10 Minutes With: The Women’s Chapter Founder, Michelle de Klerk
In our hotseat this week is women’s champion, Michelle de Klerk, a real-life role model who proves that empathy and entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive.
30 Second CV
Name: Michelle de Klerk
Location: London and Surrey
Current Title/Company: Founder of The Women’s Chapter
Educational Background: Bachelor of Commerce & Law and Honours Degree in Media Studies & Journalism
The Real Deal
Brief overview of what you do:
I run The Women’s Chapter, which is an invitation only networking and events platform for high impact women. We offer members the opportunity to grow their personal and professional networks through boutique events and the sharing of relevant, inspiring content and profiles. I love connecting people with one another, seeing friendships develop, finding synergies and inciting collaborations, so I wanted to find a way to channel my passion into something that could bring people together in a meaningful way and where I could have fun doing it! The Women’s Chapter encapsulates all of that. Our events create an opportunity for like-minded, inspiring women to come together in a relaxed way to enjoy art, fashion, culture and gastronomy; to let their hair (and guard) down and leave having met someone they felt they were meant to meet.
Can you describe your job in 3-5 words?
Inspiring, dynamic, collaborative, creative, flexible.
Do you have a weekday morning routine?
My three and half year old twin girls are very early risers, so my day always starts with family cuddles in bed. I then check my emails, Twitter and LinkedIn over a coffee or green tea and make to do lists for the day. If I’m working from home, I’ll try to get out for a run in the woods before whipping up a green juice or smoothie, then sitting down at my desk. If not, I’ll head into London for back to back meetings.
What is the first thing you do when you get to work?
If I’m working from home or on the train on the way into London, the first thing I do is pull out a clean sheet of white paper and start jotting down all the ideas and to dos that pop into my head. It helps me structure my day and stay focused.
What does a typical day at your desk look like?
My days are very varied, so no two days are ever the same. If I’m not out meeting someone really inspiring or discussing an exciting event with a brand, I’m consolidating and working on concepts for upcoming events and collaborations.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
Recently, I spoke on a panel with Kelly Hoppen MBE and Julie Meyer MBE covering the topic of Women Innovators and Disruptors and How to Be Revolutionary. It was a huge honour to be in discussion with such iconic entrepreneurs. To be honest, though, there are so many great moments and highlights. Even just a few words of lovely feedback from a client or member are guaranteed to put a spring in my step for days!
Your job – the good, the bad, the ugly:
The good is the flexibility, creativity and autonomy that running my own business affords me.
The bad is that as a mum of young children, I always feel like I am juggling work, family and home commitments and there never seem to be enough hours in the day to achieve the work-life balance I set out to. But, regardless of what happens on any given day, I’m always mindful of trying to be both physically and emotionally present in their lives. I couldn’t hope for anything more than to be an inspiration to my daughters as both a mother and a business woman.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
You don’t have to grab every opportunity that comes your way. Take a step back and assess whether the opportunity is a good fit for you and your brand, and always go with your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away.
What would you say to your twenty year old self with the benefit of hindsight?
To worry less about what other people expected of me and focus on the things that made me happy.
Who are your role models?
Nelson Mandela. I never cease to be inspired and amazed by the depth of forgiveness he offered his fellow man, his bravery, humility and fundamental understanding of human nature.
How do you relax and recharge?
Going out for a run always helps to clear my head, even though I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like to. I also love losing myself in a DIY project. I’m currently upcycling a bench for the garden and also recently discovered the joys of rose gold spray paint! Downtime with my husband on a Friday night is my best ‘recharge.’
What’s the last book you read?
I’m slowly reading Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani – an account of the author’s near death experience. My dad passed away two years ago and it’s given me an interesting perspective (and a degree of peace) on cancer, death and healing.
I’m also always reading some recipe book on healthy eating – Honestly Healthy, Deliciously Ella and Hemsley & Hemsley are three of my favourites – as well as blogs on juicing and Nutribullets. I’m obsessed with my Nutribullet. It evens goes on holiday with us!
What are you listening to at the moment?
Big Girls Cry by Sia
What is your guilty pleasure?
Steak and good red wine. Being from South Africa, it’s par for the course! I also love artisan gins.
What can’t you leave the house without?
My iPhone and charger.
Complete this statement: I feel most powerful when wearing… Heels and a bold but feminine dress.
My weekday wardrobe consists of:
If I’m in London for meetings, a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress and heels is my go to look. I love how comfortable yet timelessly stylish her pieces are. I also like to mix up vintage with capsule classics and high street finds. I’m crazy about shoes and have just designed my first two pairs of Upper Street heels – a cobalt blue and gold snakeskin pair and a classic pair of leopard pony skin heels. Every time the doorbell rings my heart leaps; I can’t wait for them to arrive!
My weekend wardrobe consists of:
Jeans and converse.
If you could have lunch with any woman in the world, who would it be (and what would you order)?
Mother Teresa, for her unwavering commitment to those in need. I met her briefly as a child and touching her hand had a profound effect on me. I always wished I could have actually talked to her. She managed to combine the commitment to her cause with incredible, yet humble, organisational and managerial skills and developed an incredibly vast international network of missionaries.
As for what we’d eat, I doubt we’d even get round to ordering anything!
The Women’s Chapter is a London-based networking group and event platform for high impact women.