Michelle Radley photographed by Michael David Adams.
Michelle Radley has literally built a business on turning clients’ ideas into something concrete. The owner of JM Lifestyles, a Northern New Jersey-based concrete atelier specializing in creative concrete applications, Radley and her team create everything from rustic concrete countertops that resemble real wood to refined custom tables for stylish residences to statement-making furniture installed in hundreds of hotel rooms. Here, she takes us through a typical day in her life of managing a business, finding balance through yoga, and volunteering with her dog, Bodhi.
5:00 a.m.: I use an alarm, but I’m naturally an early riser. Plus, I have a black cat named Newman who is super vocal and a husky-shepherd rescue named Bodhi who is very active in the morning, and they essentially act as alarm clocks. The dog chases the cat, they chase each other to the food bowls—it’s a whole routine. I let Bodhi out and sit outside while I watch her run around, taking it all in and thinking about what the day is going to be like.
5:30 a.m.: After gathering my thoughts for the day, I get ready for work. My morning skincare regime involves May Lindstrom Blue Cocoon cream (I love the brand, it’s all natural and made from entirely whole ingredients, and their packaging is beautiful—all glass, no plastic) and my quartz roller. While I don’t really have a work uniform, I do spend a lot of time in jeans. Because we’re a workshop, we can be pretty casual, so I try to look business-casual or business-smart. This usually means jeans, a button-down, and boots or sandals.
“One of my employees asked if I’d ever teach a yoga class at the shop, so we started to meet before work with a small group. We call it ‘concrete yoga’ because we’re concrete artists.”
6:30 a.m.: I leave for work with my dog. When we arrive at the shop, the first thing I do is what we call “concrete yoga.” Yoga has been a part of my life since I was young; I was lucky to find it in my teens, and over the years I have always come back to it. It’s become such a key part of my work life. You spend so much time working, one day can bleed into the next, and at one point I literally couldn’t differentiate between the days. I finally started taking night yoga classes, and it was so good for my mental health and the beginning of finding a work/life balance, which just started to happen after 14 years of being in business. I hope other people find it faster!
A few years ago, I got my teacher’s certificate to solidify all the time I spent doing yoga and I started teaching one day a week in a local studio. One of my employees asked if I’d ever teach a class at the shop, so we started to meet half an hour before work with a small group. Now we’re up to an hour once or twice a week before work with a dedicated group that loves it. Our shop is moving to a new location where we’ll have a yoga room, at which point I think I’ll offer classes at other times of the day so they’re accessible to more people. We call it “concrete yoga” because we’re concrete artists.
A kitchen featuring countertops by JM Lifestyles photographed by Kelly Joyce.
7:30 a.m.: It’s time for our team meeting, during which we recap last week’s numbers, discuss company to-dos, and employee to-dos (we have between 35 and 40 employees). It’s a chance to bring all the minds together in one spot and bring awareness around what’s happening in the company. Our industry—decorative concrete—is very unique and niche, so a lot of what we do involves building awareness around what we offer. I usually eat breakfast during our meeting, which today consists of a Chocolate Love Muffin with Superfood Caramel from Sakara Life, a gluten-free, plant-based, organic meal delivery service that I use.
“Some of our best ideas come from people believing in us enough to make something from nothing.”
9:30 a.m.: Following the team meeting, I take a few hours to answer emails, sort through personnel coordination, and consult with employees. We have a number of different departments—sales, pre-production, production, industrial design—and there’s no automation to what we do. Everything is an artisan-made, handcrafted piece. On any given day we’re producing anything from a custom sink for private residences to hundreds of desks for big corporate offices to our specialty Woodform Concrete® counters for someone’s kitchen. It’s exciting. Some of our best ideas come from people really believing in us enough to make something from nothing. That’s the core of what we do.
12:00 a.m.: I have lunch (again from Sakara Life—today’s midday meal is truffle kale salad), then it’s on to more emails and Quickbooks, which I tackle with my accountant.
2:30 p.m.: I dial in for our marketing meeting, during which we go over our goals for the month, analyze our site traffic, and discuss how to expand our reach and target our audience.
5:00 p.m.: Time to leave the office and head out to volunteer with my dog, Bodhi. We volunteer once a week at the children’s psychiatric hospital or Summit Oaks, a detox drug rehabilitation center in Summit. Bodhi is gentle and sweet—a people dog. She’s a really good therapy dog, and I figure as long as she enjoys volunteering, we’ll keep doing it.
7:30 p.m.: I normally cook a light dinner. Since it’s summer and still light out fairly late, tonight I’m grilling halibut and making a watermelon and feta salad.
9:00 p.m.: After dinner I wind down with a shower, and then depending on how much energy I have I’ll either read or watch a movie. Ideally I go to bed by 10 p.m. so I’ll be ready to go again at 5 a.m.