Mumbition The Podcast

How the challenges of being a new regional mum sparked a business

Anna has used her experience of being a new mum trying to access healthcare advice from a rural location as the inspiration for her business

5 minutes

With Anna Barwick Founder of PharmOnline

Did you know that 30% of business-owning mums in Australia are based in regional and rural areas? We love sharing the stories of regional and rural business owners, whose communities face unique challenges due to their geographic locations. The reality of accessing the internet or healthcare while running a cattle station the size of a small European country is very different to those living in a postage stamp sized unit in urban Sydney. 

Today’s podcast guest has used her lived experience of being a new mum trying to access healthcare advice from a rural location as the inspiration for her business - one she hopes will leave a lasting legacy for the rural and regional communities she is so passionate about.

Anna Barwick is a shining example of someone who combines her own ambition, livelihood, and wellbeing with a business focused on improving access to pharmaceutical advice to families when they need it most. The founder of PharmOnline, an online business she’s building while also lecturing at the School of Rural Medicine at the University of New England, studying for a PhD, Anna lives on an Australian Stockhorse Stud farm in Walcha, rural New South Wales.

So how did late nights breastfeeding lead to a business idea that is disrupt the health industry? Will our ‘new normal’ help to break down barriers for rural and regional business owners? And what’s the most transferable skill between business and motherhood? Anna chatted with Carrie and Lucy about her journey and how she disrupted an industry.

What do you love about your business right now?

“For me, it's a huge learning curve. As a pharmacist, being an entrepreneur is something that's relatively foreign. It's not something that we are taught at university. I'm learning on the fly about the best way to manage my business and I’m making sure that I'm asking lots of questions of other experts in this area so that I can ensure that my business is fit for purpose, and that it will leave the legacy that I intend to leave behind once this, hopefully, grows and becomes really big. It's something that I think has a lot of potential to make a really big difference for people in Australia.”

Is there something you've had to stop doing in order to make your life and business work?

“I don't really like the term work-life balance, because for me, my work is my life. I'm a pharmacist. I love healthcare. I love helping people. So, that is just my life anyway. To me, this is just formalising it in a business package. But there are times when I go, "Oh, I really haven't caught up with friends in a while." So I really try to make that time and commit time to doing things that I think I need at that particular point in time. I also make sure I have a calendar for my day and try to stick to the times that I allocate to complete things.

I try not to stop anything. I think I have a much fuller agenda than I've ever had in my life. That's probably true of all of us, to be honest. We're always adding things. There are times where I'm very good at compartmentalising and leaving things alone to go and enjoy something. And then stopping that and going back to do other admin tasks. That's probably something that I very much picked up and incorporate now across my life.”

What’s the most transferable skill between business and motherhood?

“Organisation hands down. You have to be organised in both of those roles. Motherhood has has stood me in good stead as a business owner. I don't think I could have been an independent business owner before I was a mother. I just didn't have that structure. Motherhood has made me go, “right, we've got things to get to”. I've got to pack lunches. I've got to wash things in advance. I've got to have things organised for Book Week. I've always been a list person, but that's become even more prominent now. I'll write things down for the day, cross things off as I get things done and things that are still remaining, then carry over onto the next day's list.”

If you were to ask for anything right now in business or life what would it be?

“I'm on the cusp of signing a few contracts for opportunities with PharmOnline, in a new area that we're expanding into. Having a lawyer that has some insight into health and health tech would be amazing. I'm very lucky that through Mums & Co I've already had contact with an outstanding solicitor that has offered some assistance, which has been really helpful in understanding what I need to have in place when I'm starting to offer our services.”

We know that 30% of business-owning mothers start businesses from regional locations, just like you. What do you think the connection to your community brings to your business?

“I've always lived rural and it's always been a very big part of my life. I am always amazed by the level of support that you get because you know people on so many different levels. You might volunteer with them in a local organisation and then they're also the local bank manager or you're taking your children to school together or sport. There's so many points of connection in a rural community that you maybe don't get in the city. It gives you that greater insight, depth, and empathy for other people and that's probably why they celebrate you so much. It really does help to maintain your fire and keeps reminding you of why you're doing what you're doing.

One of the greatest silver linings to come out of COVID (and there's not a lot of them) for rural businesses is that it has opened up opportunities because now Zooming is normal. This has been normal for me for all my life. During my high school years, I was learning remotely a lot of the time well over a decade ago. I did it at uni as well with remote connections to some of our lecturers in Wagga from Orange. Now this is normal. 

That's really opened up opportunities for regional business owners. One of the things that I've often heard from people is "once we get back to normal," and I'm like, "I actually hope we don't go back to normal." Because we want a new normal where it's as inclusive as possible. We want people, particularly female business owners to be included, to be able to have the same opportunities as business owners that are not in rural areas. We all often have the same struggles and issues, getting rid of some of those barriers that rural business owners have to overcome is a positive thing. I think we'll all grow collectively as a result.”

Want to know more about how Anna has grown a business disrupting the health sector from her rural home?

How did late nights breastfeeding lead to a business idea that disrupted the health industry? Will our ‘new normal’ help to break down barriers for rural business owners? And what’s the most transferable skill between business and motherhood?

Listen to the episode now to find out.

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