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Women in Wealth: Asia Spotlight - Melinda Briend-Marchal

Posted on 27 June 2024

Melinda Briend-Marchal spent her early childhood in Libreville, Gabon where her parents were expats. They moved back to France when Melinda was around four years old and she continued her education in Paris and graduated as a physiotherapist and chiropractor. She first started working for the Four Seasons hotel Georges V, where she discovered the spa industry. This successful experience brought her to the French West Indies first and then to Thailand to start her career as spa consultant and developer for Sofitel hotels. This is how she met her husband Joe-Sanya, who runs his own company Architects11. Melinda settled in Phuket and has been living here for more than 20 years now.

Upon becoming a mother, she decided to dedicate time to their girl’s growth and education. She adapted her career, founding a soft furnishing company and becoming the business manager of six outlets of French bakeries around Phuket. During the pandemic, Joe and Melinda invested their savings into maintaining the salaries of all employees from Joe’s companies. To ensure this, they established an organic farm. Both are nature lovers, engaged and passionate about environmental sustainability and animal welfare. They have been running their farm to table restaurant “Little Bukit Farm” and their horse-riding school “Moracea Horse Academy” for the past 4 years, along with Joe’s architecture and construction businesses.

What woman (real or fictional) inspires you?

I have always been surrounded by extremely powerful and determined women. My two grandmothers, Marguerite and Clothilde, went through two world wars without a complaint, despite precarious living conditions, demonstrating their courage, adaptation and resilience. My mother Christine instilled in us fundamental values ​​of intellectual freedom, stability and personal independence. My sister, Alexandra, a hard worker and a feminist, whose honesty and perseverance have earned her recognition in her professional environment, continues to inspire and advise me on leadership development and strategy planning in veterinarian laboratory businesses.

Today, it is my daughters, Scarlett and Stella, as well as my nieces, Capucine and Madeleine, who inspire me. I respect and admire their maturity and intelligence. I do not see the model of female empowerment according to a pyramid scheme where a single person or personality can spread their experience to many uninitiated people, but rather as an interconnected network, like neurons passing information to each other: each cell benefits from interactivity with its neighbor to light up and shine in turn.

Studies have shown that 80% of women do not feel comfortable discussing finances with family and friends. Is this true in your experience?

That's absolutely true in my case! And my difficulty discussing money is not only limited to family or friends but extends to strangers, even when I have every legitimacy to talk or claim or negotiate about it.

What is the biggest risk you have taken?

The list would be far too long since I think that each of our daily decisions is a major risk. We evaluate taking a risk based on the consequences it entails, but life is not so binary, and serendipity plays its role. Taking risks is my whole life story. Just to pick one: as a kid, I decided to cross a fence and got charged by a ram, I flew 5 metres in the air and landed on my behind, but was miraculously unhurt. In my late teenage years, I hiked across the whole of Norway, with camping gear and a backpack. It might sound easy today, but back then, there was no telephone, booking platforms or Google translate!  At age 25, being single and without having stepped afoot in Asia before, I came to Thailand where I met my husband, and 18 months later I was pregnant with my first child. As entrepreneurs, we have been through all the up and downs that companies are going through, and yet here I am, 46 years old and still expanding my knowledge, experience and businesses. So, there was no 'biggest risk' for me, only big decisions.

Have you ever felt imposter syndrome? If so, how have you dealt with this?

I have always had the chance to choose my path and therefore to invest body and soul in my tasks. When you put your whole heart into an achievement, you fully believe in its usefulness and importance, without leaving room for doubt or imposter syndrome.

What achievement or experience are you most proud of?  

The farm! We transformed a dramatic situation during COVID-19 into a dream life, managing to save all the jobs and full salaries for the 70 people working in our companies. That's definitely something to be proud of.

What is a cause that you are passionate about?

Animal welfare. I strongly believe that if we have more empathy and respect of any other type of life living on this planet, we can improve our connection to nature and make a huge impact on our planet sustainability and care.

What advice would you give to your 12 year old?

The same that has led my life so far: Luck favours the brave.

What are you most looking forward to year 2024?

Developing our Moracea Horse Academy next to our farm. My husband, Joe Sanya, brought me into his recent passion for horses and I fell in love with them too. We have 18 horses, some imported from Andalusia, Spain and The Netherlands. Our trainer, Leonor, who is from Portugal, started to teach me to train my favorite horse for ground work dressage. It is so rewarding to have that special connection with Eclipse, this massive Friesian female horse and gentle giant. I’m very much looking forward to improving my training skills, and doing more incredible work with her.


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