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Kiani Mills was a broke single mum of 2. A $1600 loan from her nanna changed everything.

Listen to this story being read by Rebecca Davis, here.


"You have everything you need inside of you. Just believe in yourself and hold on for the ride because it's going to be a bumpy one."

It's the advice that Kiani Mills, 35-year-old single mum of two, would give her 16-year-old self if she had her time again. 

And the ride was bumpy indeed. 

This Glorious Mess: A letter to my teenage self. Article continues after post. 


Video via Mamamia.

Kiani Mills grew up in the "rough" Melbourne suburb of Frankston with her sister, raised by a single mum who “worked her bum off” as an administrator.

“Money was always scarce," Kiani tells Mamamia.

And home life was turbulent and “full of big emotions”. While Kiani's mum and sister would often go head to head, she was the one to clam up and say nothing.

It was this tumult combined with Kiani's “ignorance and stubbornness” that fuelled her decision to leave home - at 16 years old. 

But Kiani was running from something else too. Just two years before - at the age of 14 - her drink had been spiked at a party. She was sexually assaulted.

When she tried to tell friends afterwards, they made a joke of it, and so she defaulted to saying nothing, and pretended it didn’t happen.

“I knew that what had happened to me was horrendously wrong, and I felt horrible about it.”

It was her first sexual experience, and Kiani says the feelings of shame stayed with her until her mid-30s.

“I felt like a piece of me was missing; It had been stolen from me. I battled with it everyday, and had to rediscover my femininity - but it took me 20 years to realise it was gone.”

Reflecting back on that time and the decision to leave home, Kiani says while she was certain she needed to remove herself from her home environment, she’s unsure she understood the magnitude of running a house. 

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She lived with three guy friends, was going to high school, and working two part-time jobs.

And it was at school that she found her saving grace: a legal studies class.

“It was a turning point for me. I said, right, I’m going to be a lawyer. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to figure it all out, and I’m going to get there.”

The road out of Frankston.

Two years after the assault, Kiani was met with another major trauma.

At 16, she fell pregnant to her first boyfriend - and miscarried.

“I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I had all these dreams ahead of me, and a plan to tackle the rest of me life, and again there was all these feelings of fear and shame - and then the loss.”

And despite her best efforts, Kiani didn’t pass Year 12. 

But she did pass her legal studies class. 

Kiani as a teenager. Images: Supplied. 

Her last exam was on her 18th birthday. She pleaded with her mum, dad and Nanna for $500 from each of them to buy a car -  "to go and get out of Frankston, and get a job in the city”.

They handed over the money. And while her little $1500 car had a missing left side mirror, Kiani didn't care: She knew it would get her out of the life she didn’t want. 

“And I knew that the only way I was going to get out of there was working my butt off.”

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As soon as school finished, she drove her little car to the city, and walked the streets of Melbourne’s CBD, handing out her resume. 

“I knew that the only way I was going to get anywhere was to literally get a foot in the door.”

Her persistence paid off. Kiani was offered a traineeship at a law firm.  

But the pay? $14,000. A year.

Her role "wasn't glamorous”; lots of photocopying and filing and working in the mailroom.

And her days were long. She’d be on the 7am train from Frankston each morning, and wouldn’t arrive home until 7pm.

“But something that my mum taught me: No matter what you're doing, if you do it to the absolute best of your ability, then you'll be recognised for that, and then, that's when you get to learn something else.”

Before long, Kiani got to move past the mundane, and into settlements and court appearances.

“And my eyes just grew and grew.”

But subsisting on her measly wage was a challenge. She lived off sausage rolls from the 7/11 next to the firm - “It was genuinely all I could afford.”

And between her traineeship, she was also working as a bartender after hours. 

'They arrested him in front of me.'

“I craved that stability from the work side of my life," tells Kiani.

Because in her personal life, it was a different story.

With many of those around her partying hard, times were often volatile. Kiani lost one very dear friend to suicide, and two others to car accidents. 

And then Kiani met Will* at the nightclub where she was working. 

“He swept me off my feet,” she tells, remembering her excitement. 

Kiani Mills today. Image: Supplied. 

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Until she returned to reality with a thud.

Six months into their relationship, Will was arrested in front of her. He was taken to jail on drug charges and imprisoned for five months. 

During that time, Kiani says she cried for days and wrote him letters. 

"I mourned him and was still loving him. I was so deep in it that I almost couldn't see the severity of what he'd done and was so caught up in my own pain. He was the love of my life, and had been taken away from me.”

Shortly after Will was released, the couple discovered they were pregnant.

It was around that time that "a lot of the shiny lights started to wear off”, says Kiani.

She found herself alone a lot, and her eyes opened to the reality of the world in which she had landed.

There were nights where Will went missing, and she would call the emergency rooms asking if an unidentified person had been admitted. She called police stations to see if someone ‘drunk and disorderly’ had been brought in.

“I was 21, pregnant, and saying, what am I going to do?”

“But I had put so much trust in him. I believed everything and was brainwashed. I believed there would be a happily ever after. That things would change, and would get better.”

The knock at the door.

By this point, Kiani had worked her way to paralegal - “a dream job” - at a mid-tier law firm in the city.

She was working on land acquisitions in the hundreds-of-millions of dollars, and major off-the-plan developments.

“I felt like I really belonged somewhere, which is what I set out to do when I moved out of home.”

But on the flipside, Kiani would find herself, numerous times, at the supermarket checkout being told she had insufficient funds to pay for her groceries.

Will had been using Kiani’s money to fund his drug and gambling habit.

“I constantly was trying to get us out of debt. It was a time for survival.”

Two years after Kiani gave birth to her first child, Kobe, she had her daughter, Summer. 

And then, she drew a line. 

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Will’s stealing had gone beyond her money and jewellery - and into the households of other family members. 

“It became dark and really scary,” she tells.

That’s when the violence and abuse started too.

“And I knew then that if he can hurt me like that; if he can physically, mentally and emotionally do that to me, then he can also do that to my children.”

Even once she sought the support to leave him, Will’s life of crime continued to follow her. 

A couple months after separating and finding a new home for her and her children, there was a knock at the door.

She opened it, and two men - bikies - pushed their way inside. They stood over Kiani, demanding to know where they could find Will. All while her children were in the next room.

“That was absolutely beyond petrifying.”

Kiani had never given Will her new address - but somehow these bikies knew it.

For months, she slept with the light on, and a knife under her pillow.

'I thought, maybe I can do this?'

Despite struggling with post-natal depression after the birth of Summer - who arrived one month early - Kiani continued to work from home until she went back to the office after three months. 

And then she learned she'd been made redundant. 

“That was my only safety plan, and I had the rug pulled from beneath me.”

Kiani quickly landed another job working closer to home at a smaller law firm in an inner-city suburb, assisting with conveyancing. 

It showed Kiani a more personable side of the job that was missing in the city corporate environments in which she had previously worked.

And she thrived. For two years, she immersed herself in the world of conveyancing. 

She was then approached by a solicitor to help him with the conveyancing side of his business as he set up his office from home. She was able to witness the basics of how to set up the business. 

Image: Supplied. 

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At the same time, Will had been charged for breaching his intervention order. After he was sentenced, Kiani finally felt some peace. Closure. 

She had her home, her kids were safe, and her career was finally gathering some momentum, but financially, she was still just keeping her head above water. 

“I thought, what can I do? I’ve got two young kids and am a single mum. They need to be in daycare, and I need to pay for daycare. But I also need to be able to be flexible.”

And then with the urging by some of her loved ones and respected peers, it was suggested that she start her own business. 

“I thought, maybe I can do this?”

“So, I called my Nanna, and with my tail between my legs, I asked to borrow $1600 to get my conveyancing licence. I used my last hundred dollars to buy a printer.”

Kiani with her Nanna. Image: Supplied. 

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Before Kiani knew it, she was having clients at her kitchen bench, serving them cups of tea.

It was the origins of her business, KLM Conveyancing (now Impériale Conveyancing).

Embracing 'organised chaos'.

Reflecting on the journey, Kiani jokes she should’ve done a business course before taking the leap into her own venture - “For the first year, I didn’t even know I should put away GST!”

“Every time the phone would ring, I’d get nervous in the pit of my stomach, and think, what if I can’t answer their question?”, she says, recalling the imposter syndrome she felt in the early days.

And she still does feel it - despite having also co-founded Edwards & Mills, a buyers advocacy business (with MAFS’ alum, Jake Edwards). 

But it wasn’t easy. 

“I’ll never forget sitting on my couch at 1am, crying. I had dozens of e-mails. I thought, why am I doing this? I feel like a hamster on a wheel. I couldn't get on top of my emails. My phone didn't stop ringing. Like yes, it's great. I've got all these clients, but is it worth it?

“I was worrying about money, I was worrying about paying staff. I was like, this is just too much.”

On the brink of turning her back on it all, Kiani serendipitously met a business performance coach who changed her entire mindset. 

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“For years, I’d always been in survival mode. I’d never had more to lose, and I realised I had to deal with that.”

And aside from navigating her business, Kiani’s daughter Summer was diagnosed with autism and ADHD.

Kiani with her children, Kobe and Summer. Image: Supplied. 

She let go of the conventional idea of 'balance'.

“I've learned to live by the rule of organised chaos: There will be a level of my life that is organised, and a level that's in chaos. But it's learning to prioritise at that minute what is more important, and letting the other stuff go.”

“You take the good - even though the bad is always louder - and you learn to accept the good for what it is. And it took me a long time to hold on to that.”

So, Kiani’s advice for any other woman, contemplating starting their own business?

“Do not be afraid to ask for help, but my God, do it!” 

And her final piece of advice for her 16-year-old self?

"I just think she needs to be a lot more aware of what she's capable of - because she's pretty incredible."

* not their real name.

Keen to read more from Rebecca Davis? You can find her articles here, or follow her on Instagram.

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