Our Fairygodboss of the Week is as fashion-forward as she is successful. Naomi Mdudu went from serving as the first-ever fashion editor at a financial publication to founding her own media company in 2015. She creates career-focused content and fosters a space where women are encouraged to live their life by design, not by default. Read on to hear her inspiring work and story.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Naomi Mdudu
Founder and CEO, The Lifestyle Edit
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
NM: 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 and started freelancing, creating copy for brands in New York and London.
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 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.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
NM: There are so many things I’m proud of but hands down the most rewarding thing for me has been servicing this community. It was always my mission to create a platform that not only inspires women to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions but also walks them through the ‘how’. It’s been amazing to see that mission through on the site, but also through our podcast, consulting agency and one-on-one coaching services with creative female founders.
Reading emails from our community about how a story on the site sparked them to leave an unfulfilling nine to five and go full time with their side hustle, or how a podcast episode helped them secure funding for their business is something I’ll never tire of. It’s a really exciting time to be a female founder right now: women are taking the helm of some of the most influential companies in the world; we’re receiving more private investment than ever before, and there’s a general spirit of optimism and community amongst female founders that’s really exciting. Hopefully that will only continue in the coming years. I’m certainly going to try to play my part.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
NM: 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. 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.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
NM: Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Growing professionally means pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Your dreams are on the other side of your fears.
Also, be kind to yourself. Cultivate a definition of success on your own terms. Listen to advice but trust your instinct.
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?
NM: It’s impossible to name just one! I feel so fortunate that I get to meet and interview so many incredible women for The Lifestyle Edit. I always joke that every day feels like I’m getting an MBA in business — but it’s true. Those conversations are constantly teaching me new lessons about everything from leadership and strategic thinking to the power of self-care and setting boundaries. I’m forever in student mode and I love that.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
NM: If I had it my way, I’d spend the majority of the year traveling. I’m constantly adding new locations to my bucket list of destinations. Right now, I have my eyes set on Bali, Tulum and Jordan.
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?
NM: Super cliche but Oprah, because, I mean, it's Oprah! She's a self-made woman and has created one of the most respected brands in the world. I marvel at the way she's constantly evolving, expanding into new verticals, etc.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
NM: Oooh… that's a tough one. I have a lot but probably, “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia.
FGB: What book would you take with you on a desert island?
NM: Anything written by Danielle LaPorte.
What would you buy if you won the lottery?
NM: A house on the beach.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.