My family is originally from Finland and I grew up in Melbourne. I do have an accent but it is a bit of a mix, perhaps my husband’s American accent rubbing off on me. I did have a very Finnish upbringing and we spoke Finnish at home and I remember struggling a little with English when I started school. At the end of school while I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to help people. I always wanted to help people.
I’ve always been creative and enjoyed drawing and painting and playing classical guitar. I started off making clothes and selling them at markets. After travelling for a while I realised that I really wanted to be a Naturopath so I threw myself into my degree and had a wonderful career for 15 years. I was based in Melbourne and then moved to Perth in 2005. My husband Bobby and I met in America while I was travelling and we did the long distance thing for quite a while. On the last trip we decided we needed to be together in one place and we knew we’d never be apart again. He ended up getting a student visa and transferring his studies to Australia and the only option was Perth. I had never been to Perth but I heard it had beautiful weather, so I moved to Perth! Bobby fitted in so well – he evolved and adapted and I am so impressed with him. He finished his degree in sociology but then decided to go into construction instead and set up his own carpentry business.
I moved my Naturopathy business which was a little hard because of the connections I lost, but I specialised in autism and neuro-immune disorders so I worked with a lot of kids. It was so rewarding, and I loved it, but it was difficult when kids came along. I had Jade who is now nine years old and Jacob who is seven, and with no family support from either parents I became very exhausted. It was challenging. Life changed significantly – I didn’t really realise what motherhood was going to be like and I didn’t feel prepared. I had to slow down.
The Naturopathy business had gone wild - I had a year long wait list and I was very committed to it, working long hours. I was burning myself out. I really needed to take care of myself. I needed to be setting an example for these people who were coming to me for advice, and I realised I needed to take care of me first. So I stopped it. Bobby was so supportive, he just wanted me to do what I love. He wanted me to be happy. I stopped working and then gradually got back into it writing course material for a Naturopathic College, doing modules on herbal medicine, homeopathy and business management. I did enjoy the change and I love to write so it was the perfect opportunity to work from home and be with my child.
In that space, of just taking care of myself, and doing some retreats and all kinds of nurturing things, I started to get a creative energy again – a spark. I felt like doing something different – not that I was thinking about business, I just wondered what I should do because I had all this time and I like to be active. ‘Gypsylovinlight’ evolved less than three years ago. The first step was that I joined Instagram. I was obsessed by jewellery and style, it feels effortless to me. So I started putting photos on Instagram just for fun and for my friends to see. And then I just decided to tag the company that sold what I was wearing, and suddenly there was a repost and it spread and I got all these followers with people saying “more, more, we love it!”. So I thought that was pretty cool and it all just grew from there. Without me saying what I was going to do, I just started doing what I love to do. And each step of the way it’s all been building based on what I love. Some of it has been planned and I have developed some business strategies. But it has all really just evolved organically to nearly 600,000 followers on Instagram.
It all became a business in a crazy kind of way. I caught up with a girlfriend for coffee and she asked if I was charging people for the work I was doing for them – but the thought hadn’t entered my head. She said, “you know you’re pretty big now, you should be charging people for the time and energy and effort you put into your photos.” It had been starting to get out of balance with the amount of time I was spending creating all the images, so I decided to set a rate whilst still maintaining my integrity – always promoting only the brands and the products I love.
I don’t have to work with everybody, just with the people who are aligned with me and that are on the same wave length. To this day I have never contacted anybody other than for travel related requirements. Companies are contacting me asking me to promote them and asking me what I love and what I’d wear. If I like the item I’ll tell them the rate and when I can slot it in – these are the pieces I love and this is what I’ll be happy to do. Knowing yourself and being clear and professional in your communication really helps. It is still quite unchartered territory. Being true to myself is the main thing, which gives credibility to the companies and products I work with. When I find that spark it works for everyone involved.
So now I have a business that provides a great income for my family. It is our future – for the foreseeable future at least. I love blogging and I love styling, and introducing the shop has added another dimension. I simply just decided that I wanted to have an online shop where I can bring together all my favourite jewellery designers into one little spot in my home. So people can shop the whole look I am wearing. They can buy the clothes through the retailers’ websites and they can buy the jewellery directly from my shop. People respond to Instagram pretty quickly in terms of sales.
The great thing about running the business now is that my kids aren’t so little anymore. They're both at school full time now. I only started the shop in April 2015, and I have only been blogging full time since 2014, so it’s still quite new. I pick the kids up from school and if I need to keep working it’s fine because Bobby is home – he leaves for work at 5am and is usually home by 3pm. It works well. He’ll take the kids out and they ride bikes while I finish what I need to do before we all sit down for dinner. Everything has just fitted in with my lifestyle rather than my trying to squeeze something into shape. My business is an outlet for me, it’s a passion for me and it fills my life. We try to make the kids part of what we do – we take them down to the beach when we shoot so they’re swimming in the ocean and running around in the sand. I am often looking at them while Bobby’s photographing me. Bobby and I are a team, he does our photography. At first we had no idea about his talent. One day I was getting tired of using the tripod and the self-timer remote and it felt really hard to get the angles I wanted and the light I wanted, so I asked Bobby to try taking some photos. And it was such a learning experience for us and brought us so much closer, because at first we were two people with two different ideas and we’re both strong people and independent. So to come together you have to be really respectful of their creative process whilst still being true to your own creative process. You have to find that connection in every shoot without losing yourself. With me being the model and the stylist it is tricking because I am standing outside of myself looking at myself and critiquing the shape and the styling. You are quite vulnerable when you have someone photograph you, it’s quite exposing. And when it’s your husband it brings you closer. He loves doing it and his passion for photography has grown considerably and he’s looking at lenses and wanting to do courses. He’s naturally gifted. We shoot together around three times a week – at least one day on the weekend. We make a journey of it – the kids have their bags ready to go and we pack a picnic. Even in winter Perth can be swimming weather, especially late morning when the sun comes out. And if it’s a low wind day it’s perfect.
You just have to do what you love at the end of the day. I do think for women who have really young kids it can be challenging and it can be quite exhausting trying to find that space where you can do something for yourself. I’ve been in that space. But if you have a dream hold onto that dream, nurture yourself and give yourself permission to follow what you want. Find support, find resources and seek out ways to make it happen. Just understand that if you’re up all night breastfeeding it could be waring on the body and mind if you are also running a business. Don’t let go of your passions and your dreams, find the drive to follow them. And find your tribe. Find people to help you, and allow the help. People do want to help but often we don’t let them in. It’s difficult for mums to accept help. It’s all part of self-love, because the more you do take care of yourself and nurture yourself, the more you will accept from others and the more open you will be. And you’ll have the space and energy to follow your passion – otherwise you feel like you’re running on empty and your burning out to the point where you’ll crack and something will happen. That’s where I was at. I realised I couldn’t live like that anymore. I wanted to follow my passion but I had to take care of myself and reach out. It’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to share with those around you and let them know you’re struggling. You have to get resourceful, share, and let people in.
gypsylovinlight is a blog, a website, an online store, a much loved Facebook page and an Instagram success story with nearly 600,000 followers. Helen inspires her world-wide following with fashion, jewellery, travel – and the light and love that emanates from her core.
At Business Mamas, we understand the challenges, stresses and strains of being a mother in business. Let us help you, guide you and mentor you, and get you on your way to building or growing your business dream.
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