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Women business leaders share the best advice their mother gave

- May 10, 2020 7 MIN READ

It’s Mother’s Day. We thought we would celebrate by reaching out to women in business who we admire and ask them the best advice their mother ever gave. The responses were heartwarming.

Anneke van den Broek – founder and CEO of global pet care brand Rufus & Coco

Anneke with her children and Mum.

Reflecting on everything my mum taught me, a few things come to mind. Without her kindness and compassion and love of animals, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She showed me how to love and care for pets, of which there were many! Our home was a menagerie of mice, cats, dogs, turtles, rabbits and even a rooster. They were all treated as equal family members, and it was a race to the couch because if the dog got there first, you sat on the floor!

Her persistence also taught me never to give up. She encouraged me to stick with things – essential to any entrepreneur (no business success has ever been overnight!). I was, in fact, the world’s tallest ballerina and had to practice off a higher bar in the middle of the room; but there was no giving this up with mum! This taught me great focus and the benefits that would follow if you stuck at something. Knowing the rewards that come from sticking to your commitments has helped immensely through the ups and downs of managing a global pet care business.

Lastly, I credit my mum for her impeccable style and fashion sense which ultimately inspired me to study Fashion Design. This led to managing 300 fashion shows a year for David Jones early in my career. Fashion has also been an essential element of the Rufus & Coco brand.

Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of Afea Care Service

Esha out and about with her mum.

“Interestingly thinking back over the years, my mum has never been a person to give advice. I think I have never really received advice from her, she allowed me to blossom naturally through my own life experiences. I have learnt an incredible amount of characteristics from her, as I have watched her interactions in relationships over my lifetime.

My mum has the biggest heart of gold, full of love and acceptance. I feel because she was never a really strict mother, I always felt comfortable speaking to her about my personal challenges. When I was in the darkest times in my life, she didn’t scold me or make me feel worse for the decisions I made, she always gave me assurance. Now with my own 7-year-old, I have started to do that myself, be a better listener than lecturer! This has allowed so much trust in our relationship and bonding. My mum has taught me that we all have answers in the deepest part of our core beings and if we are heard and supported we find the strength to recover from anything.”

Sheree Rubensteim founder of One Roof Women

Sheree with her mum outside One Roof in 2018.

My mum raised 3 children while working damn hard building a business with my dad and giving us the best life she could. She taught me to have a strong work ethic, the importance of family and unconditional love. I recently became a mum myself. I owe my understanding and appreciation of motherhood to my mum.

Sharon Williams Founder Taurus Marketing

Sharon shares a celebratory meal with her mum

My mother, Joy, as a single Mum, always worked in a full-time executive position so had to juggle us with a full-time career. She installed me from an early age I could do anything. I never felt less than I could be, because I was a woman. She taught me that being who I am, was a privilege, strength, a responsibility. Mum also taught me that I had to get the best education and do as well as I could because it gave me the freedom of choice. She didn’t mind what I did as a career, but told me I should keep my options open and work hard to enable me to have that choice. It was very empowering. I’ve never lacked confidence because of her. Sure there are things that I find challenging to do, but she installed in me that I was in charge. I was capable. It was down to me.

She also had the highest expectations of respect, of protocol, behaviour, dress, appearance and manners. So neither I, nor my children, can get away with anything but the highest standards. That’s been a welcome benchmark to meet all my life.

Being my mother’s daughter has not always been easy, plenty of highs and lows, ebbs and flows, but she is a fighter and she loves me, and has shown me what is possible. I love, admire and respect her.

A great piece of advice from my mother was this “You make your bed – You sleep in it” she was telling me that you have the choice to set up your life and events within it. And, you always must accept the results of your actions.

Jodie Fox entrepreneur and best selling author

Jodie with her mum at VMAFF.

My mother is practical and grounded. She has a great sense of fairness, loyalty and appreciation for those who just get in and make things happen. She modeled this to me my entire life and built a foundation for my sister and I that provided more opportunities that she was given as she was growing up.

Having had my own little one recently, I appreciate her more today than ever. She’s still the one whose hugs will never be replaceable. Who’s cooking is the most comforting. Who’s tone of voice is familiar and makes me feel safe – Which is so rare in life. Particularly, in adult life.

She may not have all the answers (and I remember in early teenage years feeling so gutted to realize this! What a transition…) but what she does have is greater than words can describe. And, I am beyond fortunate to know that kind of love.

Alexandra Ormerod, co-founder and CEO of luxury home hotel service, Luxico

Alexandra and her Mum.

My Mum wasn’t a big fan of giving advice. She was more of an advocate of listening and helping people find their own answers. Her way of giving advice was to ask questions and lead you think about your options. There were always options – she was a big believer in that and taught me that to despair over whatever challenge I may be facing was a pointless waste of time. If you want something to change, you need to consider all the options and make it happen.

The most important piece of advice Mum ever gave me was to make the most of every opportunity. Mum and her siblings were given a short list of career options by my Granddad, all involving maths and science. Whether that interested them or not, it’s what they were allowed to do. So, Mum choose Optical Dispensing and was not just the only female in her whole university course, but was also top of her class for 2/4 years of study. When I was a teenager, she opened her first spectacle store, one of three she set up before selling the business. My sisters and I spent countless hours sitting out the back of the shop completing homework and, as we got older, helping to serve customers, process orders, designing shop window displays and count the daily takings. Whilst Mum was more interested in the arts and humanities than maths or science, she made the most of the opportunities she was given and became my business role model and living proof that women could doing anything they set their mind to.

Mum died 5 years ago and there’s not a day that passes when I don’t think of her. If she were here today and I asked for her advice, I know she’d say “what are your options?” But, most importantly, I already know the answer to most my questions would be the ethos that Mum embodied in life: Make the most of what life gives you. Enjoy today. Make every moment count. Have no regrets!

Kate Carnell, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman

Kate and her mum

“Mum always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I was willing to do the work and that being a woman in business was a positive because it was easy to be noticed.

Unfortunately Mum passed away two years ago – I really miss her.”

Amanda Rose founder Western Sydney Women

Amanda and her mum Anna Rose.

The best piece of advice my mother gave me “One by one is how things get done. If I help one woman (whether it be via advice, community, business or encouragement) then I will equip her to be able to help others”

Annette Densham founder the Audacious Agency

Annette and her mum, Sue.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid; by the time I was 10, I had been to five primary schools. I was always the new kid. I always stood out; not just because I was new but because we were so poor my uniforms were always homemade – just different enough to everyone else to make me stand out. I got bullied a lot. I’d come home crying and mum would say ‘this too shall pass.’ I used to think that was the dumbest thing to say because it was happening right then and there; as a kid, you live in the moment. Now, as an adult, I totally get it. Nothing is forever. There are good days and bad days, and how I approach the bad ones dictates how quickly I get to the good. Her wisdom has helped me so much through my life and in business get through the treacle that life sometimes serves up and not dwell in the moment.

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