This time last year, and the three years prior I was in New York City, preparing as we speak, for my Millinery shows on the runway of New York Fashion Week.
This year, however, I graciously declined the Big Apple invitation to instead embark on my own ‘stuff,’ like establishing myself in the somewhat daunting world of self employment. I felt perhaps it was time to honour the lifelong desire to grow my small businesses, and start paying back those NYFW loans that got me there. What a time it’s been! Kicking off on cue, almost immediately, everything of great cost that could have broken down, need repair, replacement or installation, doing so like a domino. I was not adequately prepared at all, and so the roller coaster began!
Over the past 15 months I’ve learned so much about business, cash flow and myself, and throughout the ups and downs and further downs, there’s been incredible friends who have stood by me as I fumbled my way through the challenging choice of working for myself and of being broke, and almost broken.
These earlier days were harrowing, especially coming to terms with the fact that I had pretty much got to rock bottom, which was far from being on the planned top of anything. Some days I received more phone calls and texts from the banks than from my family and friends. The realisation of losing my home (albeit the real estate I share with the bank) was becoming very real, and having bills upon bills that I just wasn’t able to meet devastated me. I was scared, an emotional wreck, and although determined, I silently wondered if I’d ever be able to get back up … And then in stepped my incredible friends! Endless days and nights of lengthy phone calls filled with support, encouragement, reassurance … I’ve always said “we friends serve a purpose” but never did I think I’d be so in need.
As bad as things got I could not and would not give up and my feeble hope was undoubtedly strengthened by the constant presence of these mates who propped me up. I wholeheartedly thank each of them; for being there, for continuing to believe in me and most importantly for keeping me out of that hole.
Today I’m in a better place, and as the fog clears more each morning, I feel proud to acknowledge and accept that I have learned what I SO needed to learn. The lessons have been raw and big and often painful but I accept them with the growth intended and know I’m already in a better position because of the experience. Hopefully one day I’ll be well versed enough to help others who feel they’ve got themselves to the depths from where I have just come.
Even though the reality around me was very much my real problem, I was not ready to give up the dream. And these friends who did not give up on me and were right there with me, and completely there for me, were the essential boost I needed and pretty much the reason I’ve been working my way up and out.
So, realising it’s a been while since my last update … and after sharing that I’ve been struggling a tad since, I feel it’s time to let you know what I’ve been doing.
In the beginning days I immersed myself into researching for mentors and inspiration and courses that would teach me and keep me awake and inspired; financial management, skills enhancement – training in all aspects of my chosen, self employed life. I stayed up till the wee hours and kept myself busy in learning rather than giving into the alternative of collapsing with failure.
As each month passes I continue to put another fold in the map of challenge and finally, I feel I have the headspace to write again and proudly, I even feel I have a couple of stories to tell.
In April, my small business Hats by Felicity celebrated it’s 10th year in business … can you believe it? And my accommodation, The Quarters celebrated 10 years in business as well. Proudly, both are still afloat!
With the Hats milestone I simply had to celebrate with a little gathering, after all that’s 10 years of formally creating, showing and dressing people in my creative passion. Some of my long term clients and friends have commissioned me on a regular basis since these very first beginnings. One friend even turned up to the night wearing a hat from my very first collection launch, made from my grandmothers vintage velvet, and my heart sang as it waltzed through the door.
Through my existing accommodation business “The Quarters” I have now opened my home to tourism in addition to my current corporate clientele, and I haven’t looked back. I share my little part of Broome, my town, my stories, my favourites restaurants, coffee and tours with people from around the world. I bake scones and cook damper and probably drive my ‘captive audience’ mad with hat yarns but the reviews tell me they are happy and reviews feed the bookings and the bookings have been coming … thankfully.
I still walk our beach! Cable Beach, as many mornings as I can. Regardless, I get up and out of bed – there’s no better way to start the day than with sunrise on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The ocean, my music, walking, wildlife and endless inspiration … sometimes I walk with my eyes closed and soak it all in (or perhaps I’m still waking up). Either way, I definitely thank Sweet Lady Broome!
I returned to fundraising, a pre-existing part of life that I now realise I am incomplete without. With two incredible friends I embarked on raising money for Variety, the Children’s charity, which sounds ironic when I struggled to pay the mortgage, but the focus of raising funds for others was an essential part of the recovery too. Together we three embarked on the Internationally acclaimed fundraising car rally, the Variety Bash and that’s a yarn in itself just begging to be told.
I’ve designed, produced and launched the first three products of my Hats by Felicity commercial range; the ‘Cruise Broome’ and ‘Cruise Kimberley’ hats and ‘The Bay’ visor. I am excitedly selling all three products through my weekend market stall and my online store (that incidentally I built with some nearly acquired skills) and I’m seriously proud to have these products now wholesaling through several outlets across Northern Australia.
I re-launched my project and business development self (my other life long passion) and as FMB Projects I am thrilled to be involved with some damn inspirational people, and progressing exciting projects within the industries that I love.
I continue to immerse myself in my passion of creating one-off millinery creations and thank those who fall in love with these pieces and purchase from my collections, along with those who continue to commission me to create their bespoke pieces, which not only keeps me immersed in my passion and growing my art but also keeps me so happy, chuffed and complete.
More recently and most humbly, I have been completely overwhelmed by the comments and words from people I know and don’t know, in response to the Foxtel release of the documentary, MadHATtan; the story of my journey from Broome to the Big Apple, produced by Caro Constantine and Annie Parnell. If you have Foxtel, I’d love you to watch the yarn which is airing on LifestyleYou .. hilariously, I don’t have Foxtel but after two and a half years in the filming I have an idea of what secrets have been shared and I have seen Caro’s masterpiece in it’s final edit.
When you’ve finished this read, grab a beverage and click the link below for the Official MadHATtan trailer …
Despite the challenges imposed by choice of leaving salaried income and amongst the fog and haze that I am by no means on top of yet, I am doing what I love and this to me is so important and is absolutely the right thing for me to do. I’ve had a lot to learn and my situation immersed me deep into that; I also had a lot to learn about myself and those around me … and I have.
My journey is exactly that – mine, but I completely acknowledge I wouldn’t be on the right road without my treasured mates and with all my heart I salute and thank you.
I know I still have a long way to go before I can stop my duck legs paddling like demons underwater, but finally, I realise that I’m not the only one and that it’s going to be OK.
As for the Variety Bash … well that crazy Adventure commands a Blog of it’s own … so stay tuned for this colourful yarn cause it’s definitely coming your way!
In the meantime, though, keep smiling and looking out for your mates, especially if their smile has disappeared. We all need each other! It’s often a difficult book we live.