Tell us a little bit about yourself and your current job?
Running and growing James&Co is my current job/obsession. I started the business 6 years ago to offer stylish cruelty-free outerwear and accessories and to raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide prevention. It was something of a re-direction away from my professional services career which started as lawyer and led to senior executive roles in the telecommunications industry.
As is often the trigger for a major change, my life took a big tumble in 2011 when my husband died suddenly in May and then 5 months later in October my 24 year old son James took his own life. I needed to throw myself into something and didn’t feel up to the presentation issues of professional services. So I opted for goods and online retail. There is a connection between the former and the now as in the telecommunications industry I had been an active leader in Australia’s focus on the provision of high-speed broadband. E-commerce is a major player in the high-speed broadband-enabled digital economy so the James&Co online business may be a re-direction but it is also an evolutionary re-direction.
What is your goal/ what are you passionate about?
Besides being passionate about my family, I’m passionate about making James&Co successful as an eco-friendly digital business and also in contributing to reducing the high rate of suicide deaths. We donate 5% of each sale from to Lifeline organisations in Australia, the US and the UK.
And since my days in the telco/broadband industry, I have been passionate about Australians having access to the best high-speed broadband network. With the current state of the NBN, there is no doubt that the original vision of the NBN to deliver e-commerce, e-health and e-education opportunities has been shattered. I continue to advocate for bi-partisan non-political work to stop the current mess and revert to reliance on fibre as the core technology.
What are the most challenging things about your life?
This sounds corny, but I was driving back from Canberra (my birthplace) yesterday after a lovely few days with my 95-year old father, the sun was shining outside, and I started to reflect on how lucky I was to have the wonderful family and friends that I have. And this sounds even more corny, but I described it later to my sister as feeling ‘blessed’.
I don’t tend to see things about life as ‘challenging’ despite having had to work through some tough and sad times.
I lost James and the grief has been hard, but I also know that the short time he was with us was a gift because he was such a beautiful person. Learning new skills and making James&Co a successful business is a lot of hard work but I would describe it more as an opportunity to succeed rather than a challenge to succeed.
What are the most rewarding things and what achievement/goal are you most proud of achieving to date?
I may have already answered this in my previous response. I have a son and a daughter. I am immensely proud of them and their achievements and how we all pulled together after the loss of Joe and James to re-form a different loving family union.
How do you find balance?
To be totally honest, I am not very good at the moment at finding balance. Working on James&Co, and advocating for the NBN to a lesser degree, is pretty much 24/7. I used to find balance with a greater focus on exercise, especially walking and Pilates. And now having confessed to this, I promise to revert to finding balance through exercise! I love music and am a subscriber to Opera Australia which takes me out of the work environment. And while it’s not opera, I am going to ‘Evita’ next week with our Tina Arena in the lead. That will be a week of balance.
Do you have any mentors or people who inspired you to follow your dream?
I was always inspired by Gough Whitlam. Were it not for him introducing free tertiary fees, it is highly unlikely that I would ever have gone to Law School and where that led. And describing myself as a feminist, I remain inspired by the actions and achievements of the suffragettes.
What is inspiring you at the moment (reading/ watching/learning)?
I have just moved out of the congestion of Sydney to the Blue Mountains. Being surrounded by the beauty of nature, I am determined to be much more environmentally friendly in everything I use, buy and dispose of. To leave a beautiful planet to the next generation.
Do you have a message for women over 40?
I don’t think of life in terms of age. Rather, it is about ‘accumulated wisdom’. So I guess my message would be – it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve accumulated. Keep going with the flow and responding to all the opportunities. It just gets better!
What does the future hold for you?
No idea really. More of the happy same until something happens to change it one way or another. (Oh, and James&Co continuing to succeed of course!)