Maxine Sherrin Spark Festival

Mumbition

The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 22: There are no hard and fast rules, with Pauline Fetaui of River City Labs, Startup Catalyst & Co-Host of Splash of Colour

Although our team is based in Sydney, Mums & Co is very much a national movement of business-owning mothers across Australia. The last time we were in Brisbane visiting some members, headed to the amazing Centre of Queensland Entrepreneurship and Innovation, River City Labs.

We were made to feel so welcome by Pauline and her team and have since been getting to know each other and all about the initiatives enabled by the fantastic physical space and supportive culture of River City Labs.

Pauline wears many hats in life, with River City Labs and also Startup Catalyst is two of the major hats that support future founders and current founders in growing high growth tech startups providing programming support, resources and networking to help them grow their technology company and connecting them with investors.

Pauline also has a podcast A Splash of Colour helping people connect the dots of life through a journey and a tech start-up Cheehoo, which is a life admin to assistance platform that helps busy women juggle it all by giving them back time.

Credits

Produced & Edited by - Morgan Brown
Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
Guest - Pauline Fetaui
Image of Carrie with children

Episode 22 Transcript

00:01:10:07 - 00:01:31:03

Carrie Kwan

Although our team is based in Sydney, Mums and Co is very much a national movement of business-owning owning mothers across Australia. The last time we were actually in Brisbane visiting some members, we wanted to head to the amazing Centre of the Queensland Entrepreneurship and Innovation River City Labs, which we may have not planned on.

However, a testament to the hospitality and support of our next guest when we popped in, even though unannounced, we were made to feel so welcome by Pauline and her team and have since been getting to know each other about the initiatives enabled by the fantastic physical space and supportive culture of River City Labs.

Pauline has worked for the ATO in superannuation insurance and community building rules. Pauline is the General Manager at River City Labs & Startup Catalyst, the founder of Cheehoo and Co-host of the podcast A Splash of Colour. Pauline, welcome to the Mumbition Podcast.

00:02:02:05 - 00:02:05:20

Pauline Fetaui

Thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be part of this.

00:02:07:02 - 00:02:26:06

 Carrie Kwan

We are, too. To get things kicked off, Pauline, our first question to any business owning woman is always to hear her pitch. You've got a few things going on and absolutely embody our value of empowering ambition. Can you please share with us your 30 second elevator pitch?

00:02:26:22 - 00:02:47:10

Pauline Fetaui

Yes, even though I dread doing this, I will do it because I have to practice what I preach. So I obviously do wear multiple hats. River City Labs and also Startup Catalyst are two of the major hats that I wear. We actually support future founders and current founders in growing high growth tech startups. What we do is we provide programming support as well as resources and network to help them grow their technology company, and we help them through connecting them with investors. But not only that actually supporting them through the wonderful mentors that we have around us to get them started on their business.

On my other side hustles, I have a podcast as mentioned Splash of Colour where we help people connect the dots of life through a journey. It's with my co-host and friend Laura Javaid. I have my own tech startup, which is growing in the background and I also have Cheehoo, which is a life admin to assistance platform that helps busy women juggle it all by giving them back time.

00:03:35:09 - 00:04:03:21

 Carrie Kwan

Gosh, that's a big list, and I love that you mentioned the current and future entrepreneurs because that is the legacy that you're leaving behind. It's not just for our current generation, but having role models that we can provide to inspire future generations of entrepreneurs as well. So it’s amazing, Pauline. I'd love to hear what do you love most about your business right now, and you might need to choose one or you can choose all three.

00:04:16:21 - 00:04:34:07

Pauline Fetaui

Everything I have selected has been by design. To be honest with you, I think I reached a point a few years ago where I left my crazy, soul taxing life in corporate. I became an independent consultant and really started to narrow down on what I didn't want to do anymore and what I did want to do. 

With River City Labs and Startup Catalyst, I have been building my own startup, so it really is quite connected. 

With Splash of Colour, it's actually helping other people in everything I do. And I think that's the best part I do love about my job is that I actually work with extremely intelligent people surrounding me, and we all have very high highs and low lows.

And the reality is we're all humans trying our best. And then there are those spots of genius that I feel and see in startups and founders that are around me that have really inspired me to keep going with mine.

So for me, I look at all the ecosystems and the people around me. The startups, the founders, the investors, the universities, the students, the talent, the mentors, the experts that are rallying around these companies.

And that is the part I love to see and be a part of because it just gives you that sort of a human heart that sometimes you don't see in mainstream media these days. 

00:05:53:23 - 00:06:12:22

 Lucy Kippist

You've depicted such a dynamic working environment. Pauline, I absolutely love it. I can see the energy in your voice. It would be so fascinating to be around that much energy and drive all the time. What is it then, as you said before to balance these highs and the lows that come after them, what have you had to stop doing in order to keep business and life flowing on?

00:06:19:14 - 00:06:36:01

Pauline Fetaui

Lots. I say no on a daily basis. I say no to the noise that doesn't feed my soul or give me joy. And when I can't say no, what I do is value it based on, is it going in the direction of where I want to be to support the decision.

Eventually, my hope is to go all-in on my startup, which is what I'm working towards. So for me, I think if you're not contributing and adding things into your life that actually serves where you want to be or where you're going as a human and where you're going to work. It ends up giving you more friction then help. You just have to do what you have to do and it is what it is. 

So there's not one particular thing I have to say, no to anymore. I'm not really a firm believer in Work-Life Balance. I think it's a farce, and I think it's a new manufactured term that gets people to feel guilty. And I don't subscribe to feeling guilty anymore. Even though I feel guilty every day. I have to manage and push that noise down to the ground and just slap myself and go, It's OK, you're doing the best you can just get on with it.

So I say no a lot, and then I stuff up a lot and then you just shake it off and figure it out. When you do have the lows, you have just go to rally yourself and talk to someone that you can kind of trust. I have a few people that I can call when I'm kicking myself or feeling a bit down. I do this for other families as well. I have really some amazing humans around me, and I call on them sometimes when I’m having a crap day.

I know that by the end of that call, I would have found my spirit again and just kept going. Or sometimes I sit in the low, so it's really quiet it is another way of working on it. But I just basically sit in a low, because I know it's going to pass.

00:08:17:21 - 00:08:26:16

Lucy Kippist

It sounds like you're really good at just accepting what's coming at you on a day to day basis and dealing with that in the moment, which is the best we can all do a lot of the time.

00:08:26:24 - 00:08:48:04

Pauline Fetaui

Well, it's my corporate career and my background of failures and experience that I've had with really challenging roles that have taught me this. When I was doing consulting and recovery work, I used to do a lot of including regulatory change and large enterprise system changes, and there was a lot of stress, complexity, politics and failures and successes.

But one thing I know for sure is that I always had good humans around me and you can trust that you're going to get through it even if I can’t catch myself. So when you're really at your worst and when you've also not had the best of everything, you just learn to be a bit more optimistic. You can catch yourself, even if you just really hit the low of the low.

00:09:11:00 - 00:09:27:20

 Lucy Kippist

Carrie mentioned earlier that we love asking women to practice their pitch, but we also really love making introductions in the community. So if there was something that you could ask for right now in your business or your life, what do you think that would be?

00:09:28:03 - 00:09:48:15

Pauline Fetaui

I'm going to be really selfish. I would love if we had any females out there who would love to start their own business, go ahead and just do it. Any woman who would like to invest in other people's female owned businesses, please make sure you do it.

There are not enough products out there designed for women by women. I'm developing one. So if you are following my journey and when this is released, please go check it out and check me out.

That's my ask is that you support other female owned businesses, especially in the technology world.

00:10:15:23 - 00:10:31:11

Carrie Kwan

Write a great ask now, Pauline. You are surrounded by entrepreneurial talent with your work across the River City Labs in Queensland, Startup Catalyst and your own business. What from these high energy environments has taught you about work and life?

00:10:32:02 - 00:10:48:02

Pauline Fetaui

That is sort of tied to my other answers, I guess. It's a really, really deep answer I'm going to give you. So I what I see around me is some amazing humans who have completely backed themselves.

They have pursued something that may not pay off. And they are putting all of their energy, their financials, their loved ones around them at risk to pursue something that actually may not sustain the test of time to the way that they think it's going to.

And what they do is they follow that up with the persistence of the resource. As in what they can get access to and then what they can create themselves and the people to actually rally and believe in what they're going to achieve with that company or that vision.

Whenever things don't go their way, they have been backing it up with the change they need to do or what they call a pivot to be able to continue on that journey. Even if sometimes they have to take the long way or the detour around it to get there.

They're putting themselves in a vulnerable position where they're saying, I'm going to deliver this. They're putting themselves personally in a position where they could be criticised. And I think that to me shows that life is so short and we only have one life to live and they're putting their back into it and then getting it done. Especially, in a way they think that they can deliver, as well as change something in the world and they truly do back themselves in that way. That just teaches me a lot about the human potential and the spirit that is and that we're very, very blessed to be on this Earth, especially at this time with technology and what you can do with it. To be able to create a better world or to create a different world and what they're doing truly inspires me, but also shows what life is really about.

00:12:32:03 - 00:12:56:09

Carrie Kwan

That is such a brave thing to do. To step into the unknown, not knowing what your product is and what your real customer segment is. There's so much grit there, and it is truly inspiring. So thank you for letting us have a bit of a peek into why you do what you do as well. There is so much to get out of life by taking that step. 

Now, for the community of support that is around us, that might include our life partners, our family, co-founders and friends and clients. Can you tell us about your co and how they support you?

00:13:16:08 - 00:13:33:04

Pauline Fetaui

I have an amazing tribe of women around me that support me. We talk on a daily basis, which sounds ridiculous. It's not only phone calls but voice memos. We love voice memos. They are like my ride or dies.

I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, but I feel like they've become my soul mates in addition to my furbaby who supports me as well. I feel like having a puppy dog is the epitome of unconditional love.

My husband and I, we're now separated. We've had been together for 21 years and we're best friends. He has supported me through the thick of building my own business. Me changing and leaving corporate, which was actually a high paying role and coming into a not-for-profit like River City Labs. But he supported me through the journey and those decisions. But now I am on my own journey and trying to go all-in from my own startup. And even though we're not together he’s been a number one supporter of mine. 

I have my parents who have been amazing, and although my mum doesn't really get what I do, it's just her spirit and her vibe. It’s always so positive. So I'm really blessed with my family and friends around me. And then when it comes to my work wives and friends and they rally around me too.

I have some really good ride or dies, and we've known each other for the last 20 years. We've built authentic relationships and we've watched each other's journey and supported each other. I think building that community around you personally and professionally, every company I move to, I always find one or two people that I take and rejoin into my tribe. It's truly been what's really most valuable in life. So it doesn't matter what company or actual group I'm a part of professionally, at the end of the day, it's those human connections I've made along the way that's going to make the difference for my life and fulfillment.

00:15:27:20 - 00:15:45:22

Lucy Kippist

It sounds like you have an incredible group of people surrounding you to provide that support each time, so it helps to nurture your sense of well-being. Is there anything else that you do regularly on a daily basis or on a weekly basis to ensure that you stay grounded?

00:15:46:04 - 00:16:02:24

Pauline Fetaui

I'm quite a ritualistic creature. I walk twice a day every day, even at night. Even if it's late at night, I walk my dog. I walk, listen to podcasts and I walk for a long time.

Sometimes I walk for like an hour and a half, and even my dog's tired and wants to go home. So I really enjoyed that, and that's probably something that's kept me grounded. I never used to do it before.

In fact, I used to compromise on my exercise. I hate exercise, mind you, so I'm not into sports or anything like that, and I couldn't do team sports to save my life or anyone else's.

But I definitely found my pattern with walking every now and then. If I feel the energy, I'll do some weights, but truly, it's walking. That's kind of saved my mental health as well. Of course, I love all the normal stuff.

I actually binge on reality TV sometimes because I think it helps me disconnect when I have low days. It helps me disconnect and forget everything, which is nice. It's a form of escapism. I don't really shop anymore because I'm doing a startup, so every dollar of mine goes towards development resources.

I actually calculate spend now based on development hours. It's hilarious and sad. But even keeping in touch with my friends, having a chat, going over to each other's houses and walking ritualistically daily helps me.

00:17:20:20 - 00:17:36:19

Carrie Kwan

I love the development perspective on how you count those hours. It was actually a question I was going to ask in terms of, is it something that you invest in regularly and what has had the most impact on your work to date?

00:17:37:06 - 00:17:58:02

Pauline Fetaui

That's a really hard one. I think every mistake I have made has had the most impact in my life. It’s probably not a textbook definition of a mistake, but any of my perceived mistakes or problems where I think I wish I didn't do that or, oh geez, I hate this job, I should quit. Any of those moments that I've had, which have been kind of a pitstop has given me an opportunity to change and adapt. I'm a true thinker and reflect back and reflect for hours. So even though I lean on a lot off my tribe and talk to them, I actually don't talk about my own business.

I only do that with a very, very select couple of people, more like my advisors or my work husbands and wives. So I don't put that burden on others in my family or anything because I feel like I really process a lot internally.

I read alot, well actually audio books and podcasts. I love them. And for me, I guess, it helps me with my growth and working out my next move. My lesson, I guess in everything, is if I keep seeing an experience that I don't like show up in my life work or personal life, I sometimes go, “Why is this happening to me?”. Then I reflect back because there's always a lesson in it, and I have to figure that out. It is truly an enlightening experience to do so.

Whenever you see something or a person showing up in your life that causes you friction and you don't like it. It's normally because there's a lesson there, and it's something that I can control. So either I'm doing something to attract that or I'm not setting boundaries or whatever it may be.

I feel like every time something rubs me up the wrong way, it's because it's a lesson that I need to learn and adapt to myself in order to not see it again. And it's worked. It was from reading a book, The Alchemists that I learnt that. It's definitely an internal lesson when something keeps showing up. Why is it showing up and reflect internally and adapt itself? Because you can't really control what's out there?

00:20:00:04 - 00:20:26:01

Carrie Kwan

You have such an acute level of awareness. And I think that is is a real gift. There is so much wisdom as well to so I appreciate you sharing your perspective on how every mistake has had this great impact in your life and seeing it as a positive thing like that. But also how you can actually do something about that. So applying the right perspective is so powerful to.

00:20:30:15 - 00:20:31:04

Pauline Fetaui

Thank you.

00:20:31:23 - 00:20:47:02

Lucy Kippist

So you've got a program management background and you're obviously immersed in the high stakes world of startups on a regular basis. How do you think this has impacted your understanding of business risk and what kind of processes are using to protect yourself?

00:20:48:24 - 00:21:10:21

Pauline Fetaui

Really good question for both Startups and in the corporate world. Startups are high risk. So it's really, really difficult to sometimes find the parallel between the two. But my background has helped me. I've had the habit, especially in the early days of setting up things perfectly and then not going to plan. And that's the biggest learning I've had as well.

In the last two years, being a part of the River City Labs gives you what you need to know enough from the structure, governance and planning to be deliberate with the steps you take, but not be wedded to it. Your ability to change and adapt has to be on a dime like you need to be able to flip when you need to flip and be conscious and aware and awake of your market responses when you're building a startup and your scaling a company. And that is something that I find in the corporate world is completely the opposite.

I was doing recovery before I came into River City Labs, and you guys can look me up on LinkedIn and see the big companies I did work for. What I found was when I was doing recovery is people stuck to a plan even though it was failing and it was like the Titanic and you're watching it sink. They had governance and risk completely documented to a gold plated standard. 

They weren't actually realising that risk equals taking an action and mitigating it. And so for me, doing my startup also with the companies I work with, what I do find is they look at risk and they act on it straight away and they really conscious of it. They may not document it to the best degree, although when they scale, they do. But the thing is that risk management is actually a flag to do something.

It's not necessarily just something to go and sit on a shelf to be a dust collector. So that's probably my biggest takeaway on both sides. I think corporates have a lot to learn from startups and scaleups.

00:23:18:04 - 00:23:31:24

Carrie Kwan

I have a bit of a sneaky question. What's an insight into playing the female founder that we might not necessarily see on your LinkedIn profile or any sort of social account?

00:23:34:01 - 00:23:58:09

Pauline Fetaui

Oh, I don't know, I think I'm pretty transparent. Actually, you guys are the first people I've spoken to who I've just said that I am no longer with my husband. So there you go. We separated in January 2020 and we have been going through the journey of that separation and splitting everything.

I'm starting from scratch because all of my savings went into my startup. So I am extremely lucky that I have kept some savings to be able to buy my new house. We sold our joint house and we're very blessed and lucky for that sense of security, I guess.

But at some point, I think, Oh, maybe I should sell the house and rent and put that money into my startup. And then I slept on it and said, No, no, no, no, just calm down. So personally, I am capital raising as well for my own start. So that stuff I'm not talking about on my socials and doing that behind the scenes. I am just in the early stage round for my own company because my goal is to go all-in into my own startup. So there's some stuff that people don't know and I don't show on socials.

00:25:08:07 - 00:25:27:17

Carrie Kwan

I'm glad that you're in that position to have that security. But also to come through such a big relationship and as you mentioned to still have him in your Co and that he's still been your best supporter.

It's always a fascinating question this one because sometimes I think our guests are going to reveal something like, I'm a closet karaoke singer. I agree I to have always had this lens of it's for my business. I'm trying to project a certain message or trying to cut through and really be passionate about this space. But there's so many aspects and so many shades of who you are.

So at Mums and Co, we talk about harmony as this triangle of ambition, of livelihood and of well-being. Could you describe the shape of a good life for you?

00:26:27:24 - 00:26:46:23

Pauline Fetaui

A good life for me is having the mental space to continue to reflect and have my own thinking time, that's a good life for me. So whatever that looks like, I have no hard and fast rules on what life should be.

Like I said earlier, I don't believe in work life balance. I believe in fluidity and adapting constantly and growth. I have a number of things on my wish list that I would like to get done before I leave this Earth.

I spend a lot of time doing other side hustles. I know investors expect you to go all in, and be completely focused. But I'm a true believer that women have the neurological capability to multitask, not multitask in the technical terms.

But being able to think laterally and cover a lot more than ourselves. So for me, being able to dabble in a few passion projects, in addition to my number one focus, is the ideal life to have and it gives me a feeling of fulfillment.

And if it's doing something that helps other people, then that makes me happy. So I would just like to continue to do that. So whether it's River City Labs, Startup Catalyst or my podcast plus my startup.

Plus, I do some philanthropic work for my home country, which is Papua New Guinea with women and helping women get into politics over there. So I've been doing that for the last twelve months with some of the colleagues of mine and helping some women over there, and I'll continue to do that in the background regardless because that's my life purpose. And I will continue to do that until I die. 

But I have no hard and fast rules because I don't want to put that pressure on myself to be this super person. I will do what continues to makes me happy. And that's it.

00:28:47:02 - 00:28:55:03

Lucy Kippist

What a phenomenal answer that is, and just the energy coming from you is just is remarkable. You're an incredible person to speak with.

00:28:55:08 - 00:29:11:11

Carrie Kwan

Now in the spirit of supporting women. I know you've mentioned quite a lot of working wive, but we'd love to hear who are the more mumbitious of those that you would like to say hello to and give a shout out.

00:29:12:21 - 00:29:37:17

Pauline Fetaui

Oh, I have a long, long list, but I will keep it short. I'm not going to compromise the opportunity to raise a few profiles. So Rebecca Dredge from Kiddo. So Mums & Co, if you have not checked out Rebecca's platform for getting alternate sources for babysitting, please go and check it out. The Kiddo app is amazing. She is amazing and the true epitome of a female founder who has got a big ambition. 

The other person is Laura Gervais, my co-host of Splash of Color, she's had a newborn during COVID, and her family's overseas. She's got her own business Connect Creative, with her husband, Ben. They do amazing things with Connect Creative, as well as she's helping another amazing scale-up company grow out their business. She's got multiple hats and she's another one I want to shout out to.

But there is so many more doing great things, so I am constantly promoting a lot of them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, so feel free to check them out as well.

Oh, there's one more. If anyone does not know Shannon Jones Office Leader Z, you should. She actually is building out her interior design company at the moment on Instagram. Please go and find her. Shannon Jones and she has done some amazing things with interior design her own products now.

00:30:52:05 - 00:31:03:03

Carrie Kwan

Amazing. We'll definitely looking them up. Pauline, thank you so much for joining us today, and thank you so much for your company and sharing your. You're very wise words.

00:31:04:13 - 00:31:06:16

Pauline Fetaui

You were welcome, thank you so much for having me.