Since launching Gippslandia, we’ve been consistently blown away by the support and contributions from talented women in our region. In fact, apart from working with us, most were juggling parenting duties as well as growing small businesses utilising technology such as online stores, social media, web design and more.
Wanting to learn more, we sent an email to one of our key photographers, the multi-talented Morgane Cazaubon of Petite Visuals, to see if she could provide any insight. “There definitely is a movement with women trying to be something else than wives, girlfriends or mothers,” Morgane replied, “They want to have something that’s just for them too. It’s a misconception that we can’t have it all. Social media has made it easier to run a business from home and there’s help getting a business started with some support groups”.
To investigate, we sent The View From Here and Gippslandia colleagues, Lacey and Jess, to spend a morning in March with ten ladies that have an enviable entrepreneurial streak. We present an overview of their enlightening conversation to hopefully inspire you to chase your own passion.
As shown in the opening image, from left to right — Jess, Mim & Dotti, Megan, Amy, Jane, Erika, Christina, Bec & Hugh, Lacey and Stacey & Pippa. Further details of the attendees at the close of the article.
What was the most difficult aspect of starting your own business?
Jane: The fear of the unknown. Having to learn and grow as you go. But the fear also spurs you on to create great things.
Erika: I agree. The difference between working for someone else and working for yourself is huge. You’d happily put 100 hours a week into your own business but to do that for someone else is such an imposition. That fear can also make you take on more than you should.
Amy: You have no one to answer to, which can be good and bad. When you’re working for yourself you’re carrying this thing, pregnancy through to having the baby; it’s all you and it can weigh
on you. It’s a big responsibility.
Megan: I struggled with getting ideas out of my head. I ended getting a business mentor to bounce ideas off. I found it helped me achieve what I wanted.
Jane: That’s key—as are events like this. I got to know people, like Erika, in Warragul. It was nice to chat and bounce ideas off each other. It felt like I wasn’t doing this on my own.
Megan: It’s a boost of confidence
When you first started, did it feel overwhelming?
Erika: Yeah, but you change as you go. I’ve been lucky with my job because I talk to people all the time. Making sure you network and connect, because even in the online space it’s not enough, you can feel quite lonely. It can be like being a mum for the first time, suddenly it crashes in on you and it’s so lonely. You go from being in an office to being home and it can be hard.
How does technology benefit your business?
Bec: I don’t have a shop front so everything’s done online and on social media. I send my boxes Australia-wide. Having all of this technology available has changed how we do business.
Amy: I think it (technology) keeps things current too. It’s really showing people what’s happening right at this moment, rather than putting an ad in the paper, which is a dated thing to do. It keeps people engaged. They’re a part of what the business is doing yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Megan: People want to buy your product because they feel like they know you.
Christina: Technology is massive because I didn’t have the money for a shop front either. I wanted one, but was advised to put in as much effort as I could into an online shop and it’s how my business grew. The reach has definitely broadened since using technology.
And do you find you reach further than Gippsland?
Megan: Even with our concreting business, someone from Sydney bought a property here and emailed us through our website. It’s been great having that online presence.
Amy: We have overseas guests stay that have found us online. It really helps us.
What’s the most rewarding facet of your project?
Christina: You get to be your own boss. You don’t have to answer to anyone else. I work when I want and pick the jobs I want.
Mim: For my writing, it’s an adventure finding a story. You have to go and meet really interesting people, go to interesting places and hear really interesting stories. The kids can come with me—I love that they get to be a part of it, whatever it is.
Erika: My job involves meeting lots of people who are just starting out in business and it’s really exciting to see them have an idea, then all of a sudden it’s out there and they’re getting sales. It’s fun, and I get lots of nice messages like, “OMG! I just did a post and it reached 5,000 people and I got two orders!” It’s little things. The most rewarding part for me is sharing stories like this.
Mim: It’s staying connected. I moved to Paynesville from Melbourne with my first child and it was very lonely and isolating. I’m not good at leaving the house with my babies. Since I started writing, I’m connected. I’m not alone. I’m a mum but also I’m really connected to the community—it makes me feel good.
Amy: I think seeing people love and value something you put so much into. I love all the work that I’ve put into the tents in the beginning. Our guests walk in and are wowed! Guests leave our tents in immaculate condition; as they’ve initially walked in and seen how much care has been taken, that means a lot.
Erika: You don’t get that validation from being a stay-at-home mum. No one comes in and gives 10,000 ‘Likes’ from hanging out the washing. You get the opposite. To be a mum and be doing something that provides validation is just great!
Megan: It’s the support network I’ve created with other mums. They appreciate their stories being heard. Huge things happen to them throughout pregnancy and motherhood. People relate to their stories and are helped by them. Even though I don’t receive any income from this, it’s definitely the most rewarding aspect of my business.
Amy: Collaboration is a great thing too. Megan and I have teamed up recently offering a babymoon package with our tents – collaboration is really cool.
Jane: It’s rewarding when you’re working really hard, you’re proud of what you’re doing and someone else recognises it too. We got approached to do a runway show at Melbourne Fashion Week. It came at a perfect time, as I was tired, a bit burnt out and mum life was taking over. This opportunity came and we were able to work with a massive brand; we got out of the bubble a bit and got re-inspired and reinvigorated again. It’s given me a lot of confidence to reach out to other brands. They see us, work with us and there’s a lot of collaboration.
What could be done to make businesses, such as these, easier to start?
Erika: Better internet! Connectivity is a massive issue.
Jess: I feel this has held me back. Living in Mirboo North, I can only get satellite internet; the plans are non-existent and not viable.
Erika: It’s not fair. This as a huge issue for people to start up.
Amy: I find in certain areas, the councils are more or less supportive. Initially, we wanted to set up eco structures at Waratah Bay, but we had to jump through so many hoops. I know that people in certain areas find that with councils, and I’m not going to whinge and complain about them. I just think that it’d be nice if they could be more supportive, particularly for businesses who are highlighting the area in a really beneficial way.
Erika: There are a lot of businesses struggling, particularly food businesses. Depending on the council, they don’t support you as a small startup business. If you’re a big business employing 50–100 people straight off the bat, they’ll be all over you, and you’ll get funding and assistance, but to start something fresh, you really have to fight hard to get it up and running.
Mim: It still feels like there needs to be more innovation in the area: in the population, the people and the culture. There’s a forward step for the whole region to take; thinking about the environment, or thinking in general. I’d say that it’s still just behind other parts of the world.
Amy: I think that’s what’s enticing about the area. Part of the reason people move here is because it’s still a little bit behind and has that country thing going on. We’re slowly stepping forward.
Mim: I feel like there’s a renaissance. There’s a feeling of change and movement, and it’s an exciting time to be here.
Jane: There are lots of creative people in the area that are coming out of the woodwork.
Amy: Things like the Meeniyan Garlic Festival—Flick and her parents do an incredible job.
Erika: This whole town is a great case study for the whole of Gippsland. It proves that you’ve got to have a few people in the town who have the drive and energy and connections to get things up and running. There are plenty of towns just like Meeniyan.
Bec: I would’ve loved someone to mentor me, offer advice, have a chat over coffee, someone to run your ideas over to give you some advice or confidence boost. Even a common space we could go to, a coworking, collaborative space
Erika: The Gippsland Art Gallery in Sale is an incredible space. Libraries are amazing. I travel all over the place, and my clients don’t always have offices, so we meet at libraries, you have great spaces, internet, toilets. Libraries need funding, they need help because they want to be these hubs for businesses. Coworking spaces are definitely something we need.
Bec: It can be quite isolating being a mum and having a business. Having an opportunity to connect with other women doing the same thing.
Morgane: The small business bus that used to come around, that was good and helpful.
Erika: I have a business coach. These opportunities are available – it’s just about looking around.
Amy: There might be a bit of a country ‘trust thing’. What’s your background? Who do you know? It operates a bit differently from city areas.
Flick: 100%. I moved to the area from Melbourne and it took three years for people to start befriending me, and my business has skyrocketed since. I think it would’ve been easier had I been a local.
Erika: When Gippslanders let you in, they love you hard!
What’s something that’s really surprised you when working on your project?
Stacey: With us and our events, we found that there were people that wanted to bring us down, and this surprised us! We were trying to do something for the community and it was really disappointing especially because it was from other women. You’re really excited by your ideas and we weren’t making any money out of it, so it’s disappointing to be brought down.
How did you overcome that experience?
Stacey: There’s three of us, so we can reassure each other that we’re actually doing something good and the majority of the community is supportive. It does make it difficult for anything we want to do in the future—wondering if we want to put ourselves through that negativity again.
Jane: But it does feel so sweet when you can show them ‘look what I’ve created’, and then they can start to understand it as well.
Mim: I’d say the most surprising thing is how much you can achieve on so little sleep. If I can do this when I’m so drained, then what did I used to do with all of my time?!
Jane: That’s the best thing about mums too, you can achieve so much because you’re good at managing time—you have to be. You’ve also got perspective, as you have your children and they’re the most important thing in your life and you’ve always got that.
What have you learnt?
Bec: So much! Learning as I go. A lot of Googling and YouTube. I’ve learnt to take a step back, I’m not a patient person but I’ve learnt to let things take their natural course, being slow and steady.
Megan: There are so many things that you have to cover, like, ‘I have this nice business name but I have to register it. How do I do that?’ There are so many different things you have to learn and they’re specific to your business.
Erika: If I was doing it again, I’d advise people to have a plan. If you get someone to help with that, even better! It’s a great investment. I’m still working with someone on a business plan and it’s changed so much. The first year was such a massive learning curve on what to do, what not to do and how to do it better. I think if I’d have really sat down and forced myself to think about what it might look like and stage it, I’d be a lot happier. I don’t think a lot of people plan for success, people just do this thing and hope it works, and you can find yourself not having enough stock. Plan for success.
Christina: Expect negativity, but stay true to yourself.
Amy: Learning to handball tasks. I’d just got into a habit of doing things myself and then you become a mum and it’s OMG! It’s learning to say I need help and being open to that.
Thanks to Flick and her team at the Meeniyan Store for hosting us, and the talented women that attended. Gippslandia wishes you and your businesses incredible success into the future.
Prom Coast Eco Camping
The Simple Gesture
Chrisp Pictures & Boo Events
Mac & Ernie
South Gippsland Concrete & September Baby
Petite Visuals & Under The Moon
Rope Swing Media