I admit to a fairly well-established fear of structured parties. Tupperware (ok, I’m a 70s child), colour, swishing…..I’ll duck and cover. But when I met Tori May she had such a refreshing and honest ‘you’ve known her forever’ vibe that the next thing I knew I was in my kitchen hosting a style session with 12 girlfriends draped in Stella & Dot jewels.
So, as MLMs are getting a rough ride in the press, I spoke to her about why she loves Stella & Dot and how it helps her towards finding that elusive work-life balance.
Between 2008 and 2011 women accounted for an unprecedented 80% of the new self-employed. Whilst the government might celebrate the stats, we know all too well that many of these re-inventions have come post-motherhood when we have dusted ourselves off from redundancy, repurposing or – my personal favourite – being ‘reimagined.’
Tori made the move from corporate IT sales after a request for part-time work was turned down. Shortly after giving birth to her first child she couldn’t make work, work. ‘I felt redundant in my whole self. We had no family nearby, I wanted to work but I wanted to have some time with my baby. The nurseries were all booked up and I didn’t know much about childminders, nannies and so on. Looking back I was so naïve, and thought, ‘well I’ll just leave then’. I didn’t even know that applying for flexible working was an option.’
The more and more we dig into the motherhood penalty, the more we find that maternity discrimination doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of education, race, background, we are often ill-informed and, often, badly treated from the outset. In a vulnerable and generally shocked state, we often take the nearest exit.
“We all find that motherhood is just not satisfying sometimes and I needed more in my life. I didn’t know what I could do, childcare was too expensive and everything was too overwhelming. I found the opportunity at Stella & Dot when my second child was 11 months old…..people thought I was crazy. But I needed my mind on something else than the Mum stuff.’
Driving an hour Tori went to her first Stella & Dot meeting in Surrey. ‘It was a big conference room full of people and it was the best environment ever. And I thought, this is what I’m going to do.’ That was in December 2013 and now she a team of 13 girls around the country.
So, what gives? Tori wants to dispel some myths. ‘You can do it alongside a full-time job and people do. I know a pathologist who does it as she just wants a change from her day job. It is fully flexible. Some do it just as a hobby. Or you can do it full-time, build a team and earn good money if you choose. There are no ties, no pressure and no-one is breathing down your neck.’
Tori has a great, positive energy. We had fun, the jewels are well-priced, good quality and stylish and there was absolutely no pressure to buy a thing. Hence why everyone went home happy to have caught up and having ordered a fairly hefty load of sparkle and really understanding what it means to have an ‘arm party…..’
What is – or has been – your greatest struggle (either personal or professional)?
Motherhood. Bringing 3 tiny humans into the World and raising them full time has been a roller coaster of a ride in so many ways. You never get any ‘training’ for this role – you sort of rock up to it with no hand-over notes (except your own Mum’s and possibly some low or high level of book-blurb). You sort of have to figure it out for yourself!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I was content as I was growing up so never wished for out of this world roles, although I always knew that I would hopefully successfully fall into life’s abyss and hope it would have something that would connect with me. Personally, I always wanted to mimic my own Mum and become a Mum myself; being able to give someone the gift of life is a pretty awesome thing and I have been so fortunate to be able to do that 3 times. If I could channel some growing-up professional thoughts then I would definitely have liked to have studied astronomy and space as it’s something which I am totally mesmerised by!
Best advice ever received and from whom?
‘Eat your greens and drink your greens water’ – quote from my Nanna when I was little – and little did she know that the ‘green’ Instagram revolution of youth today would be so prevalent nowadays. I always loved drinking the water from the greens that my Nanna used to cook during a weekly Sunday roast. Good skin and a beautiful goodness inside is key to a happy life.
Who do you most admire?
The Professors of the medical world that have been and gone and who are still coming and evolving. There are medical advances which are mind-blowing and having been exposed to one in particular, Professor Kypros Nicolaides , a Foetal Medicine Specialist, I have the utmost admiration for his work and knowledge.
What keeps you up at night? (aside from small children!)
The sadness of much of the world today. Luckily we have so many people working hard to save the world across so many organisations and groups and it’s so amazing to see the work that’s being put in place now for years to come for the generations to come.
When were you happiest?
Childhood. It was a time of real and raw happiness. I had a Mum and Dad who gave my brother, sister and I the most fabulous childhood filled with love and life experiences but without flamboyant things thankfully. Without the world of social media and without the need for the latest toy or gadget, we had a really strong family network and we still do. We were so lucky to be able to travel the Mediterranean with my Mum and Dad whilst my Dad was on his work travels and business trips abroad, Summer after Summer.
Favourite object you possess ?
My Black Belt from Karate. I practised Karate intensely from 4 to 17 years old and then went on to teach it after I got my black belt. This beautiful martial art and the black belt I trained so very hard to earn has totally moulded me into the person I am today.
It teaches you discipline and confidence. No matter how tough you are and how much you excel in it, you will always know that there are others who are far better than you and this will make you know your limits and respect boundaries. You will learn to be humble for knowing that there are others who are stronger than you.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Literally! Literally, literally, literally… That’s literally me all over!
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Just be happy whatever may be going on behind the scenes. You get one life – got to make it a good one. Don’t miss any moments.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
A nightly steamy hot bath with a glass or mug of something (depending on how the day in question has gone!). Although it doesn’t seem so guilty now that it has become such a ritual. It is a time to delve into nothingness and re-set myself for the day ahead.
What change do you hope for in your lifetime?
As Michael Jackson once said, ‘Heal the World, make it a better place.’
Please recommend a brilliant female-led brand or business you have used recently.
Marie France Van Damme – I worked with her and her beautiful niche luxury fashion brand when she launched her flagship UK store in London. She oozes sophistication, style and a great work ethic and has really inspired me. When being interviewed for Marie Claire she was asked ‘How did you get to where you are today?
She replied, “Work, work, and more work. Twenty-Four-Seven. Seven days a week. There are no shortcuts.” So true and brilliant.
Who might help you next? My children. As clichéd as it sounds, they never stop helping me learn about life, motherhood, how to organise my life better…how to not organise my life better! Every day is a fresh start. They encourage you to do new things, teach you how to be a hero even when you feel least like it and you can laugh every single day. Kids just embrace life, see it for what it is with such naivety which is just so special to learn from. We can get lost in this crazy world sometimes and my kids bring it all back to basics.