Very Inspiring Women Series: Melissa Clark-Reynolds

October 30, 2018

Self-made, successful and highly inspirational, Melissa Clark-Reynolds is what some would call a socialpreneur.  From being the youngest woman in New Zealand to attend university (Massey University at age 15 in 1980), to creating and fully realizing socially and environmentally conscious businesses, to being one of only two New Zealanders chosen to present Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, she has truly made a global impact for good in the world of business, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Today, Melissa combines her passion for protecting the environment with helping large corporations to prepare for and protect the future. Forbes Magazine have named her as one of 10 women entrepreneurs to watch! 

Melissa is the first very inspiring woman to be featured in our blog interview series featuring the women we look to as role models for being our true confident selves. She is down-to-earth, funny and so engaging, we could have spent all day with her (who are we kidding, we want her as our new BFF!)  Our half hour with Melissa flew by way too quickly, but the impression she left is indelible.

 

WT: How do you describe yourself when people ask you what you do for a living?

MCR: I spend half my time as a professional director and half my time thinking about futures – I work for New Zealand Centre for the Future where I work with companies who want to create their own futures, and not be victim to changes beyond their control.

As a futurist, I’m on the board of companies like Jasmax, Beef & Lamb NZ, Kiwi Insurance and I chair the LINZ Risk and Audit Committee. My role is to direct these companies, which have a huge impact on the economy as well as the environment, to stay future focused. 

Right now, I’m thinking about “What does the future of ‘the home’ look like?” What is our plumbing and electrical going to look like in 10 or 20 years’ time and what will tradespeople need to know. Basically I just want people to thrive in the future, and to not be victims of it.  Disruptors are coming and I want people to be prepared. I don’t want anyone left behind.

 

WT: What’s the proudest moment of your journey so far?

MCR: Before I became a director, I was an entrepreneur for 20 plus years.  I remember being incredibly proud in those times where I’d look around the office seeing big teams of people working on something that we’d created from nothing. 

I’m proud of taking my teams out for Christmas dinner, whether it was a small team or a team of 300 or more people – we’d have Christmas dinner at my house, or a picnic, or at a beautiful organised event.

Of course, I’m incredibly proud of my children, but in terms of my own accomplishments, it’s that I’ve been able to provide for people.  My dad, who’s an academic, once said I was the least creative of his children.  I think he just didn’t understand how creating businesses and organisations can be incredibly creative work.  We get to design it the way we want it.  I’ve always had toys in my offices, my kids came to work with me and they turned out more than okay. I still got stuff done – and done well.  I made my businesses work for me.

 

WT: What women past/present most inspires you? And why?

MCR: Oh there’s so many!  I’m a trustee for the Hillary Institute and they give prizes for people working in climate change.  This years’global Hillary Laureate is Meagan Fallone, the CEO of Barefoot College International in India.They help communities and individuals to have agency in their lives and communities. She’s just incredibly inspirational to me. 

Then there’s Cindy Gallop who’s taking on women’s sexuality in a full frontal way.

Oh and I just love the The Aunties. I have so much admiration for women like Aunty Jackie – for supporting women in domestic violence like she does.

Moana Maniapoto and her new Wahine Toa video, she’s bringing women up with her. I just loved her latest music video showing candid photos of all the strong, everyday wahine in her life. Wahine toa, warrior women inspire me.

For me, it goes back to the Diana from Roman mythology, the goddess of the hunt –  she always had a pack of women around her.  So different to the Athena character, who sort of did things on her own in a man’s world.  I’m inspired by women who have a pack of women around them.

For women past, reading Virginia Wolfe had an incredible impact on the way I thought about my own life.

  

WT: What is your favourite or last book you read, OR podcast you listened to, OR person you like following, that you would recommend?

MCR:  My Favourite book at the moment that I’ve been telling all my friends to read is Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik.  It’s a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. It’s in the fantasy/mythology genre.  There are three main women, whose threads sort of come together. 

I’m also telling everyone to read Children of Time byAdrian Tchaikovsky.  This is really interesting and explores evolutionary biology by looking at spiders evolving in space.  I’m fascinated by AI at the moment and, as a futurist, I’m also asking questions that are kind of outside our normal way of thinking.  Like with AI, we think of it in our own image, so I was thinking: What does the AI of a dog…or what would the AI a spider look like?

As far as non-fiction:  Homo Deus by Noah Harari.  You should read its prequel, Sapiens, to get the full picture. Sapiens shows us where we’ve been and Homo Deus asks us where we’re going by exploring the question, “What is it like when we control technology?” 

 

WT: What do you do to relax/in your down time?

MCR: In the summer, I swim in the sea as much as I possibly can.  I used to be a competitive swimmer but I got over being in the pool at some point, and dealing with all the chlorine, and just wanted to be in the sea.  And living in Wellington, you really have to be intrepid to do so.  One of my favourite things is swimming out somewhere around Oriental Bay and looking back at the city from the water.

I also keep bees, which is kind of funny because where I live isn’t exactly a “bee-keeping” kind of neighbourhood.  It’s not a business or anything, I just give the honey away to friends and family and it’s just something I find really interesting and fun.  I love gardening and putting my hands in the earth.  Earth, sea and soil, that’s me.

 

WT: What’s something really brave you have done that in hindsight you can’t believe you did but are really glad you did?

MCR: I stalked Al Gore to the ends of the earth!  I didn’t give up until I’d gotten a place in his work to present the slideshow from An Inconvenient Truth. 

It was volunteer, so I took a big risk doing that, I basically gave up my job at the time and income to do what I felt I needed to do for the planet.  I knew that doing things on an individual level just wasn’t going to make a difference.  I mean I was already doing all the things I was told I should do: I recycled, I didn’t use plastic, and all the rest of it, but change was going to have to happen at a government level or it wasn’t going to happen at all. 

We’re at a crisis point now, and governments just aren’t doing enough to make the radical changes that are required.  But Al Gore’s program did get them to pay attention and I’m really glad I did that.  It enriched my life immensely.  I just thought, if not me, then who?

 

WT: We are about empowering women and know that what you wear has a big impact on how you feel. What was your favourite outfit growing up, why was it your favourite/ why did it make you feel that way? OR do you have a go to outfit that you put on when you need to feel your best?

MCR: Well, first of all I absolutely love fabric – natural fabric with texture and beauty.  I’m not talking surface beauty, it has to have a core beauty, an internal aesthetic, like it has its own point of view of some sort. If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I think I’d be a fabric importer or something.  Oh, and I love colour!  I probably have a lot less clothes than some people I know because I refuse to buy fast fashion.  It just ends up in landfills. Even if it’s given away to charity shops, it eventually ends up in landfills, and because so much of it is petroleum based, it just stays on the planet forever.

I love wool, and I think New Zealand does a fantastic job at that.  I just bought some Italian wool suiting online from Zegna, and saw that it was made from Australian Merino – so the product I bought from Italy was made from natural material from our part of the world.  I love that. 

Both my grandmother and my mother sewed.  There are two events that stand out in my mind where what I was wearing was just the ultimate.  The first one was an event where my mother agreed to make me a velvet maxi-skirt and cape.  I was nine or ten and this was the 70’s.  There were tiny rose-coloured daisies all over it, like those tiny ones in your yard.  It felt amazing that it was made just for me.  The second one, also made by my mother, was a silver lame, floor-length skirt that I wore to a flash wedding.  I wore my grandmother’s crystal beads and I just felt like the most glamourous thing in the universe.

My go-to outfit – because of what I do, I wear a lot of separates and suits, but they don’t have to be like 90’s business armor. Right now I have an amazing bright yellow dress that I wear with a gold velvet jacket and boots, and it just makes me feel beautiful and invincible and environmentally responsible. I like high quality natural fibre clothes, I hate fast fashion, and would rather have less clothes that are higher quality than more cheap clothing that is costing us the earth.  You know, what you wear - it speaks to who you are.

 

Wilson Trollope is all about inspiring women to be their confident selves. Each month we are interviewing confident women to share their stories as inspiration to us all.

Wellingtonian Melissa Clark-Reynolds is a social entrepreneur, professional company director and futurist.  As a board member of Jasmax, Beef & Lamb NZ, Kiwi Insurance, and Chair of LINZ Risk and Audit Committee, her passionate social conscious and creative problem solving skills influence the future directions of some of New Zealand’s largest industries.

Melissa has been the founder and chief executive of several IT companies (Looxie, MiniMonos, PayGlobal, Intaz, GMV Associates – which is now Fusion), and she was one of only two New Zealanders chosen by former US Vice President Al Gore to present his gripping slideshow about the effect of climate change, An Inconvenient Truth. 

Forbes Magazine named her as of the top-10 female company founders to watch in 2012, and in 2015 she was awarded an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Currently, she is working with BRANZ to identify disruptive business models in the construction industry around the world. 

Images supplied.

 

If you have an inspiring story to tell, or know of other women who do, please get in touch, we’d love to interview you.

 


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WILSON TROLLOPE SIZE CHART
Body measurements of Wilson Trollope sizes*
   Size    Bust (cm) Waist (cm) Hips (cm)
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Comparison of Wilson Trollope sizes with international sizes
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