‘Work I love and a rewarding family life’

Melanie Fieseler is a British business/career consultant and coach, and founder of Berlin-based WorkSmart. She is on a mission to help ambitious mums like herself successfully combine motherhood with building a fulfilling and rewarding career or business.

'Work I love and a rewarding family life'
Working mum photo: Shutterstock

How did you come up with this business idea?

For me, becoming a mother was a time of profound change. Despite the level of success I achieved in my corporate career before having children (which included Saatchi & Saatchi in London, and Head of Communication & Branding across North Asia for a major international corporation in Beijing), after a while of being a stay-at-home mum consumed by the gruelling everyday demands of motherhood, I began to question my skills and abilities.

Whilst work was still an important part of my identity after having children, my priorities changed and my ambitions and definition of success changed with it. Most of all I wanted the freedom and flexibility to fit my work around the needs of my family.

A few months after my first son was born, I set up Mr. Barnaby, a community for English-speaking parents with young children in Berlin. It was the opportunity for me to build a social network of like-minded people and have something of my own to focus on.

Over time as the community grew I slowly began to regain my sense of self and the value I bring and it was this, along with my desire to do the work I wanted to do on my own terms for the sake of me and my family, that led me to leaving the corporate world and following my dream to found my own business.

Through WorkSmart I hope to reach out to other women like me who are looking to do things differently. My aim is to give them the support and encouragement they need to reconnect to themselves and their potential after having children, to become bigger and bolder and unstoppable in their pursuit of finding a work role they love and successfully combine it with raising a family.

What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?

Having the stamina and self belief to constantly pick yourself up. There's no one patting you on the back or giving you bonuses when you are running your own show – it's just you.

Getting my brand out there on a limited budget has been tough. Social media has been my saviour – it’s inexpensive and a very effective way of reaching my target audience.

How has the journey been so far?

For me it’s been an amazing journey of growth. I have learnt more over the past year running my own business than the 15 years I spent in the corporate world. Hands on experience is priceless.

I’m excited about continuing my journey in 2015. I’ve just launched a new group called MumsLikeUs and in February I’m starting a six-week course called Ready, Steady, Launch. It’s a course for women who have a great business idea, but are not sure what to do next.

How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?

Helping mums like me realise their ambitions – to use their skills and experience to do work they love whilst creating the life they envision for themselves and their families – has given me an immense sense of reward and fulfilment.

I’ve been lucky enough to find the best of both worlds – work I love and a rewarding family life – and now I want to help other mums do the same, and together build a better future for working mothers.

Any other personal reflections or message to budding entrepreneurs?

All you need to do is begin, it doesn't have to be perfect. With one small step everyday, and lots of passion, persistence and determination, your dreams will turn into reality.

And once you’re on your way, remember you can’t do it alone. Ask for help, and advice. People love to give both and it can have immeasurable effects on your work and life.

I think women in particular tend to forget to do this while trying to do and have it all.

A new perspective or an extra set of hands does not make you less of an independent business person, it makes you a much better one.


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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.