• Melanie Gleeson

    I’ve always had inner confidence; a supportive family and a school that encouraged independent thinking and exploration, which meant that this confidence was nurtured. Family adventures which included living overseas made me resilient, accepting of change and inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and embrace new experiences.

    Like so many high school graduates, I was unsure what to do when I left Year 12 so I moved to Scotland where I worked at a girl’s boarding school as an Au Pair. During the school holidays I backpacked around Europe with girlfriends and had an absolutely amazing time.

    When I came back to Melbourne I combined studying hair and beauty with selling cosmetics at Myer. I then moved on to working at Aveda at Georges in Collins Street before being offered a position managing a spa in Eltham. Whilst I hadn’t been a manager before I jumped at the opportunity. The owner of the spa not only taught me what I needed to know about running a small business and managing people but this proved to be the education and grounding I needed for what was to come.


    A chance meeting with an old high school friend a few years later saw us opening a spa business together. We had a $5000 credit card, a location (an old B&B in Mt Martha), boldness, passion and a whole set of audacious goals! We always knew we wanted to open more than one spa so we spent time writing operational manuals as well as networking like mad. During the years of growing endota there was never a time where I wanted to give up, but it definitely wasn’t smooth sailing! It was crazy busy but I was doing what I loved, what my soul was meant to be doing and what I believed in one hundred percent.

     I adored spending time at home with my boys when they were babies - Fergus is now seven and Jimmy is three – and as my motherhood journey was evolving, so too was endota spas. endota spa continued to grow and I realised that I needed help to spread the load. My husband Pete took time off and my parents were a wonderful help. As the boys grew and my work responsibilities increased I definitely had moments of guilt and sadness from missing out (which mama doesn’t?). Pete made me realise that the boys were surrounded by a whole village of people who loved them and for them to grow into the men that we want them to be, they need to spend time with different people and nurture and enjoy those relationships. Our family motto is ‘Never give up - never give in’ – I love it! And I love that the boys grow up hearing and living this.

    What I personally love about having my own business is the freedom. It is super hard and you definitely have to make sacrifices but what outweighs all of that, is that you get to make your own decisions. You are the master of your own destiny. I love that the majority of our spas are run by women (who all have their own amazing stories), empowered to make their own decisions and have the freedom and flexibility they need as mums. Many of these women held senior positions in the corporate world – and then they had families. You simply can’t finish work at 3pm to pick up the kids from school in that environment. You might work until late some nights, but when you need to be there for your kids you can be. Having your own business enables you to balance work/family life more than when you are employed in a fulltime position. 

    I am truly proud of the endota spa brand – we have 97 spas and employ approximately 1000 people across our network. We developed our own product range early to align with endota spa’s core beliefs. We wanted our therapists to use products that they believed in. Our beautiful organic range consists of 33 products and is manufactured in Victoria. We are continuing to add to our product and treatments with an exciting LED (light therapy) facial and a high potency anti-ageing range and our natural mineral make up range is now in our spas - our first dabble into cosmetics which is super exciting! Every spa, every experience and our products will continue to embrace the core endota spa message delivering nurturing results. I am always striving for consistency and brand alignment. We always want to be better at what we do.

    My personal philosophies play a big part in endota spa and in where I am going on this earth. I believe that we are here in this world to find more happiness and joy and to make more meaningful connections. If we have the right frame of mind and the right energy force, we can work in harmony with the universe. When you’re in sync with the universe, more good things will come. Our aim at endota spa is to deliver exceptional customer service in an environment where women don’t feel judged. Our spas are a haven for women to replenish their souls, a place where women can leave their concerns, their stresses and their ‘stuff’ at the door and simply have some me time. It’s an opportunity to step out of the real world for a time, into a world where the only person who matters is you. 

    You truly have to love and believe in yourself and your business. There will be times where you do have to do everything, where you will miss out on something fun or have to sacrifice family time – and if you are not truly passionate about your business it will be very difficult to harness the inner motivation that keeps you moving forward. You also need to surround yourself with brilliance! I have always had great people around me, right from the early days so don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Always make decisions that align with your core beliefs and always stay true to the guiding values of the brand. Listen to your intuition. so to was endota spas’.





    With 100 day spas across Australia, endota spa is a place where women feel cared for on a physical, spiritual and emotional level. Their spas are a haven for women to replenish their souls. They employ over 1000 people. We are also really proud that 90 per cent of our employees are women and we have helped 120 individuals become successful business owners though our network.

    Be the master of your own destiny! If you’re ready to embark on your own business journey, call Business Mamas.  We’ll help you every step of the way.

    Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Fifty Two!

    I grew up in Hamilton in New Zealand but moved to Australia when my father was headhunted to be the CEO of the Australian Dairy Board.  It was a massive move for us all – my parents, my two sisters and myself at the age of 13. Growing up in New Zealand we led a very sheltered life, we didn’t travel much or go out much.  Our family grew up around nature and animals, and even though we lived in suburbia my dad’s family farm was near where The Hobbit was filmed – the countryside is spectacular.  Moving to Melbourne was a major shock for all of us.  The schooling system is very different in New Zealand, so not only did I have a really strong accent, I was one year behind my age group. It was tough.

    I was always creative, so I sunk myself into graphic design, arts, cooking and all things visual.  I did my graphic and art folios in year 11 and 12 and as soon as I left school I did graphic art and design at Chisholm, and that was at a time when digital graphics was coming to the fore.  It was difficult trying to get work in the industry, but I landed a job working in a printing company which was a pretty male dominated world.  It was an amazing job though, because as a graphic designer you would never normally see printing in action.  You’re usually stuck behind a desk working on a computer whereas I could design a job and go straight into the printing factory and see the results.  It gave me the most amazing grounding for graphic design.  I was there for about three and a half years before getting a role with a design studio in Collingwood called Kryptonite, and that was a whole new level of design working with brands like Jockey, Jag, Laura Ashley and  Bonds  doing heaps of photos shoots and managing teams.  And that’s where I met my partner Athan – he was a client of the Agency and we worked on some really cool jobs together.

    Athan and I decided to start our own Agency called Creative Combat, and we had some really huge clients in the tourism industry because Athan had been working with Qantas for so many years.  We pumped out loads of brochures – the ones you see in a travel agent for skiing or Fiji, CIT, Europe – that was our thing.  We worked so hard, and we worked really well together.

    When I had Mia ( who is now 12) she was with me all the time because Athan was away so much, travelling for work.  Because I worked from home, making myself stay out of my office was really hard.   I’d be working away, and Mia would be tucked up under my desk.  And when Lucca came along two and a half years later it was the same.  There are pros and cons to having your own business and raising a family, but I love how they can be interlinked.  Our kids have been really blessed, learning that there is no line between work and play. I’d hate to have to leave them to go to work, and then leave work to come home.  Each day is intermingled.  When they come home from school I might do some work, then we’ll cook and have dinner together then I’ll do a bit more work.  And then we’ll do stories and after their bedtime I might do some more work.  They’ve been brought up to understand that when they get me, they get the best of me, and we’re always there to pick them up from school. They come to lots of shoots with me as well, and get to enjoy all the beautiful places and restaurants we go to and they get involved in the shoots too.  They get to talk to adults and know how to communicate with people from all walks of life. 

    I did take a bit of time off when I had two children and there were definitely challenges to face.  Our office was always home based though which did make it easier.  We had a number of designers working with us as well and it was pretty cool actually.  I’d make lunch for everyone and spend time with the kids, and do some work in between.  And it was great for me, rather than being at home on my own with two toddlers and having a hubby coming home at 7.30 at night.  Athan was a part of it all, and I had adult communication – I would have gone stir crazy otherwise.

    Moving to the Mornington Peninsula led to the launch of Love the Pen(insula). When we first moved to the area we started discovering all these really cool places but had no knowledge of any of them, we felt that the community was there but no-one was really sharing information.  Everything was so beautiful but no-one was photographing the area.  And that was how Love the Pen was born.  Photography has always been a part of my life and career, and taking beautiful photographs of the area, and businesses in the area, was the foundation of what Athan and I created.  Our staff at Creative Combat helped to build the platform, and it’s been going now for nearly four years.  The first 12 months was a soft launch where we did profiles on 50 businesses in the area, and then it started to get a bit serious because we started to get lots of enquiries from businesses wanting to advertise on our site.  But we didn’t want advertising as such – Love the Pen was a creative, visual enterprise.  We created a way in which we could visually tell the story about a business in the way we wanted to tell it, and we also developed  Love the Pen postcards which are produced every three months and displayed in special boards in specific locations around the Mornington Peninsula.  This was a way of making the business sustainable whilst staying true to the aesthetic of the website, and our advertisers really get what we try and achieve.

    We have exciting plans for the future of Love the Pen – it takes time to build quality content and we’re in a really good place now.  We have established some really engaged followers, and they understand how involved and dedicated we are to the landscape of the area and that we believe in those who have built their businesses on the Peninsula.  There are so many artists and creatives and fascinating people who live and work on the Mornington Peninsula, and we love telling their stories.  The more people we get to know, and the more ingrained Love the Pen becomes with their businesses, the easier it all becomes.  Love the Pen is our future, I can see myself still working on it when I’m 70, which is a beautiful thing.

    I think it’s really important to inspire younger people - our kids who are raised on the Mornington Peninsula – to realise that they don’t have to leave the area in order to have successful careers.  That’s a huge part of our business.  We want them to know that they can live and learn right here, and get incredible skills – and of course travel and explore and do all those things – but they can come back here and lead an amazing life.  Ten years ago that might not have been possible, most people left the area to find work, but fortunately that has really changed.

    I love having my own business, but I would only recommend it if you have someone else to help you.  I personally think you need support.  It is hard work, I don’t stop.  The kids are demanding, the house is demanding, the dog’s demanding, and you have to look after yourself so you have to exercise.  So there’s not a lot of time left.  So if you run a business but you don’t have someone you can bounce ideas off and you can support you when you need help, it will be really hard.  If you have the support you need, go for it!

    Love the Pen is a distinctive mix of photo-journalism covering life on the Mornington Peninsula.  Writers and photographers are dispatched daily to deliver stories on people, emerging ideas, popular culture and inspiring moments.  Love the Pen covers subjects in art, business, culture, design, events, food, farming, history and community.  They respectfully acknowledge that the activities of Love the Pen(insula) take place on Boon Wurrung country, and they pay respect to elders past and present.




    Kate has been running her own business for many years, with her partner, and with support from family, staff and colleagues.  Business Mamas understands that it can be hard to find the support you need so they have established a strong mentor program and networking opportunities that can help relieve the burden or isolation and provide a way for you to share your ideas and get the support you deserve.

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Fifty One!

    Looking back I loved school. I am still friends with all my girlfriends from school which is pretty amazing, we catch up a lot and we’re really close. I was always interested in fashion and I did a lot of business subjects at school like accounting and economics, and I went to Uni and did a Business Degree specialising in Marketing and HR. I went to Canada as an exchange through Uni, and in Melbourne I worked part time at Country Road and when I finished Uni I worked at Kookai.  I lived in London for four years which I loved, working in a variety of roles including with Harvey Nichols and Nicole Farhi, so I was always really in the fashion arena. I was pretty focused on the idea of business, but I hadn’t planned to have my own, that just happened.

    When I came back to Melbourne, I was offered a role with Globe which operated Hardcore and Die Hard at the time, managing a new brand they had just licensed called Paul Frank. It was just me launching the brand and I had no idea what I was doing, and that was the best experience I’d ever had. I worked so hard for them learning everything from sales to production, and it paid off because it was a great brand to work on. I got to travel to the USA a few times a year and I grew Paul Frank in Australia to a $10 million dollar brand. 


    When Finn was born (he’s now 11) I had about three months off but I was still having meetings at home during that time and going into the office (pumping breast milk in the toilets!).  By the time Finn was around nine months old I realised it was all too hard and I decided to leave. It was about five months afterwards that friends from Bali, Sean and Anita Cosgrove, contacted me about their children’s wear label called Little Horn. They were based in Bali and needed someone to look after the label in Australia, so that’s really how Simone Agency started. And I love Bali, so going back and forth was wonderful. I had worked with Sean at Globe (he was the founder of Mooks), and he’s always been a great mentor and he was the one who suggested that I start my own label in addition to having the Agency. And when my daughter Chilli was born in 2007, I started working with Fiona Scanlan, consulting to her when she had her label Big. That was great because she’s a true creative.

     Looking back, starting my own Agency and a children’s clothing label with two small children was a massive juggle. I’m really into yoga and exercise too – making it all fit in was hard. My husband Paul has his own business as well, so trying to make all the elements of our family life, work life and personal goals balance out was our biggest challenge. It was so full on, but I had really good family support from my mother-in-law and my mum.  We just made it work I guess. 

    When Chilli was about one year old the Agency expanded, with me taking on the labels Minti and Coco & Ginger. We have an office in Bali with two staff there, who were originally working with Little Horn before the label was bought out. So what with the business, raising two little ones, travelling back and forth to Bali and renovating our house, life was pretty crazy.

     From all the work I had done at Globe I had a really good understanding of buying timelines and showings and the structure required to work effectively with retailers – and my skills are really focused on building brands.  When I began working with Minti they were just starting out so we have really grown the label together which is really fun.  And it was the same with Coco & Ginger – I don’t just help them sell, I help them merchandise too, and make sure the range is tight and ready to sell into retail.  As well as Minti and Coco & Ginger, Simone Agency now represents Acorn, Peggy, Atelier Child, Fallen Broken Street, Fieyue Shoes and Tutu Due Monde.


    Initially we exhibited at trade fairs like Life Instyle, and then we started hiring a space for showings, before setting ourselves up in a beautiful space in Fitzroy for a while.  We recently moved to a great space in Eaglemont which is where we do our Melbourne showings, and in Sydney (where we show in February to coincide with trade fairs) we rent a gorgeous house in Paddington. Simone Agency has grown significantly, so during our two peak periods life is pretty intense and the craziness lasts about six weeks, during which time we meet with all our retailers showing the new ranges from all our clients.

     With the continued expansion of the business, I now have a partner working with me. Caitlin has come on board to help move the business forward and she has breathed new life in to the Agency.  Being able to bounce ideas off each other is great and she brings different strengths to the business - she’s very practical which is really good. With the Agency having been operating for 10 years now, fresh eyes can liven up the business and help me to see what else is possible. We get emails all the time from new labels wanting to join Simone Agency, and we’re at a point now where we could perhaps take on a new range. With the growth of Instagram and social media in general, retailers can see all these new brands popping up from the USA and Europe and the UK, and they all want to stock something that’s new, and the latest thing, and whatever is photographed really beautifully. Instagram seems to create a frenzy of buying which is so different to when we started.  So we almost need to have new labels to keep our offering fresh as well.  However the key to our success is that we have strong relationships with our clients, and our retailers trust what we put forward to them because we do understand what sells, and how to sell it.

     The biggest challenge being a mum in business is balancing everything. I try to make time for doing it all, which for me means getting up at 5.30 in the morning to be at yoga by 6am. The financial side can also be stressful, it’s on your mind the whole time whereas when you’ve got a job you can leave it behind at the end of the day.  When you have your own business it can be hard to be 100% with the kids or 100% focused on the business. I do try and have that separate time where I am present at whatever it is I’m doing. The flexibility is probably what I love the most – being able to attend sporting activities or having time off during the school holidays. And the creativity of what I do is something I really love. Simone Agency is at a really great stage where we love the brands that we work and we have wonderful relationships with our clients.  It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

    For mums wanting to start their own business, I would personally suggest waiting until the kids are at school, so that there’s not too much madness. I would really recommend doing lots of research before starting, and to do a really thorough business plan. I see so many people starting clothing labels or different businesses without realising everything that is involved.  It’s really tricky and it’s a big sacrifice having your own business, so be aware of the road you will have to travel.

    Simone Agency takes their clients beyond the traditional sales agent experience.  From brand identity through to marketing and business development, they love watching their brands flourish. They work closely with their clients to deliver the smartest approach to distribution.  They are respected by the Australian children's fashion industry at large - beautiful, imaginative and clever children's fashion excites them.   




    Simone offered some really sound advice about how important it is to have a thorough business plan before embarking on your business dream.  Business  Mamas can work with you, and help you develop a carefully structured business plan that sets you on the right path to business success.

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Fifty!

    I grew up in Mansfield and then lived in Portland.  I didn’t really come to Melbourne very much.  I was pretty much a square at school, I always wanted to do well at everything. I wanted to be an architect or a graphic designer – I was always creative.  I could draw, but in more of a technical sense than an intuitive sense like my partner Simon, he’s an amazing drawer.  I think I’m too inhibited to just go for it.  I was good at maths as well and I loved writing, and because of those things I was encouraged to do architecture.  I was accepted to two Universities but for some reason I changed my mind and decided to do graphic design at RMIT.  Simon studied there as well – we did our Honours degree together.  

    I started doing my Masters and then I started teaching as well.  That was the year I started Obüs, and teaching helped me to fund the launch of my first collection – nearly twenty years ago.  It has been such a rocky road, and I am just starting to get my head around what an achievement it is to still be going after all these years.  There were many times when I probably should have given up because things were so hard for so long, but the business has turned a corner now and everything is as it should be.

    It all started when Simon and I went to India, which was my first trip overseas – and it was such a ground breaking time for me.  The first day felt like I was in a dream.  We were there for three months staying with a friend’s family, so we experienced a real contrast between staying with quite a wealthy family to back-packing around on our own.  It was quite crazy to see both worlds.  After doing my degree and suffering from RSI in my shoulder, I realised I didn’t want to work on graphics in front of a computer all day.  India made me realise that I wanted to be hands-on. I had always loved textiles.  And that’s how Obüs came into being.  Obüs is a German word (my last name is German) and while there isn’t a close connection to my German heritage I loved the name – Obüs is a trolley car in Europe which looks like a bus but it’s wired at the top like a tram. There’s not many around anymore.  The idea for Obüs was that each collection would go to a different destination, and all sorts of people could get on board. The idea was very inclusive, the range was meant to be for all types of women - not too fashion-oriented and not just for skinny girls.  That was the origin of Obüs and it’s still the driving force today – every woman can get on board and each season they’ll be taken to a different destination.

    For the first few years of Obüs we were based in the Nicholas Building in Flinders Lane in the city, in a shared creative studio with heaps of other mates. At that time Simon and I were living in a warehouse in Smith Street and we started despatching from there and then all of a sudden I just got over being in the city and walking through crowds of people every day.  So we moved the business to a studio in Smith Street, and then to a space in Abbotsford and Obüs now has a home in Northcote with a studio above our shop, which is amazing.

    Obüs grew really organically.  We started off as a wholesaler, and we did quite a bit of Fashion Week work mainly in Melbourne.  We had Agents later on, but at the start I really did it all on my own.  The collection had a bit of everything in it, but it was very much unplanned.  I didn’t study fashion and I didn’t study business, which is why Obüs has been a long and winding road with me learning along the way.  The collections were driven by design, and I learnt by trial and error and by what felt right along the way.  It was all creative and awesome, but crazy as well.  The wholesale business was really quite big for us with lots of stockists around Australia and overseas.  We went to the States and had a show there and we had stockists in Japan.  Our first shop opened in Gertrude Street, and the business slowly shifted so that we became half retailer, half wholesaler.  Everything then became really tricky, and financially really hard.  I got a business mentor in and we gradually made the shift to becoming a retailer.  Being a wholesaler was so difficult – at times we lost so much money to stockists who couldn’t pay us, and then the whole profit just disappeared.  So we are a true retailer now – with our retail stores and our online store.  We have four Obüs shops – Gertrude Street which is little and old school has been open for around 10 years, we have a really big, lovely shop in Northcote, a new little shop in Lygon Street in Brunswick East which is perfect for our customers – and now we are coming full circle with a brand new shop in the Nicholas Building where it all started, and now we are on the ground floor in Cathedral Arcade which is very exciting – opening in mid May!

    Becoming a retailer is a big investment, but we have always done it the Obüs way, which is being very resourceful.  We’ve never used architects or shop fitters.  We’ve designed them and renovated them all ourselves just like we designed and renovated our own home.  It has been because of necessity but also because we can – Simon’s dad is really handy and Simon is extremely handy and practical.  I’ve designed all the furniture for the stores and Simon’s dad made it all, I designed all the racks and had them fabricated – so my design background has really helped me through the whole process.  And now my focus is on designing the prints for the Obüs collections, which is really one of our signatures.  We have an awesome team, and we work collaboratively on the collection.

    As a retailer we can now have four collections a year rather than two, with new drops coming in each week giving our customers a new destination.  We work so differently to any other label we know – we work really closely to the market. We can be creating a design in the studio today, put it into local production in three days time and then have it in store within a week to two weeks.  We don’t manufacture everything locally – but everything we can, we do.  It does make it more difficult to get PR and to get clothes into magazines to drive sales, but the benefits are that we can feel really close to our customers and respond to our design inspirations as they evolve.  Social media is our main form of advertising and EDM’s have become really important to our sales – communicating directly with our customers and growing that list is a real priority.  

    When Orlo came along three years ago, everything became about him.  He is amazing.  I was really lucky to be running my own business because I could be so flexible with my time, but sometimes I do feel like I missed out on that focused time that other mums get. I couldn’t sleep in with him and spend all day with him.   I was frantic to get him to bed because I knew it would give me one and a half hours to work on the computer.  It was really hard, but I got so much freedom being able to work from home.  Simon is the best dad in the world, he is so good with Orlo.  Our parenting is totally 50/50. Luckily Simon’s family has supported us a lot, and supported the business a lot too.    Things have settled down now and Orlo is in childcare three days a week,  so I can go to the studio on those days.  

    Obüs  has grown into a stage where Simon, Orlo and I can travel and I just have to touch base with the team.  The system is set up so they can manage it all and I can truly switch off.  I never really had a business plan that saw us with four retail stores and an online business and such a big team. At different stages of the business  I’ve been excited about our achievements – opening stores, our collections being sold overseas - but at the end of the day it all just evolved.  Things are good at the moment, I want to keep the balance like it is. Being able to take time off to travel is so important to us, so we can enjoy being with Orlo before he goes to school.  

    For other mums wanting to start their own business, I would say go for it. Sometimes I feel really brave - but at times that courage has led me to make the wrong decisions.  The thing is you won’t know what you can achieve unless you try.  I’ve failed a number of times in a number of ways, but I have also had many wins - and I feel like we’re winning now.

    Obüs creates beautiful and practical wearables for the modern woman, and now in its 17th year, is a mainstay of the Melbourne fashion landscape. Designer Kylie Zerbst and her team have produced many coveted collections - each one thoughtfully designed and curated to form a wardrobe of must have styles. The concept of travel is used to tell a story each season; each collection an exciting new journey inspired by designer Zerbst's personal wanderings. 


    Fitzroy:  226 Gertrude Street

    Brunswick East:  135 Lygon Street

    Northcote:  285 High Street

    Melbourne CBD:  Shop 5 Cathedral Arcade, 37 Swanston Street (cnr Flinders Lane)






    Starting a business by instinct can get you to where you want to go, but you can get there a lot faster with the right knowledge behind you.  Business Mamas can set you on the right path to making your business dream come true.


    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Forty Nine!

    I grew up in the ‘burbs of south east Melbourne. I was born in a hospital in Mt Waverley, went to school in Mt Waverley and got my first job at McDonalds in Mt Waverley! My first venture out of the area was to go to Uni at Swinburne in Hawthorn before going to Deakin in Burwood (which is only the next suburb from Mt Waverley!) to finish my degree in Applied Science in Human Movement, which is essentially exercise science. I always really enjoyed nutrition, health and science at school, I was very maths driven but I also enjoyed tennis and sports in general. So I followed my passion when it came to study rather than following a career path. I wasn’t quite sure where it would take me, and it was interesting where it all led.


    After finishing my studies my now husband (who I met when I was 19) and I moved to the UK for a year.  He was working in product design at that time, and I got a job with Nike which was amazing. I started in retail and then got trained up in visual merchandising at what was the biggest Nike store in the world (in Oxford Circus). It was a pretty surreal experience working for a brand that did more sales in terms of dollars out of one store than most surf brands do globally. It was a hard and fast education in full on retail.  We would close the store for celebrities like Eminem, we would have a lot of the sports stars come through the store – just to be dealing with that level of sales was amazing. I went from quite an analytical background with maths and science at school, to exploring my creative side. It was fascinating discovering how to turn intuition into an effective design. Being able to identify what isn’t working in a design and then make that change to get the balance right is really interesting. At Nike the visual merchandising was all directed from head office, so the work was all about execution – dealing with a global company with the European head office in the Netherlands.  They would guide the look.  Detailing was vital, everything presented to the customer was picture perfect. Those skills have served me well, I can’t help myself when it comes to making everything in the Oishi-M shop look perfect!

     We moved back to Australia, and my husband is a big fan of surfing so we decided to leave the city behind and move to Torquay. I got a job as the National Visual Merchandising Manager for Rip Curl, their head office is in Torquay. It was really interesting - it was more of a role of creating point of sale, pretty much designing anything that went into a Rip Curl store, or any Rip Curl surf retailers – anything that helped communicate the brand to the end customer, from window concepts to floor mats. It was fascinating dealing with the Rip Curl brand and how to produce point of sale for 1000 wholesale accounts, each with their own set of store layouts. I was with them for about three years, and it was wonderful to become a part of the community (working in the same area that I live in), growing and developing life-long friendships, including Fiona who became my partner in Oishi-M. 

    Fiona was always a creative person, customising denim and tinkering in making and designing clothes.  She is quirky and creative with an amazing sense of style, and she didn’t really feel the vibes going on the marketplace when she was looking for clothes for her young daughter. Making her own clothes for her daughter grew into her taking orders for clothes from her mother’s group to stocking her clothes in some local stores – growing slowly for the first three years. I was at Rip Curl at the time and decided to go back to Uni to do a Masters in Marketing, during which time I did a case study on Oishi-M. After doing some work on the business I really saw the potential, and how it could grow with the right business strategy. I had already left Rip Curl, so Fiona and I decided to form a partnership.  We redeveloped the website, grew to having 100 stockists in Australia and internationally, and expanded our team.


    The success of the Oishi-M brand is product. The product is compelling enough for people to want to keep coming back to buy.  It’s comfortable, it washes well, it wears well – and it’s the sort of product where people will stop you in the street to ask where you bought your child’s outfit.  This reaction created a viral network of Oishi-M fans. We are surprised, in awe, so inspired by the organic growth of the Oishi-M community.  It is very special – there’s something really interesting and unique about our community.  There’s a lot of respect, and a fair bit of love and integrity in the way they all communicate with each other.  There’s a wholesome and genuine vibe and desire for positivity. We have our own community that we developed through official channels like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pages and our blog, but then there’s a whole bunch of groups dedicated to Oishi-M – buy,swap, sell groups, pre-loved clothing groups and second hand clothing groups that created their own communities.  They don’t need our approval as such but we are involved with these groups – importantly we want them to have their own life and to be self-moderated where they can communicate openly.

     I have been with Oishi-M for about seven years. I was pregnant with Mali who is now 6, and then I had Jala who is now 4. It was fascinating being a mum with a baby and running a business.  I used to respond to a whole lot of wholesale account enquiries whilst I was feeding Mali, and then when she was two weeks old a friend offered to give me a little break and I took the opportunity to do a stocktake!  When Jala came along, the timing was so perfect. I was about six months pregnant with her when we exhibited at an August trade show in Melbourne. I sat on a couch and our wholesale accounts did all their own showings - our customers felt like they were a part of my journey. And then by the time the February trade fair came about at Life Instyle in Sydney, Jala was about three months old and she was there with me – and it was amazing how much a part of it all our wholesale accounts felt. They were wonderful. Mali was looked after by my Mum while we were away so it all went pretty smoothly, apart from an ‘amazing’ haircut that my Mum happened to give her – be careful of grandparents and haircuts!

    A growing business is a hungry baby monster. Progressively over the years the vision for the business evolved, as did the direction we’ve taken, the business strategy, our capabilities and even our appetite for the business. Earlier this year Fiona stepped away from Oishi-M and I decided to run it on my own, with our team. We have an amazing team of about 15 – from production and design to buying, the website to social media and the retail staff in our store.


    It was the end of an era.  We had reached a 10 year milestone, and it was a good time to reflect on how far we had come.  You get so immersed in cash flow, product releases and the daily grind that it’s not until you step back and take time away that can get some perspective.  We decided to stop wholesaling – it was a big decision.  With managing the wholesale accounts, the retail shop and the online shop we were essentially operating three different businesses.  It got to a point where we felt we had grown to a fairly substantial level in the Australian marketplace, so to grow we needed to expand internationally – and keep on growing  to make the efficiencies work.  So much time was going in to photo shoots, wholesale catalogues and infrastructure for these accounts.  When we looked really closely at the margins we were making we had to question whether it was the right way forward for the business.  It was of course worthwhile to get the brand out there, and because of the amazing relationships we had with our retailers, but once the US dollar tanked we couldn’t sustain the margins and the growth.  A lot of it came down to a strategic business decision about what margins we could sustain as a growing business, and we felt we could probably increase the scale of our online store.  We kept all of our staff but changed the focus of their roles.


    A big realisation was that ‘more is not more’.  More doesn’t necessarily give you more happiness or satisfaction with life, or more profit.  It was a telling time and a big turning point for me when I was so stressed and working all day on Xmas Day to set up for a Boxing Day sale that we needed to do to maintain cash flow – and I realised I didn’t have time for Christmas because I was too busy working on the business. It was crazy – and the whole point of having young children is to spend time with them and to enjoy life.  I was letting the business run my life, and the stress and pressure of running a business was dictating whether I enjoyed Christmas.  We had a good, long hard look at ourselves, and decided that more didn’t equal success.  Work life balance has been a really big driver for the last two years. 


    One of the things that I love about having my own business is that we have been able to shape it into what we want it to be.  We encourage all of our staff to have a good work/life balance.  Being able to prioritise the here and the now without compromising the future projects you’re working on is a big thing.  I really don’t want to squash other women’s visions for running the own business, but in all honesty I really didn’t have any idea how much work and heartache and money would be involved.  If you are thinking of having your own business, compare it to doing a Masters degree.  Are you prepared to work for a few years, not getting paid, pay out a lot of money without a return and learn a whole lot from it?  If you are prepared for something like that then give it a go.  At worst you will come out of it having learnt a whole lot.  It will give you experience and hands-on knowledge a whole lot more valuable than a Masters degree. 

    Running your own business does take a lot of time and a lot of head space, and you have to manage the guilt of not working on the business or not spending time with your children.  On the other hand it is amazing to look at the accomplishments, at the community you have created, and to experience the satisfaction of having your product stocked in a store.  I was at a shopping centre last year and there was a little indoor playground outside the Apple store where the girls were playing.  A lady sat down next to me and said ‘Oh!  Are they wearing Oishi-M?  It’s great isn’t it?’  And I just said ‘yes, it’s amazing isn’t it?’  She had no idea who I was and that it was my business.  It’s moments like that that make it all worthwhile.



    Oishi-m is designed for playing, jumping and exploring the world. Their garments splash amazing fabrics together to create funky unique garments for children 3 months to 6 years old. Little people can vary in size, shape and growth rates so their Torquay designed products accommodate these variances catering for both Skinny Mini's and the Chubba Bubba’s.  Oishi-m garments are designed for functionality and comfort, to endure hand-me-downs, and to give each wearer a lasting, positive experience.





    Running your own business and raising a young family is a constant juggle. Business Mamas understands the demands of being a mother in business, and provides the support, coaching and encouragement you need to get through it all, and can help you find the perfect work/life balance for you.

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Forty Eight!

    I grew up in Melbourne in Ashburton, and then moved to East Malvern which is where I did most of my schooling.  I moved around between private co-ed schools.   I struggled with the demographic and the culture and always felt I needed something more.   I plucked myself out of the private school sector in Year 11 and enrolled myself in McKinnon Secondary College for Year 12 and I absolutely loved it.  I had friends there and I thrived academically - it was so multicultural with none of the bitchiness.  It was a public school and while my parents really wanted me to go to Wesley or some other private school, I was too head strong.   After I moved schools  I was much more settled and felt so much more comfortable in my own skin.


    After school I worked really hard doing three or four jobs, saving money to buy a round-the-world ticket.  So off I went on my own, and I didn’t come back to Melbourne for 15 years.  I just kept on moving.  I first went to Spain and then to London which was my base, and where I worked caring for the elderly and nannying to save money and then go off on another adventure.  When I got to India I fully immersed myself in my Indian experience, spending two years there mainly doing yoga and meditation. I met my then partner in Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives, and we travelled a lot together and we ended up in Gujarat to do my first  Vipassana meditation course.  It’s ten days of meditation where you don’t write or talk to anyone, and where you sit and meditate for 10 hours a day.  Once I made it through the ten days, I did it again because I loved it.  It was physically challenging but I finally felt I’d come home, I finally found some peace and quiet in my mind.  It was the missing piece from when I was younger.  In all I did the course 20 times.   I left India after two years and moved to Denmark for a year where I trained in massage, and did meditation and healing and ran workshops for women which was a real exploration period. People started travelling from other countries to meet with me because of the work I was doing in Ayurvedic and Swedish massage blended with my own intuitive touch.  I’ve always been in a role where I am caring for or nurturing other people.  I kept on travelling using what I had learnt, living in America and Japan before moving to Peru which is where I met Omkara’s dad and fell in love.   He is Peruvian and lives in Cusco, the most magical place in the mountains.  Omkara was born in 2006.  Our home there overlooks all of Cusco and one of the Incan ruins.  We still have a farm there even though Omkara’s father and I separated – he stayed in Peru and I finally moved home to Melbourne when Omkara was four.


    When Omkara was born I became really fascinated with birth.  I had always wanted to be around babies. My midwife in Peru was incredible.  She was a German who had been trained in the Amazon and immersed herself in traditional midwifery.   So I was this Jewish princess on top of a mountain in Peru giving birth naturally to my baby with a German midwife!  I was like, call my dad and get me off this mountain right now! I did know I wasn’t going to die but I was out of my depth.  It really awakened in me a fascination about birth.  

    I read a lot about midwifery when I was there, and then when I got back to Melbourne I was planning to enrol in a midwifery course but then someone gave me a flyer about training to be a doula which said ‘A Heart’s Calling’ – and it spoke to me.   It was a one year course and I thought it would be a good step towards midwifery, so that’s what I did rather than doing a full on Uni degree. It was the right thing for me.  As a midwife you have to be medically trained and you have that responsibility when you are helping a woman give birth, but as a doula I can completely be with a woman rather than having to follow medical protocol and legalities.  My whole role is to enable a woman to soften her body so she feels safe, secure and comfortable to birth. I then also refocused on my massage techniques which I had been working on for 20 years,  adding pregnancy massage training, as well as studying childbirth education and training and doing a business course at TAFE. 

    It was really hard arriving home in Melbourne as a single mum, having been away for 15 years.  We started from nothing but I had so much amazing support from my father and my brothers and my mum.  They fell in love with Omkara and I am so glad I came home.  Omkara was able to build a relationship with my father who passed away last year.  His passing threw my world into a spin. I really was so unsure of what direction to go in but I decided that I must go on, and his passing drove me to be more focused on where I needed to get to.

    So Nurtured Birth launched in 2011.  It all came about from my intense curiosity and passion to support women and help them to develop the confidence and skills to birth their babes.  Now I have a real sense of commitment and clarity, of how I see Nurtured Birth growing. Once I made that internal commitment everything changed. I became so busy. There are three aspects to Nurtured Birth - pregnancy massage, birth doula support and childbirth education. I could see that my doula services didn't really need to be advertised as I was fully booked and continue to be so, just from word of mouth.  It was the pregnancy massage and childbirth education that needed most attention.

    As I have a high turnover of clients – nine months or less is the general turn over with them -  I focused on  combining the sessions of induction massage with prepping the woman’s  body and mind.  I  encourage women with childbirth education techniques and strategies to develop more confidence, excitement and trust. You can never plan for a birth but you can certainly have preferences and it is imperative to be prepared in your mind.

    I became so busy that I have now recruited another fabulous masseuse, Lisa Reti-Waks, who is amazing, her touch is bliss!  Apart from being a mother herself she is also a part time midwife offering massage and childbirth education at Nurtured Birth.  It was a wonderful decision.  I now feel like I can share the load with such a skilled knowledgeable massage therapist. Nurtured Birth has grown at my rhythm at what I could manage at every phase, I think that's really important to recognise and not to over stretch oneself and become too stressed out. That just goes against my ethos.  

    Being a single mum and having my own business meant I had to work really hard.  My son and my wellbeing come first, then the business. The whole idea behind starting my own business was so that I could work around his schooling.   One of my very big challenges was to know what my weaknesses are. Understanding what support I need from family was important to my mental and emotional well being. Being called out at all hours for births means I need a really strong support network – Omkara is amazing at managing the demands of what I do, understanding my responsibilities and that there are no set hours.  There is always a juggle and a negotiation.  Being a mother in business, particularly a single mum, means you often feel isolated. You often feel like you can’t follow your passion.  But you CAN do it – just take it slowly, it doesn’t have to happen overnight.  Build your networks and your community of support where you can share the load.  Nurture those relationships.   My business may grow slowly but that is fine with me. Every day brings a new opportunity to continue developing. I have plans for Nurtured Birth's future with opening up employment opportunities for other talented massage therapists and expanding the childbirth education side. All in good time. I am finally proud of my achievements - it took me a while but I got there!

    Nurtured Birth offers birth support, pregnancy massage, relaxation and childbirth education.  Sarah Goldberg loves being able to combine her body work skills (massage, reboze, body mindfulness, meditation, reiki, ayervedic understanding) along with her knowledge of birth to fully support and enhance birthing women.

    Finding your tribe and creating a support network is so important to being a mum in business.  Business Mamas is all about support, mentoring and encouragement – we can help you create the network you need to make your business dream come to life.


    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Forty Seven!

    I grew up in Lower Templestowe and went to school not far from home.  Then I went to RMIT and studied Visual Merchandising.  I really had no idea at all what I wanted to do, but my father was a sign writer and screen printer so I followed in his footsteps. It was quite a new course and difficult to get in to – I loved it.  My first job was at Myer in their Visual Merchandising department, doing screen printing, design and building displays.  And then I went to a large display company in Abbotsford, building props for TV studios and doing screen printing and sign writing.  I worked there for a few years and then went on my travelling adventure and disappeared for a few years.  I had done my study, worked hard, and it was time for a break.

    When I got back to Melbourne I got back into sign writing, but realised it wasn’t quite enough for me so I went back to Uni as a mature age student and did a business degree. I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I thought that doing a business degree would help to further my career. I started working again but when I did finally have children I didn’t take maternity leave – I resigned, there was no going back. My sons are now quite grown up - Camden is 13 and Charlie is nine. When Camden was born I was a stay at home mum and did some sign writing part time. I guess that was my first business but it was hard to get motivated on my own. I was like Patsy from Ab Fab, I had business cards and had Christmas parties but never really did any work! My time management was very poor, and while I had supportive parents and baby sitting support, it was really hard to raise young children and get back into the groove of work.


    Once both of my boys were settled at school, I decided I needed to get some sort of work, so I started working at a local kids store called Moppit two days a week. It was like being reborn really, having somewhere to go regularly, and being back in the world amongst people.  Being able to talk to people every day was wonderful. The store hours really suited my lifestyle. Gradually I felt I needed more than two days a week but the owner of Moppit at the time couldn’t give me any more hours, and that’s when I started to think about how great it would be to have my own business. I used to lay awake at night thinking about what it would be like, and I started doing lots of research. I loved the idea of having a really creative outlet. Having a shop or working in a shop isn’t just about serving people, it’s so much more. The idea just grew, and I knew I wanted to work with babies clothes and gifts.  Peta was also working at Moppit a few days a week and I knew her from the kindergarten committee.  When the opportunity came up to take over the shop we were both so excited about it and decided to take the opportunity. It was comforting, taking on the business with someone I knew and who was as passionate as I was about making it work. Having another person to lean on and talk things through was great.  We are similar in ways but quite different in our tastes, which really helps.  If you just buy the things you like it’s not a good way to run a business – by having different tastes we buy products for the bigger picture, to satisfy the different customers who come into the shop.


    We are still really new to the business, it’s only a year old for us.  We’re just learning by experience.  Moppit was well established with a strong customer base and suppliers, so we concentrated on bringing in new brands and putting our own stamp on the store.  We go to trade fairs, but our biggest way of sourcing clothes is via Agents at seasonal showings.

    Having our own business is a lot more work than I ever imagined.  Every night there’s something to do on the computer, from posting on Instagram to responding to online shopping.  It consumes you all the time.  Luckily we have weekend staff so we can be with our kids on the weekend.   I love having my own business, because it’s mine.  I love going to work every day.  I had loved working at Moppit when I was employed there part time, so I didn’t want to find another full time job, I wanted to expand what I was doing.  So I was really fortunate when the opportunity came up to buy the business.  It was meant to be. 

    For other mums wanting to start their own business, just go for it.  In the beginning it can be quite stressful and agonising before you make the decision, but once you do decide to go for it and you have a clear focus of what you want, it’s great.  Peta and I are very lucky that Moppit is doing very well.  The shop is in a great location with a lot of foot traffic, and it already had a name that was recognised by people.  We market Moppit on Instagram  - it’s really important to the business and it’s amazing how well it works.  When we were initially told to do three posts a day and make sure we feature product, we thought it would be so time consuming, but it definitely works and it pays to be consistent.  Flat lays and pictures of product in store work well.  My experience in visual merchandising and what I learnt doing my business degree has all come together now, and I love what I am achieving.


    I grew up in a small country town in central Victoria called Elmore, between Echuca and Bendigo, and went to school locally for both primary and high school.  We had a farm but lived in the town – we were ‘townies’. I came to Melbourne to go to University, and I was so ready for it.  I worked really hard in year 11 and 12.  I was focused and wanted to make sure I could get into Uni, I wanted more than living in a small country town.  Uni was my ticket out.    I had originally wanted to do physiotherapy but after doing some work experience I found nursing was a little broader and had a bit more scope, so I studied nursing instead.  I ended up moving to Sydney to do critical care nursing and then moved back to Melbourne and worked at The Alfred in Emergency Trauma for ten years which I loved.  It was an amazing job when I was younger, and there was such a wonderful team environment at the Trauma Centre.  It was very intense and you form amazing friendships with your colleagues, but it becomes really insular.  Work was my priority and I was very focused, but you do get burnt out.  Falling pregnant with Finn allowed me to have a break, and once I had him my priorities changed. Finn is now ten.


    I had always thought I would go back to nursing, but my husband is a property valuer and is now a partner in the company he works with, so his level of work is pretty intense. I realised that Finn would have to go into childcare if I went back to work as both our families still live  in the country, so there isn’t any family support. I did try going back for a couple of nursing shifts, but realised I just wanted to be at home with Finn so I gave it all up, and now I also have my daughter Sadie who is eight. We were building the house we now live in so I started dabbling in Interior Design and I studied via correspondence with the Sydney Interior School of Design. I enjoyed that and it became a little passion, and I did a few jobs for friends which was enough to keep me going. I loved buying the right interior items and making a house feel like a home.


    I started up an interior design business but I still felt quite isolated. Being at home with the children was wonderful but once they were off at school I wanted more interaction with people because I am a very social person and love bouncing ideas off people.  I started playing around with the idea of opening up an interiors/homewares shop. My husband said that I really needed to get a job in retail and get a feel for it before investing a lot of capital in opening my own shop, so I approached Moppit to see if I could work there. I already knew April from the kindergarten committee and I started working there a few days a week. So when the owner decided to sell Moppit about six months after I began working there, it seemed like an obvious choice to take it on given that the business had a great reputation, the brand was established and it was in a great location. It was so convenient. Both April and I live nearby and the kids go to school around the corner. While it’s not interiors, I still get to shop for things I love and do the visual merchandising  which is wonderful. I would love to move towards children’s decor, and that will come in time.


    It’s been a massive experience.  It’s been a really big learning curve.  There’s so much to running a small business, even with just a little shop – I completely underestimated the constant amount of work.  Even if there’s not work to do in the shop there’s bookwork or sourcing new products or working on the social media.  I had been dabbling with Instagram for personal use but when you’re doing it for a business and trying to project a brand and be consistent there is a whole different set of challenges.  There is definitely an etiquette to Instagram, and if you make a mistake people are very quick to tell you.


    We take the business very seriously. And that in part is because of my husband. He sees real potential in it and he drives me a lot. Matt’s role is very senior and he has to travel interstate every week, and he’s made a niche for himself in commercial property. He can see a goal and he is very interested and helpful with what I do which is a great support. April is also really experienced, and we have really different strengths and weaknesses which helps a lot. April is a little more quirky in her choices  whereas I am probably a bit more contemporary in my style and design ethic.  We work different days but we share the responsibilities, from bookwork to social media and buying. We let each other explore our likes and dislikes. I learnt quite quickly that buying is not just about personal taste – you have to detach yourself and think about your customer.

    It was a big change for all of us taking on Moppit, but it was timed quite well.  Both my children were well settled in their school environments.  Their biggest adaption was going to Kids Club after school care.  It is a constant juggle though, I put them to bed and then I’m back on the computer.  I have lost personal time and I still need to try and find the right balance, but it is so rewarding.  During buying times and when new stock comes in life gets pretty frantic, co-ordinating it all becomes quite difficult. 


    What I love most about having my own business is the flexibility, and the control.  If I did need to close the shop and pick up one of the kids because they were sick, I could do it, it’s my business. I feel proud of it, and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback and it’s nice to have that satisfaction.  When you’re at home with the kids you love them to death and they give you a cuddle but you don’t get a lot of feedback from them.  It’s great to be out meeting people and I love having something for me that I can focus on rather than the children and my husband.  Taking over an existing business made life more simple, but our challenge is to put our own stamp on it.  We spoke to a lot of retail stores, business owners who had been in the industry for a long time, and they all said just to take it slowly.  If it changed too quickly customers may find it jarring, and because Moppit has a strong community following and regular clientele, we have to stay true to them. Half the beauty of buying the business was that it was still going strong after eight years, and it was known. We were up and running straight away and had an established social media following. There was an instant income, but there’s a lot of work for not much return.  Our partnership works really well though and I couldn’t have done it without April.  We are always looking for ways to expand and grow.

    In truth, I panicked when Sadie started school. I had let my nursing registration slip and I started to question who I was, what  I was worth, what I was going to find for myself?  I knew I couldn’t take on full time work, I needed to do a max of three days that suited school hours - and how do you find a job like that? I needed to be near where I live and near the school otherwise commuting was taking precious time away from the kids and was going to add extra pressure onto our lives. It was a difficult time and I started to question my self worth. Everybody needs something for themselves, that they can take pride in and give them a sense of satisfaction. So I would say just bide your time and look for any opportunities, and don’t undermine anything.  Explore your interests and have a go.


     Moppit and More is a fun, colourful kids and lifestyle store in the heart of Clifton Hill, and owners April and Peta love providing stylish clothes for kids who like comfort and for parents who love fashion!  They  also offer a wide range of gifts, homewares and cool stuff in general. They are focused on filling their store with locally designed products and brands that support Melbourne and Australian fashion and design talent.




    Having a clear marketing plan is one of the most important parts of running your own business.  Social media is a vital part of any marketing plan, and understanding how to manage a social media plan is the key. Business Mamas can help you understand social media content and planning, and set you on the right path to social media success.

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Forty Six!

    I went to boarding school in Brisbane – my family home was in Cairns and my parents felt I  would get a better education if I went away.  I didn’t love it initially, but it was so good for me.  I was a really shy kid so it really helped me to gain some life skills, and to get some independence and self confidence.  I always wanted to be an actress, which is funny given that I was so shy – but maybe I liked the idea of taking on a character that was other than myself. Being sensible though, reality took me to Uni to do a law degree, which I hated! Back in the late eighties, business, marketing and communications were just evolving as career choices, so when I told my parents that was the angle I was thinking of they were doubtful of my choice and encouraged me to do something more stable like law.  They were looking after my best interests of course.  I completed my degree and then went off and had a jaunt overseas for a year, and when I got home my parents said I really needed to get admitted as a Solicitor.  I started working in Brisbane as a Law Clerk, and was pretty miserable because I really didn’t want to do it.  I hated it as much as I thought I would, but I met my husband during that time so something wonderful did come out of it!  And then I went back to Uni and started all over again, doing what I wanted to do – a Bachelor of Business in Marketing, specialising in PR.

    With my marketing degree, I was one of those annoying mature age students sitting up the front staring eagerly at the lecturer, you know ‘let’s discuss this, I want to talk more about this’!  High distinctions were the only option for me, whereas when I did my law degree I was the one at the back, snoring. After Uni I got a job at the QLD Law Society as a Marketing/Media Officer which really did fuse the two stages of my life together and I got the best training in that area.  I finally felt I loved what I was doing and that I was doing something that was truly me.

    Before we got married my husband and I were just friends for about six years - he is a lawyer too.  He moved to Melbourne and I visited him and fell in love with the city (and with him!) and then about nine months later I moved too – that was late 2001.  We did go to Adelaide for a short while, but we have been living in Melbourne for a long time now.  I was working at CPA Australia in their marketing department and then at Hall and Wilcox as their Business Development Manager.

    When I had Hugo, who is now ten, and Ted who is now seven, I was consulting with small business clients doing professional services marketing and getting back into PR – I particularly love public relations and the writing associated with it. It was difficult though, doing consulting work and looking after a young family with my husband working such long hours and travelling so much.  One of us had to be available for the kids if they were sick.  I was meeting clients at their offices, juggling responsibilities and looking after the family, and there was no balance in my life at all.

    So I started thinking about creating an online company that was subscription based and that operated in business hours within a five day week, which might be more conducive to a balanced family life because I could work from home. I could see the flaws in the industry and how new technology was disrupting traditional communication methods, and that’s when the idea for SourceBottle developed. SourceBottle was an answer to what I saw as a real challenge to the industry I was working in.  Public Relations consultants were becoming more gatekeepers, and there were all these wonderful social media platforms where journalists could reach out and engage with the public, and crowd-sourcing was becoming popular.  I thought, what if rather than PR professionals continually bombarding journalists with stories that we are hoping they would like to cover, what if we could just ask, collectively, what they are looking for and provide them with sources?   The idea started ruminating and then I started doing some research internationally to see if there were similar sorts of services available overseas. And there were, but they were paid subscriptions, and I wanted to create a free platform.  Certainly none of them were doing anything for the Australian market. I launched the business in July 2009 when Hugo was four and Ted had turned one.  It was hard building a start up business and looking after two young boys, but it was even when harder when I was consulting. This was the solution to a more balanced life.

    So that’s how SourceBottle began.  It was a really hard slog!  It was a chicken/egg kind of business.  I had to pitch it hard to journalists saying here are some great sources, but then I had to get the great sources to come on board.  And it took a while for people to get it.  And if you didn’t understand how PR works you wouldn’t know what a media lead was, or what a call out was – so it was all about me getting people to understand what the benefit was, connecting sources with storytellers.  Storytellers have evolved since then. Predominantly they were the media but now everyone pretty much can be a storyteller.  Sourcebottle was all about unearthing new, fresh stories from talent that storytellers wouldn’t usually have access to, on demand, when it was needed.  Going direct to the source also means that the stories aren’t always the sanitised version.  Journalists started to really appreciate that.  It’s really a response based business and it has now reached the critical mass, which took some time.  We’ve been going now for seven years.

    The business concept grew, where clients could source giveaways and prizes for functions, fundraisers and goodie bags.  I can never say I was smart enough to think of the new direction Sourcebottle would take.  There were some great PR professionals I was working with who said they were really looking for a service that could do this, and I thought it was fantastic because it fit with the premise of what SourceBottle is – getting somebody’s name in lights, whether it’s a sample in a goodie bag where their target audience is going to be, or being written up in a publication or online.  Businesses could get exposure to a whole lot of PR contacts they would normally never get to talk to, and vice-versa.  It was also a way in which SourceBottle could become a revenue earning business, because my PR contacts also said recommended I charge for this service.  

    SourceBottle was always designed to be a free platform, with me naively believing I could make easily make money from companies advertising online. Initially I had to keep my consulting work going until I built the subscriber base, because I had to have the numbers before I could warrant anyone paying for advertising, and that obviously took some time.  I decided to charge a low fee for subscribers so that the whole service was really cost effective and really accessible for everyone.  The fee had to be a no-brainer, where the value outweighed the cost.  Only a certain percentage of subscribers want to upgrade to use the additional services SourceBottle offers and that’s fine.  Some people have suggested that I charge for media leads, but that would absolutely defeat the purpose of the service because it has to be about getting great talent in front of great storytellers.

    I finally gave up consulting in year two of SourceBottle,  but it really was such a slog though to get to that point.  I didn’t understand.  I was getting resistance from journalists, in particular older journalists who felt that it was a tool for lazy journalists.  And others just didn’t understand what was in it for them – so I said just sign up and see.  See what comes your way.  If you get one media contact a year it’s worthwhile.  It’s reactive media, leads that find you rather than proactive media.   You have to do both.  I had to explain that SourceBottle isn’t to replace research on sources, it’s to complement what you’re doing and hopefully make life a whole lot easier.  It’s just another form of research, to enhance the other work you do as a great journalist or blogger.

    When my third and youngest son Sammy was due, I was in the hospital doing call outs because it was still only me in the business, and that’s when I realised I really needed some help.  So I got some virtual assistants and I expanded the service beyond Australia, so I made it accessible to international sources as well.  I got a virtual assistant in the UK and one in the US but the US one dropped off, so now I have one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere.  They do all the approvals of the call outs and all the subject lines and tweeting, all the grunt work while I try and extract myself from the day to day so I can concentrate of the business development.  SourceBottle is in a good place now – I feel good about what we are achieving and about the balance I have managed to create in my life after doing some long, hard yards. There’s so much more to do though -  I love looking for the next thing, and my new project is an App which will be launching soon!

    For anyone wanting to start their own business, go for it.  Give it a try.  What’s the worst that can happen?   What I love about creating a business, and what I say to anyone who is thinking of starting their own business, is to get it out there and then respond to feedback. It can help you grow your business in ways you didn’t think possible.  

    SourceBottle is a free and easy-to-use connection platform that enables journalists and bloggers to efficiently find knowledgeable sources. It also provides PR professionals and subject-matter experts with timely insight into publicity opportunities to help them gain brand awareness for their clients’ products and services or themselves. 



    Finding a gap in the market, or coming up with a solution to a problem, is a great way start up your own business even if you don’t have a particular passion.  Business Mamas can help you flesh out your business idea, and get you on the right path to having it all!

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Forty Five!

    I am a country girl. I grew up in Ballarat. I’ve always been outdoorsy – playing tennis and basketball, and my parents always played sport so our family was always fit and healthy. There wasn’t a day after school that I wasn’t playing sport, and fitness and health is very important to me. I loved school, it was beautiful. I wanted to be a Naturopath or a Dietician, or an Interior Designer – they were my passions.  As I got older I was really interested in health and fitness so I did a Bachelor of Arts degree specialising in Psychology and then a Bachelor of Science majoring in Naturopathy. The second degree I did is where my business evolved from and what took me on my journey.

    When I studied I only had one day off a fortnight. I was always driven. I worked in a health food store on the days I wasn’t at Uni, and I really enjoyed interacting with people, and also using my knowledge of foods, supplements and vitamins. I did that for four years, and then when I finished my second degree I decided I wanted to run my own health food store. So with luck and timing, that’s what I did.  

    Vim and Vigour was my first business, in Glenferrie Road, Malvern. I was 24 years old. I took over a lease from a lady who wanted to move on, so it was great for me. I have always been a believer in ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ so I’ve always been a risk taker. I come from an entrepreneurial family, so I was lucky enough to have good people around me to give me advice and guide me. It’s always been instilled in me that if you don’t give something a go in life, you’ll never know what you can achieve. I had that health food store for nine years, and I loved it. I got the bug, and I bought a second health food store in Elsternwick, so I had two stores for a while and built up the second store and sold it on after a few years.  

    During this time I had also been consulting at a Naturopath clinic – and I had created two recipes for cereals for people to incorporate into their dietary plans and their treatment program. They were gut cleansing cereals, and at that time there were no ‘functional foods’. As a Naturopath, I believe that we are what we eat, and that prevention is better than cure. Most diseases develop from the gut, so the two cereals I developed were for my patients. One of the ladies who worked in my store used to mix up the cereals in large steel tubs and then package them up for me, and gradually she was spending more and more time making them to keep up with demand.  

    I built my business in a very simple way. I jumped in my car, and drove around to health food stores, got on planes to different states and hired cars and drove around to health food stores in each state.  I had a very defined market and a niche product. I met some amazing people through that journey, but it was a long 18 months. It was all me, really hands on.

    My business reached a turning point when I was lucky enough to meet a really lovely lady who later became very influential in my life. One day she called me and said she had a new job – she was a buyer for Woolworths, and she wanted to trial our product in some Woolworths stores. And of course I said ‘no problem’! I hung up the phone thought  ‘holy crap!’ – I am still hand-mixing my products in my shop! But it was the best problem to have, and I decided to do something with it. I realised that my products could be something big. She was amazing, and she gave me an opportunity that changed my business. I outsourced to a commercial kitchen, and branded the cereals Food For Health. The trial went really well and she offered me a larger distribution of stores nationally – which gave me the opportunity to go to a large manufacturer with a contract for Woolworths in my hand, and everything snowballed from there. That was 2009, and supplying Coles followed soon after that. I worked six days a week as well as playing sport four nights a week, so there was no room for a relationship in my life. I had set up all the EDI systems myself and I worked crazy, crazy hours – sometimes working until 3 or 4 in the morning. But I was never afraid of hard work. I lived and breathed my business.

    When I met my husband, we moved to Tasmania for his career, so I sold the shop and concentrated on my wholesale business. I kept my model the same, with a small office in Melbourne and my distributors nationally. I was always at the airport, on flights going to meetings, and it was a crazy time - but I wanted to support Justin with his work like he had always supported me. And we made it work. It was only a two year contract – the day it ended I had the container waiting on the front lawn ready to move back to Melbourne!

    I’ve done the hard yards, walking the pavement, doing the cold calls - it was only when Jack was nearly born that I took on my first staff member. That’s when I could breathe a bit. Having Jack was the turning point in my life and my business – he is now five years old. It was very hard for me to fall pregnant. It was so difficult because falling pregnant was totally out of my control and I did everything I possibly could do – from homeopathy to herbal medicine, not drinking wine – I tried everything and then all of a sudden I fell pregnant naturally. We then tried doing IVF for our second child, but I fell pregnant again naturally with Millie, who has just turned one. I am so lucky to have a healthy boy and girl.  

    Food For Health was growing during this time, we were selling to lots of stores and getting more products in Coles and Woolworths. The business had evolved significantly and as a business grows, your responsibilities grow. We now have five full time staff. But what is so important to me is that we have always received emails and messages from customers thanking us for our products, and telling us how much our products have helped them. While we are a successful commercial enterprise, my business philosophy comes from the heart. It is the result of me wanting to help people live a healthier lifestyle. Functional foods were so new and unknown when I started, but being a Naturopath I understand that food is medicine. And now functional foods are everywhere.

    Our product range is now stocked in around 3,000 stores. We have a distributor in every state of Australia, and we have distributors in around 14 other countries as well so our export market has really grown. We have two manufacturers in Melbourne, and that takes a lot of pressure off me – it allows me to develop the product, the brand and the business while knowing that my manufacturers have the process under control with great quality assurance so we are comfortable with what they produce for us.  I spend a lot of my time on research and development – there are now 14 products in the range, and we plan to keep on expanding.  For the last two years we have been available on Virgin Airlines, and I am so thankful for it. It’s not necessarily a profitable exercise but it’s a fabulous marketing opportunity.  It’s exciting being able to develop products specifically for them – once your customers know that you are reliable, and that you deliver in full and on time, that’s when you get the opportunity to develop new products.  We have developed two new products for Virgin International which was a great get. We now also supply Costco.

    Having Jack and running a business was of course a juggle, but Justin was working part time when we first got back to Melbourne so he was Jack’s primary carer for the first twelve months. We were making it work. My husband now works full time with the AFL and recently got a promotion so he has been working really long hours – he’s really successful with his own career and it’s wonderful that we both have our own paths. But it was really difficult being pregnant and looking after Jack and running my business. Justin and I did share parenthood a lot in the early years but now that his career is so busy things have changed. When Millie was born I didn’t know what to do, suddenly having two kids!  

    Life has definitely changed with two children. Until you have more than one you don’t realise how much things will change. We are so blessed to have them, and Millie has come into my life when I have people in the business to help me. I had six months at home when Millie was born. I was still working but my team would come to my home to work or I’d take Millie with me to the office. I never really saw it as a challenge – I thrived. If I have nothing to do, I get nothing done. But if I have everything to do, I get everything done. Most women are like that, we can multi-task. Give a busy woman something to do and she gets it done.  

    I think if you want to do something, you just have to give it a go. I never aspired to have a muesli breakfast company when I studied my degrees, but life takes you on these journeys. So if you see an opportunity and you think it’s something you could do or something you would love, don’t be scared.  I have made many mistakes, don’t get me wrong, it has not been an easy road – but from those mistakes I have built a successful business. You have to take that first step. Get good people around you who you can call and have a chat with and bounce ideas off, people who have been in business and can give you advice.  

    It’s so wonderful to be an independent woman and be able to provide for your family and have it all. I don’t hide from the fact that I’m a working mum – I took Millie to her first Woolworths review when she was eight weeks old. People are starting to embrace mothers in business now.  My kids will always come first. 

    Having your own business and raising a family is not easy, it’s hard work, it’s not smooth sailing, it’s late nights – but you have the opportunity to create your business around your lifestyle. I come from a family that has their own business, and whereas the rest of my family wanted to work for the family business I wanted to do my own thing. I stepped away from the family business and now Food For Health is our future, so who knows, hopefully Jack and Millie will be working in our own family business one day.

    Food For Health is proudly Australian owned and made. Their delicious product range of cereals, health bars and snacks is available in the health food aisle of leading supermarkets. You can also enjoy Food For Health on your next Virgin Australia flight!




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    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Forty-Four!

    At school I had ambitions to be the world’s greatest secretary, I was always typing and doing shorthand at home and taught myself to type 80 words a minute.  That was the thing to do, 30 years ago,  you worked in a factory or became a teacher or nurse, or worked as a secretary.  And there were amazing positions around, as a legal secretary or managerial secretary.  Things have changed so much now.  I got my first part time job at the age of 12 when I was in primary school, making and selling stuffed toys – clowns actually – to neighbours and relatives, so my first business really started back then. Even my public speaking started quite early – it is something I do quite often and with a degree of comfort - a girlfriend and I used to charge fellow students 5 cents each to come into the shelter shed and hear us sing!  So maybe I always had some sort of self-assurance and loved an audience.  I saved some money and my father agreed to pay the other half that I needed to buy my first typewriter. I actually started my first real business 20 or so years later using that same purple typewriter.  

    l left school at 15 and started working as a secretary and then joined the accounting area before ending up working for a magazine in a small publishing company.  I talked my way into every role I could, including writing the beauty pages at the ripe old age of 22.  The magazine was a high end consumer magazine, and I was able to do marketing, modelling and  book reviews and lucky to be able to work with the art director, putting the beauty pages together, writing the copy and deciding on the colours and the fonts.  I had a lot of hands on experience which was really crucial for what happened later on.

    I left there and I got a job working for a company that did accessories and fashion items for a lot of major retailers and the couture fragrance houses.  I ended up creating gift with purchase packs for Dior, Lancôme and Givenchy.  I also got the Sportsgirl account – working on product development.  The founder of the company encouraged me to do this against my will.  He said he would give me a promotion, my own office, a company car and send me overseas, and if I didn’t like the role he would give me back my old job.  So I said okay – and never looked back.  He really gave me the confidence and kick start I needed, because even though I was confident I perhaps lacked some self-assurity.  He helped me move into the space I am now. Because of him I was able to convince the company to send me on overseas buying trips.  There were trends emerging from cities we weren’t visiting and I felt we needed to capture the emerging trends and adapt them to the local market.  So I travelled to New York, Paris and Tokyo, and developed the Sportsgirl account from $100K in sales to a million dollar account.  I thought I had done a great job, but then the company explained that the margin wasn’t high enough which I didn’t understand at the time.  Clearly I had no understanding about running a business and profit margin, so it was really interesting when I started to run my own business I finally understood how vital it is to work on profit, not just sales. However I also understood that higher volume sales often meant a very low margin, but you’re getting a presence, visibility and reputation in the marketplace, and the turnover and that’s building your business.

    I came up with the idea to put the first body care range into Sportsgirl, called ‘Body First’.  Through that experience I was in a soap making factory and in a cosmetic chemist lab, so I became quite intrigued by the whole process, and the idea of putting natural essences into products – like lavender flowers in to soap rather than lavender fragrance.  The idea was quite entrepreneurial and ahead of its time back then, but within a few short years the company I was working for closed because it just wasn’t profitable.  

    It was around that time I bought a place with my first mortgage, was retrenched from my job, and I found out I was pregnant with my first son Beau, who is now 21 years old.  Having Beau was life changing.  He asked me recently what the best thing was that had ever happened to me in my life, and I said ‘You.  Having You.’  And he said that wasn’t fair because I have two sons, but I explained that both births were equally as beautiful, but when I had him, my first born, I became a mother.  Becoming a mother for the first time is so powerful.  It changed my life, and it gave me an idea to start a business not only for myself but for so many other mothers.  

    I registered Aromababy within two days of being retrenched.  After crying for two days when I lost my job, I dusted myself off and thought ‘that’s enough’ – time to get on with life.  I had become quite concerned about the issues with skin conditions in babies.  So many of us think that what the hospitals give us to use for our babies is what we have to use.  The more reports I read and the more research I did about infantile eczema, the more I found links to skin irritations being caused by ingredients.  I became quite concerned and quite passionate about making a difference and providing a choice.  At that time, there was no natural skincare commercially available for babies anywhere in the world – 22 years ago.  There was nothing in the hospital system. Aromababy was the first.  We created a category in retail that didn’t exist.

    I had been working with a number of laboratories in my previous job but none of them were really using natural ingredients, and then I stumbled across someone who had some experience working with them on a product for a European brand and he agreed to work on the formulations with me.  That was here in Melbourne.  I own the IP which is unique in the industry – most companies go to a lab, get an existing recipe and they may or may not tweak it by changing an essential oil, so it’s really unusual to develop something and own the formulas from scratch.  The formulas are quite high grade and quite high percentages of particular oils, and the efficacy is what makes Aromababy so different.  There’s now an over saturation of baby skincare options, but Aromababy really is still in a class of its own because the way I formulated products for my own baby, and the way I am as a person, it couldn’t be any other way. I didn’t expect miraculous results, but I wanted to create something that was good, not just another product on a shelf.  Within months of launching, midwives started telling us about the wonderful effects the products were having on nappy rash, I was getting letters from customers saying how effective they had been for their eczema, and it was the wonderful result of using a certain calibre of ingredients and not compromising on the quality. Our reputation was built on that.

    Marketing Aromababy almost happened by accident.  I was so concerned about eczema in babies and the correlation to natural ingredients, and that there was nothing natural available, I became so passionate about offering choice.  So I went to my local hospital, which was a private hospital, and they thought it was an amazing idea.  Their first priority was the care of the baby so they embraced it and trialled it and that was the beginning.  At the same time I was a new mother and I was talking to midwives and I was passionate about the end user – I was the target market.  The word started spreading and more and more hospitals took it on, as well as some pharmacies.  

    It was just me working on the business, and the turning point came along before Jacob-Thomas, my second son, was born (he is now 15 years old).  I had been working from home and then moved the business to a warehouse that was part of my in-laws business which was great, and then once it started to take over that space I realised I had to go out on my own.  At that stage I had two staff, one was a nurse and she was an amazing asset to the business in those early days and she worked closely with the hospitals – our angle was always passion and education rather than sales.

    Within a short few years Myer had taken it on.  It was one of those situations where the Myer buyer would ring and the baby would be crying so I’d quickly hang up because I didn’t know what to say.  It’s quite crazy, and I know a lot of mums in business feel the same way, it’s so embarrassing and you don’t know how to handle the situation.  I think it ‘s a lot more acceptable now – fast tack 20 years and there’s a lot more mothers in business who are working around babies and children.  It’s embraced now. In addition to Myer, Japanese department store Daimaru was a great retailer for us, as were Mothercare and Kids Central (which have all since closed down).  The business had such growth during the first ten years. 

    When I was pregnant with Jacob I decided to go back to school and do a Diploma in Aromatherapy Massage because I really wanted to learn the science behind massage and how the essential oils enter the body. It was a difficult time though, being pregnant, looking after Beau, running a thriving business and studying.  I also lost my brother during that time, and I found it difficult to manage the grief.  But I did, and I moved on.  I finished the Diploma, and Jacob was born - he was a beautiful, happy baby who slept really well and came everywhere with me.  We travelled a lot as a family and my husband helped out looking after the boys.

    Having a child and building a business was a really, really rough time.  I’m a very hands-on mum.  Nurturing is a very important part of who I am, with my friendships, with my business, with my employees, with my children. Jacob was breastfed for two years, and that meant that when I was travelling I had to keep expressing so that when I came home I could still breastfeed.  It was full on, and a lot of pressure, and it taught me to juggle.  In hindsight maybe I could have done things differently, but I did the best I could. My husband and I drifted apart, and we separated when Jacob was four.  My ex-husband moved overseas, so really for the last 12 years I have been raising my sons pretty much on my own.

    Within the first eight years, Aromababy grew to a multi-million dollar business. At that point, when I was raising two boys on my own, my focus changed to my children who had just been through their own loss of their father.  So I reigned things in and scaled the business down.  The export market happened by default.  I was not planning on growing the business any more at that point, but the export business just kept ticking along.  Some of the export markets just ran themselves almost.  There was a lot of regulatory compliance and documentation involved and managing relationships, but it allowed me to bring in the bread and butter and keep the business going, and do all the things I loved like education rather than sales.

    The business took a back seat for the last decade, but in the last year or so I have refocused back on the business because the boys are now 15 and 21.   I am finding there are amazing opportunities for a business that is over 20 years old with a stellar reputation, that manufactures everything in Australia, and that has its own IP.   It does feel like I am starting from scratch in some ways, but the opportunities are larger.  We are now approached from much larger organisations for much larger volumes, so there is tremendous growth ahead. Export has always been a larger market for us than local, and China in particular has been amazing – our product sells in stores throughout China.  

    After 22 years running Aromababy, I still believe in the products as much today as when I first launched. There are times when I don’t feel like working on the business, but these are personal, purely emotional reasons.  Some years ago someone tried to copy the brand, and at that point I thought, you know what, if this is what cut-throat business is all about, I can’t do it.  But I kept going. Financial concerns don’t worry me, I can work around them all, I can cut corners when I need to and get by.  But when it comes to issues of integrity, that’s something I really struggle with. I just want to run my business authentically, ethically, and make a difference in my own little way.   

    Staying true to your values and doing what you love is the key to success in my view.  If you want to start your own business you need to surround yourself with people who empower you.  You may be really confident and secure in many areas of your life, but when it comes to making a decision about going into business for yourself, perhaps you’re not that confident.  It might be something you haven’t done before, or you’re leaving the corporate world and the income stream is unknown, or you have a young family – talk to people who’ve done it.  Get a mentor.  Talk to women you admire.  Approach people with what you can do for them, rather than just what they can do for you. That’s how to approach business.  How can I serve, what can I give you, how can I help you?    When you surround yourself with people like that, the rewards flow.

    AROMABABY® was developed as the world’s first, natural skincare brand for mother and baby to combine the use of organic ingredients with research. Launched more than twenty years ago, AROMABABY® is now exported around the world and found locally in select baby stores, pharmacies, hospitals, online and where quality natural products are sold.





    What great advice from Catherine.  At Business Mamas we believe in empowering women, helping them find their tribe and coaching them through the creation of their business dream.  Call us to see how we can help you. Click below to organise your free business consultation!

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Forty Three!

    Our family emigrated from South Africa, initially to Melbourne and then to Perth where I grew up.  Perth is similar to Johannesburg in many ways.  My family is very creative and I always had the opportunity to express myself through art and crafts.  My mother is very spiritual and earthy and was always painting and she’s a photographer, and we were often doing something artistic together like pottery classes or painting or beading.  My grandmother was a milliner and my grandfather was very crafty and made beautiful ornaments that he turned in jewellery.  So when I finished school I knew I wanted to do something creative or in a creative arena but I wasn’t sure which direction to explore because I had such a wide range of interests.  In school I used to paint and write beautiful poetry over the paintings, so I think that’s where my love of literature and poetry evolved into art, and I’m now using words in all of my pieces.  Every piece of my jewellery tells a story, it’s all about meaning and connection and they all have beautiful engravings to empower the wearer. So without me even realising the connection, my vision started a long time ago.

    I went to University and studied Design and Interior Architecture.  After graduating I decided to follow my dreams and moved to Melbourne on my own, leaving behind my family and friends.  My grandmother was living in Melbourne and I had holidayed here many times and felt a connection with it immediately.  I love the culture and it’s so alive.  I was on a mission to find a dream job and a new, exciting path filled with passion.  It was difficult, I was on a Uni budget and a bit naive thinking I could score myself a job with a world-renowned architecture firm just by calling them up and sending in my CV, but with a lot of persistence I did find the dream job at Bates Smart, one of the oldest architecture firms in Melbourne. I stayed there for a year working on amazing projects like the interior of the Crown Casino,  Clemenger Advertising Agency and The Alfred Hospital. I did an internship that became a full time job, and I was over the moon!  I’d pinch myself, but somewhere deep down inside I knew it was meant to be.  I am very determined and I never give up, which has served me well in my own business.  You have to have a real sense of determination to get through the hard times.

    All during this time, and when I was at Uni, I was always doing beading and making things, and selling them in a few stores to make some extra cash. I loved making things with my hands and I was self-taught with everything I made. When I make my own pieces of jewellery I can see results straight away, compared to studying or working on big commercial interior projects that take a long time to come to fruition. By day I was in the corporate world and at night I was beading – and I started having a few jewellery parties to help fund my dream trip to New York. It just grew organically, with complete strangers calling me to make special pieces for them. I remember thinking, just imagine what would happen if I put 100% into my jewellery instead of 20% . Where could it lead? I realised I could go back to interior architecture any time, so I decided to leave my job, give the jewellery  all of me for six months  and see what happened.

    After six months, I had put in so much blood, sweat and tears, there was no turning back.  The business had become my baby with sleepless nights and working all day.  Sometimes I just wanted to switch off and work a nine to five job instead of working late into the night every night, but I couldn’t give up. I went on that trip to New York with my mum and it was so inspiring. I remember going to Barneys and seeing pieces of jewellery that cost thousands of dollars, I would have loved to own them but they were just too expensive, but they inspired me to make my own versions. I got home and made them and they were my biggest sellers for years. I mixed pearls and silver and metals together. A few years after that I went to a trade fair in Hong Kong and found my first manufacturer, so that’s when I started making more elaborate metal pieces in silver, gold and brass. That was when it turned from a hobby into a real business. It all just grew into a wide collection of pieces and I was selling to a number of stores in Melbourne. I did everything myself, sales, accounts, design. And for some reason I just thought I could do everything, so I did.  This was my livelihood and there was no room for thinking anything else.

    I think the most difficult thing about my business has been starting it without capital.  I was envious of people who had money that they could spend on staff so they didn’t have to juggle every single element, the escalation of a business would happen so much more quickly whereas it has been a slow process for me.  It has been great because my business has grown organically and I really understand what my customer loves, but everything that I made went straight back into the business.  It has taken a very long time to level itself and allow myself to invest in my first staff member so that I could focus on sales and design.  Up to that point I was chasing my tail doing a bit of design, a bit of sales, a bit of admin – as much as I could stretch myself to do.  It was a big decision to take on a staff member and now we have eight girls working in the business, from operations, admin and sales to marketing and social media.  I still do all of the design and manage the creative process.  It’s taken a long time to find the right team, it’s hard to find dedicated staff you can trust and who can see your vision and help you execute everything in the way you want it to be.

    I have been working with Channel Ten wardrobe for many years now, they even hosted a jewellery party for me at the Channel Ten offices in South Yarra when I was starting out. Carrie Bickmore and Chrissie Swan have been dressed in Nicole Fendel Jewellery for years through Channel Ten wardrobe. Before the series of Offspring started, Channel Ten wardrobe contacted me as they thought the brand would suit their main character (Nina Proudman) perfectly. That was the turning point in my  business.  Nina was dressed in Nicole Fendel Jewellery for the entire show and the response was amazing. The bar necklace worn by Nina is now an iconic pendant and has been renamed the “Nina Necklace”. For the last series, Channel Ten engaged me and asked if I would be interested in running a competition via an advertisement on every episode, giving away the Nina necklace to a lucky viewer. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be featured on a Channel Ten ad on prime time TV.  We have sold thousands of this iconic pendant and customers are still asking for the “Nina Necklace”. 

    Now I have Zac who is nearly three and Aria who is only four months old.  When Zac came along, it was a very big change.  In a way it actually helped me to have a better work / life balance.  Looking after him made me separate the two, whereas before my life and my business were combined.  It made me really be present at home, because for me the most important thing having kids is creating that balance.  I want to still have a career and have a business but at the same time. I don’t want to miss out on my kids growing up and all the special moments. Life just goes by so fast.

    The biggest challenge is that there are not enough hours in the day.  My motto is to be present and be in the moment with them when I’m at home with them, but sometimes when I’m so exhausted from being up all night I just want to turn on the TV for Zac and just zone out.   But my rule is no technology – no computers, no phones.  Zac knows I do work on my computer, but  when I’m with him I have one-on-one time with him.  We have day care for Zac three days a week and my husband is a stay at home Dad on a Monday.  My husband has been an amazing support for me.  

    My designs did evolve a bit when I had children.  I wanted to focus more on personalisation pieces.  All of a sudden I wanted to make initials and wear a Z for Zac, so that’s something we are moving towards – with an alphabet collection, and where mums can have their kids names engraved.

    My baby girl Aria came along a few months ago.  Running a business and having two little ones means I have to be super organised, prioritise my time and be a great multi-tasker – you know, breastfeeding and cleaning the fridge at the same time, or doing five things at once. Being organised does not come naturally to me but I’ve been working on it for the past few years.  I have a calendar for every person in the household so I know what they’re doing and when they’re doing it.  

    The best piece of advice I can give, from someone who has a business and a new born and a toddler, is you have to be passionate about what you’re doing and have a strong vision.  You have to love what you’re doing because there’ll be a lot of sleepless nights, and there’ll be a lot of amazing moments and a lot of hard times too.  There will be times when you’ll feel like it’s too much, but if you have that passion inside - you will continue and you will follow your dreams.  

    One of Australia’s leading jewellery designers, Nicole Fendel is famous for her hand crafted signature statement earrings and sentimental engravings designed to empower the wearer.  Inspired by various cultures and decorative elements from around the world, the collection features the highest quality of rich hammered metals and semi-precious stones.  Her designs have captured the hearts of A-list celebrities such as Jennifer Hawkins, Isabelle Lucas, Ashley Hart and international bloggers such as Margaret Zhang.




    While it you can start a business with no capital, having the right funds behind you can accelerate your business growth.  With a Business Mamas Diploma of Business, we’ll help you put together a strong financial plan and explore opportunities for investment and funding, so you get your business of the ground just that little bit faster.

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au

  • Week Forty Two!

    I grew up in Adelaide and went to an all girl school. I loved it, absolutely loved it, it was the right thing for me. I came from a big family with brothers and sisters so I had no issues with boys. I had no clue what I wanted to do though. I came from a medical family, my father was a doctor and his expectation was that we would all do the same. I phaffed around a lot in my last few years of school but ended up doing really well, and I was so surprised because I actually could have got into medicine but I applied to do Occupational Therapy instead. My father thought it was the most ridiculous course! I went to Uni for three years and in the end Uni suggested I didn’t continue with the course – I didn’t go to many lectures and they thought the course wasn’t really for me and they were absolutely right. I’d had a few part time jobs and I realised I wanted to do something in business, which was not my family at all and not my background, it was not how we grew up. My father had no business sense at all, he was an academic.  I was going out with a boy at the time who was doing Accountancy and after talking to him about the course I realised I wanted to be an Accountant.

    So that’s what I did.  I loved the course, it really suited me because I had a science and maths bent and loved numbers.  It was very maths focused.  I got a job in a firm in my third year and finished my studies part-time, and my boyfriend at the time became my husband and we moved to Melbourne.  So I decided to look for a commercial role and applied for job at Ansett in 1994 as the Fringe Benefits Tax Accountant, and I was so excited to get the role and join this well known company.  I moved my way up in the finance area and ended up as part of the Business Recovery Centre for twelve months.  It was the best experience I ever had.  They did a shake-up of the next level of management, and I became General Manager for Loyalty Programs.  It had always been a marketing position but it was very much a finance and numbers focused role because it was one of the largest revenue raising parts of the airline, with the relationships we had with banks and all of the other partners.  It gave me an entree not only into the finance part of the operation but also the marketing piece and the operational piece.  I never would have thought that’s where I would end up.  Actually with my first accountancy job, I was made redundant after 18 months– and I thought it was because I was no good and I was absolutely mortified, but looking back it was the best thing that ever happened. So when I got the General Manager role I finally felt that there was a reason for everything.

    My marriage to my first husband had ended in 1999 – we were married for six years but he travelled a lot and we led separate lives.   I met Kurt  around the same time when he moved from Canberra to Melbourne to join Ansett.  I was in the GM role for about two years, and then in 2001 Air New Zealand bought out the Newscorp share, and both Kurt and my roles were going to be moved to NZ.  We managed to get them to agree to a redundancy as the roles were effectively made redundant in Melbourne – and I was pregnant at the time as well so moving to NZ wasn’t an option.  It was fortunate for us that we did leave - Ansett went down five months later – and we were in a position where we could take six months off and get married and have a baby – it was a pretty whirlwind year actually!

    We have three sons - Oskar is now 14, Hugo is 12 and Luis is 10. When Oscar was only about 8 weeks old the ANZ Loyalty Card program asked me to join them and I decided I may as well take up the opportunity. I was there three or four days a week and Kurt would bring Oscar to the office and I would sit in the car and breastfeed. It was hilarious.  In those days the company simply didn’t understand about working mothers.  There I was in this beautiful office with a fabulous kitchen, cafe and whatever but there was nowhere to express my milk. I had to go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet to express my milk with my pump – it was terrible. And then wrap up the bottle and put in the fridge so that no one knew it was breast milk. The job paid very well, but at the end of the day it was the same crap, different organisation, and I realised if I had really loved the job I would have stayed, but I didn’t, so I left.

    We had bought a little house in Blairgowrie as a holiday home, but we realised that we weren’t going to use it very much so we decided to lease it out as a holiday rental.  I went to the Peninsula and spoke to a few holiday rental companies, but I was so appalled with the level of service that it seemed I was going to get.  No-one cared about the standard of people that would be renting the property and I’d have to clean it myself and they would just take the commission.  One of the companies I met with saw my reaction and suggested I rent it out myself, which I thought sounded like the best option, and then he said he had another ten properties – why don’t I take care of leasing those out as well? And I thought ‘fantastic, leave it to me’. That was 2002, and I was just about to have Hugo.  I would be talking on the phone late at night to potential clients with Oscar crying, trying to pretend I was really professional.  

    We registered Verve Beachside, and while we were running it as a family business it couldn’t sustain both Kurt and I. He went back to work with a great role at American Express Travel and I managed the business.  After a few years he started helping me with the acquisition of properties - word of mouth and referrals really helped to build the business organically.  Just before Louie was born we went to Europe to visit Kurt’s family in Hungary and while we were there he said he really wanted to leave Amex. I gulped, and then said  ‘do it’. We weren’t going to end up the gutter, somehow we’d survive. We wanted to sustain our lifestyle and we knew that we would find a way.  I did feel a bit sick, but we hoped that we had what it took to make it work.  We’ve now made it work for over ten years - with over 300 properties in our portfolio.

    When Kurt joined the business we realised we had the capacity to do more. Back then, working on the Peninsula, you either had to be a real estate agent or a travel agent.  We weren’t interested in the real estate path but we were very interested in the travel path because we always had in the back of our mind that through the base of clients we had and because of the owners we had, that we would be able to offer a travel service.  We found that our clients were asking us to take care of their travel plans, and so then we got serious about it as set up Verve Travel and Leisure.  We started promoting the fact that we offered a travel service and set all the infrastructure in place with global distribution systems.  It all costs money so you have to make it work.

    Running a business and having three boys had its challenges at time.  We don’t have any family here so we never felt bad about putting the boys into day care three days a week or having someone here to clean the house and look after one or two of them.  We loved what we were doing and there was no way we were going back to the corporate world.  I found that I was spending more time with them after work, and in a great state of mind.  I’m always at school to pick them up and they’ve never been in after school care.  I just balance the time that I have with them at home, and the time I spend on the computer.  The flexibility for me is absolutely the ultimate part about having my own business. And I love the adrenalin that comes from seeking out new opportunities.  Once you put yourself out there people start coming to you with ideas.  And I reckon we have burrowed down every burrow we possibly could.  We always look at an opportunity to see if it’s got legs.  You can tell pretty quickly how much effort something is going to require and what the return on investment will be.  As you get more experience you know how to manage new opportunities, and we have created them for ourselves.  This is our future.

    I think you have to be really, really resilient to have your own business, and I don’t think it’s for every mum.  There are different levels or different scales of having your own business, but if you are good at what you’re doing you have to expect it’s going to be successful and therefore your time commitment to it will increase.  Being in your own business, it’s exciting thinking about what’s around the next corner.  It takes wisdom and maturity and you have to go through the processes of growth, realisation and self-awareness.  Most women have the capacity to have a balance between work and family life, and achieve satisfaction from both.  

    Verve Travel Management is an associate of the helloworld group, the newest and largest force in travel in Australia. Owner operaters Kurt and Kathryn Sari are fully involved in all aspects of the daily customer delivery including overall account management for each client.  Verve Beachside specialises in exclusive private holiday rental house accommodation on the Mornington Peninsula and has been part of the Verve Travel and Leisure Group for more than 15 years. 





    Exploring business opportunities and assessing their viability is crucial to business success.  A Business Mamas Diploma of Business will take you through the steps you need to follow to assess and explore all of the exciting opportunities that will reveal themselves in your business journey.

    Start your business dream today!  Call Business Mamas to discuss how we can help you make your business a reality. 

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

    To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to  www.businessmamas.com.au