What better way to celebrate National Women’s Day than to have a City Mum Spotlight, on an inspirational woman, mum and entrepreneur? Stefanie Schwartz was a Clinical Psychologist for ten years before starting her own company; one that eighteen months later, is going from strength to strength. It’s something a lot of us mums think about: finding a passion and turning it into a successful career, so it was awesome hearing from someone who has managed to nail it.
Stef, thanks so much for chatting with us. Tell us a bit about your company Chuchka and what inspired you to start your own business?
Being a ‘business woman’ (whatever that means?) was never really on my radar. I studied Psychology and was a Clinical Psychologist for about 10 years working with children and families which I absolutely loved. I have always enjoyed creative pursuits; design and fashion etc… but it was really more of a hobby than anything else for me.
However, when I had my own children I really craved working on something more creative and moving into something quite new and different. I started off selling round towels about 18 months ago and it morphed into an array of different ‘chuchkas’ or accessories. Basically, I wanted to create items that I wanted, that are fashion forward, but aren’t going to break the bank. It’s the type of accessories I was always looking for at a price point that makes it affordable.
Was it difficult to follow your dreams like that, all the while being a mother?
I actually think being a mum and being on maternity leave gave me ‘permission’ (from myself… no one else was pressuring me to work in a particular field) to explore something different. I gave myself a timeframe to see whether the venture would work out, and if it didn’t then at least I’d tried and could always go back to what I was doing before.
Juggling being a mum and working on my own business can certainly be difficult at times, but it’s also great that I can fit work in with my family life so I don’t have to miss out on things with my children that I don’t want to. I can do excursions with my sons at school or kindy, I can pick them up early on Friday afternoons or I can go to the beach after school with them – because I can largely set my own hours. It is hectic fitting it all in but I do appreciate that if I worked for someone else I would be missing out on all of those things.
Do you think it’s possible for women to “have it all”? Career, lifestyle, kids… Chasing the dream
I do think women can ‘have it all’, but, mostly I think women should do whatever makes them happy and fulfilled – that’s the dream more than anything. I don’t like the pressure of needing to ‘have it all’, I think we should just strive to ‘have what makes us happy’. I know some women who are just born to be mums – the most incredible, calm, patient women who don’t work outside of the home and are so happy doing that and I know other mums who are career-women through and through who are better within themselves and better for their families because they have a hectic job to go to every day and I know lots of mums who do a bit of both because they enjoy the balance.
The driven part of me wants me to ‘have it all’ but the psychologist in me tells me it’s fine to have ‘some of it all’ some days ‘none of it all’ other days and ‘everything all balanced out’ for about 5 minutes.
So true. I love the idea of finding our own happiness rather than trying to confirm to society’s expectations of having “everything”. You’re a successful business woman, but what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since becoming a mother?
The biggest challenge for me as a mum was probably finding time for myself and being kind to myself. I want to do everything for my kids and to do it perfectly (I’m a bit of a perfectionist). Not only is that unrealistic, but I learned that actually showing my kids that you don’t have to be perfect is a great lesson. If I’m ‘perfect’ all the time and never make mistakes or need help how awful will they feel when they make mistakes and want to ask for help.
But, if I model to them that you can be happy and successful, but still make a bunch of mistakes along the way, that’s going to teach them far more about life and equip them better for dealing with difficulties than if I were perfect 100% of the time. So showing my faults to my family has been a challenge, but I think has been beneficial and also taking time out for myself to do the things I enjoy.
What would your one piece of advice be to women who are getting ready to go back into the work place?
Having babies is the most amazing, exciting thing ever (crazy hectic! but exciting nonetheless) – so to think about finishing maternity leave and returning to work is quite a daunting thing. So, I really think you have to make sure there are elements of your job that you really just love. I know that most people work because we need to… to send out kids to school, to be able to afford beautiful healthy meals for them etc.
BUT if you don’t really enjoy at least a part of what you do, you will hate going to work every day and that is only going to affect your own mental health and your connection with family and friends. So if your work doesn’t bring you joy, don’t be scared to try something out on the side that gives you a bit of a ‘spark’ and test out the waters for a new venture; baking healthy treats for your kids and friends, making beautiful stationary and cards, coaching your son’s soccer team. These were actually all ideas of other mum’s I know who started off following a passion on the side and have grown into amazing businesses.
Thank you, that’s incredible advice! And for my ever-favourite question on our City Mum Spotlight segment: What have your kids done lately that really made you laugh?
Both my boys (2.5 years and 4.5 years) are hilarious in different ways and literally have me laughing out loud every day. This weekend my street had a street-wide garage sale and my boys made cupcakes and brownies to sell. My older son Asher (ever the entrepreneur) decided we should sell the cupcakes for $10 each and my younger son Elias tried his best to eat all of our stock of brownies before the garage sale even started. They were chasing people down the street asking them to buy cupcakes and just had a blast.
It sounds like you have a wonderful family life, so tell us finally, what’s your ideal way to spend quality time with the kids?
I have boys so getting outside is always a must and we live near Bondi Beach – so that’s our favourite go-to place. Most weekends my husband, my boys and I will walk or scooter down to the beach for a few hours and it’s a great time to chat and just ‘stop’ with no phones or work emails. We’ll go for a swim if it’s hot enough or scooter down the beach promenade and grab some takeaway coffees and just sit back and look at the beach.
Literally every time we walk down my husband and I say how lucky we are to live so close to Bondi – there’s something super special about Bondi and you just get that relaxed feeling as soon as you get close. I’m excited my boys are lucky enough to grow up here.