I guess I had never thought of myself an Influential Entrepreneur. Most days you’ll find me with a phone in one hand, a coffee in the other, a baby riding on my back smooshing something into my hair. I always try to be a mum first, business woman second. It doesn’t always happen that way, but it’s definitely the way that I prioritise things.
In terms of my entrepreneurial journey, I guess I am at the beginning. We are definitely moving forward – the pace is generally determined by my kids and their sleeping patterns. But as long as we are moving in the right direction, I’m ok with it.
I have always been an “ideas” person … I’m the one that doesn’t sleep a lot, has bolts of lightening moments at midnight and am always scribbling something down to get it out of my head before I forget it. I have so many ideas … many of them can be found in the notes section of my phone, abandoned word docs on my computer. If I’m honest, I’ve been dreaming of being a successful business owner since I graduated uni!
I am university educated, I have a double major in medical anthropology and Italian language and literature. It was a really interesting area of study, but unfortunately didn’t do much for my job prospects post graduation. I worked in many different roles as I tried to find my niche – accounting, recruitment & business development, teaching. While I enjoyed everything that I did and learned some valuable experiences from each, nothing felt like it was my calling. I didn’t have the passion.
I even started my own jewellery brand at one point. I shipped the jewellery from overseas and sold it under the brand name, Katiebo. I loved my business, but it failed miserably. I didn’t have the knowledge or funds to take it to the next level and so I just didn’t generate enough sales to propel it forward. I really didn’t have a plan and just winged it a lot of the time. Unluckily for me, brands such as Diva and Lovisa were making their mark and pretty much squashed my dreams of being a successful jewellery website. But this experience certainly taught me some valuable lessons and what not to do. It also made me realise that selling products was not my thing.
Just before I turned 30, and just a few weeks after our wedding, my dear Mum passed away. She had malignant melanoma and died just six months after diagnosis. This had a massive impact on my life. In fact I’d go so far as to say my whole world fell apart. Her passing was something that I just couldn’t comprehend or understand. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, let alone my job. At this time I was working as a recruitment manager in the mining industry, based out of Newman. In that six months we did 40,000km of driving from Newman to Bunbury to see Mum and spend time with her and then organise her funeral. We also organised our wedding so that we could be married with Mum there. As you can imagine, it was the most stressful times of my life. I ended up leaving my role in recruitment to have some time out. But I just couldn’t settle … I was bored … or trying to avoid dealing with Mum’s death.
So I started a professional organising business, a service based business this time. It was quite successful and made a tidy profit in it’s first year. But it was hard work and to earn the money I was working long hours. The business was dependent on me – if I was unwell or unable to work, I made no money. After falling pregnant with our first child and having horrendous morning sickness, I closed the business. Again, I learned so much from this business experience. They say your third business is “the one” …
Fast forward to today. I now have 2 boys, Haze is 4 and Tex is 16 months. I’ve been a Stay at Home Mum since having our first child. My husband has worked FIFO since we had our first son. To say life has been challenging would be an understatement. Navigating motherhood without my own Mum has been soul crushing, and often being without my husband while he’s away has taken it’s toll on our little family and our marriage. We have had a lot to deal with in a short time and most of it, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy!
Around the middle of last year, I started thinking about what I could do to get back into the workforce and make a financial contribution to our family. As many FIFO mums would know, trying to find a job or role that fits in with the FIFO lifestyle and kids is hard. Only having a limited amount of time with your partner when their home makes any kind of traditional employment challenging. Plus, we don’t have family to help us out on a day to day basis. I can’t just call my Mum to come and help me. I don’t have a sister to come to my aid and the few aunts I have don’t live locally.
I knew that I didn’t want a 9-5 job – I also knew, I didn’t want to put my boys in child care full time. But I wanted something I could sink my teeth into, use my skills and maybe get a little of the old me back! But I definitely didn’t want a product based business or a business where it was dependent on my time as the product.
With all of this swimming through my head, I started Googling a few ideas, reading some online business pages and joining a few FB groups of Mums who had started their own businesses. I read as much as I could about anything relevant – marketing, business planning, business models that were working overseas, social media management and how other women were creating successful businesses around their family and other commitments. As a breastfeeding Mum I spent a lot of time sitting so I put my time to good use!
I knew that I wanted to do something online, something I could do anywhere, any time and not sacrifice too much time away from my kids or my husband when he is home. Something I could build while the boys were in bed and hubby was away. Something I could do with one hand, while still wrangling my boys.
Armed with this, I started to think about the what? It seems like EVERYTHING on the internet has been done before. Nothing was jumping out at me and everything I thought of, there was already someone doing it – sometimes 2, 3 or 4 people.
One night, I was lying in bed, feeding my little guy to sleep and I started thinking about our local area and the fact that there wasn’t one single site that I could go to as a Mum to find out about things in our area – or even the South West as a whole. It was from this thought that my idea for South West Mums started to develop.
I started to write down a few ideas and look at other sites which operated with the same idea in other areas. See that’s the thing about ideas – they don’t necessarily have to be original to work. The idea that I had had certainly been done before in other cities, including Perth – but definitely not here in the South West. They say you should create that what you cannot find and so after forming a bit of a plan in my head, I pitched the idea to my husband. I knew that get something like this off the ground, it would take a lot of time, money and support. If hubby wasn’t on board, it just wouldn’t be possible. Lucky for me, he loved the idea! He wears our logo with pride and he totally believed in my idea from day one and still pushes me to fulfil my vision everyday.
So what exactly is South West Mums you may ask?
South West Mums is the go to site for Mums and families in the South West, an online guide to motherhood with a unique South West perspective.
We have so many amazing parks, places to play and things to do in our diverse region. Our website provides a single online resource to make life as a Mum planning your family activities easier. No matter whether you are planning weeks in advance or last minute, we will provide you with up to the minute info. From Bunbury to Dunsborough, Margaret River to Harvey and everywhere in between, I’m a local mum creating a village and connecting you to the region in which you live.
As a mum of two boisterous boys, I love being able to find new and exciting places to explore, have a coffee and create memories with them. I want to share this with other mums.
As a Mum without my mum and a FIFO wife, it was also clear to me that some Mums just don’t have family support or that village around them. I want to help them build that village – from an online place, but eventually connecting them through events too.
Since my initial idea, the vision for South West Mums has grown and evolved. Our site has an events calendar that Mums can find events right across the South West all in one location. We have an online directory that features businesses, products and services relevant to Mums and able to help them make parenting easier and a whole lot more fun! Our site also features park reviews, the best family friendly restaurants, recommendations, a forum for mums to seek answers at any time of the day or night and a hub of resources specifically for FIFO families in the South West.
A part of our site which has evolved from the conception of our idea is a platform for local mums to share their experiences and local bloggers to find some leverage. We publish content from many different voices with the hope that local Mums enjoy reading about things that happen in their area, rather than the Eastern States or Perth. We have some guest bloggers on board already which is so exciting. We also have a Dunsborough Mum and local business owner writing a weekly food column to share healthy, clean living recipes for families.
We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to our idea so far. Our social media following grows everyday and the list of businesses asking to work with us is getting longer each week. Instagram has been somewhat of a challenge for us. The South West didn’t seem to be onboard with Insta as much as I anticipated – but I’m trying to change that. And in fact, I’ve grown our Instagram audience past 2000 followers in just a few months. Something that I’m really proud of and hope to continue to grow into our future.
We have also launched the first of our collaborations with local businesses in launching a Fitness Challenge. By putting myself out there and sharing my post baby fitness journey, I’m hoping to show local Mums that getting fit is possible – even with a busy lifestyle, 2 kids and not a lot of free time. I want to empower Mums and show them that anything is possible. But even more than that – I want to show them from a local point of view. By using a gym that they can use, a personal trainer that they can have too. I am so lucky to be working with Bodyrox Personal Trainer and Sports Power in Bunbury – two local businesses who when I presented my idea to them jumped on board and said – how can we be a part of this? We love your idea and can see what you are trying to achieve. So next time you check my Instagram feed, you’ll probably see a video of me sweating it out at the gym!
Our website is a culmination of months of hard work on my behalf – oh and my hubby too … I certainly couldn’t have made it to this point without his support and hands on approach to our boys. I would love it if you could follow our journey, contribute to our forums and tell your friends about our concept. The more Mums we have on board, the better our site will be, the more we can bring South West Mums together in one big village!
In closing, my biggest piece of advice for anyone wanting to start their own online business is just to start. Ideas are like taxis, there will always be another one – and chances are, you won’t be the only one with your idea. So just start. Because if you don’t, someone else will! Everyday, I tell myself that the difference between the life that I have and the life that I want is action. There were so many reasons that I could have not started my business, but you know what, I looked fear in the eye and I did it anyway. I stopped worrying about my past failures and what could go wrong. I stopped wondering what life would be like if I had my own online business and just put my energy into creating the business.