Fact is, we all want to feel fulfilled and successful in life. Sad truth ahead… not all of us can glide gracefully through our careers without hardships and worry. Enter, #GIRLBOSSES Alice Olins + Phanella Mayall Fine. This London-based power duo is changing the way we think and talk about women in the work place. Their book, The Step Up Club is a self-care guide to career success. This was the first step in The Step Up Club empire, which has since grown an online website and database, and the creation of The Step Up School, which physically brings women together for career advice, support, empowerment and networking. We toured London’s most Instagrammable neighborhood, Primrose Hill and chatted with Alice + Phanella about their success, and tips for all of the women out there striving for it.
We knew that together, with our opposing career trajectories , we could draw on our own experiences and create something unique and meaningful in this space.- Phanella and Alice
by CHLOE.: Introduce yourself.
ALICE OLINS + PHANELLA MAYALL FINE: Well, to quote one of the UK’s top glossy magazines we are, ‘The only voice to listen to in the women’s career conversation.’ And we aren’t going to disagree with that! We are career experts and pioneers in the growing space of female success and empowerment. Through Step Up School, online content, our book, a weekly newsletter and high-profile brand collaborations, Step Up delivers practical advice and broadens our followers’ network – we literally bring women together and they love it. Our mission statement is simple: to support all types of woman to find the success that right for her; to empower women to improve their careers and feel more fulfilled at work – and in life.
bC: After successful careers in law and fashion respectively, what inspired you to create Step Up Club?
AO + PMF: As long-standing friends, we had talked about working together for some time. We knew that together, with our opposing careers trajectories, we could draw on our own experiences and create something unique and meaningful in this space. Phanella, by this point, had retrained as an executive career coach, so we had the credibility and Alice was able to use her communication skills and contacts to bring this knowledge to a wide, engaged female audience. We love working together because we bring such different energies to the table. Plus working is always more fun with a friend.
bC: What has been one of the most rewarding things about starting Step Up Club?
AO + PMF: Easy, to be able to see first hand, the positive impact it has on others. Step Up School – our yearlong program of monthly, half-day sessions – has been a turning point for us. Our regular Step Up fans had been asking for something more sustained and in-depth from us (we had previously been running stand alone events), so we created this course to take students on a journey of discovery and learning. We are 5 months in with the first class of 40 – the second class started this January – and already there have been huge developments for some of the group: positive resignations, new business launches, board level interviews and more. The class has pulled together as a tight team too, and proves the power of a female network. We are now working to launch Step Up School online so that we help many more women make the same positive changes to their careers and lives.
bC: What has been one of the most challenging things about starting your own company?
AO + PMF: Probably accepting that we can’t do it all! Starting a business whilst writing a book is no mean feat. Plus we have 5 children between us, and continue to work in our own fields too. It’s manic, but we love it that way. Having said that, it isn’t just time that’s against us; we also don’t have all the skills that you need to make a new business fly. As two perfectionists, this was a harsh realisation. But since we’ve leaned on others, it’s made the whole process so much more enjoyable – not to mention much more efficient.
bC: Where do you see yourself, and your business in 5 years?
AO + PMF: We have BIG plans. Step Up School online is our main focus. We want to go global and establish ourselves as the international go-to for women’s career development. We also want to continue modernizing this conversation; women’s careers development has a bad reputation – all boardrooms and flip charts. But this just isn’t the case with Step Up. Everything that we do is fresh and stylish; why shouldn’t we talk about our careers the way we do fashion and wellness? There is plenty for us to be getting on with over the next 5 years!
bC: What is a piece of advice that you live by?
AO + PMF: Yes you can.
bC: How important do you think work-life balance should be for a working woman, and what are your tips to achieve this?
AO + PMF: Balance is crucial for everyone in today’s digitally switched-on world. We have certainly had our fair share of too much ‘on’ time and it’s left us feeling stressed and emotionally depleted. Our joint New Year’s resolution (which interestingly we came up with separately) is to work more peacefully. And we’re sticking to it; no phones after 9pm, as little work as possible in the evenings – that kind of thing. And you know what? Bigger and better things are coming our and we’re thinking more clearly too. So work has become more fruitful on all fronts and we’re feeling more relaxed to boot.
bC: What do you think females in the workforce struggle with the most these days?
AO + PMF: Confidence. Women tend to be very hard on themselves and it does nothing for our self-esteem – women literally talk themselves down. We think that we’re not able, when we’re clearly up to the job and some. There are many reasons why women struggle with confidence, what’s uniting though is that it’s holding us back. Low confidence is the missing link between our dreams and our achievements.
bC: What’s your favorite dish at by CHLOE.?
AO + PMF: Oh it’s got to be the Mac N’ Cheese and The Guac Burger. So good!!!
bC: What does “Eat well. Eat with purpose.” mean to you?
AO + PMF: For us food is vital to success; when we eat right, it helps us stay focused and resilient. We have been known to skip lunch in favor of one more meeting, but working without sustaining ourselves is a quick route to failure – and exhaustion. Now we always take a lunch break, we give our time away from our desks purpose by thinking creatively, chatting things through and nourishing ourselves, ready for a more productive afternoon ahead. For us, the right food is vital to success.
A: The Bitch (don’t ask, it isn’t true!)
P: Petite Boss (all true ;))
Emoji that best describes you?
A: The one where she’s slapping her face. And the champagne.
P: Crying with laughter. Dancing in a red dress. Plus double champagne.
Favorite place on earth?
A: In the arms of my family. Preferably while I’m sitting on a windy beach on the south coast of New South Wales.
P: A New England beach (where I grew up), kids playing in the waves and husband by my side.
Cocktail of choice?
A: A margarita.
P: A gin fizz.
Top 3 restaurants (excluding by CHLOE. of course!)?
A: Le Caprice – so many special memories; Caravan – set up by my friend, always someone I know hanging out at the bar; upstairs at The Electric – local, easy going and the perfect Bloody Mary.
P: Palomar – a tiny gem; 28 Church Row – round the corner, no bookings and the best tapas in London; Taro – don’t let the décor fool you, the sushi here is the best.
A: Ooo, tricky, I love curries and sushi. I can’t choose!
P: Sushi all the way.
Top 3 favorite fashion brands?
A: Currently: Ganni, Miu Miu for shoes and Yolke for silk pyjamas.
P: I wear a dress 90% of the time. My favourites are from Maje, B&ash and Zimmerman.
Early bird or night owl?
A: I’m a Mum, so early bird during the week, night owl on Friday and Saturday!
Choice super hero power?
A: Wonder Women. Obvs.
P: Invisibility. Imaging the fun you could have.
A: HIIT – sweaty, speedy and effective.
P: Heartcore Pilates – my happy place.
Juice or smoothie?
A: A freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice please.
P: So predictable: a green juice.
3 objects you can’t live without?
A: Are children objects? My family, my grandmother’s diamond eternity ring, my Mac Book.
P: Has to be my three kids.
A: Just finished Lullaby (Leila Slimani) – don’t get my started; it was clearly well written, but I’m not sure I agree with its outdated assumptions around working women.
P: The Power – I love how Alderman uses the subversion of gender and power to highlight our experience as women through the eyes of men.