Step Up Your Life | Live Your Dream

Alice + Phanella of Step Up Club

Alice + Phanella of Step Up Club

If you are a career woman in 2017 and you haven't yet heard of the Step Up Club, your life is about to change. This London based endeavor is spear headed by Alice Olins and Phanella Fine. Alice spent a decade working as a fashion writer; including a stint as the features fashion editor at MarieClaire. Phanella began her career as an international finance attorney working billion dollar deals in New York/London, eventually getting promoted to the first ever female hedge fund manager of JP Morgan. Need career (or life) advice? I couldn't find better women to ask.

Together, Alice and Phanella formed Step Up Club. I was graciously granted an interview that I am ECSTATIC to share with you below.


Kelly: How would you describe Step Up Club to someone who has never heard of it?

Step Up Club: The Step Up Club is a modern voice in the women's career conversation. Conscious that we’re all time poor, it's our belief that in just 10 Minutes a Day all of us can boost our confidence, expand our network and reach our individual type success.

Founded and run by career experts, Alice Olins and Phanella Mayall Fine, the Step Up Club isn’t just changing the way we talk about careers, it’s broadcasting a message of self-belief and practical determination through every corner of today’s workplace, both at a grassroots level and in collaborations with well-known brands.

The Step Up Club is currently fronting Karen’s Millen’s global #WomenWhoCan campaign, and its launch video was watched over 1.5 million times in its first 3 weeks. Our book, Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes A Day [Random House], continues our unique approach to career development and made the front cover of the Daily Telegraph, as well as being featured in Marie Claire, Red Magazine and The Times.

Our latest venture, Step Up School, is an innovative, year-long programme designed to take one group of women through a life-changing career journey. We think what's most exciting about Step Up is where we're heading. Our revolutionary Step Up School Online will launch early next year, alongside even more big brand collaborations, exciting events and inventive content that always blends substance with style.

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K: Who are Phanella and Alice?

Step Up Club: We are career experts and the Step Up Club’s stylish, practical and support approach is a true mix of us both. Phanella is an accredited executive coach with a background in corporate law and equity finance. Alice is a fashion and lifestyle journalist with previous tenures at some of the UK’s biggest broadsheets and glossies.

K: Do you get enough sleep at night? Is this something that matters to you?

Step Up Club: Balance is a key part of our Step Up message and we’re careful to practice what we preach. In the early days of Step Up, when it was very much a passion project on the side of our busy day jobs, we frequently worked well into the night on our Step Up ambitions. But as Step Up has grown, we’ve become better at putting in boundaries around our time - helped by our hire of a full time assistant. Except in the face of a huge deadline, we switch off our laptops by 9pm each night and leave our phones switched off downstairs until after breakfast the next morning. The result: more, better sleep.

K: How old were you when you realized you wanted to make a lasting impact on the world?

Phanella: As a child growing up in New York, my dream job was to be President of the United States. So I’ve pretty much wanted to have a big impact from day 1.

Alice: I think I've always had a belief that I could do something big; that life was there for the taking. I don't think I've ever had a lightbulb moment, but I've certainly always dreamt big.

K: What, in your opinion, should people be reading?

Step Up Club: Our book: Step Up: Confidence, Success and Your Stellar Career in 10 Minutes a Day. It’s yet to come out in the US, but is available on Amazon world wide. It remains one of our greatest achievements: a dense, practical guide combined with an emotionally supportive, engaging tone of voice. We’ve had emails from readers all over the world telling us how it’s changed their career journey, ambition and self-belief so hopefully we’re not too biased!

K: What are you looking forward to in the next year?

Step Up Club: The launch of Step Up School is a huge one for us. The ability to spread our support to women across the world is a truly exciting prospect.

K: Wardrobe staples?

Alice: Jean + trainers/stupidly high heels (depending on the situation) + fresh, bouncy hair + silk blouse. Oh and a nice handbag. Done.

Phanella: Floral dress, knitted sweater or jacket and heels. Plus I am surgically attached to my red lipstick.

K: How do you find balance between work and family life?

Phanella: Organisation is one of my strong suits and this has always fed into relatively clear boundaries between work and family lives. But the more Step Up grows, the tougher this is getting. When work starts to encroach too much, I reset my boundaries and remind myself of my priorities.

Alice: I have just downloaded an app called Moment, which measures your phone use. Just this alone, has helped me feel more balanced. In today's crazy world, I think balance is as much a mindset as it is a practical solution - work and life are inextricably blended, but if I can snatch time away from the emails, the phone beeping and the general feeling of being connected, I feel automatically more balanced. My children demand me to be disconnected, and I love just kicking back, knowing that my phone is switched off, and getting stuck into their little worlds.

K: Little luxury you can’t live without?

Phanella: I love my sleep so a brilliantly comfortable bed with great cotton sheets.
Alice: Time alone to go to the gym.  

K: Best piece of advice you ever received?

Phanella: Stop taking the broken cookie. At home, women are often brought up to put themselves last, to support others first and take the broken cookie for themselves. But at work, you need to learn to take the whole cookie - the credit, the plum assignment, the pay rise - for yourself.
Alice: There isn't one pithy quote that comes to mind, rather a whole host of women who have shown me what is possible in life; that we can all stay true to ourselves, be kind, determined, tough and vulnerable, and achieve the goals - and life - we want.

Sign up to Step Up Club's website - - we send out a weekly newsletter and that’s where you’ll get wind of our brilliant events, weekly content and brand partnerships and discounts. Follow us on instagram too @thestepupclub.




Podcasts. If I'm being honest I never understood them. I am far too ADD and never had the patience to listen to some random voice. Who is it? Why can't I see them? Did I time travel back to 1924 where radio was the only form of entertainment. Then I stumbled upon Conscious Chatter and I began eating my shorts, I mean my words, I mean my feet (what?)


Kestrel Jenkins is the San Diego based founder of Conscious Chatter, an inclusive audio space that opens the doors to conversations about our clothing and the layers of stories, meaning and potential impact connected to what we wear. The sensationally talented podcaster and ethical fashionista has succeeded in creating a venue that allows us to continue to learn more about the garment industry and how we can ll be a bigger part of positive change in the industry. Basically, it is everything I am obsessed with. 

Jenkins interviews some of the world's most interesting people and what they are doing in terms of ethics on Conscious Chatter. From Salt Gypsy + Sustainability within surf culture, Naadam and finding the world's fairest cashmere, or via referencing my previous employer, Project JUST and their seal of approval on RIZ board shorts (the envy of Californians everywhere.) 

I hope Conscious Chatter has the same effect on you as it had on me. At the very least, I hope she helps you look at things a little differently. Lucky for all of us, she agreed to to do any interview. Read below for all the deetz.


Kelly Madera: Who is Kestrel Jenkins and what is Conscious Chatter?

Kestrel Jenkins: I am a storyteller and a conscious style maven, who has been enthralled with clothing and dressing from a young age. Conscious Chatter is the podcast I host and produce, which was born 83 episodes ago. It's an inclusive audio space that opens the door to conversations about our clothing + the layers of stories, meaning and potential impact connected to what we wear. As I like to say, it's "where what we wear matters".

KM: Why do you feel CC is relevant today? What inspired you to start it?
KJ: I think Conscious Chatter has been relevant since NAFTA pushed manufacturing overseas, and since fast fashion skyrocketed to being the "mainstream" way we shop. It's an especially valuable time to be having these conversations because the fashion industry is shifting, and finally, the big players are starting to take note that sustainability needs to be in their repertoire and it needs to be part of their future. Sustainability in fashion is expanding exponentially, and Conscious Chatter is a space to help celebrate the wins and small steps the industry is making to change the future of fashion.

KM: Who is your style icon?
KJ: Miroslav Duma + Cleo Wade

KM: How do you take your coffee? 
KJ: With a lot of frothed almond milk, honey + cinnamon

KM: How would you describe your personal style? 
KJ: A friend once referred to my style as being a "hybrid ferrari" - I think he really did understand my aesthetic when he put this name on it

KM: Dream job? 
KJ: Always searching but loving where I'm at, and enjoying the moments.

KM: Advice you would give to floundering fashionistas?
KJ: Embrace your personal style, and don't let anyone persuade you to stray from it.

KM: Catch phrase of choice? 
KJ: I'm curious about ...

KM: What can we look forward to from CC this coming year?
KJ: This upcoming year, there are some super exciting episodes launching - including a chat with the Accidental Icon and a Vogue-featured jewelry designer. Also, watch out for more video projects that will be coming your way. :) 


WCW: Mari Gutierrez, California Darling Turned Utah Nature Babe

I get profoundly excited when I find a woman as passionate about the environment and fashion as I am. Something so rare to find, but made more accessible thanks to the inter webs! I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mari Gutierrez when I was scouring the internet for sources to bolster my master's thesis on the ethical fashion transparency. I first found Mari being featured by the ever sustainable fashion brand, MUD Jeans. If you aren't familiar with the European brand, get familiar. Their denim + fit is to die for - the best part? Less expensive and ethically sourced, two things your everyday designer denim does not possess. Check out Mari's collab with MUD here

So here she is, Mari Gutierrez, my #WomanCrushWednesday! Though we met in an entirely different way, I found out that Mari is actually from the town next to my hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area, talk about a small world. I can't say I'm surprised.. ;) Despite spending our formative years there, we have since both left California, Mari for her undergraduate studies @ the prestigious BYU (Brigham Young University) in Utah, which she just completed! Huge Congratulations! Fun fact: Mari was originally born in Utah. Not only does Mari have collaborations with notable European ethical fashion brands like MUD at only 22, but she also is the host of her own super dope instablog, @harbouraeblog!

Inspired by Mari's work, research and overall life passions I had the chance to chat with her about her positions on the ethical fashion industry in the United States. Aren't these terms oxymoronic though?

KM: How did you get involved with ethical fashion, and more importantly why?

MW: I went out of state for an Internship last summer and was introduced to some really cool brands who were taking the concept of ethical fashion in a direction that I thought was really innovative. It not only got me excited about reevaluating my standards as a consumer, but also got me excited about participating in a network of forward-thinking people. I decided to start a blog because the more I investigated the industry, the more I realized how important it is to curate a wardrobe and lifestyle that is conscious of resources that we are so lucky to have access to. 



How do you think consumers in the United States can make a difference when shopping?

There are so many things that we can do! Supporting local artisans, repurposing old items, and buying from socially conscious brands is always a good start. One of the most impactful actions that I see making a difference is to go to the source. We need to take action and raise a voice against a mass market of fast fashion. We've already seen some of those large clothing brands trying out new methods of production, being more vocal about their supply chain, etc., and all because they are aware of their consumers. 

Why do you think awareness surrounding ethical fashion has grown so much? When do you think this started?

Though some may say it's just a trend, I think that with the rise of technology and isolationism, we're looking for ways to reconnect with each other. Ethical fashion gives people a really unique and personal way to connect. Whether it's though supporting a local business, or being made aware of everyone involved in making those jeans you acquired, it feels good to find that connection on a level that is so personal to so many people.

What role do you believe technology plays in the world of fashion today? In shopping?

I think social media is playing a huge role. Companies now have more power to connect with their audience, and consumers now have more vision into how their favorite brands work and prioritize an ethical supply chain. It's no longer the era of websites, where the company controls so much of what they present. People are sharing stories of their experience with the brand, businesses are sharing behind the scenes moments on social media. So much is exposed that a lot of companies can't afford to not be taking steps towards a more ethical approach to production. 

As you can see Mari is an educated, smart and informed woman. Not everyone can be ethical 100% of the time [not even me!] but everyone can try. Go forth, and make a difference! 


WCW: The Courageous Seyra Rico, Fashionista, Activist

Seyra @ the 2015 10th Anniversary of Hacienda Luisita Massacre. Remembering the prior 7 activists that were killed, and the hundreds that were injured.

Seyra @ the 2015 10th Anniversary of Hacienda Luisita Massacre. Remembering the prior 7 activists that were killed, and the hundreds that were injured.

Every now and then I have the absolute pleasure of meeting a fellow blogger that is just as into social activism and fashion as I am. For a multitude of reasons I rarely meet women that are just as passionate about both - and when I do I make sure to keep these individuals around me. Creatively gifted, into style and not standing for intolerance and injustice in the world that perpetuates it, is a significant sign of a person I want in my life!

Seyra @ 2015 Protest in memoriam of (2) college students, Kristel and Rosanna, whom committed suicide due to high tuition fees

Seyra @ 2015 Protest in memoriam of (2) college students, Kristel and Rosanna, whom committed suicide due to high tuition fees

The first contact I had with Seyra, of Pavements are Runways was through a comment she left on one of my blog posts, "Are you as into fashion and social activism as I am? I have never met another blogger with these same passions!" A friendship was born. Currently, Seyra works full-time for GABRIELA, the only militant organization for women in the Philippines. Seyra's story is one I felt extremely relevant in terms of sharing because it shows a side of The Philippines that many of us do not know, or experience. The media prefers to keep the real issues silent, and thanks to Seyra we can all become not only more aware, but more inspired.

The above photos represent raising awareness for "International Working Women's Day 2015". Anyone who knows me, knows that women's rights is a cause I would go to the ends of the earth for. A lot of American women take for granted the access we have to an education and desirable career path. Many countries around the world restrict these basic human rights based solely on gender. Incredible women like Seyra, are fighting for our rights and raising awareness in a very real and meaningful way.  Please read the below essay Seyra wrote for me, it might just change your perspective on a lot of things, it certainly did for me.

Seyra @ One Billion Rising Revolution 2015 - Dance to End Violence Against Women

Seyra @ One Billion Rising Revolution 2015 - Dance to End Violence Against Women

I’m Seyra Rico, and I’m a full time activist and fashion blogger. I work for International Relations Department of GABRIELA, the only militant organization for women in the Philippines. I became a full time activist after I finished my undergraduate degree. I tried to looking for a typical full-time position, but realized that I didn’t want to be a corporate slave. How could I go about my daily life  when I knew about all of these issues? I felt a calling to help. I cannot be depoliticized. I chose to be a full time activist because I can’t sit around, doing nothing while knowing about all the injustices happening in my country. GABRIELA is part of the International Women’s Alliance, a worldwide alliance of anti-imperialist women organizations. Bringing it back, for everyone to know why I choose this path, we need to historicize it. 

It was July 2013, my first mobilization--during the fourth State of the Nation Address of President Aquino, which is probably the most passionate rally every year for the national democratic movement in the Phillipines. It was an assertion rally, for we wanted to get closer to the venue, but hundreds of police force, and even the military was deployed for that event. The result were cracked skulls, dripping blood and lost shoes afterwards. For every mobilization, we have a buddy system, wherein you will always have a partner or buddy. This buddy goes with you everywhere no matter what. My buddy and I almost got hit with the policemen’s truncheons because we tried to protect the injured activists and medical team assisting them. Shortly afterward, my friend got arrested when he was picking up his glasses. We formed a quick response team and did an indignation rally on the detainment place. About a hundred police officers forced us to disperse  using their shields and truncheons. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the police continued to chase us for more than 1 km. Going as far as entering a fast food chain that people in our group went into. I was crying so hard afterwards because I couldn’t believe that the state I live in was capable of such violent acts. Especially  when their mandate is to “serve and protect,” the people. None of the activists were armed, we were carrying placards and our desire for genuine social change; but the police continued their merciless tactics. Yes, I’ve seen violent rallies on television, but it never seemed real prior to that day. I was inconsolable afterwards, this experience had changed me. This was the start and reaffirmed my belief that freedom isn’t free. I now plan to dedicate my life fighting for freedom and equality.

(Photos Above) Seyra @ 2015 "Mud Walk" commemorating the suffering that the typhoon, "Haiyan" caused one year prior

Being an activist in the Philippines is no easy task. This is an extremely dangerous country for journalists, maybe even one of the worst. That’s what happens when you want the truth exposed. In my line of work I deal with endless contradictions on a daily basis, and activists see the brunt of it all. We don’t have salaries, only allowances to get us through. Yet, we adhere to a philosophy of tireless persuasion and simple living. This means our primary goals in life are not lavish. We stay strong, never getting discouraged in speaking out to the Philippine people, mobilizing and organizing them to fight for their rights. Everyday, I am inspired. This happens in the simplest of ways. At times I am merely listening to news, or talking to the victims of human rights violations. I distinctly remember once speaking with a mother of a desaparacido (activist who had disappeared, and  she was recounting how the army came to her home and demanded their activist son. They didn’t find him, so instead they took her non-activist son. He was never seen found again. It’s just terrible. More recently, I have been moved by the Lumad issue. This is an issue where hundreds of indigenous people are harassed, displaced and killed because their ancestral lands are rich in minerals. It is the state, the military and the transnational companies with private armies that are doing this. This needs to stop.

2015 "STAND UP" rally against budget cuts in Philippines Universities

2015 "STAND UP" rally against budget cuts in Philippines Universities

As you can see Seyra is an inspiring woman. Not everyone can be a full-time activist, but everyone can be a part-time one. There are so many causes out there begging for change and one person truly can make a difference. The next time you forget that, remember my wcw, Seyra Rico. Want to keep up with her on a more regular basis?

Blog: Pavements are Runways

Twitter: Seyra Rico

Instagram: Seyra Rico


This Wednesday's crush goes to the insanely talented founder of online boutique BLK+BLU, Madeline Perard. Madeline stands out to me for several reasons but most especially she is self made, and turned unfortunate circumstances into a flourishing business. Based in Kansas, Madeline manages her global client base ensuring each of her products has a limited number (no restocking!) ensuring the uniqueness of each item. Another fabulous aspect of BLK+BLU is that you will never find an item in excess of $100. The price point is fair, the return policy is excellent, and the quality of the products are guaranteed. Madeline wants the make fashion and style an accessible avenue for everyone as demonstrated in her pricing model. It's difficult to not notice the vast amount of products from emerging female designers. Madeline is someone who has your back, and someone that I deeply admire and feel lucky enough to know. She's as badass as her style is GRUNGYchic..

Madeline Perard, Founder @ BLK+BLU

Madeline Perard, Founder @ BLK+BLU

I was beyond pleased that I had the chance to sit down and chat with Madeline to gain first hand knowledge on how.. oh where do I even begin .. start a world wide online fashion boutique by yourself??! *hint* It's not something that just happens. Madeline had over 5 years of professional experience in the fashion industry working in the world of: Fashion PR, Apparel Marketing combined with a degree in Apparel Marketing and Fashion Events. I have learned a lot from this impressive woman, I have a feeling you will as well.

KM: How does one start an online retail business by themselves?

MP: Brain storm your niche and be committed. Ask a lot of questions especially about coding.

KM: What would you suggest for other young women who were interesting in pursuing a similar career path?

MP: Don't expect a sale or traffic right away, be prepared to explain who you are.

KM: What is a typical BLK+BLU customer like?

MP: Our customers vary I can't even pin point. Our target market is 18-34 and fashion forward.

KM: Where are you based out of?

MP: My office is at home!

KM: What is the meaning behind the name BLK+BLU? How did you think of it?

MP: I came up with BLK+BLU after thinking of a bruise and how you don't have to be sad when hurt, to instead focus on the pain that invented my idea to be my own boss. I also enjoyed the song blk & blu by Chase and status.

KM: Women of color have been significantly underrepresented in the fashion industry, on the runway, and as designers. How does Black and Blue help to change the status quo? Does it?

MP: BLK+BLU offers designer partnerships and has an amazing ambassador program where bloggers of all races are welcome. I think people seeing that we are beyond 'ghetto fabulous' and enjoy fashion forward, graceful pieces. Everything sold on black and blue is analyzed and picked by me. I would never sell anything I wouldn't want to be seen in.

KM: Do you think that women have an advantage over men in this industry? Why or why not?

MP: As women we are are very intuitive. What we offer each other is our relate ability. Trust is very important. We should rely on each for real testimonies.

KM: What is one thing that you find to be true that most people disagree with?

MP: As retailers we aren't just about the sale, at least not at BLK+BLU. We truly care and love when someone receives their product and it is exactly as described. Happiness is important to us. YOUR happiness is important to us.

KM: What were some of the biggest lessons that have impacted the way that you work? What were the lessons, and what was it like before and after?

MP: No man is an island, we all need help and now I have it! Before everything was on me and I started getting really overwhelmed. I now employ both Madison Moore and Erika Roberts - Fashion Students @ Kansas State University. 

KM: How did you make your first sale, what was it, and what was it like?

MP: It was a dress that has unfortunately sold out. The hardest thing about the first sale was being patient, it took time!

KM: As a woman and a successful entrepreneur, what do you think women should be doing in order to change the imbalance of power in not only business settings, but social ones as well?

MP: Be able to mentor and help others in areas you struggled in. As Arianna Huffington posed, "Why do we have to learn through trial and error? Why not learn from one another's mistakes?" I created BLK+BLU online after losing my job with at a company I was at for several years. Without being given a reason why I was let go, I decided to take control of my own life. Before I was all talk about wanting my own business and this change made me finally walk the talk. My overall mission is to be the #1 online destination for affordable fashion. I hope to be the next major women's retailer, online only! I am always looking to help other female entrepreneurs around the globe by offering a designer's program to help with exposure.

Thanks for stopping by for another #WCW and thanks to Madeline for being an inspiration to us all!



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