Interview with an Online Editor – Shelli Nurcombe-Thorne

I find it fascinating to discover Women who love their Work and love to hear more about how they have found a way to have a satisfying career doing something they love. Shelli Nurcombe-Thorne, is one of these inspiring women. She is the founder of Velocity Media and the editor of and Joburg’s Darling (recently voted Best Blog at the Best of Joburg Leisure Options Readers’ Choice Awards 2012). The idea behind Joburg’s Darling is that it is your very best friend – one who will quite happily give you the inside scoop on where to go, what to do and what to buy in Joburg! It is an extension of the popular newsletter, which is emailed each week to over 180,000 readers. WOW what amazing success – Congrats Shelli. I’m dying to know more… If you are too, read on!

When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
Like so many things in life, discovering this career path was a happy accident! I was working as the PR & Marketing Manager for an IT company ten years ago when they offered me the chance to launch a women’s online newsletter called Femail. It soon became the highlight of my job, and I became entranced with the idea of connecting in a very real way with people via their inboxes. Two years later, I resigned and went out on my own. Thankfully I have an incredibly supportive husband or I am not sure I would have been brave enough to take such a big step!

What did you study – was it in this field or something different?
I actually studied teaching – a BA (HDE) – and taught English and Speech & Drama for four years. They were actually the most rewarding years of my life – but I knew I had a deep passion for writing and needed to pursue that dream.

What was your first job in the industry? and what path has your career taken since?
After leaving teaching, I worked in the loyalty industry for a company that launched the first non-banking credit card in South Africa. I was there for a year before moving to an IT company as their PR & Marketing Manager. I left three years later to set up my own company.

What have been the highlights?
Definitely designing my own life. As a mother, it is invaluable having the freedom to fetch my child from school and the luxury of choosing to work from home when the need arises. I also love the freedom that comes with owning your own business – there is no red tape involved which means that you can go with your gut when making decisions or branching out. The fact that our various newsletters have been so well-received makes all the hard work worthwhile, not to mention having a team that goes above and beyond their job descriptions on a daily basis!

What’s the best part of your job?
Probably the variety of experiences that it provides. I will be going head-to-head with other bloggers to create a dream pizza one week and reviewing a game reserve the next. Life is never boring!

What is the most challenging part?
In the online environment, everything moves so fast that you always need to be innovating or you will be left behind. Our mandate of being the “go to” people on where to go and what to do in Joburg always keeps us on our toes!

What is your typical day, or maybe week if days are very different?
Despite the wide variety of events and experiences, there is a structured routine around my week. Mondays are work-from-home days – I never attend meetings on Mondays so that I can put my head down, make a To Do list for the week ahead, work on copywriting deadlines and write the newsletter for the next day. Tuesdays are newsletter days, so much of the afternoon is spent testing and proofing it before it goes out. Wednesday are less structured and usually involve meetings or heading out to find material for my Joburg’s Darling blog. Thursdays involve editorial, sales and strategy meetings (and watching my daughter’s karate lessons) and Fridays are left open for meetings, functions or catching up on my inbox!

What are the “secrets” to your success?
Probably playing to my strengths, hiring the world’s best General Manager (who is a real make-it-happen person), keeping my priorities firmly in check so that my family always comes first, and learning from the excellence in others – we all need role models, no matter how old we get!

As a mom how do you get the balance between your family and career life right? Your tips and tricks?
Any mom who tells you she is getting the whole work-life balance right is probably either lying to you or to herself! It is always a challenge and I am filled with admiration for those women who make it work on a daily basis. For me, possibly the best thing I ever did was to focus on quality and not quantity – so I leave my cell phone in the car when fetching my daughter from school and always give her the hugest hug when I get there. That drive home is also invaluable because I get to hear all the news about that day. I have also learnt that eye contact is vital – it forces me to focus on her completely instead of trying to do ten things at once, and I try to do at least one thing a day that is important to her.

What do you do for fun in your down time?
I love reading! So much of what I do involves sharing so much of myself with others that I often crave solitude! So I read hectically scary thrillers, bake something completely fattening, spend hours browsing through antique or vintage stores or spend one-on-one time with friends. I’m quite easy to please that way!

What do you still want to achieve for your career?
That’s a tough question, because I am quite often torn! There is a big part of me that would love to have my own Talk Show (I am fascinated with everyone’s “story” – whether you are a petrol pump attendant or high flying businesswoman). I would also love to study criminology and write a nail-bitingly scary book! Then again, I am always happiest when I am with my family, so perhaps what I have right now suits me the best. I guess that as long as I am always contributing to people’s lives and leaving them better than before, I will consider myself successful.

Thank you Shelli for taking part in my Women at Work series – so lovely to “get to know you”!

And if YOU happen to be in the Joburg area this Festive Season you might like to get some tips of things to do (with or without kids) from the expert – Joburg’s Darling herself! Click here to read Shelli’s latest newsletter that shares some Top Tips For Festive Season Entertainment in Joburg

Images: Shelli Nurcombe-Thorne

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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