Lori Milner’s passion for people is stirring. If you have yet to hear about this stunning woman – she has created an initiative (Beyond The Dress) that aims to empower women and equip them with tools for success. She is also a thought leader, mentor and engaging facilitator. We got the chance to chat to her about her career, as well the book that she recently co-wrote with Nadia Bilchik.
1. To start off with, what inspired you to come up with Beyond The Dress and can you tell us a little more about the initiative?
It was shortly after I got married and was faced with my new roles and responsibilities. I was at a cross roads on how to do it all and to be the ‘perfect’ wife, business woman, daughter, friend etc. I realised the best way was to learn from successful women who had been there and got the t-shirt. And so Beyond the Dress was born.
What started out as a series of events has evolved into customised corporate training programmes, workshops, talks and events that provide women [with] the tools to bridge the gap between work and personal life. We offer a combination of both lifestyle and corporate skills such as personal branding, professional presence, time management, financial management, conflict management and networking to name a few. With this in mind, Beyond the Dress aims to facilitate a company’s connection to their female employees, enabling them to retain top talent and develop people to [reach] their full potential.
It is a business that has allowed me to live my passion and continuously reinvent myself as a brand.
2. What has been your most cherished or exciting moment with BTD so far?
Definitely seeing Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman on the shelves of Exclusive Books. Writing a book was an intense process that took just over a year. Although you are working towards this end goal, it is a surreal moment to see it in print and become a tangible accomplishment.
3. Where do you find your motivation? Does it come from someone you know or perhaps a saying that you’ve heard?
I am a creator at heart; Beyond the Dress was created to fill a gap in the market. I love the process of conceptualising something and then seeing it come to fruition. The greatest advice I received is to have goals bigger than myself so it would force me to grow into the person worthy of the goal.
4. Can you tell us more about OWN Your Space – the book that you recently co-wrote with Nadia Bilchik?
Own Your Space provides practical tools and insights gleaned from workshops held around the world and from interviews with some of South Africa’s most accomplished women to provide you with tried-and-tested techniques, tips and advice to help you boost your career, enhance your confidence and truly own your space on every level. By exploring your head space, your physical space, personal grooming, virtual and networking skills as well as overcoming the negative effects of past conditioning, you will learn how to develop the unshakeable confidence to achieve absolutely anything.
We want it to become the ultimate ‘toolkit in a handbag’ for the capable woman who wants to unleash her potential, take her career to the next level, and ultimately, to discover her true power.
5. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Nadia Bilchik and I were facilitating a professional presence training workshop for a group of high-potential women. What came out of the workshop was all these women lacked confidence or self-belief in some way. We were astounded as these women were highly accomplished in their careers. The same feedback came out of workshops with women at all levels and this made us realise that this was a common link to women irrespective of career success.
There was so much material telling [you] what you should be doing but not a lot told you how. This is what we are most proud of; it’s the practical step-by-step tools that are applicable for everyday life. We took it one step further and shared not only our insights from inside a training room but we also interviewed South Africa’s leading business women and shared their stories and truths.
6. It [OWN Your Space] covers a range of relevant topics for the modern, working woman – which is your favourite chapter?
They say you need to teach what you most need to learn so chapter 5 – Own your Time is my favourite chapter. As a mother, wife and business owner, there is a constant juggle to get it all done. I wanted to share that work/life balance is a myth and it is about finding a healthy integration between the two aspects; we can never separate ‘work’ and ‘life’. I have shared lessons I have mastered that have enabled me to really live this daily. Tools such as saying no, putting myself on my to-do list, scheduling, planning, setting boundaries and most importantly letting go of perfection.
7. Do you have any words of wisdom for the ladies out there reading this?
- People do business with people – aim to establish relationships first. Ask yourself where you can provide value before you ask for something. Be a ‘go giver’, not a ‘go getter’. Remember, network most when you need it least.
- Have integrity in everything you do – your reputation is all you have at the end of the day. As Napolean Hill says ‘Always do more than you are being paid for’.
- Make sure you are finance savvy; you don’t have to become an accountant but make sure you understand the numbers in your business.
- In her interview for the book, Judy Dlamini, Executive Chairman of the Mbekani Group said ‘Be kind to yourself and just move on when you make a mistake. Don’t take yourself too seriously’.
- There is no substitute for preparation. This includes meetings, interviews and public speaking. Preparation provides you with the confidence that you can add value to those around you. With confidence, you can achieve anything.
- Participate – have the courage to share your opinions and ideas. No one will know your true value unless you put your hand up.
By Nicole Naidoo