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Social Entrepreneur Rosi Viljoen: “Time To Draw Our Midlife Map”

Social Entrepreneur Rosi Viljoen: “Time To Draw Our Midlife Map”

5 min read

After 20 years in the Luxury Travel Industry working for a Global Financial Services company, Rosi Viljoen decided to execute her own ‘midlife pivot’. Drawing on her experience in Business Development, partnerships and marketing, she jumped in at the deep end, to co-create The Midlife Hub, a social enterprise on a mission to help people live their (mid)lives to the fullest.

Rosi, you decided to re-orientate your career in midlife and launched The Midlife Hub with your co-founder, Deb Pasley. What sparked the need or desire for change in your life?

I had spent much of my ‘early’ adulthood busy being someone’s ‘other’; daughter, sister, wife, mother. Busy juggling life. Don’t get me wrong, many of those adulthood boxes had been ticked. Husband, house, kids, a great job in an industry that I loved, but in my late 30s, I started to have this niggling voice that said ‘what about you, what do YOU want?’. Over the next few years, as my kids started to grow up and give me a little bit of space back in my life, that voice got louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it. Layer this with a (delightful) raft of perimenopausal symptoms and I was feeling pretty lost and confused. I decided I needed to put myself first and take some time out to really think about what my next 20 years looked like.

What have been the biggest pros and cons for you, going from the corporate world to being an “entrepreneur” in a social enterprise? Do you feel that the latter suits your midlife better? If so, why?

I love the speed of ‘getting things done’ which is much more possible when you run your own business. You can make decisions quickly, test and learn different ways of doing things, fail fast, be able to react to challenges quickly. Having ultimate control over our mission, voice and brand is really empowering. Working in a large global business has given me so many skills and experiences that I’ll be forever grateful for, but nothing beats watching your own vision come to life.

What is the mission of The Midlife Hub and how successfully do you feel you have been able to implement it so far?

We launched The Midlife Hub, as a social enterprise only four months ago, in May of this year, and very simply we’re on a mission to help people live their best midlife.  My business partner Deb and I are both passionate about helping people have a better experience of reaching midlife than we did. We’ve had such a positive response to what we are building, with many people telling us ‘this is sooo needed’.

According to you, how does the Midlife Hub differ from other websites that deal with midlife topics? You are currently focusing your directory services on the UK market, do you have plans to open your services to other countries as well?

Both Deb and I are action-oriented, and that theme runs strongly throughout what we’re creating. We want to enable people to take practical steps in managing their wellbeing. We’ve created a directory of midlife services and events, so people can find the support that’s right for them. We’ve hand-picked some of the best midlife focused services around and for us, it is important that they specialise in midlife because your outlook and needs in life are likely to be very different in this stage than when you were 21. The midlife services we feature range widely; from personal trainers to life coaches, career advisors and stylists, from nutritionists to wellbeing services to name just a few. They’re all experts in their field and they’ve all passed our 6-point checklist so you can rest assured they are qualified and credible. Many of them offer online and in-person sessions, so location shouldn’t be a barrier. Having said that, our first goal is UK coverage. We had an enquiry from Australia just the other day, so the relevance of what we are doing definitely stretches further than our shores!

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You are an advocate of planning and as a service on your site, you offer a Midlife Map. Can you tell us a bit more about it? Why do you feel planning your midlife is important?

Sometimes if you’re feeling a bit lost, it can be overwhelming, or hard to even find the energy to know where to start. That’s why we created the Midlife Map. It’s a free service helping people reflect on where they are now, and work out where they want to go. No algorithms, no canned responses. Just a personalised and confidential plan of what’s important for each person and we wrap it up with a couple of manageable next steps, so that they can start putting that plan into action. We’re not telling people they need a grand, ‘all singing, all dancing’ 10-year plan, and like all good plans, the Midlife plan can change and flex as you progress, but putting ideas down on paper and thinking through how to make them a reality is a really good way to work out what’s important to you and how to get started.

Many people who participated in your pre-launch midlife research wear put off by your inquiry and responded that they are not middle-aged, even though they are in their forties or fifties. Why do you think there is such a resistance to the term Midlife? What are you doing to change the mindset and narrative into a more positive one?

Culturally ‘to be in your midlife’ is often seen as a negative or a point of ridicule, and this feeds our collective psyche that to admit to having a ‘midlife’ crisis is a shameful or an inherent failure. We fundamentally disagree. Yes, midlife is a time of transition and change, but it’s also a time when you can really step into your power and shape your own future, and that message is a cornerstone of our brand.

Midlife is a time in which we would love to explore new paths but at the same time, we find it difficult to leave our comfort zone. What would you suggest to women feeling stuck in the middle of their journey?

It can be really hard to ask for help. But there is no shame in admitting you don’t know something. None of us are experts in everything. If you had a leaking toilet you’d get a plumber in to fix it. Why wouldn’t you treat your own emotional and physical wellbeing the same way, and ask for professional support? You don’t have to do it alone.

Ageism is a prejudice we should all try to challenge. Have you experienced this form of discrimination? What advice would you give other women who are discriminated based on their age?

The best advice I can give is to own your age. Age for me means wisdom and experience, and it is attitude that matters. I don’t like labels and refuse to be put into an ‘age’ box. Our society does tend towards the celebration of youth; so as empowered women in our middle-adulthood, we need to spread the message that the ‘second spring’ is a great place to be.

What has been your own biggest midlife revelation?

The sheer sense of liberation of caring less about what people think of me. I spent too many years trying to live up to others’ expectations, and I think this held me back. As I get older I care less and less, and it’s a joy.

The most courageous step you’ve taken so far in your journey? Or one you’d like to take in the near future?

Being more selfish has probably been one of the ‘bravest’ things I’ve tried to be over the last few years, as it runs counter to my natural tendency to be a people pleaser. But investing in me and my own self-care has been a revelation and I heartily recommend it!

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