Lesley Salem is the founder of Over The Bloody Moon, a one stop destination for peri-menopause. Services include 1 hour live Masterclasses, on a range of topics, from Managing Stress or Hot Flushes through to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in the workplace. They also cater to the 55% of women who prefer to go online to discover ways to feel better.
The House is another popular service - a growing digital self-care platform which gives women resources, films and tools of the trade from leading experts to achieve positive transformation at this stage of life. Members of The House can enjoy live events and community connections with other women around the world in peri-menopause. Born during lock-down, the company has built a compelling series of programmes designed to empower not just those who are on their menopause journey, but their partners, families and colleagues too.
We loved learning more about the drive behind the venture, Lesley’s own reflections on what works and what doesn’t at this stage of life - and her ambitions for the future. We know you’ll enjoy the conversation too.
With love, the MPowder Team.
First, tell us what motivated you to start your business.
‘The beginning of this journey began two years ago. I decided to come off the pill to see if I was still menstruating at the same time as beginning a new agency role. I immediately started to feel tired, have hot flushes and night sweats, low mood and anxiety. It took me a year before I put the pill and oestrogen withdrawal together and worked out I was in peri-menopause. Less than a year after I started my new job, I decided I needed to take time out to give myself breathing space.
I’ve always worked. I took less than 6 months off for my first two daughters and started my own consultancy business a month after my third! My pace has a tendency to operate in fifth gear. At my low point I realised I was no longer feeling nourished. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled at work and my own family relationships needed attention. In order for me to decide what to do next, I needed time. I took a brave move to just take a pause without necessarily knowing what I was going to do next. I trusted my instincts that space would give me the imagination and creativity to work out what my new purpose would be.
During my time off, I fell into what I know best. Research. I’m a data geek by trade, so I started by looking at what was behind my symptoms and the science that triggered them. As I searched for information, I found a gap. There were forums for menopause, but I found the conversations quite negative which only served to make me feel worse. And when it came to published articles, I became even more confused. I wasn’t sure whether to believe product-sponsored articles, and it seemed that for every article that recommended a treatment, there was another that disputed that. I went to journals and medical papers that clinicians and health specialists looked at but these trusted sites were really dry. For my own personal experience, I was looking for a destination where women could share positive stories of transformation and get access to experts to arm themselves with knowledge and solutions. It didn’t exist, so I ended up on a 3-month sabbatical talking to British menopause specialists, health and wellness practitioners, authors and other experts that work with women during peri-menopause, taking notes - and in the process created my own self-care toolbox to get me thriving again. Over The Bloody Moon is a vehicle for me to share my acquired knowledge with the world.
The name is a literal analogy, a reflection of the connection between our menstrual cycle and the moon. But it can be interpreted in different ways. There can be a mix of jubilation and resignation at this life stage. Some days you are on a high. Other days are not so rosy. Over The Bloody Moon recognises the good and bad days. And it has punch, which is important to me;
‘There is an activism to what I do. I would argue that self-care is a feminist act. It’s about putting ourselves to the top of the priority list for a change. Our brand says ‘I’m not going to be invisible. I deserve attention.’
We are socialised to be compliant. To de-prioritise ourselves. But if we are to care for others, we have to have the strength and energy to ‘give’. I have a quote that I inherited from a conversation with one of my Fellows on the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ programme I’m on which is;
‘If women thrive, communities thrive’
How has midlife influenced your outlook towards work and life?
I believe that two things happen in midlife for many of us: we realise we don’t ‘need’ to please and we realise that we have accumulated knowledge and wisdom that we can put to good work. The stepping up, the desire to be a role model, or to share what you’ve learned with others can come from these realisations.
I’ve become much more value driven and purpose-led over time. What is important to me now is to feel part of and contribute to community and to create a social impact. But in getting to where I am now, there was definitely a ‘messy middle’! A period where I had to accept what I was doing was no longer making me fulfilled.
‘Not knowing what to do next is unsettling. It can affect our drive. It can lead to self-doubt. But recognising it as a transition - and being compassionate and curious takes the pressure off. And, when you have the direction set, that sense of authenticity becomes the fuel that drives you forward.’
I’ve also learned to say no and to trust my wisdom and experience in making that decision. I now make time for reflection.
What correlation, if any, do you see between age and ambition?
It depends on personality. I’ve always been ambitious and like to keep my mind busy and growing. But, as I’ve aged, ambition has become about leaving a legacy for my daughters. Social impact is at the heart of Over The Bloody Moon. And that means there is an element of service. I’ve had to listen and to shift to deliver what is really needed. From a business vision that was about delivering curated research and programmes where women feel empowered because they are informed and equipped. It’s about providing different spaces and experiences to allow women to learn and discover what they need for their peri-menopause transition in a way that works for them. For some that will be individual, whilst others will prefer to share and discover in a tribe.
As a market researcher, you learn to facilitate; you’re an enabler, an active listener. And that is still what I do today. It is the most wonderful job because every day I’m hearing and chatting to women in my community. I’m iterating, refining and adapting all the time. And I am honestly inspired every day too.
What has the journey of building this business, in this stage of life, taught you?
I feel very supported by my 14 Resident Advisors that cover every spectrum of what it means to be a woman during peri-menopause. So, when I interview and chat to them, I always come away with new learning and nuggets of wisdom. I’m always developing new content with them. But perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is how to navigate and embrace change myself. My top tips are:
- Listen: the first thing is about tuning in and tracking how you feel. We encourage our community to get We spend most of our lives disconnected from our bodies and our mind, focusing on others’ needs. Taking the time to listen and to be curious about what is happening, is so valuable. You start to notice patterns. Then you can see the triggers behind the not so good days and the rocking days. It brings in an element of science to the transition too. As a result, women can understand what is behind the changes. Knowing that what you’re experiencing is underpinned by biology, normalises how you feel. It also means we have the potential to control and manage around 80% of what is going on. Knowing that is a powerful first step.
- Recognise that this timeline is not linear: We often see our lives on a straight line or trajectory path. One of the reasons I refer to peri-menopause as the messy middle is because there is no longer a straight path ahead of us. What I've learned is to experiment and be curious about the detours.
- Talk to those around you: Talking to others further on can help you understand and accept that discomfort and vulnerability are an essential part of the journey. But it is also important to remember that, whilst it is your journey, you operate in an ecosystem, people around us will need compassion too - they need help to stay with us on the journey.
What are your aspirations for your business over the next 24 months?
My goal is to be a global, top-of-mind destination for education, research and self-care in peri-menopause, and to be a community that helps women and those around them thrive during their transition – to set them up now for a happier, healthier and brighter future.
What do you wish your younger self had known about:
Life: Life isn’t perfect. It’s a journey of tales, misadventures and opportunities to learn.
Love: One person can’t give you everything. Choosing the right partner isn’t about them offering what you are running away from. Learn to bend.
Health: Always prioritise health. Tune in and track. See it as a gift. Pursue it as a route for joy, rather than something punitive. Never feel guilty about spending on health. There are multiple facets of health – physical, emotional, sexual, social – all need to be nurtured.
Work: Make sure it’s an area that fits with your values. Be driven by passion. Invest and retain relationships and networks.
What would be your key advice to women transitioning through menopause today? What practical steps could they take to better support their bodies and minds?
Start with small steps;
‘Work out an easy place to start from and be compassionate if you stumble. If you have a habit already, there will be a neuro-pathway there already - so a groove is made, great! - do it again.’
With habit change the first element is setting a cue. So, if you want to do more exercise, put your trainers out by your bed. And the second thing is to weave in reward. It is important that pleasure is woven in. Celebrate the steps. Make a note of what you’ve done.
- View this is a time of opportunity, creation, experimentation and positivity
- Create a Nourishment List
- Carve out time - schedule in a balance of activities
- Communicate, share, bring others in on your journey
- Know who are your nearest and dearest and have them on speed dial
- It’s the journey not the end point
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the MPowder community about our second spring?
- Your second life begins when you realise you only have one (Confucius not me!)
- Create space – this allows for creativity and imagination
- Confront your fears head on, so you can learn to live with them or cast them aside (inspired by Brené Brown)
Finally, we're living through unprecedented times. What counsel are you giving to your clients about managing their health during this period?
We are looking for control and distraction, so as long as we are moderate in our approach, there’s never been a better time to kick start healthy habits.