’m creating a definition of success on my own terms. I’m free to pivot and allow that definition to change just as often I am.
I think the trap that many entrepreneurs fall into is making their lives fit around their business when in fact, that the most incredible thing about running a business is that you can design it in a way that allows makes it serve your higher life goals. That may be having more financial freedom so you can take care of your family and tick things off your bucket list or even things like having more location freedom so you can fulfil your dream of travelling the world and working from wherever you are.
One of the most rewarding things for me has been servicing our community. It was always my mission to create a platform that lifts women up and helps them navigate through entrepreneurship. Reading their emails about how a story has sparked them to leave their 9 to 5s and go full-time with their side hustle or has helped them take their business to the next level is something I’ll never tire of…
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Growing a sustainable business that brings you joy means being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses; hiring people that plug your gaps and allow you to operate in your area of genius. It also means surrounding yourself with people who keep you inspired and motivated when you’re feeling less than and holding on to your core values and the reason you started, even when it feels easier not to. • Someone asked me how long I’ve been on this entrepreneurial journey the other day and it felt crazy to think that’s only been just shy of three years. It feels impossible to remember a time before this business. Being part of this community of dynamic, driven and ambitious women has given me the tribe I’d always been seeking. I am the person I am and have the business I do because of this community and I will forever be grateful 💫✨ 📷 @loefflerrandall
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
Switching off is definitely a challenge as a business owner. To-do-lists are never completed – there’s always something you could be doing and there is never enough time in the day. I really began to make a shift in my business when I started becoming clear on distinguishing between ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’. I started honing in the jobs that I was uniquely positioned to do, and built a team around everything else.
It took me years to invest in outsourcing and I wish I’d done it sooner rather than struggling to do everything myself. I know, I know, you’re afraid of spending a lot of money, but the truth is, the more time you have to work ‘on’ your business, the more time you have to earn money for your business. If you’re doing everything, chances are, you’re dropping the ball on certain things and even if new business was to come along, you wouldn’t be able to take it on. When I finally invested in people, I started to enjoy a level of freedom I just hadn’t experienced before. In that freedom, I was able to think creatively again.
The more I outsource to people who are experts in the areas that I’m not, the more my business grows. Now, I’m constantly thinking about ways I can expand my team to add people who are passionate about the areas that most impact our bottom line.
Today, my days are guided by how I want to feel and not just feeling a slave to a to-do-list. I carve time for myself to pray, exercise, meditate, listen to podcasts and enjoy a cup of tea in the morning before even thinking about touching my phone. I make time for all of the things that make me feel good and balanced, which then makes me far better at my job.
Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
The core of what The Lifestyle Edit is will remain the same but I see our offerings scaling into more categories and in more locations. Right now, we’re concentrated on our New York and London core but we’re committed to bringing The Lifestyle Edit to women in different countries around the world so watch this space.
I’m very ambitious and have always been future focused but I’m learning to loosen my grip a little. Some of the biggest transformations for me have been when I allow myself to be open to new opportunities which, might feel like a deviation from the original plan, but end up taking me to exactly where I needed to be….
Special thanks to Naomi for taking the time to answer our questions!