I spoke with Forbes' Stephanie Denning to share how I learned to build a business I love as a working mom. It's truly an honor to have this published on forbes.com. See below, and read the full article here.
Women in leadership roles are unicorns in the workforce. Women may be making moves in the workforce, but there are still far too few female role models today. I can comfortably say out of all my friends, few have any women in leadership roles to look up to at work. Senior women are underrepresented in corporate cultures, the startup community, entrepreneurship, politics, you name it.
The direct impact of this wasn’t immediately clear to me when I first entered the workforce. The older I got though, and as I started to take on more senior roles, the impact slowly started to seep in. For certain things, women are fundamentally a different breed than men: women react differently to situations, they often bring a level of empathy to a job in a way men never do and of course the largest difference of all, women have to work out the whole work-life balance thing when starting a family.
Most of my friends are doing their best to awkwardly navigate a lot of these changes. They want a meaningful career, they want a family, and they want to do both well, however awkward that balancing act may be. With the dearth of role models in the workplace, women often turn to other female role models: Sheryl Sandberg, Megyn Kelly, Hillary Clinton, Sally Krawcheck. But sometimes looking at the apex of female success seems so out of reach and, frankly, a little demoralizing.
About a year ago, I started following Melissa Wood-Tepperberg, a model and actress turned health and wellness coach. As a self-proclaimed health nut, I was drawn in by her workouts and healthy lifestyle (A girl’s got to stay in shape). She had a genuine, magnetic energy. However you define “the glow”, she had it. She radiated a joy for her work, something I rarely see. So many women today settle for the career and life they think they should have on other people’s terms. And here was someone who was finding a way to make both a career and family work on her own terms. She was building up a business in an entrepreneurial way and doing it around her family. She was a role model, but a new kind of role model, she was relatable. When she says, “Comparing yourself to someone else who has a blooming business is not going to do anything good for you,” you get it, because that’s exactly how most of us feel.
After following her for a few months, I decided I needed to get myself some of that magic. I was curious to learn how she thought about her work. So I decided to ask her about her own journey and what steps she took to get to where she is today.
Stephanie Denning: When did you realize you wanted to become a health and wellness coach and how did you start working towards that goal? (i.e., Working on the side? Quit a current job?)
Melissa Wood-Tepperberg: I was working as a model and pursuing an acting career at the time and I remember being on this beautiful trip and feeling so empty inside. I kept looking around thinking: "I'm so lucky, I should feel so happy and I'm not." It was that moment that I knew I needed to take some real time with myself and get in touch with what was making me feel this way. I came home and spent the following weekend completely alone. I spent the time doing things that lit me up inside and at the end of each day I wrote down what brought me pure joy. I woke up that Monday morning and enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (after contemplating it for years but being too afraid to take the leap and try something new).
It's important to note that I didn't immediately stop modeling and acting, I used modeling as a stepping stone to allow me to pursue something I'm so passionate about. Maintaining a positive attitude towards the job that employs you is very important in my mind. I believe the energy you give off in any situation will come right back to you. It was during my studies and starting to work with people I really realized what filled me up. Aside from feeling my absolute best, I wanted to help people feel their absolute best as well. Nothing fulfills me more.
Denning: What was that process like, starting a business from scratch?
Wood-Tepperberg: At the time, I didn't even think of it as starting my own business, I thought of it as building more of what I loved into my work. My focus was to help people fall in love with themselves and their lives again. Coming from this place helped me build my clientele and my own brand by staying true to what I love and letting my passion shine through.
Denning: What does a day in the life of an entrepreneur look like?
Wood-Tepperberg: Here is an overview of a typical day:
• I try to wake up around 6 A.M. before my son wakes up (when I'm lucky) and do my morning practice. I start the day by saying what I'm extremely grateful for in my life as soon as my feet hit the floor, followed by reading my lesson of the day in A Course In Miracles and a 20 minute meditation ending with a daily prayer. This is all (ideally) before looking at my phone. It sounds like a lot, but it's one of the most important parts of my day. Building a strong foundation in my mind creates so much peace throughout my daily routine.
• When B [Benjamin, Wood-Tepperberg’s son] wakes up I let him watch an episode of his favorite show (currently Paw Patrol) while we cuddle. The morning is our alone time together so I cherish every minute with him. Then, we go into the kitchen and usually make green juice or smoothies together. I get him involved with me as much as possible in the kitchen to make cooking a fun part of his life (anyone who follows me on Instagram has been subject to our "smoothie dance").
• When B's nanny arrives, I slip into another room to get my workout in. Now that I'm filming regularly for my @fitner_app channel, I work out a lot from home and then mix in an occasional yoga or Pilates class. Movement is a huge part of my day, so even if I have only 10 minutes to do something I make it happen. The daily movement part of my practice connects me to myself, helps keep me focused for the day ahead, and puts me in a better mood instantly when needed.
• After my workout I get ready for the day, which includes packing my own lunch (usually a huge mixed green salad, and then an avocado and two slices of Ezekiel bread to make my avocado toast with) and head out to the office.
• We just recently re-launched my website, www.melissawoodhealth.com, so the team and I have been really focused on building out that platform - creating content now across food (including my plant-based recipes and ideas), fitness and lifestyle (including a dedicated baby section). This has been both the hardest challenge and the most fun I've had at work...and we have a lot more in the pipeline coming!
• I schedule my office hours/shoots/client sessions/meetings around B's nap schedule for now so I can be home with him as much as possible. When the work day is over, usually around 5:30 or 6PM, I head straight home and take B to the park or go for a walk before dinner.
• We both eat the same plant based dinner to make life easier for me. Also, when he eats, I eat - that way when I put him down I have a lot more time to myself to catch up on emails and work. My husband works a lot of evenings, but when he is home he does the same. After dinner is bath, book, brush teeth then bed. B tries to sleep in our bed, but I stay strong and put him in his crib. I'm a huge sleeper and need great sleep every night to replenish from the day so I stick to this. As soon as he falls asleep I light a candle and finish my work for the day. When I'm ready for bed, I say good night to my husband, I put my phone on my dresser (out of my reach), and read my lesson again in A Course In Miracles before I close my eyes.
Denning: Did you ever hit road bumps? How do you overcome them?
Wood-Tepperberg: All the time. 99% of the time I overcome them through meditation. The more space I allow myself to process everything, the clearer I become on how to pick back up. Equally as important, open communication with your team. A strong team builds strong ideas. Last but not least, as a mom I experience a lot of guilt over leaving my almost two year old son...especially on days where he is begging me to stay with him. I am trying to teach myself (it's still a work in progress) that by bettering myself I am bettering him. I hope by doing what I do each day that he learns independence, to work for things in life, and overall that I can be a symbol of strength for him. I believe that by going for something you desire and doing something you love – no matter what that is – can make you a better mother at the end of the day.
Denning: Do you have any advice for others starting out?
Wood-Tepperberg: I believe the most important thing is to start. Right where you are, not waiting for the website to be up or to build your audience. Your audience comes when you stay true to who you are and what matters to you in an authentic way. I got so caught up in this in the beginning, but I now know that was my ego and fear trying to hold me back. No matter where you are in the process, I highly recommend working with a coach. A life coach, a business coach, a health coach, an unbiased mentor, someone you can talk to and who can help you get crystal clear with your vision and why you want to create this.
Denning: Is there anything you would have done differently starting out?
Wood-Tepperberg: The only thing is that I wish I had the team I have now years ago. I thought I could handle everything myself and do it all perfectly, but an idea truly grows stronger when it's shared.
Anyone looking for a little inspiration, follow Melissa Wood-Tepperberg on her website (www.melissawoodhealth.com), on Instagram (@melissawoodhealth) or her Fitner channel. Melissa Wood-Tepperberg is a mom, certified health and wellness coach, meditator, Yoga and Pilates teacher and thriving on a plant-based diet. Her three pillars of focus are: meditation, mindful eating, and movement.