I love Jack’s story. When she was 11, she saw something that has pretty much driven everything she’s done up to this point. She is also the mother of 3 kids and her words about the tricky balance between being a mum and wanting to work and never quite being fully present in either are ones I’m sure a few can identify with.
I grew up in England in a place called Scarborough which is the quintessential English seaside town. I actually lived at Primrose Valley, a ‘Hi-De-Hi’ style holiday camp (Hi-De-Hi is a TV show about English holiday camps). It’s a bit like a Big 4 but then there is a club, a disco, a swimming pool and there’s kind of like an RSL almost in the middle of it all. I have a younger sister who’s six years younger than me and an older sister who is a half sister, she’s twelve years older than me. She was at boarding school and then she was at university so I don’t really remember living with her much.
We owned caravans and then we ran the fish n chip shop and the gift shop. From Easter to September there were thousands of families so I had a different set of friends every week. Mum and Dad worked around the clock and then in the winter they didn’t work at all. So from September through to Easter there were no other people, we were the only ones who lived there. We had a campervan and for Christmas holidays they would pick us up from school, we would drive through Europe to Spain for Christmas and then we would drive back, park outside school the night before school started, put our school uniform on and just go back to school.
My dad got early onset Alzheimer’s Disease in his late 50s. It was before Alzheimer’s Disease was known or understood as it is now and it was hard to get care or family support outside of a traditional medical hospital. As the disease progressed we were advised that Dad should move into a psychiatric hospital for the rest of his days. We didn’t want this to happen. My Mum decided to move away from Primrose Valley and bought an old people’s home. So my crazy childhood continued as we went from the holiday camp life to moving in with 14 elderly people who gradually became 14 people who all had Alzheimer’s Disease or some form of dementia. The home was a six storey Victorian townhouse and we lived on the top floor with all the residents in the floors below. My Mum was not only a specialist in her field but a ground-breaking carer and I’m extremely proud of the work she did at this time.
The residents were our extended family. I would have friends over and they would say “Jack, there’s a naked man in the lift”. I’d be like “oh yeah”. It was our shared home. When I went and did my piano practice the old ladies would be all sitting in the lounge window and one of them who had been very heavily involved in orchestras would sit there going “oh darling, oh no that was terrible, terrible, B sharp, not a flat there”.
I loved Scarborough because I went to the beach every day. We had a beach hut, in the UK they don’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They’re owned by the Council and you can apply to rent one for about $50 a week or as a local residents get a seasonal rental. From Easter to September every day after school, every weekend, we hung out at the beach. This was high school bit, 14 – 18, when you can just say to your mum “I’m going down to the beach”.
When I was 18, I went to Manchester for university and that kind of ties into the why I do what I do so let’s just back track a bit.
I always say that I was 11 years old in 1984 when the Ethiopian famine did two things: it inspired Bob Geldof and it inspired me. I was laid on the lounge room floor, kicking my legs watching Newsround (a kids news show in the UK) on the TV and it hit me. I said to my mum “I’ve got to change the world”. Initially, I went very environmental, campaigning. I took my mum on thousands of demonstrations. I dragged her down to London for the Free Mandela demonstration and I used to give her a really hard time about plastic bags. She was a 60s chick and I made her throw away all her leather suits and boots and she did it! I regret that now, as a grown up who would have loved wearing them, but not as a militant teenager.
And so, in 1992 I went to university to study environmental resource sciences. I was very militant, working with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. At the time, Manchester was one of the best cities in the world. The music scene was phenomenal; New Order, The Hacienda, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Factory records… The whole place was creating music and at the same time the dance scene was huge. For many years we worked hard but we played really hard as well.
When I was doing my degree I realised that if I was going to change the world I had to change the way we do business, that of the three: society, environment and business it was actually the business side of it that was out of balance. Throwing stones from the outside, working with the Greenpeaces of the world was not going to make a change. I had to get into business and change the way businesses worked and operated. Which is what I’ve been doing pretty much ever since.
While I was in Manchester I worked for The Cooperative Bank which, along with The Body Shop and Ben and Jerry’s, was a real thought leader in terms of corporate social responsibility. It’s an ethical bank and the whole premise of The Cooperative Bank is that their investment policy is voted by their customers and defines what they will and will not invest in. So for example, that meant they would not invest in the arms trade, they would not invest in oppressive regimes or anything to do with animal testing but they would support alternative energies and fair-trade programmes. Within all of that my role was to increase credit card spend – get people to spend more on their credit cards. This would normally be around air miles or similar but what we did was create something called the Customers Who Care program where for every 100 pounds spent we put a percentage into the pot and created social and environmental change. My job was to develop and manage that whole program which meant that every six months, with a mandate from the customers, I would be campaigning on a different issue. There were a million customers that I would be talking to the old fashioned way, using direct mail and writing personal letters to generate this pot of money in that the more money you spend, the more change we can create. And then I would work with the charity sector on what are the big issues, what do we need to do, how can we actually put some money into this issue and really create change. It was the best job in the world.
All those years ago we were having the same refugee debate that you guys are having here and they are still having there, so I did work on the integration of refugees into local communities. I was involved in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and then lots of stuff on the arms trade and also the portrayal of mental health and disability in the media. I found myself spending more and more time at conferences speaking and visiting large multi-nationals, like BP and British Telecom, as a representative of the bank to share our case study – for them it was basically free consultancy work.
Whilst at the bank I also became one of the first 20 people in the world to get an ethical MBA which was before its time because they wouldn’t even call it an MBA. That was Anita Roddick’s brain child; it was one of her legacy projects. It was the most amazing experience. There were 20 of us who flew in from all over the world for a week and some of them were management consultants, some worked for Unilever, one guy worked for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, everybody was just so diverse. There would be Anita and us, the participants, in a room with the most outstanding thought leaders for a really intensive week. And then, everyone went back to work and put it into practice. I did these cycles of action and reflection for a year.
It was a really crazy time. I lived in Manchester but I worked mostly in London, travelling down on the train every week, out for dinner every night with agencies or charity partners, staying in hotels. I was in my 20s and it just got to the point where I was spending so much time doing free consulting and conferences that a colleague and I who worked really closely together said maybe we should leave and actually start doing this for more companies and spread the principles that way. In 2002, we left and set up our own marketing agency as strategic brand consultants.
In 2004 my daughter Alex was born and I took some time off but when Alex was 3 months old my business partner, Jim, fell off a cliff and was in a coma for five months. We’d been working with a huge international charity called Christian Aid, they’re in the same league as Oxfam and they had phoned us one day and said “we don’t know what the Christian in Christian Aid means”. They’re multi-faith so it didn’t really mean Christian. We’d been working on helping them unravel their brand and build shared understanding and we were also working on an organic cotton project for Oxfam. And then Jim had this huge accident and Alex was tiny and I was breastfeeding. I would take my mum with me to London, go do a meeting, run out breastfeed, run back in and I thought “this isn’t cool” but I needed to finish the projects we had. I decided “I’m pulling the pin, we’ll honour the projects we’ve got and then we’ll stop”. It was time to become a full-time Mum.
And so my journey became about family. Alex is eleven now, my second, Sam, was born here in Australia, the week Alex started school – a one in one out policy – and my third, Zak, is now in 4yo kinder just a year behind his brother.
But next came divorce and our move from the UK to Australia so let’s back track a bit.
When I was at university I met the love of my life, Matt. He tells the story that I was wearing these horrific purple cords. We both remember the day of that first meeting but I remember it later on in the day, he remembers it in the afternoon. He was 18 and I was 21. We had this on and off university thing but we were very young and it wasn’t our time. We went our separate ways, lost contact completely and I thought I would never see him again. I got married to Dan who is Alex’s dad but unfortunately that didn’t work out. This was a very hard time in my life.
Matt was one of my best friends and is the only person in the world who, quite frankly, calls me on my own shit. He was the only person who I knew would be totally honest with me. I was going through my marriage breaking down and divorce and I really needed a friend, I really needed somebody who I knew was going to be straight with me. So I Googled him. I knew he was in Australia and I found out where he worked and I rang and said “I really need to send an email to Matt Newey, could you give me his email address?” And the reception girl did so I emailed him. I didn’t have any intention around it at all. I didn’t imagine what ended up happening would happen. I think I wrote that at the time, “I just need friendship right now and I just know that you’re the person that can help me”.
He wasn’t with anybody at the time, although he wasn’t averse to a little market research. We started emailing each other and talked on the phone a couple of times and we were just mates. Matt came over to the UK when he was in Italy doing some business and it was just like we were back in the day, university mates again.
When Alex was two, I wanted to go travelling before going back to work full time so I said to my ex-husband “can I take Alex away for a month before I start working full time because this is going to be our gig now and I’m not going to be a full time mum anymore”. We flew into Melbourne, caught up with Matt and then flew to Brisbane, picked up a camper van, drove north and then back down to Sydney. It was such a gift to share this experience with Alex and it is a trip that I will treasure forever.
Catching up in Melbourne, Matt and I fell head over heels in love with each other again. But it was bittersweet, we knew that given we lived at the other side of the world to each other and that both Alex and Dan were involved this had to be a decision for a lifetime. We spent the next year in this crazy long distance relationship whilst trying to negotiate the best scenario for Dan and Alex. At the time Matt was flying in a global role and so I would meet him in Thailand or if Alex was away with Dan, I would come out here.
We had a difficult court case to remove Alex from the UK jurisdiction but we came to an agreement around Alex, her Dad and school holidays and we were given permission to move. It wasn’t ideal, however every part of me knew that it was the right thing to do. I didn’t know how it was all going to work out or how it was all going to be fine but I absolutely knew it would be.
When I arrived here with Alex in 2009 I was pregnant. I do remember lying in bed one night thinking “oh my god I have moved my daughter to the other side of the world, I’m living with this guy who I’ve never really lived with and I’m pregnant, no wonder people think I’m crazy”. Because as you can imagine when you pursue something like this there is a lot of judgement from both friends and family but one else ever really knows all of the details. I just kept coming back to my knowing and my belief that for Alex moving to Australia would offer a beautiful family life with the prospect of brothers or sisters.
And of course, as with every great story it all comes to a happy ending because Alex’s dad actually moved out here too, about 18 months after we came. He now lives in Port Melbourne with his partner and her twin boys who are the same age as Alex. Poor old Alex ended up with 4 brothers! Luckily she adores them all.
When we first arrived we lived in St Kilda in what the kids affectionately call “the squished up house” and after a term at 4yo kinder Alex started her school life at St Kilda Park Primary (a former Sue Knight school). After we had Zak, who is twenty months younger than Sam, we decided it was time to move as we needed more space. I was working with a buyer’s advocate and he suggested Hampton would be perfect for us. We came one Saturday and had a mooch around; sat in a coffee shop and played in the school playground at Hampton Primary just to try and get a feel for the place.
We wanted to stay on the Bay. I didn’t want to live in Brighton but I really wanted a strip of shops you can walk to – I call it a high street but I hear that’s an English thing. I thought if I’m going to do this mumsy suburb thing, this is what I need. Melbourne will always be my home now because it’s those two parts of my life: Scarborough, the beach and then Manchester, the city, the creativity, the vibrancy and the restaurants. So for us Hampton was about the railway line and still being able to get to the city. It was about the beach and the ‘high street’. It was also about Sue Knight because our old school was a Sue Knight school and everybody held her in very high regard, so as soon as we came here and saw her name on the board I thought “ah the school is a Sue Knight school it must be awesome”.
And so, as our family and home has been established and the small people grow a little bigger I have gradually begun to turn my attention back to my work, back to changing the way we do business.
For the past couple of years I’ve been helping businesses grow by putting their values first, the profits always follow and they are generally much bigger. I’ve been helping women entrepreneurs understand what their brand is all about, get really clear on what their messaging is and share it with the world. Some people call me a coach but I don’t really identify with that. I’m more about the strategy and let’s get this stuff done. My gift is that I can see people’s magic. I see what it is that they’re absolutely brilliant at and what their customers want from them and then with all of my marketing background I can turn that into a brand communication and business development strategy to grow their business.
Most of my clients will come to me through word of mouth and from time to time I’ll run a workshop around heart-centred business development, the principles of marketing without selling.
If I’m really honest though whilst I’ve been wanting to work it’s been really hard. I’ve had the projects but I’ve been pushing against the tide trying to balance my vision for work and motherhood, the juggling, the compromise and the guilt. That feeling of never doing any job really well, never being wholly present in either space.
I talk about conscious billionaires and my vision is to provide the space, guidance and inspiration so that as many people as possible can become exactly that – a conscious billionaire. But to be a conscious billionaire is to create success from a position of total alignment with who you are; your values, beliefs and authentic expertise.
I’m very much about the whole person. If business is going to be done differently it has to enable the complete person to shine. There are many movements being made towards this but for women it’s still very hard as choices and sacrifices are made. For many women there’s a whole load of guilt there, fear of judgement and self-limiting beliefs.
In these last ten years as a Mum I’ve being learning about how, as women, we experience and navigate motherhood, work, money and identity. I needed to experience it for myself, the highs and lows, so that I can go on to help others with it. I needed to experience it for myself so that I can help reinvent the landscape with more conscious approaches to business growth and development.
And so now, the kids are growing bigger and my work is moving into its next phase. It’s about helping as many values-based businesses grow and thrive as much as possible and helping women step into that whole self; building their business with grace and ease in a way that means they have the time and space to be amazing mothers as well.
I’m open to supporting more women, there’s a book in there somewhere and who knows, it would be really powerful to attract a corporate project but perhaps most significantly this year, I’m working in collaboration on a ground breaking body of work, which of course is called Motherhood and Money.
Details of Jack’s website coming soon because, well, as you’ve just read, she’s got a lot on her plate!
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