career

'It can be quite lonely': 3 women share what they wish they knew before starting a business.

Westpac Business
Thanks to our brand partner, Westpac Business

It takes a certain amount of grit, gumption, and belief in yourself and your own skills to dip a toe into the world of starting your own business.

When we look at people who have built their brands up from scratch and established their own companies, we often see the shiny finished and final product, without taking a full look behind the curtain at the hard yards it took to get there.

Here, three women who have founded and now run their own successful businesses share their stories.

From the hardest parts of their journeys to their biggest successes and the  one piece of advice they’d give to anyone wanting to follow the same path, it’s a dose of practical advice with a side of inspiration.

Carlie Victor, founder of fitness accessories brand Real Active.

When I first started Real Active I had no experience manufacturing goods overseas so I had to learn on the job. I eventually brought an expert on board in this area – doing this in the early days would have saved me a lot of time and tears.

The biggest strength of my business is that Real Active is a unique brand as it has mental health at its heart and 10 percent of all proceeds support mental health charities. My business was brought to life via my own experience of struggling with anxiety and depression.

My proudest moments come from reading the messages of love and support from my community when customers thank me for sharing my mental health journey.

I’ve also been blessed to be a Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow winner. Westpac’s Businesses of Tomorrow program rewards and recognises Australian businesses that are shaping the country’s economy and business landscape.

Through this program, I was able to go to Melbourne for a few days to attend training at Melbourne Business School and it was an incredible experience.

Carlie Victor, founder of Real Active. Source: Supplied.
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Prue Gilbert, CEO and founder of diversity consultancy business Grace Papers.

The one thing I wish I'd done differently is to ask for more money. When I started Grace Papers [a program that works with major corporations on family diversity initiatives], I was essentially in a new market. I needed some coaching to separate my self-worth from the value of the product and service I was delivering.

As far as challenges go, I sometimes look back at the pitch deck we used to access seed funding and cringe. The revenue projections we included for the first three years were so unrealistic. I was working flexibly, as we had three children in four years and were trying to manage the sales, delivery of the work, invoicing, chasing of invoices, contract negotiations, website and marketing material.

My proudest moments have been being recognised by the Australian Human Rights Commission, who awarded us the Australian Human Rights Business Award and hitting our first big financial milestone.

From a commercial perspective, the best advice I could give to anyone is to trust your instincts, choose investors and key people with aligned values, always know how much money you have in your account and make super contributions.

Being recognised by Westpac as one of their 200 Businesses of Tomorrow has also offered us leadership development opportunities and PR - often areas deemed 'not a priority' when you're in startup mode.

Prue Gilbert has juggled her business and family life, and learnt every step of the way. Image: Getty.

Kathy Myers, Director, care package business Wishing You Well.

I started Wishing You Well five years ago. The business provides beautifully wrapped care packages with natural and therapeutic products for friends and family facing challenges, illness and also in times of celebration.

Being a small business in the early days can be quite lonely especially when you are wearing all the hats in the office. The knowledge gained from joining business support groups has been invaluable for my confidence as well as my business growth.

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The best piece of advice that I was given in the very early days was just start. Before I launched the online store in 2015 I spent a lot of time researching my niche, products and trying to design the perfect online platform with a limited budget.

The biggest challenge for me was taking over sole responsibility for the business early in the venture. The idea of Wishing You Well was conceived in partnership with my sister, who had a full-time job and not a lot of spare time.

When the business started I was on maternity leave with my eldest son and I wanted to create work flexibility to spend more time with family. I undertook training to bridge my business and marketing knowledge.

At the start of this year I was shortlisted as a finalist in the Australian Small Business Champion Awards. It was extremely gratifying to have had my efforts acknowledged and recognised.

Westpac's website also has great tips and tools for starting, running and growing your business. Their online advice has been handy for my business and understanding options for business growth.

Kathy Myers, founder of Wishing You Well. Source: Supplied.

Westpac's Help For Your Business hub takes you from startup to reality. Have a look at their tips, checklists and unique features like Biz Invoice (Westpac is the first major bank to launch a free invoicing capability within online banking) so you can start living your dream, as these amazing women are.

Have you started your own business? What advice would you give to others?

This information is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for personal financial use.

Westpac Business

While tens of thousands of small businesses flourish each year, every day business owners navigate a myriad of challenges from increased competition to cash flow problems, as well as personal and emotional challenges. Westpac wants to provide customers with the support they need to help make day-to-day life easier - from practical tools and resources for your employment and cash flow needs, to insights and inspiration from other small businesses, and products and services to help you get paid and pay your people faster. For more information, visit: westpac.com.au/business-banking/businesshub

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