Pinky Stories: Alice Olins & Phanella Mayall Fine

Friends go into business every day, that’s nothing new, but what happens when you reverse the process and end up as friends by default, by way of a shared idea for a career inspiring book and a mutual appreciation for a solid gin and tonic? It sounds like baggage free business to us and their dedicated pupils seem to agree – meet Alice and Phanella as they share their story for our Pinky series.

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Alice Olins @alice_olins   

DH: What do you value most in a friendship?

AO: There are many elements to a meaningful friendship: humour, time, support, fun, I could go on. Not all my friendships are the same, but I hope as a friend that I offer a sense of loyalty, laughter and honesty, plus plenty of advice.

DH: Where does work end and friendship begin for you and Phanella – how has your relationship evolved since starting Step Up?

AO: Before Step Up, it was actually Phanella’s husband Richard, whom I was closest to. We were great friends during our latter school years, university and beyond. Richard met Phanella at Law School, and initially (pre-Step Up!) we were peripheral friends who shared many interests, but really we only saw each other sporadically – life just got in the way. So Step Up has been pivotal in our friendship; writing a book together certainly fast-tracks any relationship, and now that we are shared business owners, we speak to each other on a daily basis, see each other many times a week and basically have lives that are intertwined on many levels. It has been a wonderful thing, to get a new friend from your career, and as we don’t live in each others’ pockets, or have the emotional baggage of being life-long friends, it makes our friendship very easy indeed.

DH: As a former fashion editor, what represents transcendent style for you?

AO: Good style is about authenticity; it’s about staying true to yourself. My style has evolved as I’ve moved through my 30s to a place where I keep things pretty simple, mix in plenty of denim and enjoy a healthy number of earrings in the mix. In short, great style isn’t about jumping on every trend bandwagon, it’s staying true to your own aesthetic. Having said that, I do like to keep things fresh, with a sprinkling of modern tweaks.

DH: What makes you and Phanella really laugh out loud?

AO: Um, we spend a healthy amount of time laughing at our own failings! We both have a lighthearted outlook on life, so lots of things make us laugh. Including our children, especially when we’re trying to combine work and a play-date. Note to everyone: this generally has very amusing outcomes, including, one time when both of our youngest girls ended up (unbeknown to us) in the bath, fully clothed, surrounded by hundreds of toys. There was plenty of laughter that day!

DH: What’s the most treasured piece of jewellery you own and whats the story behind it?

AO: That’s so easy, it’s an eternity ring left to me by my beloved, and very glamorous, Grandmother. It was actually her wedding band, and looking brilliantly modern, despite being made just after the war. It is a mix of baguette and brilliant-cut diamonds. I love it with all my heart, mainly because she was such a special person in my life, plus it receives plenty of compliments too. Second favourite: my wedding band. Utterly simple, but engraved inside with a shared, special message.

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Phanella Mayall Fine @phanellafine

DH: What do you value most in a business partner?

PF: When it comes to a business partner, you can’t underestimate Integrity and a shared set of values. When you’re headed in the same direction, in a similar way and trust each other completely then you can’t go far wrong.

DH: Tell us about your partnership with Alice, what makes you the dynamic duo that we see on Instagram?

PF: Alice and I trust each other implicitly, almost always agree on our methods and goals and when we don’t, are secure enough in our partnership to have a frank discussion about why. In fact, we’ll often arrive at work having had exactly the same thought on the way in. Importantly though, we’re also very different. We bring our different skill-sets, personalities and perspectives together to push Step Up in the same direction. Plus, we make sure that everything we do feels authentic and fun.

DH: Tell us the real story about how you met? And how The Step Up Club came to be?

PF: Alice is a close childhood friend of my husband’s, so we’ve known each other for years. We would see each other every so often at parties but weren’t close friends. Gradually, as we bonded over a shared feminism and love of a G&T, we came up with the idea for our Step Up Book and from there our blog, events and collaborations evolved. Our latest venture, Step Up School – a one-year career game changing programme – has brought us even closer together and Step Up Club is now a full time business that we feel proud to run together.

DH: What does it mean to have a piece of jewellery chosen for you? Tell us about an example if you can

PF: Having a piece of jewellery chosen by someone else is a little daunting as it’s so completely revealing of how that person sees you. For my 30th birthday, my closest girlfriends clubbed together to buy me a pair of earrings. When I opened the box, I was thrilled to discover a pair of Dinny Hall silver crescent hoops. Luckily, they perfectly matched my feminine, dressed-up but understated style!

DH: Coming from a corporate career, what does it mean to be able to express yourself through style, how do you use jewellery to do that?

PF: Although I now work in a more informal setting, we still regularly go into businesses to deliver our Step Up message through talks and coaching. I think it’s important to be true to your own style – for me dresses, ruffles and heels – but also appropriate to your environment. So for corporate meetings, I’ll go for elegant and understated jewellery, which I might then add to with a statement necklace or earrings for more creative work.

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Photo Credit: Rebecca Maddock

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