Maxine Sherrin Spark Festival

Mumbition

The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 11: Why do women hesitate to call themselves entrepreneurs?
Interview with Maxine Sherrin, Festival Director Spark Festival

We were blown away to discover that in the past two decades, there has been a 45% increase in female business owner-managers in Australia.

There is a huge economic and societal opportunity for supporting the number of women becoming entrepreneurs to be on parity with men - as much as $75 to $135 billion* - imagine what this could do! 

Our guest for today's episode is doing her part to see the manifestation of this incredible stat. Maxine Sherrin is the Festival Director of Spark Festival, Australia's celebration of  startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs from every background, location and business stage.

Maxine’s passion for Australian small businesses and startups shines through in her chat with Carrie and Lucy. They cover how to let go of perfectionism, the importance of connections for business owners and how radical flexibility can de-risk events during times of uncertainty.

So, can rampant optimism get you through the day? Why do we hesitate to call ourselves entrepreneurs? And is done better than perfect?

Links

Spark Festival
Aoife O'Connell
Sarah Nelson

Credits

Produced & Edited by - Morgan Brown
Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
Guest - Spark Festival

Are you ready to join a movement of business owning women?  Join Mums & Co today.

Episode 11 Transcript

Carrie Kwan (00:02):

Hi. Welcome to Mumbition, the podcast for business owning women, by Mums & Co, where we share inspiring stories of Australian mums in business.

I'm Carrie Kwan, the co-founder of Mums & Co. And I will be joined each week by our community manager, Lucy Kippist. Together, we'll discuss how our guests harmonize their ambition, livelihood, and wellbeing. Let's get into the inspiring stories now.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Mums and Co acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and the connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respect to elders, past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

Today's episode starts with some fascinating facts. Did you know, that in the past two decades, we've seen a 45% increase in female business owner-managers in Australia? And that, according to the Boston Consulting Group, the economic opportunity for boosting this number of female entrepreneurs, on parity with men, will be worth somewhere between $75 and $135 billion.

Our guest for today's episode is doing her part to see the manifestation of this incredible metric. Maxine Sherrin is the festival director of Spark Festival, Australia's festival of innovation, a not-for-profit bringing together people, ideas, and resources across the Australian innovation and startup ecosystem.

Mums & Co proudly joined in last year's festival, representing approximately 345,000 business owning mums in Australia, and bringing our focus on harmony and wellbeing to the collective pursuit of Australia's women's ambition. Maxine, welcome to the Mumbition podcast.


Maxine Sherrin (02:17):

Thank you, it's lovely to be here at last.


Carrie Kwan (02:20):

You know our movement is known for helping our members develop their elevator pitch. So can you please share yours?


Maxine Sherrin (02:27):

Absolutely. It's actually something I'm very passionate about and always trying to improve with myself. But my favorite one at the moment is pretty much what you've captured already, which is: I'm Maxine Sherrin and I'm program director of Spark Festival, which is Australia's largest event for startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs of every stripe and background.


Carrie Kwan (02:49):

And that inclusivity is testament to everything that you do. What do you love about your business right now?


Maxine Sherrin (02:58):

Ooh, right now, look, it's a thing that I've always loved since 2016, when Spark Festival started, it's the people that I meet and get to connect with doing this festival. Actually a bit of background before 2016, I wasn't running Spark Festival, I was running my own business, which was called Web Directions, which was Australia's sort of first event for web designers and developers that we started back in 2004. And so I didn't actually know that much about startups and entrepreneurship, even though I'd had my own business all that time, I didn't really identify necessarily as an entrepreneur, in a way. And so it was only when I started with Spark that I realized that there's this massive sort of zeitgeist out there around this idea of entrepreneurship.

And it's drawing in people of all backgrounds, all ages, which I find really interesting as well and all experiences in life. And I'm just lucky enough to have a job where I get to engage with those people and get a little bit of their sort of rampant optimism to get me through the day every day. That's what I love about what I do with Spark. And I often get stories back about the kinds of things that have happened to people who've met people at Spark events. Even last year, where it was all online, where it's obviously so much harder to meet and make connections. But I got a wonderful story from someone who attended an online event, connected with the presenter, he's ended up moving to Newcastle and the presenter has become an investor in his business. So hearing stuff like that is incredibly rewarding.


Carrie Kwan (04:42):

And I know that rampant optimism is projected in everything you do as well. And when you were saying how you'd made that leap to entrepreneurship and I might have sensed a hesitation that even you identifying as an entrepreneur was a jump, was a leap of sorts. And I'm always fascinated with that because there's that entrepreneurial character in almost, I would definitely say in every small business owner, it's something that you take the leap into the unknown, you're taking risks. You're trying to find product market fit, you're trying to find the right customers, you are an entrepreneur.


Maxine Sherrin (05:18):

100%, yeah. But it is very hard for some people to identify as that. And I think I might have found it especially hard myself because, I'm sure there's a lot of people like this, I didn't come from an entrepreneurial background at all. Both my parents... My mum was a teacher, my dad was a mechanic. They worked for the same people from 1969 until they retired in the early 2000s, I think. And it just really wasn't on the agenda. And I was also at that era that even when I went to university, I was lucky enough to go to university, but it wasn't yet the zeitgeist that you went to university and then you thought about starting your own business. You went to university and you became a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant, and you got a good job.

And I finished uni in 90... What was it? 1990, in fact. So that's that sort of era, but something happened over the next decade to 15 years and is very much around now, everyone wants to try this thing of starting their own business. I think it's becoming a lot more of a acceptableI suppose. I think even when I would've finished uni, entrepreneurialism was first of all inaccessible, but if it was, it was probably associated with things that you didn't want to be in a way culturally.

Lucy Kippist (06:42):

Yeah, I hear what you're describing is that it's that sort of fluidity, isn't it? Between your profession and your work and that's all part of that mindset of being entrepreneurial, which is still very much, I think, defining itself. And it defines itself through each, each person as they take it on as well. A bigger part of that, obviously, is it's not just enough to have a great idea, you've got to have a business and then you've got to have a platform to spruike it and share it with other people to make it meaningful. And that's obviously what Spark Festival is all about. So we were talking about, it's a busy time for you. Building is up with that at the moment, there's so many moving pieces. So I'm wondering what have you had to stop doing in order to make Spark Festival a success?


Maxine Sherrin (07:27):

Perfectionism, it's the thing that will kill you. I do think I'm pretty good at letting go at realizing when you've got to that 80% mark and you've got to get it out the door. And I think testament to that is the fact that pretty much on a skeleton staff of myself and a couple of others, I managed to deliver a festival with 100 plus events, 100s of people involved in it, all these organizations from across Australia, if you're going to sweat the details, you just can't do it. But then there's always that thing of, well what is good enough? Because you don't sweat any details ever, obviously, you end up with something that is too much of a mess. What I've taught myself to do is to realize when to let go, and also when to delegate to someone else, which is another thing that's a little bit tricky with Spark because most of the year Spark Festival is just me, so I've got all these... There's things everywhere, basically. There's drives and there's Slack channels and there's this, that and the other, but somehow we all pull it together.


Lucy Kippist (08:34):

The mind boggles at that Maxine, not the system, but the sheer volume of people that-


Maxine Sherrin (08:42):

I know there's, there's just so much in my head and it's Bronte, who's working for me at the moment, I'll refer to her and this is only her fourth day today, but she's worked before so it kind of works okay. But yeah, last night I ended up sitting down and there was all this stuff that needed to be changed in our CMS and I realized that I don't even need to consult the spreadsheet to update this information. Because even though we're talking about 100s of lines and 100s of events in a spreadsheet, because I've been with it for ages, I kind of know all these people.


Carrie Kwan (09:17):

Can I suggest a term there, that would be very apt, I think, Maxine? It's MVP, which is minimum viable perfection.


Maxine Sherrin (09:26):

Exactly, I like that. Yeah, because you do have some degree of attention to detail, like I am a details person, but then at the same time, there's some stuff that you just got to let it go because otherwise, you'd be there 24 hours a day finessing every single detail.


Lucy Kippist (09:44):

Absolutely, and it's something that I've heard Carrie say many times, it's that progress over perfection, which in the context of getting a festival up and running or an event up and running, it's absolutely essential.


Maxine Sherrin (09:54):

Yeah, just that thing that you're always moving forward.


Lucy Kippist (09:57):

Absolutely. And a question that might be connected to that, as Carrie mentioned at the beginning, we love asking women to give us their business pitch, but we also like fostering connections and introductions where we can. So is there something that you need right now that someone in our community could possibly put up their hand and say, "I'll help you Maxine."?


Maxine Sherrin (10:18):

It's going to sound a little bit sort of obvious in a way, but Spark needs a benefactor. Spark needs someone whether it be from a philanthropic perspective or someone who believes in the future of Australia being based on entrepreneur and tech and startups who could sort of get behind, give us some support in some ways and help it grow into the thing that it could become. Because at the moment it's very grassroots and most of the year, it is just me. Spark could be so much more and happening right throughout the year.


Carrie Kwan (10:54):

It's a good question.


Maxine Sherrin (10:55):

You never know, put it out there to the universe.


Carrie Kwan (10:58):

I think there's definitely some corporate or some collective that can step up and own that because they're not just safeguarding this generation of entrepreneurship. It's this forward generations Australians are very lucky country and you know, the Spark Festival is absolutely on our calendar over the years. So if you're listening from any of those organizations, definitely reach out to Maxine, please. So we're named Mums & Co because we refer often to that community of support around us, who are your co, Maxine? And what does being a part of a network like Mums & Co mean to you?

Maxine Sherrin (11:37):

It's incredibly broad who you will find who's interested in startups and innovation now. So in doing Spark Festival, I've met people like the guy who runs the greatest Redfern convenience store down in Redfern, who, if you don't know him already, you should be following him on Instagram, absolute master of Insta. And he's a guy who runs a convenience store on a corner. He's actually one of my sort of small business heroes in a way. So you meet people like that but then at the other end of Spark Festival and again, part of my co are people who are pushing forward the future for quantum computing in Australia. And somehow there's this sort of Spark in a way that does tie all these people together, they believe in a different future. And they believe that they've got a way of embodying that future themselves and making it happen.


Lucy Kippist (12:35):

Maxine, you given us a really good overview of how busy work is for you and enjoyable, obviously too, but what's something that you do every single day or every week that really helps to ensure your wellbeing?


Maxine Sherrin (12:48):

I do actually carve out quite a bit of time away from the screen, definitely. I do quite a bit of sewing of my own clothes, which is so different to this world. I'm also a bit of a yoga fanatic, so yeah, definitely try and do a bit of yoga and meditation every single day. And I also put a bit of energy into eating well, because I think that's really, really important as well. I just find myself that once you... And I'm sure we all go through this, that when you get to that stage where you can't be bothered cooking and you are getting lots of takeaway and eating out, you just start to feel terrible and it really affects the mind. So I'm a bit of a fanatic about making sure that I pretty much cook every meal that I eat, especially at the moment.

Oh, and I dabble a little bit in crypto trading at the moment, that's another screen-based past time. So yeah, quite a mixture of things that I find relaxing at the moment that take me away from thinking about whether Mums & Co have got their Spark Festival event organized, which by the way, you all have, I know you've done a wonderful job.


Lucy Kippist (13:53):

That's a wonderful array of things to do. And I love that you sew your own clothes, you don't hear that very much. That's awesome.


Maxine Sherrin (14:02):

No, although, as you can imagine, there's a massive world out there of the whole maker movement. So yeah, on Instagram there's no shortage of people and fabric makers have had a bit of a renaissance and there's cool little shops in Melbourne or London where you can order stuff and yeah, there's a whole world of makers, it's amazing.

Lucy Kippist (14:26):

So as we mentioned a little bit earlier, that Spark Festival covers a huge amount of ground and obviously, you've got hundreds of stakeholders at any given time, which as we've discussed before makes you a bit of a logistics queen, but what steps have you taken to protect Spark from business and event risk?


Maxine Sherrin (14:43):

It was something that was kind of built into Spark from the get go. When I first took on this role back in 2016, I had extremely limited resources. Maybe they were imposed by me, but extremely high expectations about the amount of impact that this event was going to have. So I just thought to myself like, well, how is this going to work? It's basically just me. And I might be able to hire someone for a few weeks around the time of the festival. How am I going to deliver something with massive impact? And it just occurred to me that I wasn't going to deliver anything. I was going to reach out to that existing community and bring them together as the people who... By and large, most of the events on the Spark Festival program are delivered by the 100s of organizations like Mums & Co.

And what that resulted in is that, and this was a happy accident in a way, I didn't realize that this was going to happen, that's what created the community around Spark Festival, because it's not really owned by me or anyone for that matter. It's owned by all those people who contribute the events to the program. So that was going along very well for what was it? Four years until up to, and including 2019. And then when COVID came along, I didn't realize that... And a sort of third benefit was going to be the level of flexibility that that gives you. So what's happened this year is that we are actually able to deliver an event that will be for all the event hosts that are in Sydney and I'd imagine most likely Melbourne as well, it's going to be a largely online experience, but at the same time we can celebrate in person, in places like Perth and Adelaide and Brisbane and Launceston and Darwin for that matter. And Goondiwindi. In fact, big shout out to Goondiwindi, who were doing an event on the Spark program this year.

And so this sort of radical flexibility in a sense is the thing that de-risked the festival in a way, it made it possible to continue, because last year and this year I thought the biggest risk is to not go ahead and not do anything at any time because the brand is no longer out there as strongly and someone else can step in there much more easily, I suppose. And people forget about you and move on. It's just having that sort of massive grassroots community. And the flexibility that goes with it is something that allows you to just keep on going basically with Spark, despite anything that the world has thrown at us so far.


Lucy Kippist (17:29):

Yes, absolutely. Thank you for sharing all that. It's wonderful to hear the evolution of that and how it comes together as well. So thank you.


Carrie Kwan (17:36):

So what's an insight into Maxine as a business owning woman that we might not see on your LinkedIn page? And what will your next promotion post be about?


Maxine Sherrin (17:47):

Well, an insight into Maxine that you might not see on LinkedIn is that I'm an absolute stickler for timekeeping. Anyone who knows me will learn this about me. You know that thing that if you want to be successful in the workplace, there's sort of three aspects of your personality that you can have? Like you can be really amazing and the absolute best at your job, you can be very, very reliable and you can be nice. And you don't have to be all three of those things because let's face it, who is? But you have to be two of them, at any given time and you'll find success in life. So the two that I consider that I'm really good at is being reliable and being nice. I'm not necessarily the best at what I do, but I make up for that by being really reliable and really nice.

But I tell you, I've never found someone who wasn't reliable that I could work with at the end of the day. So yeah, that's one of my sort of, I guess it's a core value for me and it definitely outweighs those other things I suppose. But yes, I'm never going to post that on LinkedIn, that's only for your podcast, here. People have to find that out when they're late for their first interview with me and they wonder why I'm frowning.


Carrie Kwan (19:02):

One, it's a great framework. And secondly, that dependability is so important, isn't it? Creating that trust.


Maxine Sherrin (19:09):

Yeah, exactly, it creates trust. Yeah, if you can't just sort of think that someone's going to turn up or they're going to do what they've been allocated or they're going to let you know why they can't do it or when it's going to be delivered, then I don't know how you can survive if you don't have that.


Carrie Kwan (19:28):

I think it's mutual respect, it's doing what you say you will do is so important. And as small business owners, we don't have the capacity to be unreliable or work with people who are unreliable because every moment count, every dollar counts.


Maxine Sherrin (19:46):

It's so true. So true. Yeah, and that thing you put it, is doing what you say you will do. Like the kind of flip side of that is not saying that you will do too much as well, which I know I can be a little bit of a victim of that, is sort of over promising and then killing myself to deliver and hating everything, but somehow learning from that. But yeah, that's part of the issue.


Carrie Kwan (20:12):

I don't think you're the only one there too Maxine. It's fascinating because I think as women business owners, we tend to try and get everything... Like you say we talked about perfectionism and you actually are so reliable that you thought of every single possibility almost before you kind of take that leap. But in that process that actually causes us to sweat the things that perhaps don't matter as much, because we're worrying about things that we don't need to really worry about.

Maxine Sherrin (20:41):

I'm just smiling because I'm remembering the first year I ever did Spark, first of all, we had the opportunity courtesy of City of Sydney to sort of basically take over Martin Place, which I don't think I'd ever even done an outdoor event before. And so we ended up doing a sort of closing night party, I suppose, in Martin Place, which rained of course, which put me off doing outdoor events ever again. But I had a couple of friends, because I was obviously cobbling together the team to make it happen at the last minute because the funding had come through so late and I had a friend of mine who helped me out on the day just with handing out t-shirts and just being there to help run the show.

And at one stage early on before we were starting, some guys from City of Sydney turned up with wheelie bins for us to dispose of all the rubbish there, which to me was just like, well of course we did that, but my friend who was helping me, he actually still brings up the fact that you even thought of wheelie bins in Martin Place. He uses as the example of my attention to detail, wheelie bins in Martin Place.


Carrie Kwan (21:54):

Maxine, at Mums & Co, we talk often about harmony as a triangle of ambition, livelihood and wellbeing. Could you describe the shape of a good life for you?


Maxine Sherrin (22:04):

Yeah, I saw those three words and thought that is really beautiful. A good life for me, yes, definitely has a degree of ambition to it but it also has a very high degree of connectivity to other people. That's where I draw my energy from and my reason in a way it's those relationships that you, you build through life and through work. And again, that's actually another thing I love about Spark is the number of people that I've met through Spark that have gone on to become friends for life.


Lucy Kippist (22:43):

That's so beautiful. I love that, it's so important.


Maxine Sherrin (22:48):

It is. I'm nothing without my connections.


Lucy Kippist (22:52):

Maxine, we obviously at Mums & Co are big about celebrating women, supporting women and we do our best to do that as well. So who are the small business heroins in your network that you'd like to say hello to today?


Maxine Sherrin (23:06):

Oh absolutely, there are people who I know through Mums & Co. Of course, I want to say hello to the lovely Sarah Nelson who drew me into this world. And then I'd also love to say hi to Aoife O'Connell who I met through... Well, I didn't even know I was meeting her through Mums & Co, but I did. She found me and she's actually helping Spark with our marketing strategy and execution this year as well. So yeah, and she's just bringing me to a whole new level in that regard, amazing woman. So yeah, shout out to them.


Lucy Kippist (23:41):

Maxine, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today and thank you for your company. If you would like to follow Maxine and the Spark Festival, you can find them both on LinkedIn. And also don't forget to connect with us on the Mums & Co LinkedIn page too, while you're there. And if you haven't already please come and join our mumbitious supportive movement of thousands of Australian business owning women, just like you at mumsandco.com.au.


Carrie Kwan (24:13):

Maxine, this is Remy.


Maxine Sherrin (24:15):

Hi Remy.


Remy (24:16):

Hi, do throw a party after each Spark Festival and how do you celebrate?


Maxine Sherrin (24:26):

Well, yes, the question of closing parties is actually a bit of a next question with Spark Festival. We did throw closing parties, as I previously mentioned for the first two years, both times in Martin Place. The first time it rained a little bit but not enough to dull people because it was the first Spark Festival. And so lots of people came along, we had food trucks and wine and whatever in Martin Place and speeches from the Minister, that kind of thing.

The second year we backed it up and thought let's do it even better this time, but this time the weather decided, yeah we can do it even better as well. And you know those Sydney days where it just completely buckets down? Luckily we had a sort of canopy. So we were hiding under that, but literally... And I don't blame anyone who didn't turn up. I think we had a dozen people turn up to our closing party. So, since then I was sworn off close parties. But I think when we go back to in person again, I might be ready to give it another go.


Remy (25:33):

Thank you.


Maxine Sherrin (25:33):

No worries.


Carrie Kwan (25:36):

We hope you enjoyed this episode of mumbition by Mums & Co head over to the show notes for a full transcript of the interview. And any links we have referred to. Mums & Co is Australia's most caring business network for women. Join us today for just $30 at mumsandco.com.au. This podcast was produced and edited by Morgan Sebastian-Brown of BrownTree Productions and hosted by Carrie Kwan co-founder of Mums & Co and community manager, Lucy Kippist. We love hearing your feedback, so if you haven't already please share, rate, and review this podcast and we can reach more business owning mothers, just like you.


Carrie Kwan (00:02):Hi, welcome to Mumbition, the podcast for business-owning women byMums & Co, where we share inspiring stories of Australian mums in business.I'm Carrie Kwan the co-founder of Mums & Co and I will be joined each week by our community manager, Lucy Kippist. Together, we'll just discuss how our guests harmonize their ambition, livelihood, and well-being. Let's get into the inspiring stories now. In the spirit of reconciliation, Mums & Co acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respect to elders, past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres StraitIslander peoples today.

Hello to the Mumbitious, the business-owning women, unapologetically, blending, motherhood and ambition, bravely creating a world where you don't have to choose between your career or caring, a journey that requires many champions and coaches, as you build a business while raising a family. Now, if you've already encountered our next guest, you'll know the value of her company and insights. Chances are you might have purchased something thanks to how well she knows you. Please meet Katrina McCarter.

Katrina McCarter (01:39):Ah, thank you, Carrie. It's really great to be on the show.

Lucy Kippist (01:43):Katrina, you are the founder of Marketing to Mums and your work over the past decade makes you basically the authority on engaging women like us, the most powerful consumers in the Australian economy. Women control 80% of household purchasing decisions and a business to that budget and their economic contributions skyrockets. Katrina, we are thrilled to have you here today to pick under the bonnet of your own thriving business and how you make all of that work as a mum.

Katrina McCarter (02:11):Thanks, Lucy.

Carrie Kwan (02:12):Now Katrina, our first question to any business-owning mother is always to hear her pitch. We think that women should embrace every opportunity they have to make any introductions and connect with customers. So please tell us more about Marketing to Mums and what you do.

Katrina McCarter (02:29):Yeah, absolutely. Thank you very much for the opportunity to practice my pitch. So my name is Katrina McCarter. I'm the founder of Marketing to Mums and that's a marketing and research consultancy. And I call myself a marketing strategist and I specialise in helping businesses from small startups, right through to corporates. I help them sell more effectively to the world's most powerful consumer who are mums. And I'm a really prolific researcher of mother's behaviours. I share a lot of my insights through two books that I've published called Marketing to Mums and the Mother Of AllOpportunities. I love speaking both at conferences and virtual events, and I regularly contribute to business media throughout Australia and also in the US.

Carrie Kwan (03:14):I've read both of those books cover to cover. I highly recommend.Now you've been in business for some time now, a few years, what do you love most about your business right now?

Katrina McCarter (03:26):Oh, great question. So for me, there's a couple of things.Flexibility is massive. I've got three teenagers. One's in year 12. So the opportunity to fly out, drop them off at school, and pick them up. For me, flexibility is really, really precious. The other thing that I would say is I love the diversity and the meaningful work that I do. I absolutely love being the voice of women all around the world and sharing their views with businesses, with brands, with employers, to change how we value and represent women.

Lucy Kippist (04:01):It sounds phenomenal. And as anyone who follows you on any form of social media, particularly LinkedIn, can see just how prolific your workload is. I'm just wondering what have you actually had to stop doing in your life to enable all of these wheels to keep turning in your business?

Katrina McCarter (04:17):Yeah, that's such a good question. Look, Lucy, the short answer would be, I've stopped having to do it all myself. I have been now in business for 10 years, and over that time, I've experienced burnout. I've done the 3:00AM mornings on a consistent basis, building a startup. And whilst I love being a one-woman show I do like to collaborate with others and I've really had to build my team of trusted freelancers. So I have one or two people in my pocket thatI've worked with over a long-term basis and I've added some more. This year because I've now got two businesses that I'm managing, so I've learned that I can't do it all by myself and I have to have some good team members around me.

Lucy Kippist (05:05):I think that's such a phenomenal point to make and something that, as women, we all need to encourage other women to think about because I think we so easily put on that hat of, I can just do it all. But when you're trying to make progress in your business, you can't, and particularly if you're running more than one business.

Katrina McCarter (05:22):Completely. And the other thing I actually do, Lucy, is I have client days and non-client days. And I found that this works really, really well for me. So I can have my really kind of more relaxed days where I'm doing my own work on my own business. And then I have my client-facing days and I know then that if something pear-shaped in my week, I've always got those non-client days where I could jump in and fix a problem or do something for a client if I really, really needed to. And that gives me quite a bit of flexibility within my week as well.Lucy Kippist (05:54):That's great. And are those days in your calendar, are they fixed or do you just tend to move them around, depending on what you've got to juggle?

Katrina McCarter (06:01):Interesting question. I've previously had them really fixed. And so certain days... Wednesday's always a client day. That's always been, and it has kind of fallen into Wednesdays and Fridays at the moment, but that can move. I just make sure that I've got that space. It almost manages my own work anxiety in terms of my workload and making sure that I'm still available for my kids and family.

Lucy Kippist (06:24):Absolutely. That's really appealing. I might put that one down for myself. Carrie mentioned before that we love asking the women in our community to practice a pitch, but we also like making business introductions around our network. So is there something that you need right now in your business or your life that we could put out to our community to come back to you in some way?

Katrina McCarter (06:43):Yeah, absolutely. I would say speaking and training opportunities.If there are opportunities for introductions to speak or train a team in understanding the Australian mother landscape, that would certain be an area that I would love an introduction to an organization or a business that wants to learn more about my research around marketing to mothers.

Lucy Kippist (07:08):OK, wonderful. And you've mentioned before, you've had 10 years building up your businesses and you've had three children. What do you think are the most important transferable skills between being a mum and being a business owner?

Katrina McCarter (07:22):Problem solving. Without question, no one can solve a problem and get things done like a mum can. And being able to transfer that into business, there is a really strong can-do approach by mothers in business. I just think that they really know they will solve a problem quite quickly because that's what they do all day long. That's what we do. We're constantly solving problems. So that's an easy question.

Carrie Kwan (07:51):I think I might add hostage negotiator to that list. I know you've got three, I've got two at the moment and right now they're actually observing my negotiating skills, I think. And then adding a few elements. And my little one said the other day, he goes... I gave him a couple of options, said we couldn't do that. And he said, "I don't accept that."

Katrina McCarter (08:14):I so love that. I've got what a couple of my kids can do my pitch.So they come out into the dining room, through lockdown and go, "Hi, I'mKatrina McCarter and I'm a marketing strategist. And I..." They think it's hysterical. Don't underestimate it.

Lucy Kippist (08:30):Yeah, osmosis. They definitely pick up and they listen.

Carrie Kwan (08:33):I love it. Now I know you love a good brand building story. SoI'll quickly share the reason why we're called Mums & Co. It's actually a play on the incredible businesses that mums create and a nod to the support of the company around that experience. So the co is our partners, our friends, our family, our clients, our village. Tell us about your co and how they support you?

Katrina McCarter (08:58):Ah, I love this. Co is so important. I cannot underestimate that I would not have the success that I have without my co. So this year I've had anew addition into my co world. I've brought it on a content creator who works with me, and it has been such a joyous experience. It has been so wonderful.We're at a similar stage of life, highly experienced, and we get a lot of fun out of actually working together. So definitely my new content creator who I've worked with this year, is definitely part of my co. The other co that I would love to give mention to, is my accountability group. I've been working with three other women for the past, let's say probably three or four years. And we're all very go-getting, high-achieving women who run businesses.We're all mothers. And we all bring a really diverse view of the world and our business experience. And we keep each other honest and we keep each other on track and we will hold each other accountable. And one of the things that I've found as a solo business operator that's so important. It's so important to have your accountability group. You need to have that safe space where you can have conversations about difficulties that you might be having within your business in a really safe environment. So that for me has been incredibly important, but what I love most about them is that they'll call me out and they'll say, "Katrina why aren't you doing X, Y and Z. We did our planning meeting."  We plan everyNovember and we head away for a couple of days altogether, and we make sure it's filled with one day of full massages and just indulgence and looking after ourselves and catching up. And then we get really full on into work. And we're pretty much working by about 7:30 in the morning, and we'll go straight through till, often 7:00 at night. We'll do that for a couple of days and we'll plan out our year ahead. So they know my business really intimately and effectively they've become my board advisory or my unofficial board advisory. And I offer that to them as well. So they are really instrumental in my co.

Carrie Kwan (11:13):That is amazing and such a sound thing to do, especially when we know a lot of sole traders, a lot of freelancers, we don't have the luxury of a bigger team. So having that feedback and having someone to bounce those ideas on and keep us accountable. Love it. Now I'm a little bit curious because I know you've worked with some big brands and helped them navigate how to market to mothers. Is there something in particular that your work has probably made me buy?

Katrina McCarter (11:43):Oh, that's such a good question. I think my work has probably helped brands understand you better, Carrie, and they've probably appealed more effectively to you, which has led you to purchase from them. I would hope that they might have had some small really personalized touches and maybe some surprise and delight elements that have made you interested in a particular product. Yeah, probably more in terms of how the businesses understood you more so.

Carrie Kwan (12:15):Absolutely. And look, you are known for asking us to face our fears and be brave and asking for exactly what we want in business and in life.Take us through your process of being brave in business.

Katrina McCarter (12:28):Ooh, how am I brave in business? I have an attitude around be bold. I really, really believe. Behind me, you can't see it, I've got a big sign up that says, be bold. And I really live by that. I grew up with a single mum and she was all about just having a go. And so I've carried this belief that always put your hat in the ring, always just play those small probabilities because what's the worst that could happen. Imagine if it actually did happen.And I've done that. I've really held firm on that belief because early in my teenage years, my mum made me dream big and I actually went off and satisfied one of those dreams spot, which was to go to New York City. And by having that confidence in that if I dream really big and I can make something happen, it's really shaped my thinking around being bold and being brave out in business, because I'm really willing to take chances. I'm really, really willing to play. If everyone else says you can't do that, that's when I go, "Yes, I can." And my mum really led by example. She was desperate to have this beautiful Italian Villain her backyard, and everyone said she couldn't do it. And my mum found a way and convinced our Perth's biggest architect at the time to do this really small venture. And that has been an incredible piece of inspiration for me to take forth as well. That sometimes we step in our own way. We're our biggest obstacles. So that bravery is to try and get out of my own way and take chances and play those small probabilities.

Lucy Kippist (14:16):I love that story. I know that you told us a little bit of that story at Be MPowered and I got goosebumps then and I still get goosebumps now.I feel like I need to listen to you say that every morning, Katrina. So I getup, I dream big.

Katrina McCarter (14:28):Yes, she does. My mum dreamed big she always dreams big. She allowed me to realize that was just the greatest gift she gave me.

Lucy Kippist (14:38):100%. Obviously, you are someone that is comfortable with risk because you've created such a successful business and that doesn't come without any risk, without dreaming big. But I'm just wondering, on the other side of that, while you are dreaming big, how do you protect yourself and your business from risk as you're developing these big goals and these big dreams?

Katrina McCarter (14:59):I actually think, Lucy, that's a really, really important question. We don't talk about risk a whole lot, and I'm actually quite risk averse. So whilst I'm willing to take these small probabilities, I'm quite risk averse by nature. So one of the key things that I do in my business that gives me a great degree of comfort is that I always make sure I've got three to six months running costs. My salary, running my business. I know that I've got that sitting in cash in my bank account at all times. And I don't allow myself to go under that. The other thing that I do is I'm really careful about my cost centers. And again, that comes from growing up with a single mum. Boy, did I learn to budget, and I'm really, really careful about spending money in my business. And I'm always looking for ways that I might not need to pay money to do something. So I collaborate. So for the last decade in business, I have collaborated with so many other like-minded women who are not in competition with me, but we share the same audience. And we will work together to promote each other's businesses rather than me invest in advertising. And I still very much use a partnership-first strategy in my business. And it's allowed me to build three brands and a global reputation. And I don't invest money in advertising. I just, don't.

Carrie Kwan (16:27):Now we've listened to the Marketing To Mum's podcast and read many columns sharing your expertise. I gather also from Instagram that you quite enjoy browsing for sneakers online. You'll get along well with my husband. WhenI met him, he had about 150 pairs of sneakers.

Katrina McCarter (16:46):Oh, I can't wait to meet him because when I go to New York, it's the one thing that I do every year. I try and go to New York and I look at retail trends and everything is dictated to me where the greatest excitement is in any category in apparel in footwear, is the sneaker industry. And if you're ever in New York City, anyone wants to see the sneaker industry in play. You goto a shop called Stadium Goods Downtown off Broadway. And this is where they do all the resale of the short term collaborations. And I go in there and I watch people spend $10,000 US on a pair of shoes. In this resale market, it is absolutely fascinating. So there is actually an encyclopaedia on the sneaker industry that your husband would love. And I can't wait to meet him.

Carrie Kwan (17:36):There's even a venture fund, I think, that is kicked off around sneakers. So it's definitely a fascinating market.Katrina McCarter (17:48):I'd love to jump here because the sneaker market really excites me because I think that there's so much to be learned in other businesses and other industries because what they do so well is create excitement within a category, through their short-term releases and collaborations. And they do it better than anyone in the apparel and footwear industry. And I think we should always be looking at other industries to see how they're doing something well and see how we can apply that within our own industry. Sorry Carrie, I couldn't help myself.

Lucy Kippist (18:21):No, I love the segue. I'll introduce you to husband later. Now my question is, what's an insight into Katrina that we might not see in published pieces or your social feed.

Katrina McCarter (18:33):Oh that is so interesting. Something about me. Okay. I will tell you, over COVID, so the last couple of years talking more about those non-client days, I've perfected WFB, which is work from bed. And I have found that I can get enormous amounts of work done and it frees me up. It's great for my own wellbeing. I feel great. And I know that I'm getting the work done on my business that I need to do. So that's something that I find nice and indulgent and something that I perhaps you might not have read about me. It's not something I would normally share.

Lucy Kippist (19:18):I absolutely love that. I was only reading an article about working from bed the other day, which I will share with you now I know.

Katrina McCarter (19:23):Oh please, please do. I'm a big advocate from a little bit of WFB during the week.

Lucy Kippist (19:28):I love it. In addition to WFB, is there something else that you do on a daily basis?

Katrina McCarter (19:34):Ah, without question, I walk in nature every single day. I need to get at least an hour to an hour and a half of walking in nature. So I'm located near the Yarra in Melbourne, but in the outer areas. So I've got huge bushland around me, kangaroos, heaps of bird life. And I spend an hour walking on the tracks around my area every single day. And I do that for my own wellbeing. But what I find is that it is the best place to go solve problems and it is the best place to really feed my creativity. I find a lot of people want to work with me because I look at things in a different way to other people and I take a different angle. And so they pay me for that level of creative thinking. So I need to make sure that I keep myself creative and if I'm working too hard, I need to make sure that I'm getting out even more because that creativity is fed through nature. So I really, really nurture it. So definitely walking in nature every day.

Carrie Kwan (20:42):Wonderful. That's giving yourself the creative space-

Katrina McCarter (20:46):Oh, you have to.Carrie Kwan (20:47):... for those creative juices to flow. Yeah. Great tip. And what about to those considering starting a business? What do you think is the most important tip for their sort of journey to grow their business?

Katrina McCarter (21:00):Yeah. Look, there's something that I would really recommend is niche. I know that a lot of new business owners are really frightened about niching in terms of the market they want to go after, and this is one of the biggest mistakes that I see people make when they market to mums, is for instance, they'll try and be all things to all mothers and you just can't be, we all know how diverse we are. So I really encourage business owners to niche and really understand that niche very, very deeply. They are the two biggest issues that I see business owners make as a mistake that really cost them dearly.

Carrie Kwan (21:40):Now at Mums & Co we talk about harmony as a triangle of ambition, livelihood and wellbeing. Could you describe the shape of a good life for you, Katrina?

Katrina McCarter (21:51):I so love this question. The triangle shape actually works pretty well for me too, but I want it to be a really, really, really big triangle because I want lots of ambition and lots of livelihood and lots and lots of wellbeing. Yeah, for me, it's got to be full and joyous, but I love that triangle.

Lucy Kippist (22:12):Katrina, in the spirit of women supporting women who are the mumbitious that you would like to say hello to?Katrina McCarter (22:18):Well I think it would be perfectly fitting for me to put a big hello out to my accountability group. So Kate, Anushka, and Sam, a big hello and thanks to you for all of your support of me over the past three or years or more.

Lucy Kippist (22:35):That's great. Katrina, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today and thank you everyone for listening. We hope you've enjoyed theepisode with Katrina. And if you'd like to follow Katrina, you can find her onInstagram at Marketing To Mum. Also, a reminder that you can catch up on moreKatrina in our digital library, the Mums & Co member website, sign up at www.mumsandco.com.au.

Katrina McCarter (23:00):Thank you very much for having me, Lucy and Carrie.

Lucy Kippist (23:07):I have someone right here, literally here talking to me about Nintendo. This is my son, Harry.

Katrina McCarter (23:15):Good day, Harry.

Harry (23:16):Hi. What brings you the most joy?

Katrina McCarter (23:19):Being around my kids brings me my most joy without question. I love seeing my kids smile and thrive and chase their dreams.

Harry (23:29):Oh, thanks.

Speaker 5 (23:34):We hope you enjoyed this episode of Mumbition by Mums & Co.Head over to the show notes for a full transcript of the interview. And any links we have referred to. Mums & Co is Australia's most caring business network for women. Join us today for just $30 at mumsandco.com.au. This podcast was produced and edited by Morgan Sebastian-Brown of BrownTree Productions and hosted byCarrie Kwan, co-founder of Mums & Co and community manager, Lucy Kippist. We love hearing your feedback. So if you haven't already please share, rate, and review this podcast and we can reach more business-owning mothers, just like you.