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How I Thrive: “Good nutrition and exercise is something you can always find time for; We always have to eat” with Nikki Clarke of Cadenshae

An Interview With Ming Zhao


Good nutrition and exercise is something you can always find time for. We always have to eat…sometimes the choices aren’t always great, but in that instance I pick the lesser of two evils! Plus, life is all about balance, sometimes you have to indulge and relax on things a bit…no one can be 100% all of the time! Accepting that is key too I believe.


As a part of my series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Clarke. Nikki Clarke is the Founder of Cadenshae, the maternity activewear global leaders, wife to Adam and a mother of four. Helping others has been at the core of every major decision Nikki’s ever made. From serving as a Medic in the New Zealand army, to performing treatments as a beauty therapist; to encouraging others as a personal trainer, and now by helping mothers worldwide be the best they can be. Nikki loves spending time with her family at the beach, on the farm or out camping!


Thank you so much for doing this with us, Nikki! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?

Before I became a mother, I was a personal trainer, and so once I had recovered post birth, I decided to head back to the gym to catch up with clients, show Caden off (my first born), and do a bit of a work out. As I was working out, Caden got fussy, so I went to feed her and this is when my ‘ah-ha’ moment came about! I battled my sports bra, trying to pull it up over my breasts to feed. Once I finally managed that, my boobs were then being squashed by the tight band. Milk was being pushed down and coming out too fast for Caden. It was a mess, and I was left infuriated. “This is impossible! There’s got to be a better way!” I thought. So, as soon as I got home, I went online to look for some quality nursing sports bras. There was nothing.

“Why has no one thought of this? How can mothers be expected to keep active and breastfeed when there’s nothing practical out there to do it in!”

I decided there and then if no one else would make the gear moms needed, then I’d give it a go! I had absolutely no experience in fashion design, but I knew what was needed, so I began drawing…

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I would have to say the most interesting thing is the story of our lives! We started this business just under five years ago and during this time we have also had four children. It’s absolute chaos, but we love it!

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I wouldn’t call it a ‘mistake’ as such, but it has been pretty amusing at times when I’ve had to go to important business meetings and breastfeed my babies. I think it has been an eye-opener to the corporates I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, particularly the men, I’m sure they copped an eye-full! There’s still a small stigma attached to nursing in public in some places, and I am all about getting rid of that! What better place to start than the top of the corporate food chain! If our Prime Minister in New Zealand can have a baby and run a country, surely women can go to a meeting with a newborn and breastfeed!? It is 2020 after all!

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?

The well-being of our employees is so crucial to us, not only because we genuinely care for our staff, but also because we know happy/well people work harder, are more creative and are extremely efficient. Happy employees = higher productivity, it’s as simple as that. So, why wouldn’t you make this a priority in your business?

At Cadenshae, we’re all about ensuring pregnant and new moms have all the clothing they need to work out and feel good, not only for their physical health and the well-being of their baby, but for their own mental health as well. This approach is no different when it comes to our employees.

We believe exercise is vital for all-round wellness, so we allow our staff to work out in the office, whenever they need it. We have provided a small gym for them to use, as well as shower facilities. No questions asked, if you need to work out — go for it! We know they will come back with endorphins pumping and on a natural high — it’s amazing the caliber of work that comes from someone after they’ve got a sweat on, they are re-energised and ready to go!

Most of our staff are parents, so we’re all for the children coming to work if need be! This reduces stress for those who are constantly having to balance work and parenthood, which can be really tough at times. Kids bring such joy wherever they go, and it’s so lovely having gorgeous children running around from time to time, we embrace it! But their parents do need to work, so we have kitted out a games room for the kids and of course there’s a T.V installed for when mom and dad really need to concentrate on a certain task!

My husband Adam (and the Cadenshae co-founder), and I are former personal trainers so we offer free services to our staff in regards to training and nutrition. You simply can’t under-estimate how vital both exercise and good nutrition is for overall wellness.

We play music all day as well, as that is just so good for the soul, and when it comes to dress codes, we don’t have one! Our staff can rock up in whatever they feel comfortable in! It’s always funny watching our gun employees negotiate some big deal over the phone in their shorts and flip flops!

And finally, we began as a family business, and we want that ‘family vibe’ to filter its way through our whole business. So, to do this, we encourage our staff to talk to us about absolutely anything happening in their lives. The good, the bad, the ugly! We want them to feel as comfortable here as they do at home, and we want to help them as much as we possibly can by lending an ear if they need us.

I was once told that a good manager looks after the business, but a great manager looks after the staff…you simply can’t argue with that.

Hopefully people reading this can take something away from that!

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I am a former personal trainer and body shaper, so exercise has been a massive part of my life, and always will be. I work out about five times a week, and not only to feel physically fit, but also to remain mentally strong. Movement truly is medicine…in so many ways. I do HIIT workouts, I walk (I have issues with my hips, so I can’t run too much), I do weights, ride my bike, swim….a variety of different things to keep it interesting.

As well as moving, I eat well. I understand how powerful good nutrition is, so eating properly is a priority for me (but I definitely have a few treats here and there, treats are good for the soul!), lots of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, plenty of water etc. Give your body the right fuel, make sure your moving regularly and you’ll be strong both physically and mentally. Give yourself the chance to be the best version of yourself!

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

Every morning as soon as I wake, I move my body to get the blood flowing properly. This isn’t my work out for the day, but I like to shake things up after sleeping like a bear all night! I go for a walk, play with the kids, dance, get my body cranking!

Also, every morning I have a cold shower. I don’t like it, I don’t want to do it, but I do. It’s a small challenge I overcome every morning, meaning before I have even begun my day, I’ve already achieved something! It’s so brilliant for putting me in the right frame of mind for the day! I often feel empowered after doing this…ready for anything! Not to mention, cold water certainly wakes me up! No matter how many times I’ve been up in the night with the kids!

Finally, can you share with us two routines that use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

Same as above really. I’m not a huge meditator although this is something I am keen to explore. Exercise, eating well and having a cold shower every morning help me to thrive…but most of all getting a hug and a kiss from my gorgeous husband and kids throughout the day certainly helps me to keep pushing on! Nothing better…so good for your heart and soul.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

Good nutrition and exercise is something you can always find time for. We always have to eat…sometimes the choices aren’t always great, but in that instance I pick the lesser of two evils! Plus, life is all about balance, sometimes you have to indulge and relax on things a bit…no one can be 100% all of the time! Accepting that is key too I believe.

As aforementioned, exercise is crucial to me, so if I am short on time, I just do a 20m work out, or even a 15m one if I have to. When you’re time poor, you just have to adapt and tell yourself you’ll make up for the shortfall later. Easy.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rock star what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

When I am feeling like a rock star, I feel satisfied, content, happy…free. I play music, I chill out, I am relaxed. On the odd occasion when something sours and my mood turns dark, I just talk to myself and switch my mindset. You have to tell your brain to think positively. You’ve got to train yourself and the more you do it, the easier it is. We all feel down sometimes, but you choose how long you feel down for. You are in charge.

Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

I went to a witch doctor once. Never again! He made a lot of interesting sounds while bopping his hands up and down my torso, it was all a bit weird! I was doing my best not to burst out laughing!

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

To me, being the best mom to my kids is my number one priority. Always has been, always will. Everything else comes second to that…so as soon as I walk through the door, I’m mom. I’m not the ‘business woman’ anymore. I always think of how my kids perceive me, and I try and make sure what they see is a loving mother who always has their best interests as heart. I have an amazing team mate in my husband who enables me to deal with any work emergencies at home if I have to…so I don’t feel like I am ‘neglecting’ my children if something pops up, because all it means is they have 15m or so of solid dad time…and dad time is just as important as mom time! My husband and I prefer it if we’re both present, but on the odd occasion when that’s not possible, the kids aren’t losing out…I’m so blessed to have found Adam, he keeps everything balanced.

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

Not really sorry. I read a lot of business articles and news to keep my head in the game, but nothing in particular!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I actually already have! Cadenshae started a campaign called, ‘Sister Support,’ whereby women throughout the world donate their old bras to a local charity, and then we gift them 20% off their next purchase. It means women can help each other, and our 20% incentive hopefully encourages more donors. ‘Sister Support’ has seen over 100, 000 bras trade hands, and Cadenshae has supplied over 3,000 brand new bras to the cause as well. We aim to help over one million mothers across the world by 2025. We’re so proud of how this has gone so far!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Be yourself! This is relevant for every day of my life! I just be me and run my business how I want to. I’m not conventional, I do things my way. Wouldn’t change a thing!

What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

@cadenshae on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you so much Ming!


About the author:

Ming Zhao is an investor, business strategist, podcast host and startup founder. She is co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare, a technology-powered personalized skincare company that won MIT’s AI Technology of the Year award and is backed by Y-Combinator and Stanford StartX. She is an immigrant, a third-generation entrepreneur, and a mother whose daughter is the same age as her startup. Prior to founding PROVEN, Ming was a private equity investor where she frequently worked 80-hour weeks, wreaking havoc on her skin and soul, leading her to pursue personalized skincare. She has an MBA from Harvard University and lives with her family in San Francisco, CA. Checkout PROVEN’s Skin Genome Quiz at www.ProvenSkincare.com.

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