Rob: Hey everyone, and thanks for tuning in to Not the Rob Bell Podcast. Today's guest, I've got Peace Mitchell, co-founder of AusMumpreneur and the Women's Business School. We talk about supporting new mums with entrepreneurship, the importance of getting the right skills for business and so much more. It's coming up now.
Rob: So Peace Mitchell co founder of AusMumpreneur and the Women's Business School. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Peace: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Rob: It's amazing to have you here, and I think you're doing some really amazing stuff, and I know that AusMumpreneur Awards have just celebrated their tenth anniversary short time ago, which is an amazing achievement. But before we get to some of that, what I'd really like to know is the earlier years of Peace Mitchell, and I understand you started as a teacher and grew from there. Can you give us a bit of background into how you started and how you started a business?
Peace: OK, sure. Well, I was working for, as a teacher for a number of years, and then when I had my first baby, everything kind of changed. It really I had all these different ideas about what would happen when I had my baby and I was to return back to work part time. And my husband was going to work part time and we were going to both have a very equal sort of return to the workforce. And bringing a child into the family wasn't going to change my career path. However, the reality of that was very different from the image in my head before I'd had my child. And what I found happening was that I went back to the classroom when he was about eight months old and my husband would have him. And on that on those days, well, I worked. And on those days they go to the beach and they'd have fun and do family time. And I would be working. And then I found that on my days when I had my son, I had to do all of the washing and cleaning and grocery shopping and. And then even on weekends, my husband would be working because he'd make up for those days that he missed.
Peace: He was a farmer, so he'd go out on the tractor and do other things. So we lost that family time and there just didn't seem time for me to go to the beach with my family. They were always doing that on the days I was working anyhow. It just it didn't seem right. Also that I was spending all of my time and energy investing in working with other people's children while my own child was at home. And I really should have been with him. So I think it's something that a lot of women struggle with when they become mothers. This having to choose between motherhood and career. And I I think around that time somewhere, I made the decision to start my own business because I believed that it would give me the flexibility to create a business that worked better for my family. And having children and balancing everything. So I remember the very first time that I went to a workshop on online marketing and starting an online business because I realised that an online business was going to give me that freedom and flexibility to be able to be with my baby. But still, like, fulfil my personal ambitions and create income and further my career.
Peace: And I was at this workshop and the guy running the workshop, he was at the front of the room and he said, okay, everyone put your hand up. If you've got an email address and everyone else put the hand up except me. And then he said, all right, and put your hand up. If you've got your own computer and everyone else in the room, put the hand up except me. And I was only person there who didn't even have an email or a computer address. A computer or an, email address. Yet I knew that I know my business was how I was going to make this work. So I guess that's where it all started. And I left teaching and started out in business. I had a few different businesses before I came to AusMumpreneur because I had no business experience. I worked in the classroom and as a classroom teacher, you just you turn up and the students are there. You don't have to do any sales or marketing or profit and loss. You don't have to worry about any of that. You just turn up and you teach. So it's been a long journey of learning across that time.
Rob: It's certainly a very, very different environment going from the classroom to owning a business and and certainly even the technology side. You know, it's I think thinking about email addresses and websites and and things, the way we do now is perhaps how we will think about virtual reality in ten years time. You know, who has who has a VR store, you know? And so maybe I think that's it's probably more, you know, more relevant for when you started than maybe it is now. So I understand that you started doing embroidered bikinis as the business was. It was that at that period.
Peace: Yes, I decided to go into fashion. I had no experience in the fashion industry. And I thought that would be a good idea.
Rob: And so what were some of the unexpected realities of that? Obviously, you know, you had a product and no doubt a good product. But what were some of the unexpected sides of that coming into this? You know, from with with no background in technology or business?
Peace: Mm hmm. I'm looking back now, I learned so much from that first business and the failure of that first business, because the reality is, is that business failed because I didn't have a support network around me or people that I could reach out to to get the advice and help that I needed to be able to move forward. So I was it was really it was way back before social media was even a thing. So I couldn't just jump onto Facebook like you might now and say, OK, who's going to manufacturer contact in China? Who knows how to do Lycra? There was none of that. You had to literally do it and then go to Ali Baba and just hope for the best. I didn't know who to ask to get a personal recommendation for a manufacturer. And so I just Google sent an email, someone reply to it. I was like, great, let's get samples done. And I just I got the samples back and they looked nothing like my designs. Like like years apart. It was a mess. And I think at that point, I kind of just gave up, there was no one I was living in Innisfail in far north Queensland and there was no one in my local area who could really give me the advice and support I needed. And so that was another thing I lacked the business skills of what to do. But I lacked the support from people to reach out to and yeah. Get those recommendations and advice that I needed and the questions answered. I had so many questions, but no one to help me answer them.
Rob: And so you didn't just foray into business, you forayed into imports at the same time, which even now is a is a whole other ballgame.
Peace: Yeah, offshore manufacturing in a country with the language that I don't speak. Yeah. Product design. I didn't know how to sew. I did a Tfe course to learn how to sew and to I didn't know how to patent making. I knew how to do embroidery. But as far as the bikini side of it, I, I had no idea. So there were lots of learnings.
Rob: And no doubt there was there was a massive education that came out of that just by doing and trial and error, that is that what then fostered your movement into AusMumpreneur in order to try and facilitate this support network that you were really hanging out for when you were doing it?
Peace: Yeah, absolutely. I was running the bikini business and my sister at the same time started a stroller design business. So again, she was into manufacturing and importing and she was getting she got samples from China as well. And we realised that it was really hard to do this on our on our own. But together we could do something and have a better impact and be more successful. And yes, those learnings that we both had, that it's really hard to get the information you need to be able to ask questions that you need to have that support and community around you, because when you face hard times and she and obstacles, if you're on your own, there's no way to go. But if you've got a community around you, you can reach out to someone and say, I'm I'm stuck, I'm having trouble. I need I need help here. And often it's just like a different perspective saying, well, actually, things aren't that bad. Have you thought about trying these that can help shift your mindset and really put you back on track?
Rob: That's really cool. And no doubt working with your sister, Katie has some some challenges and benefits as well. Having any co-founder certainly has that. But was there was there a very similar need that she identified in terms of what you created with AusMumpreneur? Or did she have a slightly different perspective on things and they sort of, you know, added to each other?
Peace: I guess we started in the non-profit space, so we both started out being very passionate about playgroup. That's where where it all really began. We we founded our own playgroup together her and I and a couple of friends. And then through that evolution, we started a non-profit organisation called Mothers Helping Others. And it was as part of that that we found our purpose. I would say and we realised that by supporting mothers to be happy and fulfilled and well and healthy, you would then able to impact the rest of the family. And then the wider community. And then, you know, the ripple effects of that go out beyond that. And so that's when we found out why. Which then we took that through as a business. And on through AusMumpreneurand now even through the women's business school, the work we're doing. It's all about supporting women to to be successful. And the ripple effects of that for themselves, but their family, their extended community as well.
Rob: That's amazing. And AusMumpreneur is a name that I think probably anyone in business is familiar with, certainly in Australia. And was there a point where you sort of kicked that off and sort of discovered a bit of a critical mass where, you know, you really recognise that, hey, there's really something truly here.
Peace: Yeah, I think so. When we started out, it was really about. There weren't many other people who were running Home-Based businesses at the time or working remotely or working from home was seen as a bit of a weird thing to be doing. So it was about bringing people together, bringing out the women who were working from home together to challenge the stereotypes around working from home to challenge stereotypes about mums in business as well. I think some of those stereotypes still persist now that people think that, you know, if you're a mum and you're working from home, it's just a hobby business. But actually, what we found is that there's plenty of millionaires out there who are mums who were running their business from home. And every year through the AusMumpreneur awards, we're uncovering these incredible women doing big things and running these businesses. And I think. We got in early, but more and more women over the last 10 years have been recognising that the corporate world doesn't really support. Family life. Once you have a baby that nine to five, it's a very strict structure that doesn't necessarily work anymore. It doesn't make sense. It's it's as if the 9:00 to 5:00 was designed for men and then women are trying to fit themselves into that. And I guess families are trying to fit themselves into that. It doesn't necessarily work. So women are looking at different ways that they can make it work for them and their families. And what works for me is different from someone else. But that's the beauty of entrepreneurship, because you do have the ability to create whatever kind of business you want. If you want to just have a small business that just brings in a bit of extra grocery money, you can if you want to build a global business that turns over millions of dollars every year you can. And everything in between, you have the flexibility to do that. And that's one of the things that I love about entrepreneurship.
Rob: And I think that's really something interesting, which exists in your community in particular, is that there is the sort of that side hustle, you know, fill in, fill in the gaps, make a little bit of extra cash. But then there's the you know, we're launching our multi-million dollar business. And you know watch us do it. How do you cater for sort of both sides of that intention when the requirements of the community are so different for those people?
Peace: I think what we've created is an ecosystem, so it's a community where there's people who are right at the start of their journey. And then there's people who've been in business for 20 years or more. And there's everything in between. We've got people who are in tech. We've got people who are in handmade businesses. We've got service businesses. We've got product innovation. We've got the whole spectrum of it. And yet somehow everyone has something to share. Even if you've never had a business before, you've got a wealth of life experience behind you and all of the skills that you bring from your previous career. And so we can all talk to each other. And it might be at different levels, but we're learning from each other and we're teaching each other things. And so, yeah, I think it works.
Rob: It's certainly really called watch and an on the business side of, say, AusMumpreneur itself. I'm really curious to know, you know, we look at the say the media exposure that as AusMumpreneur has had and, you know, on major TV networks, prime time news, major newspapers around the country. Was that a deliberate lead in terms of growing AusMumpreneur or did the media find you after some success?
Peace: We've always had quite a strategic approach with particularly with the AusMumpreneur awards and the media strategy. So as part of the awards process, every single nominee is given a press release template, which they then submit to their own local media. And so I really see it as a win win for them. The business owners, but also for AusMumpreneur as a brand because they're getting their story in the paper, they're getting their photo taken. But throughout the article, it talks about AusMumpreneur and why we're celebrating and recognising mums in business. So, yeah, our media strategy has been very deliberate and intentional. And every year we've worked with PR specialists to help us to get media opportunities for our AusMumpreneur of the year winner, but also to get media opportunities for Katie and I to be speaking and on TV and things like that.
Rob: I think it's a very interesting strategy and probably quite brilliant in its simplicity, too, because I think we when we think big business or, you know, large organization, we may discount regional media in particular. But a an award or for a local business in regional media could actually be front page news for a local newspaper. And that can still represent hundreds of thousands of people. Was that really the intention or did you just did it just prove the concept after it started happening?
Peace: I think yes, I think always when we created the awards, it was about looking at ways that. Different ways that people would win from being part of it without literally taking home the trophy. So even if you were a finalist, if you'd leverage the media opportunity, you could see lots of benefits from being part of this awards program. And what we found was we encourage people to send it to their local media. But often they'd also just get lucky. They'd send it to the project and end up on TV. So there was lots of opportunities for people as finalists and then as winners as well. So I guess, again, the ecosystem, there were people who were starting out in business who didn't win the first year that they were in. But they did get a media appearance or they were on the radio. Well, they were they met some of the other finalists and got a photo together. So there's lots of benefits to it.
Rob: I think that's it's really quite interesting to see that happening, and I think in a digital age, we can overlook mainstream media too readily and and underestimate the power and just how accessible it is with an intelligence strategy like you've executed. And so, Alice Mompreneur is also has some sponsorship partners, say St George Bank and things like that. Can you give us a bit of a riff on how that came about and what role they play in the success of mompreneur?
Peace: We've had a really incredible relationship with St George Banking Group over the years. St George Bank, Bank of Melbourne and bank aside, the three brands and. It's for us, it's, always been about the relationship and building that relationship. So we've had dedicated AusMumpreneur bankers. We would invite female business bankers to come to the event. We would have one for each of the states around Australia so that the members, if they needed to talk to a business banker, they could talk to a woman who they could trust in their own state. And it was all about developing those relationships and connections rather than just putting the brand on the awards. It was a more holistic strategy. And that's that's been really powerful for us and for St George in that relationship continues today. We've been with them for probably five or six years, and they're such a great supporter of us and always talking positively about us and giving us opportunities. And likewise, we're supporting them and our members recommending the bankers. So it has been a really successful partnership and a true partnership sense of the word rather than a sponsor or sense of the
Rob: I think
Rob: That's certainly very important and certainly in entrepreneurship, you know, traditional banking can be viewed as a as a necessary evil or something as well. But being able to have some really good discussions with dedicated people who, you know, understand the entrepreneurial space a little bit more, certainly going to benefit everyone in the long run. So that's that's really amazing. So we switch gears a little bit to the women's business school. It it feels from the outside looking in that that's essentially the formalisation of training for entrepreneurship and and women in business. Can you reflect a bit on how that came about?
Peace: Yes. So we're through AusMumpreneur in the in the early days. We were running short courses on business. But what we realised and what we heard from the women in the community was that they wanted to learn more. They wanted more from a program and they were looking for business education. But what they were seeing in mainstream business education were things like the MBA or the diploma of business. And the deployment of businesses is a Tafe level. Certification, however, requires 20 hours a week of study. And I don't know about you, but anyone with young kids who's trying to run a business does not have an extra twenty hours a week for study. And that was I guess that was one of the reasons we saw that opportunity. We were like, there's no one else doing this. There's no one else providing this dedicated business education for women, which is flexible and time efficient and easy for them to access. And so that's how the women's business school came about. We launched in 2016 with our first program, Ignite, which is for prelaunch and early phase startups. And then in 2018, we launched Accelerate, which is for scaling businesses that are scaling internationally, you know, producing new products, moving into new markets, more established businesses.
Rob: It's certainly an interesting perspective and no doubt, as you found yourself once, you're already on that path to business, you perhaps don't need to learn about a PNL because you've figured it out yourself or you don't need to figure out how to make payroll because you've figured out how to do that yourself. So how do your courses differ? Outside of just the time aspect, you know, in terms of catering for different stages of an entrepreneurial journey?
Peace: I guess the way that we're different is that we offer all of things that you would expect in a traditional course like marketing, sales, finances, all of those things. But as well as that, we combine personal growth and personal development and leadership skills. So things like tapping into your intuition, developing your creativity, innovation, all of those kind of skills, confidence, resilience, courage, combined with the business development is where we're different from other programs. And we also provide a really safe and supportive space for women to be able to process challenges that they're going through at the time and talk about ideas that I've been thinking about bringing in bringing out in in a safe and supportive space where people will listen to them and give advice and support and help them take that next step.
Rob: I think that personal development in particular is a very under appreciated aspect of entrepreneurship and business. And, you know, I think Wall. Not every business has to be looking to scale or achieve global dominance in their sector. You know, I think it does. Do you see that as a integral part for someone who does want to think big and helping them think bigger than maybe their local neighbourhood?
Peace: Yes, absolutely, and I've seen the difference that it can make doing work in the personal development space and doing this work through our program. The difference in their confidence and courage and ability to dream bigger for themselves and for their business in doing this kind of work, they are able to reach those goals that they never dreamt that they could reach before. And it's it's hugely important. I see fear plays a big part in holding women back. They have incredible ideas. They have the ability. They have the knowledge. But the voice of the critic is telling them, oh, you're not good enough. You're not qualified enough. You're not pretty enough. You're not smart enough. You're not whatever enough. And if they can move past that and move through that, they can step into their magnificence and really start going big with their ideas.
Rob: So if I'm not mistaken, you also provide a level of mentor-ship and and critical feedback through women's business school for exactly that purpose as well.
Peace: Yes, absolutely. So the students are matched with a mentor and they do mentor one on one mentoring sessions together with their mentors through the program as part of the course. We also have mastermind groups, a group of five for peer mentoring and accountability as well.
Rob: Certainly that that ongoing support is absolutely critical as well, not just giving them the skills and sending them on their way. So I noticed that you've opened up a UK intake for women's business school as well. Can you give us a bit of an explanation of that expansion and how that's happened?
Peace: We haven't launched the UK intake yet. COVID has changed all of our plans,
Rob: Of course.
Peace: But that's certainly something we're looking to do in the very near future. Our dream has always been to create a global business school for women. It just it seems wrong that we've got this incredible gift that we only give access to Australian women. I would love to see that expand to the whole rest of the world and give women around the world opportunities to learn together with other women and to integrate the personal development with business development and really grow their businesses. So we're continuing to look at ways to expand and how we do that as a brand.
Rob: That's it. Yes, certainly COVID has some challenges, but no doubt those are those wheels will start to start to turn again very shortly. I wanted to sort of take a bit of a Segway. I understand that you've helped facilitate some sort of legislative changes and managed to get a million dollars from government in terms of support for small business. Can you give us a bit of a story on exactly what that was and how that came about?
Peace: We're really passionate about advocacy and the need for the government to recognise the work of women in business and women. Women in home base business as well. For many, many years, it was very overlooked. I guess because it was such a new industry, women starting businesses online. The whole online space really is quite new. In the scheme of things. So we have been passionate about contacting our local members, our state government, federal government and and saying we've got these women here. They're bringing millions of dollars into the economy. How are you supporting them? What are you doing? Where is the help to get these businesses off the ground? Because what we're what we've been seeing over the last few years is an investment into tech and startups and accelerators, which is which are typically based in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. So they're only accessible if you're in the capital cities. And when I looked critically at some of the participants were in these programs. There was a very high percentage of all male teams and teams with no women in them. All three men and one woman in them. And so it's really important that not all of the government funding just goes to men. Some of it needs to go to women as well. But that can't happen unless women are speaking up and and saying. And advocating for for us. We need to be investing in women. It's important. So this was a few years ago. I kind of remember what year it was. Now, we had we spoke to the Queensland government. We worked with the treasurer at the time, Curtis Pitt and Kate Jones was the minister for innovation. And we were able to get support for a million dollars in grants for home based businesses. So that was a big win and pretty exciting.
Rob: That's a huge win, that's. That's absolutely phenomenal. I think it can be underestimated the power of of enacting some sort of legislative changes or recognition. And we certainly know that government as a whole can be a little bit slow to respond to tech innovation. And even with things like COVID, with stimulus and all the rest, the way that they measure business and the way that they treat different businesses, it can be there's certainly things that fall through the cracks. And I think the advocacy that people can do really helps shape, you know, that for the better in the long term. So obviously, obviously, women's business school is playing a really important role in upskilling and fostering that growth. And there are a few sort of success stories that you can give us examples of.
Peace: Yeah, absolutely, we've had over 300 women through the programs now, and it's been incredible. What I love is being part of their journey and seeing them go from this place where they're kind of starting out and they've got big ideas, but they don't know how to get there. And then seeing them just exceed all of their own expectations and really take it so far. An example is one of our students was working in publishing. She loved writing her own books and then started doing publishing for other people. She's on track to make her first million this year.
Peace: She's now working with very high level international authors. She has numerous. She has so many clients now, and she, too, is always giving back to the community as well. So she works as a mentor with our students. She's published a number of our students books as well. And it's just beautiful seeing that relationship continue to grow and blossom over time. And just she's just going so well.
Rob: That's really cool, and you sort of touched on it there. But do you see examples of that community being able to grow as a whole? Such as, you know, the example you just gave, helping serve the community as well?
Peace: Yes, absolutely, there's been a lot of collaboration that we see happen and a lot of working together, but also giving back to each other. There's in within our community, there is a lot of this sense of supporting each other and helping each other rise and helping each other on that journey. And this year, for the first time, we've had three of our previous students want to give back and sponsor a scholarship places for students coming through. So it's pretty incredible that they've gained so much from doing the program themselves that they want to give that opportunity to someone else who's coming through. I think that's a real testament to the kind of community that we have and the generous women around us.
Rob: That's amazing. And the scholarship side of things, I think is very interesting and an important aspect that deserves some attention as well. You know, when when people are coming from such diverse backgrounds and different levels of opportunity, how important is that scholarship process and how do you determine who you know is best suited for those scholarships?
Peace: With the scholarships out, life changing for for some of these people, these women, they know that they've got the potential to get their business going. But they do genuinely need the support and the big education around those business skills. And then also got the confidence and the personal growth that I was talking about before. And so by getting the scholarship, by becoming part of the community, by going through each of the modules and the assessments and doing all of that, it can change everything for them and for their business. I've seen businesses triple in size and triple in growth due to just, you know, being really involved and doing the program properly. And it is very difficult for us to select the recipients of the scholarship because. There's lots of people out there who are very deserving and who need that support, and which is why we were so excited when three women came forward and they said, we want to support women and we were able to give those extra places. So, yeah, the scholarship program is something I feel so passionate about and I'm committed to continuing that. We always look at inclusion and diversity and the power of amplifying indigenous voices as well and women with disability. And we also look at who is actually making a difference in the world. So we look at all of those kind of elements. And that's part of the process that we go through when we're selecting the recipients.
Rob: That's interesting. One thing that comes to mind is around, obviously getting people into the incubator and and really fostering that growth. But is there a challenge before it even comes to that point to really empower people to have the self belief that they can actually do this and be part of this journey and grow something themselves as well?
Peace: I think so. However, I think if if you've got the courage to go out as an entrepreneur, like, that's a huge thing to do. So if you've got the courage to do that, then I think you've got the courage to put yourself through a program and do the work and do the learning and be part of this community. And I think, yeah, I think you have to be a special kind of person to be an entrepreneur.
Rob: It is for someone who is say curious but doesn't yet have that self belief or or doesn't think that they could be an entrepreneur. Is there some steps that you feel they could maybe take to help improve that self-esteem and and really start that journey, even if they are not to that point yet?
Peace: I think just start and start small, but just go for it. That would be my advice. If you if you've been wanting to do something, if you know that you've got that idea, there's power and just taking the leap and just starting. And I think maybe your first business idea won't be the thing that you end up with. Maybe your business journey will evolve into something else like mine has. But I'm always so glad that I started. I'm so glad I started making those bikinis. They never went anywhere, but I learned so much through that process.
Rob: Certainly the summation of those experiences has led you to where you are now, which is, you know, and that's invaluable. You can't get that anywhere. So we're actually coming up on time. But I do have a few quick questions that I'd love to get out if I can. If you had to surmise off, not surmise, but give us your best tip for mums and women who want to start a business. Is there one that comes to mind?
Peace: I think the best tip for anyone who's thinking about starting a business is to make sure that it's something that you're really passionate about, that you love, that you feel is your calling. If you can find that, that will be the thing that can help you go far with this. You know, it's my word for 2020 is vision. And right from the first of January, I knew that my vision was to create a global business school for women, to change the world through investing in women and education. And then when things happen, when obstacles and challenges and problems come up, if you're just in business to make money, then it's too easy to go, oh, this is too hard. I'm going to walk away. But if you're in it for the long haul, if you're actually following your calling, if you're doing something that you love, that you believe you were born to do, then that's going to take you further. So I think that's my number one tip. Make sure that when you choose what you're doing, it's something that you truly love and believe in and can get behind and will do whatever it takes to get there.
Rob: Certainly, vision is is an amazing thing to have in business or actually essential for good business. But if we think about the power of, say, hindsight and something that you if there was a piece of knowledge that you have now that would have helped you with your bikini business back when that was running. Is there something that may have changed that outcome?
Peace: I think if I look back at my first business, what would have changed the outcome? Perhaps choosing something that I believed in and that I was passionate about would have made a big difference. But also realizing that I needed to invest in education as well. I just went in blindly. I was like, I'll just make these bikinis and get them manufactured and then put them into shops without ever thinking that I needed to know about business and how business works. So, yes, the education, but also choosing something that actually had a meaning. I was just making bikinis because they looked pretty. There wasn't a real meaning behind that.
Rob: Certainly there's a balance there, no doubt. So we're actually out of time, but is there anything that you would love to share with our audience about AusMumpreneur, women's business school, anything at all?
Peace: The nominations for the AusMumpreneur Awards for 2020. Now open and I would love to see women from all around Australia entering those awards.
Rob: That's amazing. And so Peace, Mitchell, can you tell us where they can find AusMumpreneur, women's business school and any other Web sites that are relevant?
Peace: So AusMumpreneur.com, we have a Facebook page and Instagram for AusMumpreneur. We also have the women's business school on Instagram and Facebook and the Web site, the womensbusinessschool.com
Rob: Certainly doing some amazing things. And I look forward to seeing the outcome of the next awards as well. Peace Mitchell, thank you so much for your time.
Peace: Thanks so much for having me. It's been wonderful chatting with you.
Rob: It's been amazing. Thank you. There you have it. I hope you really enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please like it, share it or leave us a review on your favorite platform. It helps us show more of this content to people just like you.