On Thursday 28 March, I was lucky to sit in-front of a gorgeous group of women and share my story. It was the first Queen Hood event for 2019 at the picturesque Boathouse in Shelly Beach. I shared the stage with the fabulous Jenny and Gemma from Palmaira Sandals Australia, as Elka Whalan, founder of Queen Hood, asked us questions about our journey. Sharing my story, in front of so many people, is not something I often do. So I jotted down some notes beforehand (although hardly covered any on the day as we went on some wonderful other tangents and questions) but thought I would share anyway.
I really hope that it inspires you to pause, appreciate the gifts we have been given in life and see if there are any dreams that may have been forgotten or pushed to the side that can resurface and be reimagined.
I also wanted to thank the women who took time out on their Thursday morning, many with children on arm, to hear me speak. You were welcoming, kind and incredibly fun. Thank you!
“Some years are for growing: BUT this one, this one is for BLOOMING”,
Time for a check in…
Where it all began… around 5 years ago I was a pretty successful career woman, defined by my title as a group comms director for a global tech company with 7 offices around the world, always looking for my next career move. I loved what I did and I was good at it. For 15 years I had always helped other people grow their businesses and dreams, always treating every project like it was my own business, almost more passionately than most of the people I worked with.
I was working 15 hour days, travelling 2 of the 4 weeks in a month, hardly spending time with my hubby, fitting in 4-5 hours of sleep head on pillow time (I had insomnia as I was also thinking about work), working hard, playing hard and was ultimately unhealthy with extreme adrenal fatigue. I was following the path that I had determined 15 years ago but had never checked in to see if this was still my purpose, let alone making me happy.
The gift of education…
One thing I did gift myself every year, for my sanity and to balance my always overactive (code for crazy) mind, was to carve the time to learn a new skill. Something I would recommend to anyone if they can give themselves the time. In previous years I had learn’t to DJ, Dragon Boat race, attempted to learn French, salsa dance, meditate and the list goes on…
In August 2014 I had booked a handbag-making course in Milan, between business trips to Singapore and London.
“After the first week of the course I was hooked.
I closed my laptop for the first time in years and actually took time out from my work, focussed fully on being creative and learning, absorbing and appreciating this generation long process of crafting bags. I just loved it.”
When I got back to Sydney I told my boss, I was giving him my notice and I was going to make handbags. He laughed and thought it a novel idea. It took some convincing that I was serious and it was time for me to make a change.
4 years on… I have Hills & West, this gorgeous lifestyle accessory label I am super proud of, and I have managed to also create my own boutique agency, Digital & Agile. Where I work with passionate people on their business strategy and communications. It is the perfect balance and I have the time to stop and appreciate every step of the journey.
Though, I have to say, I am still always busy and working, 7 days a week, however it’s my choice and I don’t regret any of the lifestyle choices I’ve made so far. I make a point to always check in to make sure I am having a healthy balance between my work, family, friends, hubby (in no particular order) and myself. I’m actually probably working as many hours as before, if not more, but I am so much healthier, happier and never miss a morning to walk with my puppy.
Putting dreams into action…
As I was a constant traveller for work, I was always thinking of how my bags were never quite fit for purpose. I was constantly looking for the perfect backpack that was stylish, versatile, well-made, made of quality materials, that I could take from the plane into a meeting and that did not cost thousands of dollars. I was also always thinking of different features and designs. Having this need is why I booked the course in Milan.
It was quite fortuitous that I had booked the handbag making course when I did. Amazing how things happen sometimes for the right reason. Just as I had chosen to learn meditation in 2012 when I was on the verge of being burnt out. Maybe it was the meditation that had started to clear the space to see other opportunities? But that is a story for another day.
So I just jumped right in without thinking! I resigned without thinking about the next steps. I was excited and optimistic.
However as everyone started to say, “aren’t you scared, nervous, worried about money?” I started to go back into business plan mode, but what was I planning for? I needed to take some time out to find my “WHY!?”
I was lucky we had some savings for a deposit on a house, so there was a safety net. However, it was now or never. No mortgage ties and a future of happiness and creating to discover.
So my journey began with a 10 day Vipassena Mediation Course, where you don’t talk, read, write or access technology for 10 days and meditate for over 10 hours a day. An amazing experience, I recommend to everyone. If you want to read about my experience, read here.
There I decided, whilst meditating, that I needed my own ‘Eat Pray Love’ experience and travel to all the places I had not been, or had long been on my bucket list. My hubby had one stipulation, he had to be the ‘Love’ part of my trip and met me every 6 weeks along my travels. You can read more here.
Over this time, travelling on my own and rediscovering myself and my purpose, is where I crafted the foundations of Hills & West. Although I know from the beginning my mission was going to be pretty simple… it was to create exceptional things, while doing what I love and make people happy along the way.
Digital & Agile, my business strategy and marketing consultancy, came later when I was running out of money and someone asked me to help them set up their dream. Funny how things come to you when you need them.
By the way, I still have not bought a house… my dreams were bigger and we (my hubby and I) are so happy that this was the path I was guided on.
Tips on being your own boss…
Honestly it’s so so hard setting up a business and running it on your own. There is a huge amount of pressure, especially when you have commitments and outgoings BUT it is so rewarding at the same time. Of course everyday you are learning something new and teaching yourself the ropes as you go.
Its important that you remember to be prepared for making mistakes because more often than not they WILL occur, so please don’t be so hard on yourself! Pick yourself up and remember where you started from, why you are doing it and how far you’ve come.
A tip that keeps me organised is planning.
I plan the year, I plan the quarters, months and weeks. Also looking back and reviewing your plan is important, to see how you are tracking, if you can improve and if things need to pivot.
Embarrassingly I am very old school and am very dependant on my whiteboard above my desk and my inspiration board! Every Sunday night I plan for each day of the week and when the tasks are complete I wipe them off. Nothing more satisfying then a clean slate at the end of the week.
For D&A, my agency, planning is a little harder. I can be proactive with some of the strategy and planning, however the other half is reactive. The people I work with are mostly startups (or now thriving businesses that I have been working with for a while) and I know too well that everything changes all the time. You have to prepare for the unprepareable (if that is even a word). Make time each day for the reactive activities and you will not be as disrupted.
You’ll come across obstacles which you might feel hold you back from being able to move forward. Remember to take time for these learning experiences that might give you a fresh perspective and more edge. For instance I did a Coco Republic course in Melbourne, the things I learnt with them I always take with me when designing so I’m thankful I put myself out there and took the time out to be recharge my creative juices.
Another important lesson for me was having a safety net to fall back on. Setting up any business costs a lot more money and time than you think. If you can build your business as a side hustle and bring in money from somewhere else to help it grow that will help keep momentum. I was lucky we had our home deposit and then I started D&A when the cash ran out. Remember it takes quite a few years to break even, so so so important to plan for that.
I am now into year four of both businesses, and I have to say that after year 3 things really started to fall in place. It is the best feeling. And this will happen to anyone who is willing to put in the work.
Tips on career change motivation…
Do it! There is no time better than now.
I read this quote when I was 15 – “You miss 100% of the goals you don’t take.” And I remind myself of it often.
It’s never too late and here are some of my key tips to stay above water and be successful in your new pursuit.
- Cashflow – Be smart about your investments and be conscious of cashflow. Try and keep a side hussle, have some cash coming in as it takes 2-3 years to get into your grove. Cashflow is a challenge so keep on top of it.
- Talk to people – have coffees, do surveys, reach out to industry experts. Getting advice and feedback is sooo valuable and can save you so much money (unfortunately some mistakes you have to make and can’t avoid to help you grow).
- Find your tribe: I collaborate/work with such amazing people. It can get lonely when you are starting out on your own. Have people you can ask questions to, hang out and brainstorm. Or have a coffee with for a pick me up as there will be times when you need motivation.
“I have to say, as crazy as it sounds, nothing is better than waking up at 3 am with an idea and then being able to actually put it into action the next day and ultimately see people getting joy out of your products or stories or advice.”
You will work hard but it is building something that you love and you can make change. I’ve learnt to never look back and it has afforded me a much more, it’s rewarding and life fulfilling.
So… DO IT!
Book recommendation to keep you in check…
My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, is a beautiful book I was recommended when I was going through a very challenging time in my life dealing with loss and instability. It contains the beautiful lessons of a wise grandfather who passes these stories on to his granddaughter in the most touching way. Small chapters of life appreciating bliss.
I read a small chapter every morning and make sure that it guides me for the day and I pass it on to one other person.
Improvement as women, what we need to make.
This was a question Elka asked me. I had to think for a while. Personally I can’t speak about other women as I think we are all amazing in many ways. If I have to talk from my experience and think of one thing I think we/I need to be personally better at is ‘Confidence’.
- Confidence in listening to our gut and instincts
- Confidence to ignore the voices of doubt or fear in our head
- Confidence to say hey, I might not be for everyone and there will be people who don’t like what you do, but that is totally ok!
- Confidence that when times are super tough, and you have had failures, and you think you are broken as a person, somehow we have the ability to rebuild ourselves.
That’s our superpower. Everyone has there own story and journey and I am in wonderment everyday with the beautiful women I meet.
Well, that is it from me for now. I hope you were able to take something away from the above. If you ever need any help, need to bounce an idea that you have been dreaming of or a contact, I am always here. Please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
I also wanted to share some of the other fabulous people involved in the event to inspire you:
- Jenny and Gemma – Palmaira Sandals Australia
- The Boathouse Shelley Beach was the glorious backdrop to the morning
- Lizzy Williamson from Two Minute Moves who got our heart rate pumping and had us dancing a storm to Whitney Houston.
- Amelia Soegijono who was the amazing photographer.
Thanks again and big love always.