Or otherwise known as WTF have we been?
Now, when Jono and I built our first recycled timber cubby house almost 8 years ago and thought to sell 'a few cubbies' on Ebay for extra cash, we certainly didn’t imagine that we were embarking on a business journey that would 'almost' break us. Yet here we are 8 years later, battered, bruised and seeking to reconcile our experience so we can reconnect. It has after all been around 18 months since we last shared anything meaningful about us and where we are at in the business...
What started out as a small pause 18 months ago from social media to buy ourselves some space cascaded into relationship struggles brought on by working together as a couple, burnout, financial pressure and ultimately depression.
It turns out having a small hobby backyard business growing quickly, turning it into a fully fledged manufacturing business ( we are learning ) and then converting it to become e-commerce based is no small feat! Having minimal, actually no prior experience in manufacturing has been a fly by the seat of your pants kind of experience - anxiety inducing one might say. Working every job ourselves to save money to build the business, working crazy hours to get the jobs done, trying to manage the needs of two young boys and find time for each other - what a ridiculous notion. We knew we were pushing the limits, burning the candle at both ends but we also knew that creating a business of purpose and value was worth it.
"Working every job ourselves to save money to build the business, working crazy hours to get the jobs done, trying to manage the needs of two young boys and find time for each other - what a ridiculous notion"
We realised the business was able to operate independently at the Melbourne workshop back in 2018 and that we could finally actualise a 12 year dream to move interstate to Byron Bay to be closer to Jon’s family, the kid’s cousins also in Byron and his parents in Queensland, a world familiar to him, an alluring world for our boisterous boys and one that this ‘City Girl’ had dreamed of.
So we left. We left behind all of the things I had ever known, all of the connections, support and familiar places. All of the things that inherently make you feel you. We opened a new workshop almost immediately, took on a bunch of extra overhead costs, and felt understandably overwhelmed. Insert crazy. We were supposed to be “living the dream” but our work life balance was shaken, our relationship took a dive, the kids were suffering from so much change and as a result of the big gamble our finances were precarious.
At the start of 2020 we had been advised that e-commerce was absolutely where we needed to take the business. I was open to it and put it on the backburner, as it turns out for just enough time for Covid and the initial lockdowns to arrive. When Covid hit the anxiety arrived in full force. My stomach was in knots the entire time, my financial future flashed before my eyes and the panic set in. The phones didn't ring for 3 weeks. We were already on the edge having poured money into setting up the second workshop in Byron, I couldn't imagine how we would survive. We thought we would need to move back to Melbourne, but in the end decided to put our Melbourne home on the market.
During our rebuild we slowed down and got back into records. We visited record stores with the kids and talked more with them about music.
"So we left. We left behind all of the things I had ever known, all of the connections, support and familiar places. All of the things that inherently make you feel you."
I used the Covid lockdown time at home to start the ecommerce project and in that set in motion the largest project I have ever undertaken in my LIFE. The reality was to become e-commerce we needed to systemise our business and products to such a degree that every product, every possible combination and, every screw needed a code. On top of this we realised that every combo also needed a CAD drawing to depict the design, as lord knows we would not have been able to photograph every combo.
16 hour working days of downloading ALL of the information from Jon's head to systemise our products ensued . These days were mixed with wine, Woolworths home delivered food which we were sanitising on arrival ( OMG those days of not knowing a thing! ) and bored kids. This was the actual recipe for my first mini burnout.
If you have never had burnout before, and I had not up until this time, I can describe it as the worst case of overwhelm. The thought of being at my computer made me want to vomit as did speaking with anyone on the phone. I couldn't muster up enough enthusiasm for anything. It lasted a few weeks before I pushed myself back into the project.
It was really the process of downloading that set Jon and I off on a bad path. Trying to make someone who is not by nature systemised to become systemised was a terrible experience. We clashed on everything and by the time the Summer rush was upon us, and our usual healthy levels of respect had been diminished, neither of us knew how to cope. We had poured a lot of finances in to the project and so tried to keep doing all of the other jobs ourselves.
Shepard is quite the artist depicting burnout beautifully. This is exactly what it looks like on Jono!
"These days were mixed with wine, Woolworths home delivered food which we were sanitising on arrival ( OMG those days of not knowing a thing! ) and bored kids. This was the actual recipe for my first mini burnout"
At the end of November 2020, needless to say the second burnout and subsequent depression hit like a freight train, especially as I had not dealt with the cause of the 1st warning. It arrived one morning when I woke up crying - that's pretty unusual - so it was time to call out for help. I cocooned in my bedroom for around 3 weeks until the crying stopped, and from there I have basically wrapped myself up. With Jon's help I reached out to a Cognitive behavioural Therapist who I was familiar with and had seen her work in action. She was based in Melbourne which was a bit of problem given we couldn't travel to Melbourne, but she offered Zoom sessions which have been great! I was also connected with a Kinesiologist in Byron. I had not done Kinesiology before and this stage I was keen to try anything. I LOVE them both!! I am so happy I have my team in place, they work from different perspectives and for me the mix is perfect. It feels like psyche is more scientific and working on the mechanics and the kinesiologist works on the spiritual.
It seems that moving our family away from everything we have known was the catalyst for a big shakedown. A lot of people we have met in this area report that it takes a few years for things to really feel normal and that a move like this can bring up a lot of stuff. Perhaps the act of moving itself is a subconscious act of rebellion against an inner turmoil. All I know is that we are both now working on ourselves, working with and on our kids. We have also started building up their mental health teams too, with our eldest seeing a brilliant child Psychologist and soon to be seeing my Kinesiologist also. He is really liking it.
"These past years of business have been incredible, we have worked with incredible clients, in the most amazing locations and have been blessed with the opportunity to give back to communities."
With us all in a better place, the kids finally feeling settled and Jon and I being in a good space and working towards being amazing again, we can safely continue our journey forward. These past years of business have been incredible, we have worked with incredible clients, in the most amazing locations and have been blessed with the opportunity to give back to communities. There is absolutely no way we are stopping this journey and are more than ever dedicated to bringing consciously created products to families, schools and communities across Australia.
So that we could move forward smartly we have consolidated our business model by closing down our Byron Bay workshop. This happened late last year as a result of staffing and materials supply issues, but really it was a blessing in disguise. 2 workshops, 2 overheads, double the stress!
Our Ecommerce project is mostly complete and the website is looking amazing! You must check it out. We have launched our Donate Back Program, a program that I have been dreaming of for years which sees us hopefully being able to achieve more for the charities we work with - Aboriginal Children's Services, Women's Shelters and families with children with special needs.
This week we are moving our Melbourne crew to a new workshop, a much bigger and much more efficient workshop. We had outgrown our last workshop around a year ago and our team have performed amazing feats producing what they have out of that space.
And lastly we’ve also given the branding some serious LOVE focusing on the ethos of what we do and aiming to be better in ALL areas of business, especially in the heart stuff.
Thank god for Spotlight art supplies!
Sharing anything during this time has felt personally impossible but also insincere and inconsiderate. I couldn’t think of anything worse than 'selling' or sharing our family enjoying a relative freedom knowing people were doing it so tough in Melbourne physically and financially.
Sharing anything during this time has felt personally impossible but also insincere and inconsiderate. I couldn’t think of anything worse than 'selling' or sharing our family enjoying a relative freedom knowing people were doing it so tough in Melbourne physically and financially.. It just felt inauthentic. And to be honest, so did the whole ‘We’ve moved to Byron’ thing, it never felt right sharing that story.
Now that things have settled down we are ready to share more about the journey ahead and hope we will engage you with our intentional content. With our new ethos of GIVE CREATE EDUCATE we aim to focus more on diversity and inclusion and expect to see more stories about real families too.
We also genuinely offer to provide any business support to others who are transitioning, anyone who would like information on the effects of relocating a family interstate and the process of breaking down and rebuilding. Just call me!
We’d like to thank our community for being patient, supporting us always and being on the journey with us. I am so grateful to my husband Jono and for the passion we both share and our staff for their ongoing support.
US. Still here, still standing, still dreaming and creating memories. XX
A lot of cuddling on the couch time.
Deciding to not take precious moments for granted.
Enjoying simple pleasures. Camping with good friends is good for the soul!
Being a kid with them is all they ever want. I'm happy to oblige more. #gravitron #notasfunasIremembered
Slowing down and being with them is the greatest gift and antidote for feeling overwhelmed in life. As long as they are not fighting.