If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is what I say, so let me not hesitate in introducing you to yet another inspiring, black female. This time it’s the turn of Zeleka, a North London (Brap! Brap!), by way of Birmingham, mother of two, who has accumulated a string of awards under her belt and is currently running two successful events planning businesses.
After studying media and events planning at university, Zeleka decided to pursue a career in events. Her newest business, Zeleka Nadine, launched this earlier this year. Under this banner, she offers more of a, what you might call, conventional events planning service, ranging from full wedding planning and management to birthday parties to corporate product launches.
Going back in time, the experience of her Nan passing away when she was fifteen led to Zeleka setting up Your White Room, her first business (I told y’all this lady had two, remember! She’s a legit bawse. Full stop), a creative funeral planning service that focuses on improving our experience and approach to death and dying, through informing, inspiring and empowering both the living and the recently bereaved to create a unique and reflective celebration of their life. In answer to the “but…why?” question, Zeleka responds, “For me, it’s important to get people to start talking about the topic of death as a way of removing the stigma surrounding it. Once you have those conversations, people start to see death as a part of life and understand that we do have an expiry date and that’s what makes life so meaningful.” Can’t say fairer than that, can you?
I’ve been lucky enough not to have been too closely impacted by death yet, but I know that when I do, turning it into a celebration will be necessary. This is not uncommon in many African cultures, including my own Igbo culture, where celebration will follow immediate mourning for the dead. Let it be noted that when I eventually depart this life, rather than a solemn Queen Vic wake, I’d prefer a…well, we’ve all seen that famous New Orleans funeral scene in “Live and Let Die” (and if you haven’t, get onto YouTube after you’ve read this interview). Could I have a marching band playing me out to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” please? Cheesy or nah?
It’s taken me a while, due to all of that up there, but I have finally managed to get an interview out of her! Thanks Zeleka 🙂
Hey! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Zeleka Nadine Sutherland and I am the founder of Your White Room Ltd and Zeleka Nadine Events. I live in North London and have two daughters aged 9 and 5. I am an events planner. I plan and manage every element of your event, allowing you to relax, arrive and enjoy the day as a guest.
So you’re basically the black Jennifer Lopez, circa 2001 in The Wedding Planner, minus the falling in love with the groom part, right? Sounds fun! What time do you get up on a typical weekday morning?
5:30am. I have 10-15 minutes of quiet time when I might listen to some soothing music or meditate. (I use the Calm meditation app on my phone in the morning and if I’m walking to meetings.) Then I drink a bottle of water and brush my teeth, in that order 🙂 I leave for the gym at 5:45am, where I workout for 45 minutes so I can get back home before my partner leaves for work.
*Turns table over and roars* I’m done with you lot and your early rising tbh. So, it’s the crack of dawn and you’re back home. You’ve got 2 young daughters. They must feature in your morning routine?
Yes, my daughters have their own really good routine. Their alarm clock goes off at 6:30am. My youngest is in charge of turning it off (to ensure that she gets up!) They then both shower and dress themselves. My eldest is in charge of making breakfast for herself and her sister and they both pack their school lunches into their boxes (I prepare their lunch snacks the night before). My 9 year old knows her routine, but I still have a checklist for my 5 year old as she is easily distracted. Therefore, from the moment I get home, my morning consists of ensuring that they don’t get distracted or move at a snail’s pace.
These kids. Always trying to hold us back! So, once they’re no longer pretending to be snails, what time do you leave the house?
Between 8:15 and 8:30am, depending on whether I have a meeting scheduled or am working from home.
And on the days that you do work from home, when do you start working?
9:15am. On these days I tend to I block time out for one focused activity at a time. This could be writing a client proposal or generating processes to improve my client relationships and experiences.
Do you stop for lunch?
No. I make a packed lunch every morning to ensure I eat 2 sandwiches, some fruit, yoghurt and healthy snacks. It’s easily accessible food so I can work through or on the go.
Yo! This will never do! We need to do lunch more often, girl…make it an event! anyway, I digress. Please *gestures for Zeleka to continue*, go on…
I stop working at 1pm to sort any loose ends, respond to emails, etc. Unless I absolutely have to schedule something for the evening, I make sure I’m always home in time for the school run. Perks of working for yourself! I generally get outside the school gates for 2:30 -2:45pm to ensure that I can get a parking space close by. I collect my girls and go straight home to start on dinner.
Since your girls have your morning routine down, I’m expecting an equally efficient after-school routine too?
Yes, they empty out their lunch box and water bottles for the next day and get changed out of their school uniform. My 9 year old is in charge of setting the bath. They bath, get changed into their PJs and come downstairs. There’s no TV before or after school during the week, so they spend their time doing other things. My eldest gets homework on a Thursday, but my youngest doesn’t have any yet, so I encourage both of my girls to read every day. Depending on what I’m doing for dinner, we have an hour or so of girlie time.
Nothing less than expected. I’m hoping dinner is more of an event than lunchtime *side eyes*…
We eat dinner as a family at around 6:30pm. As a rule, I’m mostly home for dinner unless I have an event. I make the dinner in our house, but only cook on Mondays and Wednesdays, making enough for two days in order to cut down on my time in the kitchen.
*high five* I’m feeling smug on your behalf! What happens after dinnertime?
I get ready for the following day, before chilling out and doing any last minute biz tasks that are imperative to the following day. Meanwhile, bedtime for the girls is 7:30pm.
Ok, that 5:30am, wake up is still ringing in my ears. Given that you’ve been up for well over 12 hours by the time the girls go to bed, you must be KNACKERED! Do you get a chance to relax in the evening?
Yes. I read, take a bath and reflect on the day. Then I’m in bed between 9 and 10:30pm
Be honest, how heavily does social media feature in your day?
Too much! It’s a huge distraction that I have to consciously be aware of. The realisation came for me when my girls complained that I was always looking at my phone. So, now I try to find the balance. I’m off my phone in the mornings and when I pick the girls up from school, so they don’t tend to see me on it as much as they used to. I’m an Instagram surfer but that’s mainly due to business. And social media has helped my business. A lot of people have contacted me via my socials with events enquiries and I got the opportunity to appear on the BBC through someone finding me on Twitter.
You can watch Zeleka talking about Your White Room on the BBC here
And, you can connect with Zeleka and follow her journey on Instagram