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The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 9: How the challenges of being a new regional mum sparked a business

Anna Barwick

Founder PharmOnline

January 25, 2022
Did you know that 30% of business-owning mums in Australia are based in regional and rural areas? We love sharing the stories of regional and rural business owners, whose communities face unique challenges due to their geographic locations. The reality of accessing the internet or healthcare while running a cattle station the size of a small European country is very different to those living in a postage stamp sized unit in urban Sydney. Today’s podcast guest has used her lived experience of being a new mum trying to access healthcare advice from a rural location as the inspiration for her business - one she hopes will leave a lasting legacy for the rural and regional communities she is so passionate about.Anna Barwick is a shining example of someone who combines her own ambition, livelihood, and wellbeing with a business focused on improving access to pharmaceutical advice to families when they need it most. The founder of PharmOnline, an online business she’s building while also lecturing at the School of Rural Medicine at the University of New England, studying for a PhD, Anna lives on an Australian Stockhorse Stud farm in Walcha, rural New South Wales.So how did late nights breastfeeding lead to a business idea that is disrupt the health industry? Will our ‘new normal’ help to break down barriers for rural and regional business owners? And what’s the most transferable skill between business and motherhood?




Produced & Edited by - Morgan Brown
Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
Guest - Anna Barwick

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Episode 9 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 & Co acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and the connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respect to elder, past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.One of the most incredible parts of being at the helm of a community like Mums & Co is to celebrate the sheer ingenuity of small business women in Australia. Today's guest is a shining example of someone who combines her own ambition, livelihood, and wellbeing with a business focused on improving the access of pharmaceutical advice to Australian families when they need it most. Anna is the female founder of PharmOnline, an online business that she is building while also lecturing at the School of Rural Medicine at the University of New England, studying for a PhD, and living on an Australian Stockhorse Stud farm in Walcha, Rural New South Wales.Like any true entrepreneur, I get the feeling that Anna is one of those women who can try her hand at anything and what we hear about on the episode today will be the first in many wonderful life experiences. Anna, welcome to the Mumbition Podcast.

Anna Barwick (02:06):
Thank you for having me, Carrie.

Carrie Kwan (02:07):
Now I'm so excited to ask you to share a bit more about your journey. We love asking business women about what they do about their pitch, and we think that women should embrace every opportunity they have to make introductions and connect with customers. So please, can you share your elevator pitch with us?

Anna Barwick (02:26):
Sure. So I'm the Founder and Director of PharmOnline, which is the first pharmacist-led telehealth service in Australia. So our aim is to offer 24/7 access to pharmacists who are the medication experts to people in their homes. So it means that they can talk about the medications they're taking. We discuss treatment plans. We do medication reviews. And it just gives people some more insight and confidence to advocate for themselves around their healthcare.

Carrie Kwan (02:57):
Such an exciting business. I'd love to know, what do you love about your business right now?

Anna Barwick (03:03):
PharmOnline was very much born out of COVID and recognizing that people weren't able to potentially go to the community pharmacy that they normally rely on or even see other healthcare professionals. So I'm hoping this is going to fill that gap. That's the intention. But what do I love about my business? For me, it's a huge learning curve. So as a pharmacist, being an entrepreneur is something that's relatively foreign. It's not something that we are taught at university. And so I'm very much learning on the fly around the best way to manage my business and making sure that I'm asking lots of questions of other experts that are in this area so that I can ensure that my business is fit for purpose, and it will leave the legacy that I intend to leave behind once this, hopefully, grows and becomes really big. And it's something that I think has a lot of potential to make a really big difference for people in Australia.

Carrie Kwan (03:59):
That such a strong and impactful and important journey that you're on. So thank you for crafting this legacy.Anna Barwick (04:08):Thank you. No, it' been a joy so far, hard work, but a joy.

Lucy Kippist (04:13):
Anna, speaking of hard work, as Carrie shared in the intro here, you're a pharmacist, a company director, an academic, a consultant, a researcher, and an innovator. Really, I think the only thing missing from your impressive LinkedIn profile is mum or mother. As a queen of time management, is there something you've had to stop doing in order to make your life and business work?

Anna Barwick (04:35):
Yeah, good question. I haven't stopped mothering and I don't put it on my LinkedIn because I see that more as very much a professional profile. But I mean, that's obviously a huge part of my life. It's wonderful to be able to build a business and still enjoy time with your children and seeing them grow. So my children are five and four, so I had them very close together. I'm not sure that I'm a queen of time management. I just love doing lots of different things. It really engages me and keeps me moving forward. I find if I don't have much to do, I tend to not do much, whereas the opposite occurs when I've got lots of things to do. I do tend to chip away and be very consistent to get things done.But when it comes to stopping things, I don't know. I try to have, I don't really like the term work-life balance, because for me, my work is my life. I'm pharmacist. I love healthcare. I love helping people. So, that is just my life anyway. To me, this is just formalizing it in a business kind of package. But there are times when I go, "Oh, I really haven't caught up with friends in a while." So I really try to make that time and commit time to doing things that I think I need at that particular point in time. I also make sure I really have a calendar for my day and try and stick to the times that I allocate to complete things. So I do bits of things all the time. I always say to everyone, "I'll probably always miss a deadline, but not by much." So I always try and work that in. With my PhD supervisors, for example, I say, "Set me a deadline and I might miss it by a date, but it will get done." Or, if I'm going somewhere, I'll say, "Look, always think I'm going to be five minutes late." So I wouldn't say I'm the queen of time management, but it is a really big driver for me having deadlines to try and meet. And as I said, I don't know that I do that all the time, but it really does help me to prioritize and achieve what I need to get done.Yeah, I try not to stop anything. I think I probably have a much fuller agenda than I've ever had in my life. And I think that's probably true of all of us, to be honest. We're always adding things. But as I said, there are just times where I can really, I'm very good at compartmentalizing and leaving things alone and going and enjoying something. And then being able to stop that and go back to do other admin tasks, for example. So that's probably something that I very much picked up and incorporate now all across my life.

Lucy Kippist (07:11):
It's really impressive to hear you explain it like that, because what I'm hearing is that you're just really good at focusing-

Anna Barwick (07:17):

Lucy Kippist (07:17):
... on what it's bringing in the moment.

Anna Barwick (07:17):

Lucy Kippist (07:18):
Which obviously makes it easier.

Anna Barwick (07:22):
I think so. And I think I've been trying to be very mindful. I know there's a lot of health benefits for mindfulness and being present. And I really do try and do that. I don't know that I always succeed, but I think that really does help because I can just go, right, this is what I'm doing right now. This is what I have time for right now. And I try to get the most out of that. So whether that's with my children doing homework or it's, yeah, enjoying time on my own reading a book or having a cup of tea or doing work in my business, that's just how I help to separate that.

Carrie Kwan (07:50):
Would you be able to pinpoint something that might be the most transferable skill between business and motherhood?

Anna Barwick (07:59):
Yeah, organization hands down. And you have to be organized in both of those roles. And I think motherhood has made me much better and has actually stood me in good stead now as a business owner. I don't think I could have been an independent business owner before I was a mother. I just didn't have that structure, I don't think. I think motherhood has made me go, right, we've got things we've got to get to. I've got to pack lunches. I've got to wash these things in advance, I've got to have things organized for Book Week. It just helps you go, right, these are the things I need to do. And I think I've always been a list person, but I think that's become even more prominent. So I'll write things down for the day, cross things off as I get things done and things that are still remaining, then carry over until the next day's list.

Carrie Kwan (08:48):
There is this kind of regimental discipline that you have to have when you're running a household and you're running your business. And your checklist that you're talking about, I'm thinking instantly that's workflows, that's like processes.

Anna Barwick (09:00):
Yes. That's right. I think exactly like you're saying, there's so many bits and pieces that are transferable and you don't even realize you're using it or doing it across both of those settings, but you just do it because it just becomes part, it's almost innate in both of those roles.

Lucy Kippist (09:15):
Wow. And as Carrie mentioned before, we love asking women to practice their business pitch, but we also really like making introductions, particularly within our community. So if you've got to ask for anything right now, be it in your business or your life, what would it be?

Anna Barwick (09:31):
For me, I think particularly my business right now, I'm on the cusp of signing a few contracts for offering some business to business contracting opportunities that we're doing through PharmOnline, which is a new area that we're expanding into. And so I think having a lawyer that has some insight into health and health tech would be amazing.And I'm very lucky that through Mums & Co I've already had contact with an outstanding solicitor that has already offered some assistance, which has been really helpful of just understanding what I need to have in place when I'm starting to offer our services to other businesses, which again, has just been this huge area that I've had to learn about as far as having plans in place, if something were to happen to me and how does the business continue? Just things that I hadn't really thought about, but when you start to look at these contract opportunities, these businesses have that requirement. So it's really helped me to go, oh, I really don't know about that. And I do need help and I need professional assistance to make sure that this is appropriate and it will serve the business into the future as well.

Carrie Kwan (10:39):
About half of business-owning mums actually start businesses in areas where they don't have any prior experience. How I view that is, they are brave and they're remarkable, but they're also very good at finding things out.

Anna Barwick (10:56):

Carrie Kwan (10:58):
We're figuring out how to solve a problem and maybe that's another thing with we wear so many different hats, but we're always trying to figure out solutions and applying that to both life and business, the family and business.

Anna Barwick (11:12):
That's right. And I think that's actually a really good way to look at it is trying just to be solution focused. And I think that helps with planning as well, like thinking about, well, what can I do to make this better? And how do I structure things so that things are as easy and as efficient as possible.

Carrie Kwan (11:30):I
think that's a huge element of how business women work too, they want to pay it forward. So please don't assume that they don't want to help. It's just that they don't know exactly what you need help in. So articulating that ask is super important. We love supporting your pursuit as part of the Mums & Co community. And that's one of the reasons why we're actually called Mums & Co, for the Co bit, which stands for the partners and the friends, the family and clients that support you and our business. So can you tell us about your co and how they support you?

Anna Barwick (12:04):
I have a huge co and I couldn't be doing this without them. It's sometimes easy to forget that because you get bogged down in the details of your business and some of the stresses that come along with that. But I mean, absolutely, my husband is phenomenal with helping me and picking up the slack, particularly around the house when that needs to happen. And that hasn't always been the case either. I've seen an evolution for him as a man and as a husband and as a father. I think when we first met, we were very young, we were 18. I think there was maybe a concept of very gendered roles in what we would do in our lives and how we would look into the future.And I always think that he may have had an expectation that once we had children I'd stay home. And I was never like that, right? I've always been very focused and very goal orientated. And I knew that wouldn't be the case. I knew I wouldn't set aside that part of me, which is my personality. So he's been very, very good at evolving over time and picking up more slack. And particularly now that the children are getting a little bit older, that's just made a huge amount of difference. Kudos to him. He's done very well with growing with me, although sometimes that does cause some friction without a doubt. You know, who's putting on the washing today and who's cleaning the kitchen? But I feel like we're a really good team.My children are beautiful as well. I mean, a lot of us are dealing with this at the moment with working from home, having to go, "Shhh, mum's just on a call at the moment," and they're really good too. Actually, they've got that awareness even at four and five of that separation of mummy's in work mode at the moment and we need to go and do something else, which doesn't always work. And I often have little people popping up in Zoom calls and teleconferences and that's okay. Again, I think that's become a lot more acceptable, which I think is a great thing for mums.I've got an amazing network of family, so very supportive parents. And in particular, my mum, who is my absolute number one cheerleader. If you talk to her, she would say, I'm the best person on the planet. There's obviously some confirmation bias there, but she's an amazing support. And she always says to me, "You're doing too much, Anna." I think the reason I do too much is because she has demonstrated that to me all through my life. She was a working mum as well. She was a teacher in primary school and always did more than she needed to do. Yeah, she's actually now doing a lot more in the business space too, which again, has grown. So it's really nice. We're actually able to share our stories as we're going along.I mean, really where PharmOnline started was actually here at the University of New England. So I initially pitched my idea for PharmOnline, back in March last year to the UNE SMART Region Incubator. So there's a real focus here at the university for encouraging businesses and looking at new innovators. And so that's been wonderful. All the team at the UNE SRI have been phenomenal. As a result of that, I've got some great mentors, business or otherwise, or personal, which is fantastic. But I think, for me, also, I've always been very, very inspired by women, particularly off the land. So I'm a country girl, originally and still am. I grew up on my parents' farming property, where they grew wheat and sheep and cattle. And some of the women that have really inspired me have often been teachers. So I've had some really amazing math teachers that are still my mentors and people that I talk to regularly to get their advice.And then I've also got other women that are independently, they are farmers. Again, they're working in industries that has historically not been female dominated, and yet they're making these huge strides in improving outcomes for women, they're involved on boards. All of those things are just inspirational to me. And I hope that if I can do that for other people, then hopefully, again, I'm paying that forward.

Carrie Kwan (16:19):
There's an element of that co is there for you, we're trying to meet you there, but I think you've also taken big strides in crafting that yourself. I think it's not just luck sometimes. You have to make your own luck. I love that you've chosen your partner well. That's always a big piece of advice for any woman. And you have so many role models, so many people who've trodden the path before you that are now able to be that example for you. Amazing co.

Lucy Kippist (16:48):
And I wanted to touch on what you were talking about then, about your connection to your rural community, because you are part of a rural community. And what's interesting is that we know that 30% of business-owning mothers start businesses from rural places, just like you. So you've touched on the importance of that in terms of networking and feeling supported, but what else do you think that connection to your rural community brings to your business?

Anna Barwick (17:13):
I've always lived rural and it's always been a very big part of my life. So it's kind of hard to compare, but I think what I am always amazed by is just that level of support that you get, because you know people, you know people on so many different levels. So you might volunteer with them in a local organization and then they're also the local bank manager or you're taking your children to school together or after sport. There's so many points of connection, I think in a rural community that you maybe don't get so much of in the city. And I think it just gives you that greater insight, depth, and empathy for other people. And I think that's probably why then they celebrate you so much. I find my community is so happy to celebrate and go, "Wow, look at what you're doing." And I think that really does help to maintain your fire and your reasons, keeps reminding you of why you're doing what you're doing.And I think particularly for PharmOnline, I think there's a lot of opportunity, particularly in rural and regional areas, because it's very much focused on people that are isolated. So whether that's socially, physically, however, I can ask them, what would you like and what would make you utilize this service? And they know it, because they live it all the time. Yeah, as I said, I just think there are so many other people you can learn from in communities that are rural, because they've often had to struggle harder, I think in many ways to achieve what they need to, because they've had to overcome internet connectivity issues, or not being able to go to events because they're often based in the city. If there's conferences on or business events.I mean, one of the greatest silver linings to come out of COVID, and we know that there's not a lot of them, for rural businesses, it has opened up these opportunities because now Zooming is normal. This has been normal for me for all my life. I mean, my high school years, I was actually learning remotely a lot of the time. And that was well over a decade ago. I did it at uni as well. We were doing remote connection to some of our lecturers in Wagga from Orange. And now, this is normal. And so when everyone was like, "Oh, I have to adjust to it," I'm like, "Oh, really?" This was just always normal for me.So I think that's really opened up that opportunity for a lot of other regional business owners. And one of the things that I've often seen people, "Once we get back to normal," and I'm like, "I actually hope we don't go back to normal." Because we want a new normal where it's as inclusive as possible. We want people, particularly female business owners to be included, to be able to have the same opportunities as business owners that are not in rural areas and connecting us together, because still, there's a lot of commonalities. I don't see that there's a lot of separation. We all have often the same struggles and issues, but I think just getting rid of some of those barriers that particularly rural business owners have to overcome is a positive thing. I think we'll all grow collectively as a result.

Lucy Kippist (20:27):
A hundred percent. I can hear how passionate you are about that. And also, no surprise that you've created a business that actually contributes to that.

Anna Barwick (20:35):
Yeah, absolutely. It's a great driver. Keeps the fire in my belly going.

Carrie Kwan (20:42):
Anna, the focus of your business PharmOnline is to make pharmaceutical advice super accessible for families who might be stuck at home with a sick child and unable to make it to the chemist for advice. So in what ways has your experience as a mum contributed to the vision you have for your business?

Anna Barwick (20:58):
Absolutely. Well, it was where it was born without a doubt. As I said, when I initially pitched this business idea to the UNE SRI, it wasn't all that long since I had been breastfeeding my babies. And I remember, it must have been in the early hours of the morning, which you often do when you've got really little babies and feeding them and I thought, my little one's got a rash. And the first thing I did was get onto doctor Google, which I would actively discourage everyone from doing, particularly when you're sleep deprived, because often what it will tell you is that your child will die imminently, they've got cancer or something else when probably it's a simple heat rush.So I kind of went, oh, this is just not... And this is what other women would be doing. They'd be thinking, well, I'll just Google it. I'll get online and try and find out this for myself because it's 03:00 AM and I can't talk to anyone, but you often want that reassurance at that point in time. I thought there's got to be something better. And I think that's probably where the seeds of PharmOnline started.

Carrie Kwan (22:01):
What has been your approach to risk? Are there sort of processes and measures that you put in place now to protect your business?

Anna Barwick (22:08):
Absolutely. And again, it's probably not something that I thought about initially when I first set up PharmOnline, but it's becoming much more apparent to me as well. So being in the telehealth space, again, I mean, people think it's very new, but it's actually not. Telehealth's been around for a long time. We've just seen an explosion as a result of COVID. But what's becoming far more apparent is around data security. So I think a lot of these telehealth services now need to be much more aware of how they store data, how they transmit it so that we don't have health information breaches. So I've had to very much put that in place.I've been setting up a platform, not myself, it's through another company, but we're using it as a white label that we can actually adapt for PharmOnline specifically. That means that my team can actually enter information in an encapsulated system so that it can't be hacked, so that someone can't hack their computer and access data on people that they've talked to or done medication reviews with. Obviously we need a lot of liability insurance too, being in healthcare. And so, again, investigating that and being a disruptor in the industry has meant that when I go out to insurance companies, they're like, "Oh, so you're not a pharmacy." And I'm like, "No." "But you're not an independent pharmacist either." "No." So we've actually had to create our own insurance, I suppose, package.

Carrie Kwan (23:40):
At Mums & Co, we talk about harmony as this triangle of ambition, livelihood and wellbeing. How would you describe the shape of a good life for you?

Anna Barwick (23:50):
I think ambition is something that is very strong for me and a very strong part of my personality. I feel that drive to compete with myself, not necessarily with other people, although I'd say when I was younger, I probably felt that a lot more acutely, that I was in competition with other people. I think now, as I'm older, I'm kind of going actually, no, I'm just competing with me and just trying to improve me each day. So I think that's very helpful.Wellbeing, obviously, is absolutely critical. So one of the bylines we actually use in PharmOnline is "wellbeing based in science", because we've seen an explosion in the wellbeing space. I often feel it's not very evidence based and that concerns me. So I think that is something that I try and incorporate into my life as well. And obviously, I mean, I teach my students this, that you have to be able to have a livelihood. You have to be able to hit the power on and keep food on the table. There's a dance in that. You've got to love what you do, I think to have a livelihood and be actually living and enjoying your life.

Carrie Kwan (24:56):
Anna, it has been so delightful speaking with you today, and there is so much to reflect on that you have shared. Thank you so much. And thank you everybody else for joining and listening. We hope you've enjoyed today's podcast. And if, I have no doubt, you would like to follow Anna, you can find her on LinkedIn. And if you haven't already, please come and join our Mumbition supportive movement of thousands of Australian business-owning women, just like you, at mumsandco.com.au.

Remy (25:25):
What's your favourite thing about living in the country?

Anna Barwick (25:35):What's my favourite thing about living in the country? Well, I think I love having lots of open space. I love to see lots of trees and lots of countryside, but you know what I really love, I love seeing all the cows and all the sheep and sometimes kangaroos and emus. They just walk around in the paddock, having a lovely time eating and enjoying life. So I love that. That's what I really love about being in the country. You'll have to come out and visit us out this way and I'll show you some of the wonderful things. My kids love horse riding. So, they ride horses around the paddock. And we also have little mini dachshunds, little sausage dogs. And so we have puppies from time to time and they're really fun to be around, because they just want to just sit on your lap and lick you.

Carrie Kwan (26:26):
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. (singing)