Hanni Melnicenko had a profound shift in focus after losing her Mum to cancer. She stopped climbing the corporate ladder and chose to dedicate herself to a new venture: The Superwoman Project – a well-being coaching service just for women age 35 to 55 who just want to be healthy physically and mentally. Read how she did it below…

Hanni Melnicenko // UK // The Superwoman Project // Health & Well-being // 30s


WHAT MOTIVATED & INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR BUSINESS?

My Mum got sick. Really sick. I had a call from my sister in New Zealand (where Mum also lived) on August bank holiday 2011. Mum, aged 57, had cancer. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. All cancer is bad, but as far as prognosis goes, this is possibly one of the worst. Apparently they rarely find it before it gets to stage four as there are few symptoms. So the prognosis was that it was terminal and, at best, mum had 6 months.

Our world as we knew it fell apart. I left my husband Leon & Son Jack at home and went to NZ for a month to help her get to medical appointments etc, and to support my sister out there. It was a tough time. Shortly after my return mum, was cleared to fly back to the UK. She got here in November 2011 where she lived with Leon, Jack and me at home until she died in May 2012.

Throughout her illness in those last few months I was her primary carer. I was also working in my role as HR Director and helping Leon to manage Sound Fitness Team Training. At the time, in addition to doing my full time job, Leon and I had a bootcamp fitness business. However, it’s fair to say that, during this time, we took our eye off the ball where the business was concerned. Well something had to give, and it was more important for me to continue working as it was bringing home considerably more bacon at the time!

Whilst caring for Mum, however, I learnt a lot about health. In particular, about women’s health, nutrition and diet. Mum had previously travelled the world as a chef and so had a great interest in food. Her cancer was not treatable with traditional medicine, such as chemotheraphy or radiation. Even if it had medically been an option, she would have opted not to have that kind of treatment. So we spent a lot of time researching alternative medicines and therapies. Supplements, homeopathy, vitamin C to name a few. But overwhelmingly everything we were reading came back to being supported by a clean diet. I became genuinely interested in the whole subject. Mum’s death clearly had a profound effect on me. It’s expected I guess, but here are the things that suddenly hit me, hard:

I was not invincible. No one is. I realised my own mortality and I didn’t much like thinking about it.

I finally understood how much what we eat and our activity levels can either massively increase or massively reduce not only our life expectancy, but the quality of life we can expect to have whilst we are here.

That said, life really is short. We must follow our hearts, ENJOY and make the most of every day.

The “success” that I had found in my career was just an illusion. I enjoyed my job, but I wasn’t excited by it. I enjoyed the salary, but that was no longer enough.

So 6 months later, I handed in my notice in favour of trying to make a go of our own business. It was a huge risk as the business had hit an all-time low in terms of income.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS…

The Superwoman Project is a wellbeing coaching service just for women, just like me! (And as for the name… how many times have you uttered to your boss, husband, kids the words “Who do you think I am – Superwoman?!” But you are!) Superwoman is for ‘normal’ women, aged 35 – 55, who are probably a bit overweight. Women who are juggling work, kids, and social life. Women who love their food and wine! It’s for women who need something real, manageable and achievable and who need someone to deliver it who UNDERSTANDS them. I understand these women because I am the same! We aren’t going to ‘motivate’ you with pictures of a 22 year old girl doing a one handed handstand (seriously??!). I couldn’t care less about having massive guns or a 6 pack. I just want to keep the bingo wings and the muffin top at bay! We help you get into a good state of physical and mental health through positive encouragement, support, accountability and education.

WHAT WERE THE FIRST FEW STEPS YOU TOOK TO GET YOUR BUSINESS UP AND RUNNING?

The first step I took was to enrol on a 1:1 mentoring program with a health coaching marketing expert.   I knew that I had entrepreneurial flair and good business acumen, but I also knew that I wanted this business to be different from the previous business. I had a very specific target client and I wanted to know how to appeal to them.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF RAISING AWARENESS OF YOUR BUSINESS AND GETTING NEW CUSTOMERS?

By far the biggest thing that I took away from my mentoring program was the importance of collecting email addresses. I learned to write in my own voice and I now email my list daily with stories that entertain, inform and inspire. I built my list using targeted Facebook ads which took my audience away from Facebook and to an opt-in page where they sign up for a free gift and get to receive my daily emails.

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES SO FAR WITH RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?

Without a doubt, my biggest challenge has been solo-working. I am naturally highly sociable and outgoing. I used to work as an HR Director in a busy office and I have found the contrast from that to this, quite a shock.

HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES?

I have overcome this by being involved in various offline and online networking groups (including The Female Entrepreneur Association). I have also just signed up to try out a brand new co-working space in my City (being set up by a fellow female entrepreneur who I met through local networking).

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

I adore the lifestyle. I love that I can get up really early and crack out a few hours of work, then take the rest of the day off, if I want to (that doesn’t happen every day!). I make sure that I practise what I preach to my coaching clients and work/life balance and taking time out are key to this.   I love the amazing feedback I get, not only from clients but from women on my email list who read and gain inspiration and take action from the tips in my daily emails. I love the feeling of community and support I both give and receive from other like-minded female entrepreneurs.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER ENTREPRENEURS?

My top piece of advice would be to know your client better than anyone else does. I identify with my client so well as I was her a few years ago.   To effectively market, you can only market to one person. It took me a long time to get my head around this as I thought “but I can help so many people”. However, I now understand that whilst that may be true, I can only truly effectively “speak” to one person in my marketing. I call this my avatar. Get to know your avatar as if he/she were your best friend and it is transformational in your marketing.

HOW DO YOU KEEP MOTIVATED THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES?

I have built an amazing support network of women around me who are all at different stages in their businesses.   We are all there for one another when times get tough and we can all relate to each others’ problems as it’s likely that at one time or another we have all been there.   I occasionally have a “meh” day when I can’t get motivated, when I can’t focus or when I just generally can’t be arsed!   I know that on these occasions, an amazing pep talk is only a phone call away.

DO YOU HAVE A BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY?

Have fun. Take action. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

When I face a big challenge I…

phone a friend!

My greatest fear is…

dying young.

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is…

quit my career as an HR Direcor after years of climbing the corporate ladder.

If I could go back in time to when I was 20 I would tell myself…

crack on! You’re going to turn out just fine :)

I believe…

that we are here for a very short time and we should make the most of every opportunity, no matter how scary it seems.

The biggest lesson I have ever learned is…

for me, having a successful “career” wasn’t really what I wanted from life (in retrospect).

My favourite business tool or resource is…

Aweber, Leadpages, the Female Entrepreneur Association. ;)

My favourite quote is…

“Never eat more than you can lift.”

– Miss Piggy


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