I was a bit of a late bloomer. I grew up in Burnie on the northwest coast of Tasmania, and I realised very late in year 12 that I hadn’t done any work for a couple of years and I had messed around too much and that if I wanted to do something with my life I’d have to focus. So I went and saw all my teachers and asked if I could redo my assignments and they let me. As a result I got through my HSC and got an entry score to get into Uni. I knew I wanted to help people, but all my family are in the medical arena from Vets to Paramedics and I had done a bit of work experience with them but hated blood and wanted to pass out and realised that wasn’t my calling. I was really the black sheep of the family so I ended up doing a marketing degree, but I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I couldn’t find work in my field so I got a job in a pub working nights and eventually got a lucky break with an Advertising Agency in Hobart where I managed the master media account for the Government. I was so stoked, it was like the best day of my life! The Brisbane office won the master media account so I was transferred to Queensland, and my partner came with me.
I knew something was missing and I wanted to be more creative, so when a job in magazines came up I jumped at the chance. I worked on Who and Time magazines, and I still remember the day I fell in love with magazines when I went to Sydney for work and walked into the office and saw the wall of the upcoming issued laid out. I worked in ad sales but I got to see the creative process and the editorial process. So I really had no direction in my career, I just kept trying things – but I still knew I wanted to be creative so I went back to study and got my graphic design certificate. And I had always been writing, whether it was a tender document or a proposal, it was a talent I had but I never realised I could make money out of it. That’s when I decided to work freelance, doing graphic design, writing and marketing strategy. I guess that was my first business.
I was with my husband for 10 years and I always saw myself as a career woman. I was never sure if I wanted children, but my husband really wanted children so when I turned 30 I decided the time was right. That’s when we had Jim. I was actually working the morning I went into labour and my husband told me off saying that I couldn’t work while I was having contractions! I tidied everything up with my clients so they knew I was having some time off – but being pregnant and having a baby just fitted in with what I was doing. That was what was so great about having my own business, that I could fit it around my lifestyle.
When my little man was four months old my husband and I separated – in a very heartbreaking way. I went to see a therapist who told me it would take two years to recover from my divorce – it’s said that two of the majors changes in your life that can cause depression are losing a partner and moving house, and I was doing both at the same time. So it was a very stressful period. I wrote a blog about my divorce called 365 days - to get my feelings out and process them and find my way through it, but in my mind there was no way it was going to take two years. I thought I could do it in 365 days. My blog was about being a single mum and transitioning into single motherhood - and people started emailing me saying that there were no positive stories out there about becoming a single mother and thanking me for sharing my story and being so brave to share it. So I looked around trying to find the single mothers doing great things, I knew they had to be out there. I had moved back to Hobart with Jim, who’s now nearly three, and I started hunting for successful single mums and single mums who had overcome challenges and moved past the anger and the pain and rebuilt their lives. And I had reached the end of the 365 days of my blog and I thought, now what am I going to do? When I wrote the final day of the blog, it felt like there was still more to go, and I ended up blogging for another year after that and it is still an ongoing journey. I wasn’t done and dusted.
With single motherhood there are always new skills to learn - new forms of communication and conflict management and managing on your own and becoming resilient. So everything came together – I love magazines, I’ve got that experience, I can do all the graphic design myself, I can build the website myself, I can write it myself, I can edit it myself. So I jumped in and decided I would create a magazine for single mums. It had been a really rough year and I’d sort of lost everything so at that point I had nothing else to lose. I thought if it failed, it couldn’t be any worse that what I had experienced. I haven’t been able to find another magazine in the world for single mums. I couldn’t believe it, and that really hit something in me as well. I wondered if it was something about society or if being a single mum is just normal - why aren’t single mum mentors out there, is it because no one else had thought of it or because it’s not comfortable?
I launched Lift Magazine one year ago - it’s a quarterly online magazine. I reach people via my blog, which I don’t write as much but it’s still there and I will eventually turn that into a book. We reach around 20,000 women around the world with each issue, and one of the best parts of my job is that I get emails from women around the world who have found my magazine and it’s helping to make their journey easier. It’s such an incredible feeling and it’s given me such a purpose. It’s not just a job or a business, it’s a massive part of my life. We have regular contributors - Leanne Hall who is a re-partnered single mum. She’s Channel Ten’s mind and body expert and is on The Circle, she does a regular Q & A column in each issue. We also have ‘The Happy Family Lawyer’ who is in Brisbane and concentrates on collaboration in family law and tries to help separated couples rebuild their family. And I have other contributors from around the world from psychologists to lawyers to boundary setting experts. On top of that I find single mums who are doing great things and I just listen to them and let them tell their stories. So often after they tell their stories they say they had no idea just how good it would feel to get it all out.
How do I manage being a single mum and a two year old son whilst having my own business? I don’t know, you just do it I guess? Jim’s in day care four days a week which is when I do most of my work I get three days a week when it’s just him and me, and it’s made me become super organised. Being a creative person I really didn’t like organisation much – I liked to have things everywhere and I was a bit messy. Having a child meant I couldn’t be like that anymore. You need to know what you’re having for dinner! I’ve got to plan and provide food for my child which has made me a lot more organised – which is good for my business.
Lift Magazine is growing. It’s still not quite enough to support us entirely, but we are working on increasing the advertising and on getting people to pay for the magazine. I do freelance writing and graphic design as well on the side. I am building the magazine so that eventually it will take over, it is our future. I have this big dream, with the business becoming Lift Empowered Publishing! In April 2016 I am taking some of the mums from my single mums support group on a child-friendly healing trek in Nepal for 11 days. So the kids are coming along with us and they’re riding donkeys, on our trek from Pokhara to Poon Hill in the Annapurnas. I’ve always loved trekking, it’s my happy place. And there are four us going with our children. I am planning on making a documentary about it, so I’ve been doing journal entries about the progress and we will be filming it along the way. When I get back in May my plan is to launch a printed version of the magazine and it’s going to be a ‘solo mums from around the world’ issue. I am getting in touch with single mums from around the world to see what single motherhood is like in various countries and what the systems and support are like. There will also be a companion journal with all the lessons I’ve learnt during my journey of becoming a single mum so people can start writing their own story. Everyone has a story.
Lift is a quarterly e-magazine and community for single mums that provides a guiding glimmer of hope, helping you navigate the world of single motherhood; from the early days of working through separation or divorce, recovering from grief and loss, figuring out co-parenting or how to do it all on your own to rebuilding and redefining your new family now and even two or ten years from now. And it’s here to let you know you are most definitely not alone on your solo journey.
Harnessing all of your life experiences is a great formula for starting your own business. Business Mamas can help you get to the core of your skills and your strengths, and assist you in reaching your true potential.
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