Entries in empower (3)



February 1, 2013

Deepali's latest blog on the Working Mum's website.  Please click on the link to view it.



Elixir of Life

July 6, 2012:

Geeta Sidhu-Robb, a mother of three, is CEO of Nosh, a company promoting health and wellbeing through nutritional programs.  Geeta has an extremely supportive partner and her oldest, twenty-three year-old manages Nosh’s social media.  Geeta is warm and extremely approachable.  She can be reached on www.noshdetox.com. 

I met up with Geeta Sidhu-Robb at Pret A Manger.  I had sent her an email asking if I could have a telephonic chat with her so that I could tell my audience her story.  I thought it would inspire many a woman out there.  She replied generously saying she would be happy to meet for a coffee.  Geeta was as warm and personable in the real world as she had sounded virtually.  In customary fashion, we exchanged business cards.  It was the first of its kind I had seen – a little pouch almost like a lotion sample.  It had her details on the front – Geeta Sidhu-Robb, CEO, Nosh.  On the back, it said, “Nosh Superfood Formula – a natural, immune boosting food, powder packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes to help boost you and energize you.  Take one a day, before 6pm.”  I found myself thinking.  Had Geeta just handed me the “Elixir of Life” often referred to as the Ras, the substance referred to, in the Hindu scriptures, as believed to maintain life indefinitely.  The Hindu Scriptures also ironically called the Gita. 

Geeta is Indian from Africa, quite different to the Indian Indians.  For one they have less of a connection to India and second, most of them have a twang which is quite different to the Indian accent (no offence to the readers, my husband is one too).  Geeta definitely confessed to the former and I can say for a fact she does not have the latter!  She grew up in Malawi and came to London at fifteen to live with her aunt.  She went on to university and trained to be a corporate lawyer.  Her husband and she worked together and were successful enough to afford all the luxuries she could have ever dreamed of.  Geeta stood for Parliament and was the first Asian woman in the Tory party.  She left politics since it was too political and also too invading to her private life.  She also left an unhappy marriage and walked out the door with three children in private school and two hundred pounds in her back pocket.  Also atypically Indian, she took with her some jewellery, she thought she could fall back on.  Geeta had not a penny to her name and also had nowhere to go.  A good friend took her on and let them use her couch while she tried to figure out her life.

Necessity is the mother of invention they say.  A lawyer by training but an entrepreneur at heart, Geeta innovated right from the start.  Geeta started teaching children yoga at schools.  Geeta worked in television.  Geeta worked for a pharmaceutical company where she negotiated a pay-cut such that the company could assist her with a lease on a flat.  Geeta also pawned her jewellery.  Geeta did what she could to keep her children in school.  That was the only thing on her mind.  During this time, Geeta launched the first incarnation of Nosh; delivering healthy lunches to schools.  Things turned sour again and soon after she lost her job and with it, the lease on her flat.  She picked up the pieces again and using her training in law this time, went on to negotiate telecom licenses in Africa.  It helped her get her children a roof again and she decided to try her hand at re-inventing Nosh.    

NOSH as it stands today, stands for Natural, Organic, Safe and Healthy.  It is a company, which focuses on health and wellbeing by prescribing nutritional programs, supplements and therapies.  It is the same company that as I write (and you read), is in the process of bringing the first raw smoothie to supermarkets in the UK.  Her philosophy at Nosh is to hire young people and nurture them.  She spares no expense when it comes to training her employees and also personally mentors three to five women at any one time.  She is a big supporter of female entrepreneurs and believes they are where the future lies.  She personally supports the Kids Company (www.kidsco.org), a charity providing educational and emotional support to vulnerable, inner city children and a percentage of the proceeds from juices sold at Nosh also goes to Kids Co.. 

Geeta’s two goals for the next few years are:  firstly, to be one of the five richest women in the world and secondly, to raise one million pounds for the Kids Company over the next five years.  “Making money goes hand in hand with helping people”, she says.  Her advice to women out there who are trying to make it on their own is “ if you can see it and believe it, you can surely achieve it”.

Geeta might or might not have handed me the “Elixir of Life” but she has definitely handed me many pearls of wisdom, not dissimilar to what is written in the Gita.  “Find a cause bigger than yourself, never give up and the world is your oyster”, she says.  “Each person is born with a different fingerprint and it is time to leave yours.”  Our legacy remains for years to come, creating for us, an indefinite life. 

Thanks Geeta for that much needed boost of vitamins, minerals and enzymes - your warmth, your wisdom and your wonderful words.   


Alice in Wonderland

June 19, 2012:

I met jewellry designer Alice Cicolini a few weeks ago. She was showcasing her wonders at an event. As she moved to open up the glass cabinet where her jewellry was on display, I felt my heart skip a beat. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my jewels and it was like she was about to unlock Pandora’s box for me. I was a little girl in a candy store, all over again.

Born and raised in North London, Alice grew up in a very creative home. Her parents taught history; her mother wrote poetry and also painted as a hobby. The walls of her home were adorned with William Morris wallpaper. William Morris (1834-1896), for those who don’t know him, was a leading member of the arts and crafts movement in the 1800s. He massively opposed the mass production of items in a factory. It led to what he believed to be the alienation of design from production, resulting in a lack of individuality. He was definitely not a big fan, in fact not a fan at all, of the Industrial Revolution.

Alice began her career with a degree in costume and design. She worked in public relations, which she believed to be fundamentally soul-less. She went on to work with furniture designer Tom Dixon who was Head of Design at Habitat and that was where Alice soon made her new home. Co-incidentally, soon after she met Emily Campbell, the British Council’s first Head of Design & Architecture at the Milan Furniture Fair, a connection which ultimately led Alice to India and to being Head of Arts & Culture at the British Council in New Delhi.

India, which for little Alice had been the Far Pavilion, full of danger, intrigue and romance, was where she lived for the next four years. During this time, she worked on a mentoring project for creative entrepreneurs, amongst many others, and also spearheaded a production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s dream in multiple different languages, all at the same time. The production brought together many different artists from many different regions across the country and was something original that had never been staged previously. During her stay in India, she also completed the second year of a two-year jewellry design programme, which she convinced Central Saint Martin’s to let her do via distance learning. She graduated with a Masters in jewellry design in 2009.

Soon after, Alice began creating her jewels – bold and beautiful, bright and colourful. She decided to revive a dying, heritage craft and work with one of the last remaining meenakari artisans in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Meenakari is a 200-year-old Indian enamel craft tradition with its origins in Persia. It has been passed down from father to son and very few remaining artisans are now proficient in the trade. During this time, Alice also had a baby girl, forging another connection which she shares with the country that she now owns a business in.

Alice has since relocated back to London and runs her business from afar. She has not only managed to bring a historic tradition in Indian jewellry to a Western audience, which would otherwise have limited access to this specialised product; in reverse and even more laudably, she has created a passage for an artisan who lives in a small city in India to a world he would have never been able to dream of selling to. She has magnified his world a zillion fold.

Through long-distance travel and the use of modern technology, Alice is able to manage her business from many miles away. The artisan she works with has now set up an email and a Skype account in order to communicate with her and now also has a Facebook account in order to share his works with the rest of the world. Alice continues to market him with pride.

William Morris not only penetrated Alice’s parental walls as a child, but also had an impact on her psyche and philosophy, leading to what she has managed to create today – jewellry, which is truly individual, designed, crafted and one-of-a-kind. She has created her own true wonderland.