The lumpy perfect journey that has been mine to date – at a glance.
I was born to two humans who should never have been together in Catholic-dominated Ireland at a time when huge change was sweeping the world. My mum got pregnant with my older brother, and my parents had to leave the country to get married. I’m the second of 5 and oldest girl. I was born in England, and my parents returned to Ireland when I was two weeks. My mother is a beautiful, intelligent person and my dad brilliant and vibrant in so many ways.
After a traumatic childhood my family finally imploded, and my siblings and I were placed in a convent run home for children where we lived for the next seven years.
My dad had emigrated to New Zealand when I was 13 and sent for myself and my siblings. With a huge shock, we arrived into this new country in 1980. But after living in what was by contrast a binary culture, I fell in love with the indigenous culture from the outset. My dad and step mum placed me in Baradene College – something I am hugely grateful to them for doing.
Despite being in a new country, home retained the trauma of earlier years. I was ejected from my family home half-way through seventh form, so I decided my only option was to leave school to get a job and support myself. I was kindly taken in temporarily by my friend’s family, and because the mum worked at the YWCA, she took me to volunteer for six weeks while I applied for a benefit – which I remained on thankfully for only six weeks.
Went to a church meeting with a guy I fancied at school. I ended up becoming part of fundamentalist Christian cult that he was a part of. There, I spent many happy years living somewhat outside of society. It was a safe place after a very uncertain and unsafe time, but this patriarchal, highly controlling environment’s suitability to me was ultimately unsustainable.
I got my first ‘real job’ working at Kindercare Learning Centres. I applied for their new Early Childhood Training Programme, was turned down and didn’t have the confidence to ask why.
I decided that I would like to be a nanny about this time and was allowed to do that. However, I had recently moved in with a family at the church who advised (because it was live-in and therefore away from church) that it would not be a good idea. I had already resigned from my daycare role, but they told me they could find me another one at a different centre. There was a six-week gap, so I filled those six weeks working at a plastics factory, stationed on a machine that created bubble wrap sheets for apples and pears
I got a job working at a dental surgeon’s practice. During my two years there, I became qualified as a dental assistant, my first professional qualification. I loved and was hugely proud of my time doing this.
I decided to leave my dental job, because I thought it would be awesome to have an office job and get to dress up for work. My time as a receptionist was an absolute fave time for me. Also, I started two part-time jobs selling shoes as I had recently gotten engaged and needed to save up to get married.
Got married to a wonderful man – he was significant in showing me I was loveable and creating a safe home of my own.
The expected aspiration at church for women was to become a mother, so careers were not encouraged. I also seemed to have no ambition to have a job at this time – moving from one small fulfilling experience to another suited my low level of confidence. Next, I decided I’d like to go temping as a receptionist and have lots of different backgrounds and more flexibility about working.
I got a pivotal temp assignment at Apple (a company that I had never heard of and almost didn’t take).
I got employed full-time at Apple as Receptionist, where I progressed from admin roles. There, I poached into the Marketing team, thanks to the backing of the Marketing Manager who saw and nurtured a potential I couldn’t see and worried I didn’t have.
I left the church after a near nervous breakdown after years of twisting myself to conform. It meant leaving everything behind. It exhilarated me. My husband, who was born into that environment, remained in the church.
Left my husband, broke his heart and mine for many years…
Because I was dependant on myself, I decided I had better take my career seriously. I applied to go to pursue tertiary education. My admission to the post-grad business programme at the University of Auckland was by virtue of my experience, and I had to maintain a B+ average. I was terrified that all the money I was investing in myself (24k) may be in vain because I retained the belief that it was my grit and not my intellect that was responsible for my success. I managed an A- average. On graduation, I hired the gown and walked in the parade – the only one in my class to do so. I was thrilled.
I decided I must leave Apple to develop my career and to see if I could make it outside the safety that had become working there. By that point, I received promotions through various roles to Marketing Communications Manager.
Appointed Marketing Manager at Lotus Development
I was made redundant from Lotus as part of IBM’s rationalisation process – they had bought Lotus 2 years earlier.
I began looking for a new role when a global tech brand offered me a temp contract to implement an Australian-developed marketing programme in New Zealand. I turned it down three times, then gave in to the country managers insistence that it was only two weeks, and that my search for a full-time role would be unimpeded. I ended up contracting part-time to that brand for 18 months which became the beginning of my fantastic self-employed journey.
Fell pretty hard in love for a guy who I knew was planning on going to the UK – not something I felt compelled to do until he left, and we were both bereft.
I followed my heart and moved to the UK during the dot com boom for what would be one of the absolute highlights of my career. We broke up after six months and proceeded to have the world’s most drawn-out breakup.
I was appointed as Head of Marketing for a tech start-up. Though I loved this time, I felt (unnecessarily) out of my depth, but I remained in the role until the company failed to receive their third round of VC funding. The dot com crash was starting to happen, and while the company survived, I knew that massive changes were coming that would not have been acceptable to me
Returned to NZ and picked up my self employed career and worked with some fantastic Kiwi brands until I convinced the head of New Zealand’s only Technology Park, owned by AUT, to let me run the Business Incubator. I held the dual roles of Director of Incubation and Marketing for four years. I developed our award-winning Rapid Growth Programme and created the incubation industry’s first marketing campaign/programme (upstart) to attract talented, early-stage businesses to the Incubator.
Met a spectacular human being whom I convinced to marry me.
I moved on from my Incubator role and took six months to work out what I wanted to do next. With the Neuroleadership Institute, I became trained as a Coach. This training was a pivotal decision that fuelled everything that came after.
I conducted a research project into the needs of female business owners as it was clear there was nothing in the market dedicated to champion them. From that research, I decided that solving this problem wasn’t for me. Hugely supportive male bosses hallmarked most of my career, and my clients had mostly been men, so I felt no pull to address this market.
Realised about this time that children may never feature on my journey and despite my highly maternal nature, I decided that I was ok with this. Thankfully, I remain at peace with that.
I launched Growmybiz.ltd to see if I could develop a scalable business. We delivered brain-based programmes to assist entrepreneurs advance their businesses faster. An all-male board of four supported the company. Growmybiz.ltd was successful in many ways, but the first 18 months were gruelling for me as I came to terms with the difference between helping entrepreneurs and being one.
Discovered that avoiding or outsourcing something that’s not your ‘core competence’ as a founder is a fatal flaw – that ‘sales’ is an unmissable role to play (and eventually, that I can do it superbly). That because of my reluctance with doing sales and discomfort with the financials, mine saw a decline. To help my cashflow, I accepted two chunks of work that were presented to me. Firstly, coach 20% of ASB’s senior leaders. Secondly, to help a former board member develop a new platform. Both of which, at the time, I felt were taking me away from my own business. However, they both proved perfect components of my journey – not to mention, they saved my bacon, financially.
Convened my ‘RIP’ board session to communicate that I had failed to do what I set out to do. The board didn’t agree that this was the end (to my utter amazement) and insisted that what was missing was a defined niche. After some brainstorming and discussion, we landed on my earlier research project on the female business owners market. I was unenthusiastic for the same reasons as earlier, but the board agreed it was a niche worth investigating, and in the end, I did too. I created a brand I named ‘Co.OfWomen’, to appeal to this niche, and for the next year, we tried a range of initiatives specific to this target. The initiatives were very well received.
The Growmybiz board resigned themselves and recommended they be replaced with a female version to provide direction for the pivot. This process led me to finding Dr Lee Mathias.
I instigated Women Entrepreneurs Week as part of this focus in 2010 as a tool to get the media to spotlight successful women.
Lee and I worked together – she as my mentor and guide, and I did the work – together, we developed the new platform. Co.OfWomen became a membership-based business support organisation initially focused on business owners, and quickly progressing to including self- employed and employed women as well. The organisation would be dedicated to the provision of the practical resources, learning and connections that would support next-level growth. A community of women devoted to their own and each other’s success laid the foundation of the company. Co.OfWomen would feature women at every stage of the success journey. We named the organisation Co.OfWomen to emphasise that this was about business (the co. being the known abbreviation for company of business) and reinforced that positioning by choosing ‘.biz’. Lee became the founding Chair of the board, and we officially launched during Women Entrepreneurs Week in March 2012 in a fantastic event attended by the Prime Minister. The primary driver of the organisation would be that empowered women change the world. We adopted a standard commercial model, committed to an organisation that could sustain itself.
Sarah Paykel, Wynnis Armour, and Sharon Hunter joined the board. My confidence was in the process of becoming robust, so I asked Lee to extend the invitation. I believed they might say ‘no, thank you‘ to me, but likely say ‘yes‘ to Lee. I’ll never know about the former.
Theresa Gattung CNZM became appointed as the new Chair of Co. OfWomen’s board. My confidence was finding its feet a bit more, and I asked her directly.
I was recognised as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and women. I did not feel ready for this recognition and kept it mostly private.
Leveraging the intelligence in our community to we launched our Digital Platform to deliver New Zealand made content in a cross-platform format, so that women had access to relevant thinking and learning from women that they could meet.
Co.OfWomen launched our world-class Member Engagement Programme offering tailored, account managed mentoring, coaching, facilitated connection. This programme is dedicated to ensuring these members (women going for next-level growth) would progress with less risk, enhanced knowledge, and robust confidence.
Co.OfWomen developed the Three Pillar Foundation to our robust learning methodology that combines gender (how women can harness their essential power for their success journey), science (how humans can operate at optimal) and commerce (business/organisational acumen).
We refined our deep understanding of the success journey with a focus on female’s innate capacities that can hand-break success and cause unnecessary (psychological) pain.
Theresa Gattung’s role as Chair for four years saw her as a core catalyst for the leap in our understanding of the female success journey from the position of female power. She aided the distinguishing of female power from masculine power, and propelled Co. OfWomen’s prioritisation of how women can identify and harness their power.
COVID-19 arrived and with it two choices – close the business or port our entire offering to digital. We opted for option two and shored the ship for the inevitable challenges the resulting economic downturn would bring. We’ve been busy in the awesomely successful transition. We are working on expanding our reach with incredible resources that can be delivered to women anywhere in the world.
We launched ‘The Patrons Fund’ during the lockdown to harness the goodwill of Co.OfWomen’s most experienced members as ‘funders’ of the success journey of other women that are limited in their ability to fund their membership.
We launched the ‘Female Power Sessions’ to engage proven leaders across Aotearoa and the world in clarifying the distinctions of female power, and to showcase that power through the lives of proven leaders.