When you hear the word ‘naked’, what image comes to mind? Probably, one that you wouldn’t associate with phenomenal, inspirational Page 1 Women.
But for once, go ahead and associate ‘naked’ with Mel White, my October Page 1 Woman, because she’s the founder and director of that eponymous business.
By now you’ll get that ‘naked’ is not what you might think at first. It’s not about birthday suits or naturists or embarrassment. It’s about women standing tall, confident and self-accepting, facing the world with honesty. It’s a name to be proud of and one you’ll remember.
But who is Mel White? She’s what you might call a whizz kid who made it to senior management in a well-known global firm whilst still in her mid-20s. “At the time, the leaders of that company really understood what I was capable of and championed me. And I took that and ran with it”, said Mel.
It takes a certain kind of woman to do this and succeed, right? But to do so whilst battling with an eating disorder that had plagued her since childhood, requires bags of courage, and, you might say, chutzpah. And courage and chutzpah are themes that run throughout Mel White’s story alongside ‘a lot of blood, sweat, tears and passion’. From going in search of a different kind of therapeutic help when counselling and therapy didn’t work, claiming her seat at the company table because she reckoned that a woman role model was needed, to a 12 months stint of solo travelling to South America in search of adventure, personal growth and healing. But what does that have to do with ‘naked’?
Read on and find out more about ‘naked’ and Mel White, a remarkable Page 1 Woman.
Describe your work.
Mel White: I’m the founder of ‘naked’, a coaching service designed as a rallying cry for women globally to accept themselves and love the skin they’re in so they can build truly exceptional lives.
My own personal story is very connected to this. It involved a long-standing struggle with body confidence and my own sense of self-worth. I came to a point in my late 20’s, on a year-long trip to South America, where that turned around for me and I promised myself that I would help other women come to the same place. I started my coaching training in 2010 as soon as I returned from that trip and I’ve never looked back.
The name ‘naked’ came about in a mentoring group with my peers. I started to talk about my ideas for my business – of stripping back all the labels and your material possessions and being able to stand confidently in your own skin and feeling worthy enough to follow your dreams. It’s about both physically and emotionally standing in your own power without feeling the need to hide. One of my friends said “So like being naked?” and so the name was born.
Until recently, I worked for a large multinational where I was the global head of a department, leading an international team and driving the strategy for that discipline for the rest of the business. I was running ‘naked’ side by side with this role building it to the point where I was brave enough to step out of the comfort zone of a full time job and follow my passion.
What essential steps did you take to get yourself to where you are now?
Mel White: I took three big steps. I got a coach to support my journey and help me make considered decisions. This helped to focus me, deal with my blocks and fears, and helped me to take big steps forward towards my dreams. At times it was scary and made me feel vulnerable, but it was the best tool to help me develop and grow.
Secondly I looked for role models that I respected, people I could learn from. I was fortunate to have a mixture of male and female role models in my corporate environment and they really supported me and taught me how to be successful in my own way. It was useful to have both male and female role models as it gave me the option to learn from different perspectives.
And then, I looked outside my immediate network at some of the big coaches and tried to understand how they had made their business successful and really explored what success was for me. I joined a wonderful network of successful sassy female business owners who continue to inspire and challenge me to dream bigger.
And then the third thing I did was take risks. I said 'Yes' to the speaking gigs, I set up my first workshop, I took on my first client and I actually went out and started to create my business. I also made it physically real by creating business cards and a website so the business was tangible. You’ve just got to go out there and put yourself in the fire rather than staying in the frying pan. I could have easily kept my business and passion as a side hobby, especially given my job, but my vision and passion were louder than the fear.
What was the most significant thing you did as a woman that got you to where you are?
Mel White: I think as women we come up against a lot of cultural barriers and unconscious challenges in business. The working environment was established by men in the last century and was designed with men in mind, and it hasn’t really altered much.
As a woman the most significant thing I did was to step up and make my voice heard. I was one of very few women senior leaders in the business that I was in, and I had to believe that I was good enough to be there. I had to raise my voice, and step forward when there was an opportunity to speak, or be promoted or to champion my vision and passion.
A lot of women I speak to have “imposter syndrome” where they think they aren’t good enough to do the job. They think by raising their head above the parapet, they’re in the firing line and more susceptible to criticism. I was aware of this in the environment I worked in. I was looking around for other female role models, of which there could have been many, but I couldn’t find anyone. I stepped up not because I’m any better than anybody else, but because I couldn’t see any other women to learn from.
I wanted to be someone that could inspire other women to take a chance, to understand they could grow their career and reach a senior level if that’s what they wanted. I wanted my discipline to be considered important and critical at a senior level. I also wanted to be sure that the female perspective was considered in debates and working issues, and if no one else was going to talk about those things, then I was. So yes, that was the most significant thing I did and one of the scariest. But it’s been the best thing I did both for my own personal development and that of my business.
What were Mel White’s greatest challenges on the road to success? What’s her take on leadership? What are her hot tips for women who want to be leaders? Tune in next week to the second and final part of Mel White’s story.
Find out more about ‘naked’ by clicking here.
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