When you think about it, being able to pitch your business to potential clients and collaborators is similar to telling stories. It’s a skill we need in both business and motherhood.
Annette Densham, has built her PR business, sharing other people's stories with audacity and courage. There is no place for modesty in business; you have to stand out and shine no matter what.
00:07:44:00 - 00:08:07:10
When you think about it, being able to pitch your business to potential clients and collaborators is similar to telling stories; a skill we need in both business and motherhood. Today's guest, Annette Densham, has built her PR business, sharing other people's stories with audacity and courage. There is no place for modesty in business; you have to stand out and shine.
Annette joins us on Mumbition, the podcast, today to share an insight into her own business journey. Annette, a big welcome. It's clear that we both celebrate the power of storytelling and I'm very keen to help you share yours. So could you please share your elevator pitch with us?
00:08:24:24 - 00:08:52:09
Oh, absolutely! It's so great to be here. So The Audacious Agency, Australia's leading specialists in business awards, and combining the skills of far too many decades to name here, of Lauren and I in branding, advertising, journalism, media and PR.
We then take these awards next level by showing people how to leverage them to really get deep into that storytelling process. So more people know what you do, they know how you do it, and most importantly, they love what you do.
00:09:02:00 - 00:09:28:21
I can hear that energy in your pitch and I think that you have some really exciting stories to share of these amazing businesses doing some amazing work and making the impact, so amazing! Annette, you came to the small business space after a journalism and corporate career and spending about a decade at home as a stay at home mum to your two boys.
What do you think of those varied life and working experiences gifted to your business now? And another question, is there an aspect of business life that you're enjoying the most at the moment?
00:09:42:07 - 00:10:12:17
Oh, yeah, I can answer both of those with great gusto! So I think most importantly, staying home with my kids for ten years was a big sacrifice to my career. But I think what it did teach me, and what it's helped with ten years in business, now is tenacity, grit and determination. Because when you tell people you are a stay at home mum, you can almost see their eyes roll and they fall asleep.
So I always had to work really hard to prove myself. Like even when I was a stay at home mum, I was still working, I was freelancing for The Senior newspaper, I wrote about forklifts for a year for forklift action. I was doing lots of things. If anybody needs to know about ship to shore gantry cranes, I’m your person!
But I also think working within journalism and corporate comms, it helped me come out of my shell because when you're a journalist, you've got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable when you're interviewing people that you don't know, and quite often outside, like peer and above. I can remember sitting there interviewing Harry and Mila when I was in my twenties, and back when I was in my twenties
He was like the man that everyone was going to for entertainment. I had to interview him and I can remember hacking it and thinking, oh my God, what if I say something stupid? So I think the combination of all of those things and being pushed out of my comfort zone on a regular basis, that when I went into business, it was almost a no brainer from the get go that I went, if I want people to know who I am, I know what I do, then I'm going to open my mouth and promote myself to do that.
I guess that's what I bring to the business and that I bring to our clients, just that, you know, it doesn't matter where you are at in your business or whether you've just come out of looking after your kids and going back into work full time or you've started a new business, you've got skills and abilities and talents and amazing expertise that people need right now and giving them that belief that they can do that.
And I guess what I love most about business now, is like I'm in my fifties now, and I don’t know whether it's a business thing or it's a life thing, but I actually feel pretty comfortable with who I am and I look back at, I've been in the media industry since I was 15 years old, so that's quite a few years there and I know stuff. Now with this comfort of feeling comfortable in myself as a human being, I'm not afraid to tell people what I know and share it in hope that I may make a difference in someone else's business.
And this is not even like a client, but I'm just so focused on giving that I just think, you know, a rising tide lifts all ships. Maybe if there's something that I say to someone who's struggling in business at the moment, and makes a difference to them, then I think that's got to be good for everybody. So I really love that about where I’m at right now.
00:12:57:02 - 00:13:20:10
What a beautiful reflection on your career, for one. But also what a unique gift you are bringing. Because you're right, I feel like the more others stand out and use their own voice to push the agenda of their business or whatever it might be, the more encouraged the rest of us are to do that.
I think it's a really fundamental part of helping to grow the women in the small business space, because often it's, you know, as you say and often, our time at home with our kids or life experiences generally kind of encourage us to quieten our voices. So having a voice is so important, thank you so much for sharing this big talk.
00:13:41:21 - 00:14:01:12
That's why storytelling is so important. Because it doesn't matter what story you're telling, and you just never, ever know who you're going to impact with what you share. And you know, as women, I think, let's go back to those circles around the fire, maybe our circles are around the Facebook group or LinkedIn group now.
But we have these unique opportunities where we're able to connect with a lot more people than ever before and impact a lot more people than ever before. You know, look at Grace Tame and what she's been able to do by sharing her story, she's inspired tens of thousands, maybe millions of women to say, you know what, that's not good enough and we expect more from the community than what we’ve been getting.
00:14:31:04 - 00:15:00:15
It's such a timely reminder to, I think, on both fronts, to check our bias there. We shouldn't have to work so hard to challenge the stigma that, you know, we're working. You know, we've had some time away from working life to care for our children and then have to come back. We shouldn't have to be apologetic about blending our motherhood and ambitions when we return.
As working women, I think we just need to own that space and recognise that you have amazing skills and amazing experience, and lots of things to contribute. If you don't have everything that you need because things have moved on, technology might have changed, we can actually meet those skill gaps really quickly because we just have so, so many transferable skills from that journey.
Now, having the courage itself and to stand out from the crowd, it's a big part of your personal brand. It's something we share at Mums & Co too, but it can actually often require a lot of energy. What's something that you do as part of your daily or perhaps a weekly routine that helps you cultivate your inner strength?
00:15:43:21 - 00:16:12:02
I really like to say I exercise every day and I meditate and I'm zen, but no, I don't do any of those things. Occasionally I exercise when I remember! I read, I actually find reading, because I so love storytelling, is a big part of energizing me. So I start the day, every single morning, by reading a book, maybe not a whole book in a morning, but I sit and read for pleasure.
So I'm not learning anything, I'm not absorbing anything other than enjoying the deliciousness of the words and the plot and the characters that the author has built. I find that’s a really great way to kind of let my brain settle into the day or not waking up immediately going, Oh my God, I’ve gotta do this, and then I've got to do that.
My brain starts the day with, “Oh, I'm a little bit zen now,” so that's for me. I know my kids look at me and go, “You’re weird mum,” like reading a book, that's just crazy! And I will also, during the day, this sounds really cheesy, but I love sitting there with my dog. He's the best stress reliever ever on the planet!
He comes and sits on my lap and I sit there and stroke his little head and my brain just turns off and I'm able to go, “I have got an answer to that solution,” and go back. So I guess the thing is I find something that enables me to turn off from the immediacy, or the importance, or urgency of what I've got to do that day to come back to a space where I'm calm and serene, and that opens up your brain for so many other opportunities, instead of stressing and fretting about whatever it is that I’m doing.
00:17:30:13 - 00:17:53:21
Gosh, I love that, Annette, reading a book in the morning. I used to do that when I used to commute on the train every day. You know, I used to read a book and there's something about that, so I agree with you. It opens up the synapses in your brain and it changes the way that you face the day; I love that. And I'm going to borrow it as part of my morning routine; what a great thing!
00:17:55:09 - 00:18:14:09
I've got a Kindle and I actually sleep with it. It's like my comfort blanket. So if I wake up in the middle of the night, the first thing I grab is my Kindle and I start reading because it just relaxes me and puts me back into that zen space. So I think reading is one of the best things that we can do for ourselves.
00:18:16:05 - 00:18:33:00
Hundred percent! So can you tell us a little bit more about your Co? That's the word we use obviously in our Mums & Co name. Co is the second part of our name, but that's the people in your life who support your business so that you can keep doing what you’re doing with the agency.
00:18:35:04 - 00:19:07:20
Top of the list is my husband. Look, it doesn't matter what I do, whether I was in business or when we started having kids and who was going to stay home. He is always 100% behind me or beside me, depending on what I'm doing. And I don't think I could have had anywhere near the accomplishments that I've had if I had a different person who was my life partner. A very important part of my life is my business partner, Lauren Clement.
We started The Audacious Agency together two and a bit years ago, right before a global pandemic, because that's the best time to start a business. But we've just dug in and dug deep and just found solutions together because we're both very solution orientated and we're both creative problem solvers. So that's just been the most amazing journey, getting to know her better on that different level.
I've got best friends that I've had since I was in grade five, people since I was ten years old. Who does that? It doesn't matter what I put up on Facebook, they're always supporting me and encouraging me and, and helping me celebrate my wins.
Sadly, my mum died 15, 16 years ago, but Earl's mum has just stepped into that role as my mum and she's the person that goes, “Darling, you're just so beautiful, I'm so proud of you.” And it makes me go all squishy and squirming inside because it's so nice to have someone from that generation who's lived so much life look at you and go, “Wow, look at the things that you're doing. I'm so proud of you.”
00:20:30:22 - 00:21:16:01
Just beautiful! And family is so important. Thank you for sharing a little bit about yours. I do wonder if we can actually dive in a little bit more into your family circumstances. You mentioned that you’re a mum to two grown up boys now, but over the years you've shared a little bit about some of the challenges of tackling the school system with a child who is on the spectrum, and we know that many of our community have similar experiences.
Is there any advice that you would like to give to another mum trying to run a business or wanting to support her child through this?
00:21:16:11 - 00:21:59:24
Yeah, it’s hard! I'm going to start straight up, it's hard. I can't believe that we're in year 12 now and that it's almost all done and finished. I think the best advice I can give is don't be hard on yourself. I just thought that I was trying to be everything to everyone and get all the work done and go to these appointments or homeschool my kid, because they've been suspended again. I really ended up in quite a pickley mess with my health and with my mental health. By the time Quinn had entered high school, four or five years ago. Then when I reflected on why this was, it was because I was trying to keep everybody happy, and it was like I wasn't happy.
So how can I be leading my family and leading a business if I was miserable? So I put things in place, I brought someone on to help me. So if you can afford to get someone to help you either manage your diary, or manage your administrative processes, or the stuff that you're just not good at, and I got someone to do that.
I also got someone else to help me with the writing because that freed up my brain a little bit so I could go to the school principal and hear all about why my child was so terrible! So yeah, stop being hard on yourself because the only person you're really hurting is yourself.
00:22:39:22 - 00:22:44:05
Great advice. I think there is definitely a lot…just let that sink in, in terms of I can say, you know, we need to be a little bit kinder to ourselves as well because, you know, that we do do the tough things and we are there for our children as much as we can be. So I think that's really sage words of wisdom, and thank you for sharing that about your own journey as well.
Annette, I follow you very avidly on LinkedIn. I love your posts and I always find that I have to comment on whatever you write, I find them really amazing! One of them spoke to me recently. You wrote about the experience of being white anted online and you know, I'd love you to just give us a little brief, little understanding of what that is for anyone that's not heard that term before.
But I wondered having the courage to put yourself out there as you do, obviously comes with certain risks and challenges. So what processes have you adopted as a business owner to protect yourself in those kinds of circumstances?
00:24:05:24 - 00:24:36:24
Yeah, absolutely. What white anting is, is almost like what it sounds like, is someone coming in and, and chewing away at your foundations. And sometimes I said, in my experience, it's mostly women that try to undermine you from behind your back. So this particular experience was a very good friend of mine said, “I've been working with this person and your name came up and she said, “You should have heard the horrible things that she said about you,”
And I went, “Oh what’s her name?” And she told me and I went, “I don't even know who she is. I've never met her. So this person's making stuff up about me and I've never worked with her, I've never met her. We don't even move in the same circles. My brain was like, “I don't understand why you would do this.” Like, okay, if I screwed you around I totally get that!
But not having done anything to that person, I really struggled to understand where they were coming from. I find that the more that my profile grows and Lucy, I am an oversharer and I love to express my thoughts and my feelings, I really see social media as my talent.
Well, it's my opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings and observations on the world in a way I could never do when I was a kid. Man, if I had this tool when I was a kid, I'm fairly sure I'd be the leader of the free world by now, but I'm not!
00:25:35:02 - 00:25:37:13
There's still time!
00:25:37:14 - 00:25:53:18
There's still time, yeah. I was looking at my high school yearbook the other day and it said, What do you want to be when you grow up? And I had journalist, then Prime Minister of Australia and I was like, I probably can still do that in ten years’ time. Not sure that I want to now though, after all that happens in politics.
So how do I protect myself? Someone very wise said to me a number of years ago, Annette, whether people love you or hate you, it has nothing to do with you. It took me so long to really understand what she meant. And because I'm a people pleaser and I'm a gregarious, open person, you know, I'm very social.
I love making people laugh. I love sharing my thoughts and feelings. I thought I've really got to structure them in a way that I don't offend anybody or I don't upset anybody because heaven forbid, someone doesn't like me. Then a few years ago it dawned on me that what this person was trying to say was that all you can do is be yourself.
As long as you're showing up with integrity, with values, with a purpose, with a mission, you're not deliberately out to hurt anybody. Then, how other people view you has really got nothing to do with you. You can't control how other people feel, and you know, I know when my kids say, “Oh, you make me upset,” and it's like, Oh, no, I didn't make you upset, how you interpreted what I said made you upset.
I've got nothing to do if you're angry or upset at me because I just ask you to put the washing out, it's not a big deal. So I really embrace the philosophy now that I can't control what people think of me. If they don't like what I've got to say, that's fine. And the beauty of, you know, I think the way that I've grown up is that, I don't dislike or not like somebody, or like somebody, based on what they thought.
I think COVID was a really great example of that. People with very different, polarising opinions. I've got friends who are so anti-vaccine, but I love them because that's only one small part of who they are. I also stopped following my competition, all of whom I perceived as my competition because I realised that I can't control what they do or don't do.
The clients that they get, the clients that they don't get. All I can control is how I show up in the world. As long as I'm happy, as long as my husband still thinks that I'm a nice person and wants to stay with me and he respects and admires me, it doesn't really matter what anybody else thinks of me because I'm not out there to hurt anybody.
I'm just out there to share. And maybe someone might learn something from me, maybe not. But at the end of the day, I'm happy with how I'm showing up in the world.
00:28:31:12 - 00:28:48:20
It really speaks to that philosophy that the people that are meant to find you, will find you. You know, if you stick to who you are, as you say, with integrity and you're coming at business and social media, and all the things from a place of this is really who I am, and what I want to share. There's room for us all. There's plenty of business.
00:28:52:21 - 00:29:11:03
Absolutely! It’s like my nan used to say, “You can't be everybody's cup of tea, Annie!” And I'm like, well, I want to have a cup of tea. But now as a mature adult, it's like, I get it, there are people. My youngest son, the one on the spectrum, I'll say it, I was talking to him about this.
What an experience. And he's like, “How can people not like you, mum?” And that's like, well, because we're all different, mate. We've all had experiences and, we've got beliefs that have been instilled in us from our parents and our upbringing and I can't control how those people have come and navigated through this world, and it's okay if they don't like me because I don't need 7 billion friends.
I just need a handful of friends and colleagues of people who respect me and like how I show up in the world, and that's all that matters to me.
00:29:49:04 - 00:30:04:20
Beautiful message. I will bank that away from my two young sons. Now, Annette, we wanted to invite you to share something that's got your attention right now. So, I understand that's a memoir with a very cheeky title. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
00:30:05:19 - 00:30:08:18
Yeah, sure. Can I say the cheeky title?
00:30:09:19 - 00:30:13:14
We don't say swear words so we just have to leave it out.
00:30:13:24 - 00:30:20:21
That's okay, and that's why I asked because I'm a prolific swearer, and I've been very good today and not swearing.
I think I dropped one. I did a talk at my old high school once and I dropped a few four letter words, and I can remember the whole of the cohort going [giggling noises]. As the principal's glaring at me and I'm like, I'm sorry, I forgot. So my memoir is called How to Eat a [beep] Sandwich and Keep Smiling.
And it really came about during COVID. I was asked to contribute a chapter to an anthology, and it was called I Fly. It was about a really significant moment in your life that changed the course of your life. And for me, I picked this moment with my grandfather. It's not a happy story. It's not a pleasant story, but it kept coming up in my life.
And I thought, maybe this is like the universe is telling me that I really need to write about this. So, you know, it was towards the end of the MeToo movement, and I felt that now’s the right time to share this, because maybe I can encourage other people to heal because that's to me, I need to better out than in, I need that catharsis of getting this out of my head onto paper.
And at the time, I was also really sick, I put on a lot of weight, I had a couple of chronic diseases that I was finding really hard to manage, and nothing I was doing with the help of the medical profession was helping me. And a friend said to me, “You know, you're really a thyroid problem waiting to happen.
I've got Hashimoto's, because of what happened in childhood. Maybe you should start dealing with that.” And I'm like, “I'm pretty sure I've dealt with it,” and she's gone, “Look at your body. Your body's telling you that there's something going on,” so I went, “You know what? I'm going to write about the first 25 years of my life, because that was the most significant in shaping the person that I am today.”
So it's a book about the seventies, eighties and nineties. I've written each chapter as if you were listening to the little girl or the young adult that I was. So if you’re reading the chapter about my early life when my father first left us, he only left us once, but when he left us, you hear the voice of a three year old, a four year old, a five year old all the way up to the 25 year old.
When I walked away from my dream job and came back to Brisbane, and whilst it’s really heavy, there are a lot of really big topics in there, domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, bullying. There's also what I like to think is becoming my trademark humor, which is why it's got the cheeky title because I've eaten so many of those awful sandwiches in my life.
But what got me through is my sense of humor and my almost Pollyanna positivity around finding a silver lining in almost everything bad that happens. You know, I have become really good at going, alright that was really bad, but what’s something good I can take out of it? Maybe it's a life lesson. Maybe it's a connection I've made, not minimizing the bad things that happen, but realizing that if I'm going to survive, if I'm going to prosper and thrive as a human being, then I need to be able to look at those things, deal with them and move on.
So my book was my very big 438 page way of dealing with my problems from my childhood and recognizing that, Oh my God, you're a survivor, girl! You've, you've come through this and you should be a gibbering mess in the corner. But you're not. And I was like, when I read it back, it was like, Wow, good for me, you know?
I was like that moment of going, Yeah, if anyone deserves a pat on the back here, it's me and I'm going to give myself one.
00:34:14:07 - 00:34:40:04
One incredibly cathartic experience that must have been and also so affirming for other people as well to be able to read it and it's also a really nice segue way into our last question, because we love to talk about the shape of a good life and we use that in terms of harmony being a triangle of our ambition, our livelihood, now wellbeing.
So just off the back of what you've just been sharing there about that experience and writing about that, and how that's impacted your life now, how would you describe the shape of a good life for you?
00:34:54:24 - 00:35:14:14
Good life for me is being surrounded by people who love me and just enjoying the simple things in life. You know, I used to always think, Oh, I want to be rich and famous, and now in this environment that I really want to be. Oh maybe rich would be nice, but the famous part I don't want to be any more.
I just really appreciate walking on the beach or sitting in the sun, talking to good friends, playing board games, listening to music, going to concerts, just really uninvolved things that just remind you of how beautiful the world is. For me, that's what a good life is. And bringing people along with the journey so that I'm not enjoying it by myself because I think a good life is enriched by incredible people who are around you.
00:35:48:23 - 00:35:52:23
What did you do on the day your book was published to celebrate?
00:35:54:24 - 00:36:28:02
I had the best book launch ever! It was a year ago on May 23, which is my birthday. So it was almost 25 years after the end of my story in the book, and I embraced the theme of humor, and I organized a comedy show and I recruited all these amazing local comedians and the best MC on the planet, Fiona McGarry, who's like a comedian who's been around for about 30 years and I put on a comedy show and I gave people lots of presents.
So I put it out to my community and said, this is what I'm doing. If you got stuff I can give away and I can promote your business. And I filled this Paddington Sit Down Comedy Club, I think 120 people came and it was just the best day. It was filled with laughter, joy and 120 people singing Happy Birthday to me, which is awesome.