By Becks Tosswill
But it’s a balancing act.
Starting my own business came out of wanting to buy myself a coffee without dipping into family funds. My husband Richard and I bought our farm around the same time as our eldest daughter was born. Excited and happy as I was about both of these big events, they did turn our lives upside down. We were lucky enough to have some help from Richard’s parents in buying the farm, but especially in the first few years, everything we had was tied up in the land.
Before this, I had worked for ten years in the design industry; and my husband had been a rural bank analyst, so it felt as if we had gone from two salaries down to none. Quite apart from the financial reasons, I needed my job emotionally. Not only do I love my job, but I am fiercely independent. Being able to earn money doing something I love helps me feel like I have more control over my life.
Initially, all I wanted to do was to work to pay for little extras: coffee, of course, then a cell phone or the occasional lunch out with friends. You won’t find goals like this on any business plan but they were realistic for me at the time. I was caring for my new baby, and living on a farm 30 minutes drive from anywhere. I think more ambitious targets would have seemed too daunting.
The business has slowly evolved and because it’s developed in small stages, I’ve felt more comfortable about it.
Nine years later, my design business employs three regular contractors, and we have clients all over New Zealand. When I look back, I would never have dreamt that I would have a team of people working with me. The business has slowly evolved and because it’s developed in small stages, I’ve felt more comfortable about it. Having a supportive husband has definitely helped too.
Now, we are lucky enough to have three healthy, happy children. Right from the start, I wanted to balance work with being there for our children – they are really at the heart of everything we do. This mightn’t work for everyone, but I decided that the children should only spend three days a week in daycare. I set that limit as our line in the sand.
It sounds good in theory but in practice, it’s hard to keep a balance between a growing family and growing a business. I have a strong work ethic and always want to give my best to clients. As a sole operator of a growing business, inevitably I worked more than 20-25 hours a week. This came to a head two years ago, when I found myself working long into the night. Anyone working to tight deadlines knows that this can happen from time to time, but it had become the norm. It was making me ill, and I had to rethink the way I ran the business.