Growing Up: Lady Start Up Style

In 1991, just before my fourth birthday, my mum had her third baby. Its name was AJS computing services. Way before ‘Lady Start Ups’ was common terminology, my mother launched her very own business. She would go on to spend the next thirty years building her humble empire, ducking and weaving through technological advances, globalization and the highs and lows of running your own business in an ever changing world.

In this special mother’s day edition of the blog, I present to you what life is like as the child of a lady start up and take you on a trip down memory lane with one of my greatest inspirations: my mum.


Overworked and underpaid

As my Mum tried to juggle two small kids and an egotistical manic for a boss, Mum was excited when a strange and mysterious opportunity landed in her lap. “I need someone in Sydney to implement this new computing software from Sweden” said the voice on the other end of the phone. The voice belonged to a friend of a friend, Ross Powis, who had started his own business in Brisbane, and needed a Sydney counterpart to help out ‘here and there.’  “Sure, I could do that.” She said confidently, despite having no idea whether she actually could or could not do the tasks being presented to her.

“Great, let me know what your rate is then.” Having no Facebook group to ask ‘how much should I charge’ she went to my Dad and asked him for his advice. “I don’t know? Four hundred dollars a day?” They both laughed at the notion, but thought ‘what have we got to lose?’

“Ross didn’t bat an eyelid when I gave him my rate” my Mum chuckles as she remembers her first business ‘win.’


And there were many more wins to come.

Mum still remembers her first real sale like it was yesterday. Grinning, she marched into the bank with a cheque worth the same amount it had taken her and dad seven years to save for a deposit on a home. And in 1999 she went on to make the biggest sale ever of that software. “I’m not even a salesperson!” She exclaims, as she looks over to me for my reaction. “Mum.” I stare at her “have you ever heard of imposter syndrome?” And we both laugh.


There were wins for us kids too

In 1997 we went on the trip of a lifetime when Mum tacked a trip to Disney World onto the back of a conference in Spain. Or the time I befriended the Aussie Olympic Athletics team in a remote hotel north of Milan. Mum took me with her because she didn’t trust me to study for the HSC back home (LOL, as it turns out I probably would have got more done at home…) We went to private schools and I don’t think my Mum ever missed a swimming carnival.


It wasn’t all roses…

There were many a trip overseas we didn’t go on. And I remember very clearly in 2002 my mother crying on our balcony, scared we were going to lose our house because of a client threatening legal action.

I guess every family has ups and downs – whether they’re working for the man, or working for themselves. But our highs and lows always felt more crafted than left to fate. My mum always loved those ‘choose your own adventure’ books, and I see now that that was no coincidence.

Traveling the world was life changing. And growing up in a privileged household (in hind sight) was great. But the true benefits of Mums ‘adventure’ came much later in my life. When my own daughter was born, I took a whole year off. Because I could. And when I decided to start my own web design business the little voice inside my head said “Do it. You got this.” And whenever I hit the wall in my own business that grit and determination I learned from Mum is always there. Guiding me forward.


If you have Mum guilt about starting your own business; don’t.

Your kids are learning resilience, negotiation, independence and stamina. They’re learning that risk is just opportunity in disguise. They are learning that if you build it: they will come (you just have to fight hard enough). They’re learning that they too, can choose their own adventure. Trust me when I say one day they’ll whisper “Thanks Mum.” And they will mean it from the very bottom of their hearts.


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