Look for the positives — it’s so easy to look at the negatives in a crisis situation — you are anxious and fearful and its natural to focus on this. But try looking for the positives — more time with your family, no commute, less pollution, time to slow down.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melinda Nicci.
Melinda is the sole founder and CEO of Baby2Body, the award winning, wellness company for women. Melinda’s passion for wellness and optimising health and performance through technology has driven Baby2Body to its success today: a global business helping millions of women all over the world to live healthier and happier lives through the critical reproductive stages of life. In the past 12 months, Melinda has led her business to doubling its monthly recurring revenues, expanding the offering into a full platform covering women’s reproductive health, and seeing us through the transition to full remote working during the ongoing pandemic, during which we achieved our most significant growth to date. She is a Sports and Exercise Psychologist, author and innovator, passionate about wellness, and optimising both health and performance through technology. Melinda has devoted her career to wellness, with a particular focus on women. Before she founded Baby2Body in 2015, Melinda had her own fitness business, wrote a bestselling book on wellness for DK publishers and has contributed to numerous magazines and publications about both physical and mental health. Melinda also sits on the board of Team GB Snowsport as a Non Executive Director.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, 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?
I came up with the idea for Baby2Body shortly after I had my first child back in 1994. There was a huge gap within the fitness industry when it came to pre- and postnatal needs, there simply wasn’t anything that catered to this stage of women’s lives in an easy to access way at that time. I had a degree in psychology and was a qualified personal trainer. I started working with women who wanted to safely maintain their fitness during pregnancy and then get their pre-baby body back after birth. I grew that into a successful boutique fitness company offering personal training and small group classes which led to me launching a fitness and wellness DVD and becoming a leading expert in pre and postnatal health and wellness. I wanted to scale Baby2Body but felt I needed to develop my skills and experience further so alongside training clients I did a Masters degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology. I spent several years as a consultant at Philips in Amsterdam directing consumer healthcare innovation. By then I had the domain expertise and insight into the tech world needed to realize Baby2Body as a scalable, global digital health service for women, which I launched in 2015. We’ve since grown this platform into a complete wellness solution that not only focuses on physical fitness, but also on mental wellbeing and nutritional health. We’re now present in over 125 countries around the world with over 1.5 million users.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one event — being an entrepreneur is always a road of many ups and downs and challenges as well as successes. However, there are a few significant moments I recall, one was very early on. We had just launched the business and all we had was an email subscription, so I got all my friends and family to sign up so we could test the system, and then on the third day as I was checking the system I saw a name I didn’t recognise, and I thought wow, someone out there that I dont know wants to sign up. It was that moment that I thought I could actually create the business. Of course one person doesn’t make a business, so the same thing happened when we reached the first 1000 paying customers: I thought if I can get a thousand I can get ten thousand, and now that we have over 20 thousand I know that it’s just a matter of time before we get 200k. As the business grows our targets get bigger, but I try not to forget the little moments, the best and worst part of my day is when I read the App Store reviews — I feel so good when we get rave reviews about the product (which we do all the time) but when we get a negative review I really get upset — even though it’s generally a tech issue or an Apple installment issue. It’s the little moments that make you feel as if you are doing something that is helping people, those are the moments that I love!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have just launched a ‘conception support’ product. This allows women to join our Baby2Body program before they are pregnant and for us to be a support to our users health and wellbeing for longer. It is relevant for any woman that is thinking about becoming pregnant in the next year or two / freezing eggs / or just wants to track their cycle and health metrics and get awesome fitness and wellness programmes. ‘Trying to Conceive’ is accessible via the existing platform and offers a cycle tracker alongside fitness, nutrition and wellbeing guides that will help prepare your body for pregnancy at any stage.
We plan to be a leading digital service for personalized women’s health — addressing all of her unique needs through her lifestyle. We are able to deliver customised health and wellness programs at scale — with the ability to target all the stages of a woman’s life: at the moment it’s only the reproductive phase, but we have plans for other stages. And eventually to build that out for condition specific cases (diabetes, obesity, hypertension).
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Without a doubt my father has been the biggest influence on my life. He is a serial entrepreneur and has the most incredible positive attitude, he always manages to see a way around a problem and is constantly thinking of new ways of doing things, he never stops. Growing up he would always discuss his businesses and the challenges of running them at the dinner table (we had dinner together as a family every night in South Africa) and myself and my brothers got used to hearing the ups and downs of owning your own business. We are all entrepreneurs and I think that knowing that we can achieve anything we set our mind to, which was something my father always instilled in us, was the making of us as entrepreneurs. The other lessons he taught me — amongst others are to always treat people equally, and that kindness and generosity go a long way. We were also taught at a young age about fairness — everyone should be given the opportunity to work and be paid their worth. These lessons have been the key to my role as a CEO and a leader.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
I have two children (25 and 21), and although I am lucky in a way that I have not faced dealing with little children during this time, I have faced a new set of challenges with my older ones. The world as we knew it has changed and where little ones won’t necessarily know what is going on, I am dealing with young adults that are deeply affected by the pandemic and I am concerned for their future and how that will look. From adjusting to university lectures over zoom calls, lost job opportunities, no prospect of work experience or internships, missing their friends and missing out on social opportunities and events that 6 months ago were completely normal, as well as disrupted travel plans. At this age ‘the world should be their oyster’ but suddenly they are facing a restrictive world where they can’t travel freely and experience as once was the case. I count my blessings that I haven’t had to home school through this but the challenge of supporting my children through the worry, disruption, anxiety, feelings of displacement is hard whilst trying to maintain my own business and its momentum through this pandemic. And then of course we have all been stuck at home for months on end — but that has had its own magic — we have been able to spend such great quality time as a family. I usually travel a lot and spend at least a week a month in NYC with our team there — so being in London and at home has given me the chance to spend time with my kids — we’ve done bake offs (I didn’t win all of them, my son is an excellent cook!), cooked together, made workout videos and done family zoom dinners with our family all over the world. Precious times that I will treasure.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Both my children were at home during lockdown and we’ve supported each other. I guess that’s a good thing when they’re older that they can give back too. We’ve talked things through and communicated far more than we would have if the lockdown hadn’t happened. Hearing their dreams and plans has been a huge positive and having the time to chat through them has been great and I realize that might not have happened in as much detail had they both not been living at home. I think mutual respect and understanding is what has kept us sane and created a sense of harmony at home. Also — a funny one — I created a fictitious character called ‘Karen’ our ‘errant co-worker from accounts’ — so I could blame all the unwashed dishes and randoms cups left all over the house on ‘her’- they soon got the message and we all had a laugh. Humour is essential! And there are no more random dirty dishes!
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Adjusting to managing and leading a fully remote team has been a major challenge for me. Before lockdown we had a couple of staff working remotely but the rest of the team and myself were in the office 5 days a week. I loved the office vibe and the whole team being together so initially I found it very hard to get used to being at home and having the entire team remote. But you find your routine and the best ways to check in with everyone as a team and individually. It has been a huge learning experience for me but I do see the positives now and am proud of how we’ve been able to make it work. It’s also been challenging hiring new staff during this time. We’ve recruited for two roles — our Marketing Manager started with us on the first day of lockdown so their whole Baby2Body experience has been remote; and we’ve also hired an android developer during lockdown too. Ensuring that these staff are onboarded properly and ingrained in the business culture has been challenging but we’ve managed it and it’s taught us to make certain that all our company processes are in place. Managing the expectations of investors has been challenging too; reassuring them and demonstrating what we are doing to navigate these uncertain times. Managing cash flow for a start up and overseeing the direction of the business when life is normal is hard enough but doing it through a pandemic is even more challenging and not something anyone has experience in.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Early on we implemented weekly team meetings and investor meetings as well as fixed ‘check in’ calls with key members of the team. We’ve been supportive to all our staff and made allowances for their different ‘working from home’ situations. We’ve also rewarded the team following on from good results and acknowledged how well they’ve adapted to remote work with care packages delivered to them at home. We’ve also implemented private health insurance for all employees too; with such a big focus on health at the moment we want to ensure all staff are looked after. Our company culture has become a focus as we’ve realized that without an office it is harder to demonstrate that to a new employee; so we’ve focused on updating all our policies.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Create boundaries early on, I have my office at home and that’s my quiet place where I can concentrate. Both my son and daughter set up their own areas within the house where they could work comfortably too. Good communication is also vital — I let them know when I need quiet time and vice versa.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
We set some ground rules from the outset. With older children they’re used to having their own space, as am I. They’ve been away at university and come back so they are independent. Being forced into lockdown was tough. We made sure that we all had our own space in the house and time to ourselves. We were vocal about when we got frustrated so everyone knew when to give you some time alone. For me the thing that kept me sane was my daily walk, one hour a day of fresh air whatever the weather allowed me to clear my head and avoid ‘cabin fever’. Other than that we made the most of the benefits of being locked down together. I also created a space where we could workout; I cleared a room and set up all the equipment so that it was easily accessible and available which made a big difference — now all we needed to do was communicate who would be using the ‘gym’ when. We also had to communicate when we would be eating dinner and who would be cooking — it’s not always me by the way, both my kids love to cook. My daughter is a vegan so she has her own food on the go and my son loves to experiment with different ingredients and gets a Hello Fresh delivery most weeks. It’s me who ends up eating tuna salads and smoothies as I don’t have time to think about meals!
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Change is good — we will learn to adjust and adapt to this ‘new normal’, it’s in our nature; we are an evolutionary species and this challenge will be overcome and we will move on in a different way. Every change and challenge helps us to build resilience — this is not the first challenge we will face in our lives and it’s certainly not the last. You never know what life and the universe are going to deliver so being adaptable and building resilience is the key to happiness and to success.
- Look for the positives — it’s so easy to look at the negatives in a crisis situation — you are anxious and fearful and its natural to focus on this. But try looking for the positives — more time with your family, no commute, less pollution, time to slow down.
- Be grateful for what you can — I’ve always used journaling as a way of reminding myself what I should be grateful for as we have a journal facility built into our app. This task of journaling daily really helped during lockdown — each evening I’d write down three things that I had achieved that day, however big or small, and then every morning I’d write three things I was grateful for.
- Take time to breathe — I see the lockdown period as a pause button. I was living life at a million miles per hour, as most people were, and with the harsh reality of lockdown all that ground to a halt. I suddenly had time to reflect on what was important and whether all the things I had been doing previously were important. Now that the lockdown has lifted i’m more mindful when planning my week and before saying yes to work and social commitments.
- Stay alert for opportunities — this is what I tell myself and my children. You need to keep your head up and eyes open for opportunities. They will be out there, even in the aftermath of the pandemic there will be new and exciting things happening, you just might not have thought of them previously. Staying open minded is key.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
My advice is to try and live in the present. Particularly during lockdown, I found it very hard to live in the present. I was constantly waiting for the next announcement, the next lifting of a lockdown rule, looking forward to when things would get back to normal, and found myself saying often “we can do that when the pandemic is over”. But the reality is that we don’t know when it will be over, and what about now, we need to enjoy that and make the most of it regardless of how different that looks. Living in the present eases anxiety, it’s the constantly thinking about the future and waiting for something to happen that makes you anxious.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My late mother used to say this to me every day, “today is not a dress rehearsal for tomorrow — go out and make the most of every opportunity that life gives you, because you never know what the future holds”. This has always been my mantra and has guided me to make the right decisions and to always look for the opportunities that present themselves. What I’ve learned is that opportunities do not always present in the format you think you need them — sometimes they are hidden and only if you are looking, do you find them. So always seek the joy, search for the opportunities and look for the chance to make a difference to the world, and before long you will have created a rewarding life.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram — @melindanicci or @baby2bodyofficial
Facebook — Baby2Body
Website — www.baby2body.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!