Michelle lives in Wagga and together with her husband runs a design agency, Sunday Collective. She shared her journey with us and how living in regional Australia has allowed them to have the best of both worlds.
Can you tell us about your career journey?
After years of working and freelancing around agencies in Sydney and Canberra, I was approached by a client—Schwarzkopf Professional—to work internally. I looked after all the design, advertising and production for Australia and New Zealand. Everything from point of sale, advertising, direct mail, exhibition graphics and stand design, signage, packaging and marketing campaigns. It was a great insight into how a marketing department functions and a valuable client-side experience.
After five years I knew I wanted to start my own agency so I negotiated to take them as a client. I still work for them on a contract basis three days a week after six years. So Sunday Collective was born and I joined with my husband who was also an art director with 15+ years experience in branding and fashion. Together we have secured many other national clients and the business continues to grow.
We left Sydney about two years ago after our second child and now live in regional NSW. We kept our Sydney clients and also have now gained so many regional clients including government, university and recently AusPost on one of their regional projects. We are fortunate that our work can be produced remotely— we feel like we have the best of both worlds. No commuting and more time with our babies.
You left the corporate world to launch your own business just before you fell pregnant. Tell us about this.
My husband and I wanted to have a baby and my employer at the time didn’t offer maternity leave. Sydney is expensive, rent plus everyday living comes at a cost. I knew we couldn’t afford for me to have a year off work and I wanted to spend that precious time with our baby, and so did my husband. So we decided to launch Sunday Collective.
How did you manage starting a small business and babies in those early years?
If I’m going to be honest, I would say it was very challenging. Although it was great to work for myself and have a sense of freedom, it meant I also didn’t have maternity leave. I needed to keep my clients happy and the work flowing in to pay the bills. With both kids I started working after about two months when they were having their day sleep and at nights. I worked very hard when I got that window of time to fit nearly a day’s work in a few hours. It was quite exhausting.
I breastfed both kids until they were about 12 months and then they went to daycare for three days a week. In saying that, I also got to be with them in those early months and that I will treasure forever.
What advice would you give to mamas looking to start a business?
If you can don’t jump into the business too early after kids, and take your time. Give yourself that space to be a mum and once the timing is right, dedicate set times to work and set times to be a mum. Trying to juggle the two at once can be overwhelming. Co-working spaces can be a great environment to interact with other people and it will also help you network to grow your business.
Most importantly … look after yourself. Make some time for you.
How has motherhood changed you?
It has helped me see the bigger picture. My kids are the most important thing in my life and they are what matters most to me. They always come first and if they need me I’m there for them. They put a lot of things into perspective … You become selfless.
How do you deal with mama guilt?
This topic is tough for me and I think most mums struggle with guilt. When the kids are so young it’s tough to juggle a career and motherhood. You just have to do the best you can and not put too much pressure on yourself to be prefect at everything. You have to let go.
I handle tough days in the office by …
Going for a long walk and listening to my favourite music. Clears my head. I also love gardening, my son and I spend a lot of time in our vegie patch.
What is the best career advice you have ever been given?
Surround yourself with right people—people that support and motivate you. People that you can learn from.
Tell us about your daily routine?
- 7AM—Up and getting kids ready for daycare / pre-school
- 8AM—Husband leaves to do drop off
- 8.30AM— I start work for the day
- 3PM—I do school pick-up
- 4PM—Home playing with the kids. This is an important time to play and talk about the day
- 6 to 7.30PM—Dinner, bath, reading, kids off to bed
- 7.30 to 8PM—Start work again. Most nights working until about 9PM.
I will fit in a short walk if I don’t have too many deadlines!
When do you find time to read?
I don’t! I have attempted to, but I fall asleep every time, so I listen to podcasts instead whilst exercising.
Where is your favourite family holiday?
The south coast of NSW. I used to holiday there as a child so it’s special to take my children there and make beautiful memories.
How do you juggle motherhood and work—what are your time management tips?
I often ask girlfriends and other mothers what their cheats are, things that save them time and help them day-to-day. I have adapted many and it all helps. Here are a few:
- Outsourcing: cleaning, ironing, gardening anything you can afford, helps with the load and the to-do list!
- Getting your groceries delivered. Save a list online and get your food delivered each week. Also keeps you on budget.
- A big cook-off on the weekend and freeze meals for the week. Same with school lunches, make them the night before.
- Favourite time of the day is … love my kids but it’s when they go to bed!
- Instagram sites that inspire you … @foliolio @_moderntimes_ @thedesignfiles @behance @designmilkeveryday
- I’m happiest when … I’m in the garden
- I’m addicted to … coffee
- Favourite wardrobe staple for work … black on black
- Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … my Stan Smith trainers
- My role model is … my girlfriends who I went to school with. We remain tight after 20 years, chatting daily on what’s app about life, career and motherhood. I am so inspired by them everyday.
- Heels or flats? … flats.
Michelle works at Sunday Collective, which she owns with her husband. Together, they have two children.