Interview with Natalie Kessell
goal is to empower women to become their best selves by arming them with the knowledge and tools to overcome overwhelm, become more productive with less stress, put themselves first (minus the guilt) and ensure that their work or business complements their life without it taking over. The experience is enhanced by the opportunity to connect and learn from other like-minded women in our community.
Hi Natalie! Could you please introduce Biz Gals and what led to your founding the initiative back in 2010?
I founded Biz Gals back in 2010 when I was a small business owner. I had a boutique skincare brand called Pink Hibiscus that I ran from home, mixing my lotions and potions in my kitchen and it was my first foray into business. What I found was that I was really lonely and I really wanted, craved and needed a group of women around me who had been through the same thing or were going through the same thing as me, so that we could bounce ideas off each other, be each other's cheerleaders, support each other in our individual business endeavours, and really learn along the way together. Back then there weren't too many options, the options that were around were the sort of networking groups that encouraged you to take a pile of business cards and hand them out to as many people as you could. I just didn't feel that that was creating authentic connections. I created an intimate group that was a lot more affordable than what was out there and the idea was that 20 to 30 women would gather once a month and we would brainstorm and we would chat, we would share and we would really help each other get through the challenges that small businesses face. It was a really beautiful, authentic experience and something that has continued to this day. Now, Biz Gals has transformed, it's pivoted if you like and it's now a community for women in business who need to take a break. It could be women who need to take a break, but it's just that authentic really nurturing group. We all support each other constantly and it's a really lovely thing to be a part of.
Why do you think so many women in business feel guilt when they put themselves first, both in their personal and professional lives?
I think so many women in business feel guilty when they put themselves first, because we're designed to be nurturers. We're designed to look after other people more so than ourselves, and often to the detriment of ourselves. In the past, that has been a lot more feasible with women being the homemaker and staying at home and looking after the children and not having to balance as much as they do now. Not saying it was right in the past, but it was a lot more feasible. Now that we're doing so many more things, it's a lot harder to make sure that everyone else is okay and still leave a little bit for ourselves. Our hashtag me first challenge in the program, was designed because it's supremely important to put yourself first, every single day. That could be for one minute at the beginning of the day, it could be for 10 minutes at the end of the day, it could be for an hour, that would be fantastic. But the message that we're trying to convey is that you should put yourself first because as the old adage goes, pop your oxygen mask on first before you help anyone else in an airplane accident, so why shouldn't it be that way in life.
You need to make sure that you are in the position to be able to help other people, so if that allays the guilt a little bit, by doing something for yourself you're actually helping everyone else and you're being a lot more productive along the way, which sounds odd but it is true. Take some time out and you will increase your productivity, so it's time for women to just let go of the guilt and look after yourself first.
How has the Biz Gals community grown since it was first founded?
I actually took a little bit of a break from Biz Gals when I re-entered corporate life and wasn't able to find the time to be able to manage the community. It was something that I always kept dear to my heart, it was something I knew I always wanted to revisit when the time was right. The time was right a couple of years ago when I relaunched, and it was very different. It's still intimate, we still cap the numbers at our events, but our events are a little bit more polished now, we have some amazing guest speakers, where before it was all about just the connections and meeting up and supporting each other. Now, we've had some amazing guest speakers including people like Tracey Spicer, Ann Sherry, Gretel Killeen. Margaret Pomeranz, Keimy Netforpill and Emma Corbett. These wonderful women who have supported Biz Gals and shared their stories, shared advice, shared their learnings from their time in life and business. The community has broadened rather than just being dedicated to women in small business. It's now for women in general, but it's a lot more broad, we have a wide range of women from, women who have just left university, to CEOs and everything in between and that's great. There is so much more variety and there are many more learnings from that as well. It's a really exciting time for Biz Gals with the change in the focus on women in business needing to take a break, that's really resonated with everyone and has broadened our community even more.
What have been some of the biggest success stories to come out of Biz Gals? Are there any members in particular whose stories inspire you?
There are so many success stories that have come out of Biz Gals and it's not really about singling one out in particular. In general, the collaborations that have come out of this community are phenomenal. From day one, the women who met at our community are still working together, they're still friends, they're still championing each other, they're blending their businesses, they're helping each other. Whether that be through giving them access to an interview within the company that they work in, whether it be brand collaborations, whether it be attending all of their events or purchasing their brands, being their brand ambassadors. That's really what Biz Gals is all about, it's about being each other's cheerleaders. We have some hugely successful women as part of our Biz Gals community. We've had some hugely successful women who have presented at Biz Gals as part of the community and inspired others, but the thing that really just hits me right here, are the connections that have been made that have lasted over a decade. There's something to be said about that, because it's really challenging out there these days and you do need your tribe around you and you need those people to support you. That's really the big success story of Biz Gals, from my perspective at least.
What's next for your work with Biz Gals? What are the main projects, partnerships, and markets you'll be focusing on in 2019?
2019 is going to be a huge year for Biz Gals. What I'm trying to do this year is really take Biz Gals global. That doesn't mean that I'm going to be flying to Paris and hosting events, even though I'd love to, but what it means is I'm going virtual. It's taken me a little while, we had some feedback from our community last year who weren't able to make some of our events and we're going to take all of our events live. We're trialling it out for the first time with our International Women's Day event next month, where you can be a virtual Biz Gal at our events, and I'm also wanting to roll out some online masterclasses with some absolutely brilliant and inspiring speakers. That's probably my focus for this year. We also have some great collaborations with corporates as well. We are utilising venue space now with a lot more corporate offices and blending our ideas and values, and really getting Biz Gals out to a broader community. Something else I'm really excited about is the launch of the Biz Gals online store. That will be launching hopefully in a couple of months. It's something I've wanted to do for a while now, it's going to be supporting the brands that are run by the women in our community. I think it's a really great way to showcase some of the brilliant products that are out there from our Biz Gals community. It'll add a little bit of a difference to the site and make it a little bit more interactive. It's certainly a really exciting time and we're looking forward to more retreats, more events and more reach, through virtual events in 2019. We hope to see you at one of them, at least.