We've heard that so many of you delight in reading the stories of our members across the world, and we know this week's subject will be no different.
As the founder of Luxuosa Residences, the wonderful Joanna White may soon be your go-to woman when it comes to booking luxurious, family-friendly holidays. We were delighted to speak to Joanna about her road to becoming a business owner, how she manages the work-life juggle and of course, her top travel picks. We're ready to pack our bags and come right with you, Joanna!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and your work?<p>I'm from Sydney, and grew up in a great family home surrounded by lots of wonderful friends and family. In 2012 I met my husband on a work trip to Hong Kong, and a few years later moved up to be with him and set up a life in Hong Kong. I did a career U-turn at the age of 25 after working in the film industry, and turned my interest to travel and hotels. I had some incredible opportunities and experiences working for hotel groups, and was lucky to do a lot of travelling and was exposed to so many wonderful cities and cultures through my work. When I moved to Hong Kong, I did some work for a company specialising in luxury villa rentals, and I absolutely fell in love with this part of the industry; private villa rentals and bespoke holidays. I set up Luxuosa while I was pregnant with my son Angus, and continued to build the business for the next 18 months, launching after the birth of my daughter, Farrah. They are 17 months apart.</p>
What does a typical morning look like in your household?<p>Mornings I try to keep fairly routine and fun. My husband has an early start at work, and the kids are usually up for cuddles around 6.30am so I have a cup of tea in bed and they have their milk and giggle as they play hide and seek under the blankets. I then get them breakfast and ready for the day, and then they have a play for an hour at home while I get ready and do some work catching up emails from the night before. Then I drop my son at pre-school, while my daughter (19 months) heads off to the park, zoo or library with our lovely nanny. </p>
Did your work or career shift since becoming a mother?<p>Yes, it was when I fell pregnant with Angus (now 3) that I decided I was ready to start my own company. I spent most of the pregnancy working as a consultant to some luxury travel brands i.e Luxe City Guides, while building and creating the website, product and platform that runs Luxuosa. I absolutely love what I do, but I'm someone who wants to do it all and tends to burn the candle at both ends, so it took time to get into a rhythm of juggling being a new mum, and founding a company. </p>
How do you make the juggle work in your family?<p>We have a fairly structured week Monday-Friday which means I have full days in the office, and other times can work remotely to fit around the kids' activities. My husband is also incredibly supportive and helps when I'm working into the night speaking with clients and suppliers in the UK & Europe. I'm also an early riser and manage the get at least half an hour in the mornings to myself which is a huge help in getting on top of things for the day, so no matter how the day unfolds, I'm ahead.</p>
Can you tell us a bit about Luxuosa?<p>Luxuosa is a hybrid of luxury holiday villas around the world, and bespoke travel design.</p><p>Every one of the bookings is personally curated, and bookings are by enquiry only – we don't offer an online booking channel so it allows us to get to know each client very well.</p><p>We take incredible care in helping the client find the ultimate villa/estate or in some cases castles, for their holiday and then tie all the ends together whether it be boat, car, jet transfers, private experiences right down to personally selecting babysitters and chefs. </p><p>Each one of the villas we work with is vetted and hand-picked and all villas have a quality which makes them special; whether it be its location, interiors, gardens or history. Currently at over 500+ villas, we are constantly expanding and growing with the goal of being the "go-to" for every holiday-maker looking for a holiday home and experience designed specifically for them.</p><p>Our clients are scattered all over the world and we take bookings any time of the day – regardless of where the clients are based. We also offer a very wide range of villas so there are lots of options as every client has a different budget, style of villa they like, and specific needs i.e. expansive lawns for kids to run around, in-house hammam, beachfront location, remote island; the list is endless. </p>
Could you name a favourite property?<p>Such a hard question! I love all of them.</p><p>If I had to choose one for me and my family now I would probably book two weeks at <a href="https://luxuosaresidences.com/properties/domaine-dares/" target="_blank">Domaine d'Ares</a> in Saint Rémy de Provence. It's a magical estate with over 8 acres of gardens including a huge heated swimming pool and tennis court. On the other side of the house past the vegetable gardens, is a children's house and garden; a paradise entirely dedicated to the kids to play in. It sleeps up to 18 guests across 10 bedrooms so is a great summer home for a few families sharing.</p><p>I also love <a href="https://luxuosaresidences.com/properties/casa-juliette/" target="_blank">Casa Juliette</a> in Ibiza, and its location close to Es Cubells and Sant Josep means there is an endless number of white sand beaches on your doorstep which are perfectly kid-friendly. It has two pools, lots of outdoor space including a children's playground and the bedrooms are large and bright. For family holidays in Ibiza, June or September are ideally the best times to go to avoid the crowds, and the weather is perfect. Plus the rates can drop by up to 50% outside of July/ August, which is always a plus!</p><p>In Asia, <a href="https://luxuosaresidences.com/properties/villa-analaya/" target="_blank">Villa Analaya</a> is an incredible 6 bedroom beach-front villa with a huge outdoor living area and edge infinity pool overlooking the Andaman Sea. It has 3 separate sleeping quarters (each with two bedrooms) so if you're sharing with friends or family you have your own private space. It's located on the West Coast of the island so it's great if you want a few dinners out as well. We recommend Catch Beach Club & Amanpuri's Thai Restaurant.</p><p>And lastly, in Byron Bay, <a href="https://luxuosaresidences.com/properties/orana/" target="_blank">Orana Beach House</a> is a fabulously chic beach house walking distance to Clarkes Beach and town. It generally books out well in advance, but if you're organised to book at least 6 months out, you'll be very happy with a week or two here. Top Shop is around the corner for morning coffee and egg rolls and it's perfect if you want to share with another family as there's great privacy between the bedrooms.</p>
What’s your favourite travel destination as a family?<p>For families with younger children, anywhere with a beach or big pool and lawn is incredible as they are entertained for hours, and it's a great burn out for them too. In Asia, I tend to recommend booking a well-located villa in either Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bali.</p><p>All of these destinations have incredible villas, service and food. <a href="https://luxuosaresidences.com/properties/zambala/" target="_blank">Villa Zambala</a> in Canggu Bali is excellent for families, and their staff are incredibly playful and kind with the children. Once you have a well-appointed villa you don't tend to venture out too often which gives you a chance to relax while the kids are entertained. In Asia it's very easy to make the villa the destination and bring in all the wonderful experiences i.e. yoga, art classes for the kids, cooking classes, massage. </p>
What’s your proudest career achievement to date?<p>It would definitely have to be launching Luxuosa. I have always dreamt about having my own company, and finally sending it live was a huge milestone.</p>
What’s your most memorable moment of motherhood so far?<p>Gosh, so many… The most memorable though would have to be the birth of both of the kids. Those first precious moments together are euphoric and nothing can come close to that maternal explosion of love.</p>
How do you switch off and make time for you?<p>A good laugh, a cheese board and a bottle of Chardonnay with my best girlfriends is my usual go-to, but I also play cricket for the Hong Kong Cricket Club. I played at school and uni and picked it back up again last year and I love it. Playing in a team again, who can be fairly competitive is great and my kids love coming to watch me play on the weekends.</p>
What lessons are you hoping to instil in your children, or legacy are you hoping to create?<p>Resilience, confidence and a good sense of humour. My Grandmother used to say to us when we were young, that it was important to find a partner for life with a good sense of humour, as laughter makes for a great life.</p>
What sacrifices have you had to make since becoming a mother?<p>It's definitely been a shift and an adjustment to the speed in which my husband and I used to live life, socialise and travel for fun, but I love the time I have with the kids, and we take them with us a lot of the time to friends places and to BBQs. We also plan our weeks around being able to get out and see friends, watching and playing sport (for Adam) as I think it's important to retain (where possible!) that interaction. We're both total extroverts so somehow we make it work! </p>
What are the top ten things on your favourites list at the moment?<ul><li>Ottelenghi's book SIMPLE is my go-to for dinners and I love almost all of the recipes in this cookbook of his. The slow-cooked lemon, mint & cumin lamb is always a crowd-pleaser.</li><li><a href="https://www.standishwineco.com/" target="_blank">Standish</a> wines from the Barossa Valley. Head wine maker and owner Dan Standish produces I think, some of the best Australian red wines.</li><li>Rationale's tinted sunscreen/ moisturiser C7 product is heavy enough to substitute <a href="https://www.rationale.com/" target="_blank">foundation</a>, and just seems to disappear and look invisible at the same time.</li><li>Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette is a staple and gives you shine and bronze in one which I love. I go through it far too quickly!</li><li>I'm a big fan of Isabel Marant's Etoile range, and floaty silk pieces by Ulla Johnson or Chloe. Hong Kong tends to warm most of the year so I live in sandals (K Jacques) and dresses.</li><li><a href="https://www.retykle.com/" target="_blank">Retykle</a>: An innovative luxury resale e-commerce platform (and soon to be permanent shop in Hong Kong) enabling you to buy great kids clothing at a fraction of the retail price with brands I love like Bonpoint & Jacardi.</li><li>The Daily podcast which is news podcast covering the latest political, cultural breaking news hosted by Michael Barbaro from the New York Times – It's 27 minutes and gives great insight and understanding (perfect for the walk to work).</li><li>Fleabag Series by created and acted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also stars in it is absolutely hilarious and a perfect laugh after a long day.</li><li>Xtend Barre Classes – I've recently taken this up and I'm a convert. It's the perfect mix of Pilates and cardio. Flex studio in Hong Kong is fresh & bright and they limit classes to 8 people so you get a lot of hands-on adjustments if you need it. Great for an energy & muscle booster.</li><li></li></ul>
When I first stumbled upon hygge:liv, it was as if the universe had stepped in to tell me something.
I'd been spending far too long pondering how to give my living room a lift (such is the curse of a breastfeeding, couch-bound mother), but this desire to decorate was met with extreme guilt over consumption. I couldn't help but recognise that my very best keep-cup and canvas bag ways could be undone by a quick fix decor update.
While I'm not suggesting that all soft furnishings are made unsustainably, there's an unquestionable queasy feeling I receive when perusing the aisles and aisles of cushions at a mass-market store.
What inspired the launch of hygge:liv?<p>We have been friends for over 16 years and have a shared love for design and interiors. We've always wanted to create something really special together. We both love living on the coast and the lifestyle that it brings. We are also extremely passionate about the textile waste issue and wanted to develop a brand and product that reduces landfill fill and contributes to changing the world in a positive way.</p>
Can you talk us through the philosophy behind the brand and the collection?<p>We are so passionate about minimising our carbon footprint and reducing landfill, which is why it's so important that our processes are as sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly as possible.</p><p>hygge:liv cushions are designed to be timeless. Designed so you can add to your collection over time, from one season to another. As opposed to launching new collections based on seasonal trends that come and go, the range has been designed to be fluid and be able to work back together. hygge:liv cushions are something you can treasure and hold onto, providing a sense of comfort, warmth, familiarity and joy. – exactly what "hygge" is all about.</p>
Where do you source your gorgeous fabrics?<p>We source our gorgeous fabrics from Queen Of Raw and FabScrap in New York. Unfortunately, it's really difficult to get credible unused textiles here in Australia. We do a lot in recycling and reusing clothing, however not saving and giving new life to unused textiles that are sitting in warehouses on in companies inventory. We are working on some exciting projects and collaborations to help education in Australia.</p>
What inspires your selection? Are there particular styles/colours/textures you’re drawn to?<p>Our hygge:liv collections are inspired by the environment the coast has to offer. From the wide-open beaches and it's rugged landscape to the inspiration of travel and the culture each place has to offer. Our design process is based on the fabrics we have. We place all our fabrics into complementary colourways and start the design process from there. We then pair them with backs that create a unique and eclectic design. </p>
hygge:liv allows us to indulge in our love of interior design, while also contributing positively to the environment. Why was this so important to you?<p>We became aware of the global textile waste issues. We really wanted to be part of the education and the change. We wanted to develop luxe, beautiful products that also help with reducing landfill. People have a really incorrect perception that unused or dead stock textiles must be poor quality and are unappealing. This couldn't be further from the truth. It was important for us to create beautiful products and help people understand what we can make out of these incredible textiles.</p>
Can you tell us about some of the other ways you champion sustainability throughout your business?<p>Yes, we have also included keep cups in our collection to help with reducing the use of take away coffee cups. All of our products come with a high-quality hygge:liv tote bag. This can be used instead of a plastic bag for shopping or generally transposing things. All of our deliveries are sent out in 100% compostable satchels. All of our marketing collateral in on recyclable stock. These are just the starting point we are developing further ways to ensure we are doing everything we can to be sustainable and help with the education. We have some exciting things in the pipeline.</p>
Can you tell us about your relationship with Queen of Raw?<p>We have built an amazing relationship with Queen of Raw. The work Stephanie and Phil do is incredible and we've been so lucky to have aligned with them as we are all working towards the same goal.</p><p>We really feel like Queen of Raw gave us the opportunity to live out our dream. It allowed us to create a brand where we were able to purchase beautiful high-end fabrications, save them from landfill to then create our luxe collections.</p><p>It also empowered us to think bigger about who we are as a brand and the way we run our operations. It reinforced the idea that using existing fabrics is the only way to create a range of lifestyle products if we want to minimise our impact on the environment. Queen of Raw also highlighted the importance of education and the role we can play on educating Australians on the global waste issues we're facing.</p><p>Many Australians have no idea of the type of waste that goes on throughout the fashion supply chain. It has ignited a fire within us to spread the word and change people's perceptions. We want to show them they can make a difference, and it starts by being accountable for their actions, being more aware of what they are purchasing and how global supply chains work. Together we can make a huge difference and change the textile industry, and ultimately have a significant impact on the world.</p>
You both launched hygge:liv on the side of what are already quite demanding roles. What prompted you to start the business as a side-hustle?<p>We both naturally love to be busy and working on exciting projects. This came at a time where we were both ready to start a new and exciting project. We new that the textile waste issue was very real and only getting worse. 2019 was the time to start hygge:liv and embark on a new and fulfilling journey. hygge:liv compliments our lives and the things we are already doing. It made a lot of sense and we haven't looked back.</p>
What has been the biggest challenge in setting up the business?<p>Our biggest challenge when setting up the business was learning about textiles, textile construction and sewing. This is something we didn't have a heap of knowledge on going into hygge:liv. We have learnt so much about textile and sewing. We even did a sewing class, which reiterated to stick to what our strengths are…!</p><p>Understanding how fabrics react and what they are suited for has been a huge learning for us. The work that goes into sewing each product is so labour intensive. We are so excited for collection 2 as we know so much more going into the design and production process.</p>
Something many women looking to start a business wonder is how to fund it. How have you approached this?<p>This can be a challenge. I think in our situation we have really different strengths and skill sets meaning that we can do a lot of the business set up and running ourselves. Obviously you still have to have some dollars to contribute when starting a business. Fortunately as a partnership we've been able to both contribute our time and dollars into the business. When starting a business you really need to have a budget and a good plan to ensure you spend your dollars in the right areas. You have to really crawl before you walk when starting. We have also found having a 3 to 5 year plan has helped ensure we are achieving our goals and setting key objectives for our future.</p>
What is your dream for hygge:liv?<p>Our dream is to educate Australian's on the major global textile waste issue. We want to help people be aware and make changes.</p><p>We want to be a brand people choose to purchase from for our core values and what we represent as well as our luxe and high-quality products.</p><p>We want to end up aligning and working closely with a charity that aligns with our values.</p><p>We want to expand our product offering. We are starting to work closely with interior designers on custom making products for clients.</p><p>We will build on our interior service offering. Our passion is helping people select or design products for their spaces.</p>
How do you manage business and friendship?<p>Fortunately, we haven't had any issues in this area. We have a very similar personality, however, we do things in different ways that complement each other and our relationships personally and in business.</p><p>Our number one priority will always be our friendship. We love working on hygge:liv together and have a very similar work ethic which has helped when setting up and managing our business. We both have an energy that helps motivate each other and ensures we thrive.</p>
What are some of the most beautiful ways you’ve seen your cushions styled?<p>Our cushions have been designed to move from space to space, working as a piece of art and bringing life to any space. We love seeing our Euro cushions styled as floor cushions in peoples beautiful living spaces.</p><p>We love seeing our cushions styled on daybeds and cosy nooks in houses.</p>
Aside from hygge:liv, what are your favourite stores/sources for shopping for your home?<p>We love independent boutique Jarvis and Jarvis in Torquay, House of Orange, Ahoy Trader and beautiful stores we find when travelling or on holidays. Purchasing pieces that evoke memories of adventure and happiness we've experienced in places we visit.</p>
Erin, you have your full time job, hygge:liv and three children. What’s your secret!?<p>I'm not going to lie it is chaos and can be a real challenge. I think the key is planning and having a good support network in place. It is really important to our family unit that we are all living out our dreams and truly happy.</p><p>I strive to be a really good role model for my kids. I want them to know me as a mother and a successful business person. It is possible to be both, it's just important to have balance and know when to prioritise family and work life.</p><p>My husband is extremely supportive and we share the load when it comes to family life. It's taken time and a lot of hard work, however, we've finally worked out a way that works for us and our situation. The biggest challenge has been not getting wrapped up in what people think you should do or what they think makes you a good mother.</p><p>As long as everyone feels loved and happy that is all that matters. I feel so lucky to have the incredible family and be able to live out my dreams and not compromise either. Living in the moment is something that I'm learning to do and a challenge.</p>
How do you make the juggle work in your family?<p>Having a supportive family. Being extremely well planned it also really important in making the juggle work. My husband and I being a team and sharing the load. Knowing when things are challenging and hard and asking for help. Working really hard when it counts.</p>
What are your top time management tips for busy mothers?<ul><li>Having a plan at the beginning of each week</li><li>A great daily to-do list</li><li>Communication with your support network</li><li>Being patient and flexible when things go wrong</li></ul>
What tips do you have for women who might be looking to launch their own business?<p>Follow your dreams, anything is possible. Don't give up. Surround yourself with positive can-do people. Set goals for what you want to achieve. Don't be afraid to ask for help or surround yourself with support. Make sure you prioritise what makes you happy and go for it.</p>
“I’ve been isolated from my kids for 23 days and I don’t know when I’ll go home” – The Mother of 3 Battling Coronavirus, Quarantine, and the Health Department
Anyone with young children at home has probably joked about needing a nice, long, solo holiday away from them at some stage. For GRACE Collective member Erin Hughes, that fantasy became something of a nightmare when she contracted coronavirus after a short business trip to the US.
With three kids under the age of five, not to mention two businesses to run, 'busy' is just a way of life for the founder of sustainable homewares brand hygge:liv – but, she says, that's going to change after this experience. She's now been self-isolating away from her family for 23 days, and with the virus showing no sign of easing, she's not sure when she'll be able to finally reunite with them. "I've always struggled with slowing down and just living for now", she tells us. But now, "I have learnt that I don't want or need to go back to such a hectic, busy life. It's taught me to slow down and focus on what's important."
You decided to self-isolate away from your family after returning from a business trip to the US - although you weren't displaying any symptoms. That must have been a hard decision to make with such young kids at home…<p>Yes, I went on a short business trip to LA & NYC. Unfortunately, I never made it to NYC as everything started to shut down. Things got really serious in the US really quickly. I decided after 48 hours that I needed to get home, as I didn't want to get stuck in the USA. Having 3 kids aged five and under, I couldn't risk being stuck over the other side of the world. Luckily, Qantas put me on a flight that night to get home, which was a few days before I was due to fly back.</p><p>As I waited at the lounge for the flight, an announcement was made that The Australian Government had enforced that anyone landing in Australia from overseas would have to go into self-isolation as soon as we landed. At this point no one knew what that really meant, or what the rules were. Apparently, I could have potentially self-quarantined at home with the family, however we would have had to ensure that the kids remained more than 10 feet away from me at all times, and I could not come into contact with any family members. I have a 5 year old, a 4 year old and a 22 month year old. I just knew that wouldn't be possible.</p><p>It was a really hard decision as the thought of being away from the kids and my family for two weeks was heartbreaking. Especially when I thought it was unlikely I would actually have coronavirus. The only thing that made the decision somewhat easy was that the government had enforced it, and if I did get sick I wasn't worried for myself – I just didn't want to pass the virus on to my kids, family, or anyone else. Thankfully I can sleep at night knowing I haven't made anyone sick.</p><p>I was fortunate that I could go straight to my dad's beach house on The Great Ocean Road. However, for people that didn't have the option of an empty house, or if money was an issue, I'm not sure how they would have managed self-quarantining. The best thing that's happened is the government sending people from overseas to hotels, so at least people are safe and have a place to go to self-quarantine. It would have been far easier to go home and be with my family, however I just couldn't risk it considering how serious this virus is and the effect it has on people.</p>
Were you surprised to find there wasn't any enforcement of the self-isolation rule when you arrived in Melbourne?<p>We were all absolutely shocked. We had no idea what to expect when landing in Melbourne. I assumed I would be stuck at the airport all day so officials could check us all, maybe even temperatures, as well as document where we were going. The Qantas crew also had no information, as we were one of the first flights to land post the new quarantine rule coming in. It was extremely confusing for people who were going on to other domestic flights from this one. You would assume they had to quarantine in Melbourne, due to potentially spreading the virus on the domestic flights.</p><p>When we landed someone came onto the plane in a full medical uniform and protective gear. They said nothing, just came on board and then left. All we were told was to not take photos of the official that had boarded the plane – I can only assume to not create panic on social media. We all got off the plane and the airport and processes were business as usual – no one telling us what we had to do, or giving any further information on self-quarantining. We got a flyer with a couple of dot points highlighting that we had to self-quarantine. No strict rules or procedures. The airport truly was exactly the same as any other day of travel. People were able to board domestic flights, no questions asked. I was able to call the private car park where my car was parked, and the shuttle came and picked 10 of us up (all from international flights) and dropped us to our cars. It was so confusing as to what was required from us, and there were absolutely no formalities to enforce anything. Because of the risk to my family or general community I went straight to my dad's beach house, and have now been here for 23 days. I'm still not sure when I can go home.</p>
Did you have any help or support systems in place to get you through your isolation period?<p>My husband and I both have our own businesses, so we have an amazing nanny during the week. Thankfully she was able to pack me a bag of things I needed, and purchase food for me whilst in quarantine. The fact that I knew I was going into self-quarantine made it easier for me to organise.</p><p>I have been able to have things like food, coffee and other pick me up items dropped at my deck, which has been so helpful. So many beautiful family friends are constantly calling and seeing if I need anything, and have also been in touch with my family to see if they can help.</p><p>I'm also so grateful for my husband who has been truly amazing and taken on the single parent role with flying colours. It' so stressful being away from the family, however knowing everyone is happy and healthy makes everything easier. My eldest son Archie Facetimes me several times a day, which is so gorgeous and makes me so happy. Technology has made this situation manageable. I'm able to work as normal, which I do from home generally so that's helped me try and maintain normality. I'm also very grateful for Netflix! If I knew I was going to be still in self-quarantine now, I don't think I would have coped and it would have been a very difficult situation to try and prepare for. When going into this, I genuinely thought it would be 14 days tops. I never imagined I would still be here, and still not know when I'm going home.</p>
How has your family managed - did your husband have to take time off work?<p>We are really lucky that we have a gorgeous nanny who's been with us for a year and a half. She has been an absolute lifesaver and I'm not sure how we would be managing without her. Thankfully the kids are used to having time with her, so we have been able to try and keep normal routine.</p><p>My husband has worked less hours, so he can be around more for the kids to make up for my absence. He is an extremely hands-on dad so this hasn't been an adjustment for him or for the kids.</p>
What did you do when you first started noticing symptoms? How were you diagnosed?<p>I started to have headaches, body aches, and to feel really tired. Initially I just thought it was probably jetlag as I often feel a bit average after short trips and long flights. However due to what was going on, I thought I should report my symptoms. It was so hard to get onto anyone and even get tested. A couple of people said I didn't actually meet criteria for testing, which I found really odd considering I'd been in America. The local GP agreed that I could drive down and call when out the front. The doctor then put a gown, mask and gloves on and came out to the car. They took my temperature and it was 38 degrees, which was high. They swabbed me, which is so uncomfortable as they put a wire type product in the back of your throat and right up the back of your nose. It's a very weird and uncomfortable feeling. 24 hours later I got the call saying the initial testing showed I was positive with Covid-19. I was honestly shocked, as I genuinely didn't think I would have it. When it registered, it just highlighted how travel made you at higher risk of having the virus.</p>
There was a debacle with the automated text message service from the health department. Can you tell us about that?<p>Only a few days after being diagnosed I received a text saying that my case was closed and I was free to go home. I knew straight away this couldn't be right. The main reason was that I wasn't even close to finishing my two week self-quarantine period from travelling. The fact that I was positive with coronavirus made it even more impossible to be correct.</p><p>What concerned me the most about this is that if people couldn't cope with being in self-isolation, or away from their families, they may have just taken the text message as correct and gone home. I rang the health department as soon as I received the incorrect message and explained to them what had happened. The response was 'no, you can't go home' and my response was 'I know that, that's why I'm calling to tell you what's happened.' That is the only reason they followed up with another message to say please disregard the incorrect message that was sent to you. My concern is how many people did that message go to? The follow up message was hours later, so how many people actually went home or stopped self-isolating? The discharge process really concerns me, based on the seriousness of the virus. There's such inconsistent information, and a process where the patient just has to report that they don't have symptoms and they are discharged.</p><p>I had a conversation with the department of health yesterday, where they stated that legally they are the only ones that can discharge people, and GPs are not relevant in this situation. My question is, how can the department of heath be responsible for discharging people when they aren't physically checking anyone? How are they in a position to discharge people based on a conversation? We are faced with a serious virus outbreak that is causing people to become really sick – if they are wanting to reduce the risk, why aren't they addressing this discharge issue? I worry so many people will have been discharged when they are still a risk to people.</p>
Your kids are very young. Had you spent much time away from them before? How are you all coping?<p>I do go on work trips a couple of times a year, however I'm away one week at the very most. The kids are used to me being away from time to time, and as long as I bring them a present back they are happy! They keep asking me 'what present are you bringing this time mum?' I've been away for a while so I'm thinking it should be big!</p><p>This is well and truly the longest I've been away from the kids. It is heartbreaking not being able to be with them. I feel like I'm missing such a huge amount of time with them. It's been 4 weeks tomorrow since I've been at home with them. I think I'm finding it much harder than they are, as they are being spoilt and doing lots of fun activities at home. Thankfully Facetime has been a saviour as I get to see them and talk to them. However Jordy, the youngest, hates Facetime so It's really hard with him. He's so young and I don't get to have quality time with him, as he runs away every time the iPad comes out. I do get to connect with Archie and Indigo through technology, so that is what gets us through. However, I miss them like crazy. On the upside I finally got to do Jordy's baby book in isolation, which has been on my to do list for over a year, ha! Seeing and knowing they are happy and surviving is what helps me get through this.</p>
Are there any silver linings to your isolation time? Anything you've enjoyed or been surprised by?<p>Actually a lot of silver linings have come out of this. This has been an amazing learning experience. I've learnt to be on my own, and be incredibly independent. I never thought I could manage in isolation for 3 weeks, yet I have survived. I have learnt that I don't want or need to go back to such a hectic, busy life. I don't want to go back to such a crazy and high-pressured routine. It's taught me to slow down and focus on what's important.</p><p>This situation has also made my husband and I truly appreciate each other, and the amazing things we constantly do for our family. When life is so busy, you often forget, or take things for granted.</p><p>We will also come out of this realising so much can be done online. We don't need to be rushing around all the time trying to get to meetings and appointments when so many can be done online. Not only will this take pressure off, it will save time and allow us to focus on the important things like time together and with our gorgeous kids.</p><p>The last 6 years have been hectic, with having three kids close together and having two businesses. I feel like I will go home a lot calmer, and ready to embrace time with the family and just living in the moment. I've always struggled with slowing down. This situation has meant quietening down and not being able to plan anything, as everything is so unknown.</p><p>I have also enjoyed watching Netflix, reading and having a bit more sleep than I'm used to, I must admit!</p>
How are you managing your workload while you're in isolation and unwell? Has that been difficult?<p>Luckily I work from home generally. I have been able to work normally and get a heap done due to not having any distractions. Thankfully at this stage both businesses have not been affected by the economic situation due to coronavirus. Our business <em><a href="https://www.hyggeliv.com.au/" target="_blank">hygge:liv</a></em> is all about cosy life and focussed on bring a state of hygge into the home. Now that people are at home more and wanting to make it a place of comfort, and a place they love being, our gift category has had a major increase in sales.</p><p>Thankfully working has been something that has made my time in isolation manageable. I love working, so this has been a great part of how I have survived. My creative communication agency <em><u><a href="https://www.theheroagency.com/" target="_blank">The Hero Agency</a></u></em> is also still ticking along, as so many redundancies are happening so contractors and freelance work is in demand. It's a terrible time, and it' s so scary not knowing what's going to happen. However for now, we will just keep going for as long as we can, as it is a passion. The world is slightly depressing at the moment, so anything that brings happiness and distraction to our lives is a good thing. The virus is serious, however the mental health and the survival of people is equally as important.</p><p>Although I've had headaches, temperatures, body aches and exhaustion, I was able to maintain working during the day. However, when I realised I hadn't been getting better I tried to slow it down slightly to try and get on top of my symptoms, so I can try and get home.</p>
You were 'cleared' after your 14 day isolation period, but had to advocate hard for yourself because you were still experiencing symptoms. Tell us about that experience.<p>The Victorian Health Department are supposed to check in with all coronavirus cases every few days. For the first few days I had to constantly call them to get some guidance on my symptoms, and where my case was at. They generally seem to flag people at 10 days past diagnosis as ready to release them, providing they are well. That statement is really unclear as what is 'feeling well'.</p><p>Unfortunately, I have a high temperature which won't go down. They call nearly every day saying 'we are calling to discharge you today' and I have to interject and say 'you can't discharge me as I still have a temperature'. I suggested 'why don't I call you once I don't have symptoms for 72 hours, and then I can be discharged?' Originally they agreed, but have started calling me every day again.</p><p>I've also taken it a step further and am working with my GP to get them to check my temperature and symptoms, to help me try and get home. I was re-tested yesterday, which may not really help – if it's negative I can't go home as I still have symptoms, and if it's positive, I can't go home. It's been a really long time to have constant symptoms. I'm starting to get worried something more serious is wrong. The health department unfortunately doesn't look at you, they just call you. I can't just sit here indefinitely with symptoms, I need to try and determine if I am a risk as I don't want to be away from my kids unnecessarily. However, if I'm still a risk I don't want to be discharged if I could make anyone sick.</p>
When will you feel comfortable that it's safe to return home?<p>I don't know! And the scary thing is that no one knows. Not the health department, and not any medical staff. I hate the fact that I'm in control of this decision, as I don't want to make anyone sick, but desperately want to be home with my family. The only way I can go home is if I'm told I'm 100% not contagious, or my test comes back negative and I no longer have symptoms. My dream would be to be home for Easter with my family.</p>
What do your days look like at the moment?<p>xercise is such an important part of my day usually. When I was feeling better, and it was earlier days, live stream exercise was a must. However, since being diagnosed with coronavirus and having ongoing symptoms I've had to stop that to try and get home. My days look like this:</p><ul><li>Wake up, return phone calls and messages from people checking in, and from my family</li><li>Have breakfast</li><li>My brother in law lives locally and leaves a coffee on the deck – I owe him big time!</li><li>Emails and work</li><li>More phone calls</li><li>Dinner</li><li>Netflix</li><li>Bed</li></ul>
What are you most looking forward to about getting back home?<p>Giving my kids the biggest cuddle of their life! They will be so annoyed when I don't leave them alone, haha. And I can't wait to give my husband the biggest cuddle ever. He seems to have everything absolutely under control. I think he's slightly concerned I'll come home and throw the entire routine off balance.</p><p>I'm looking forward to giving our nanny something amazing to thank her for everything she has done, as we wouldn't have survived this situation without her. I was never great at being home with kids all day every day and playing. However after being through what I have been through, I can't wait to do that, and just hang out with the kids. Now that everyone has slowed down I will be able to embrace this as there's not so much pressure on all the other areas of life. Exercise is part of my daily routine I can't wait to go for a walk outside and get back into getting fit and healthy. I can't even leave my property, so walking outside will be amazing.</p><p>The fact that we are all in this situation together is comforting, as no one is unaffected. I'm just hoping everyone supports and helps each other at this time. It's disappointing to see so much judgement, and people being so nasty to others on social media. We all need to help and support one another as you just don't know what people are going through, or how they are feeling on any given day during this hard time. The only way we will survive is to be kind, and supportive, and go above and beyond for the people that truly need it.</p>
Sometimes, you interview a woman and think, "She is my type of person." For me, this is Julia Hughes.
Case in point: she has a background as a marketer and journalist (me too), has a busy family life (same here), runs an artisan gelato van (I wish I did), and has recently launched a gin bar (which I'd happily reside in, given the choice). So interviewing Julia to find out more about her incredible story was a no-brainer.
Here's what GRACE Collective member Julia Hughes had to tell us about her life, family and business. Get ready for a delicious, wild ride.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?<p>Husband Dan, daughter Dylan, 5 and baby boy Spike, 18-months, makes four of us. I find having two kids pretty full on. But thank my lucky stars we are all healthy, we get plenty of sunshine and water, and have lots of laughs thanks to Dan's terrible singing and refusal to take most things seriously. </p>
Now you need to share all the details on your amazing businesses …<p>Our first business baby is Mr Goaty Gelato – artisan all natural gelato and sorbet made from scratch by my very talented chef partner. We started out making all goat's milk gelato (hence the name) but most of our product now is traditional dairy gelato and vegan sorbet with a few signature goat's milk flavours. We have a couple of fun gelato bikes and a vintage ice cream truck that we hire out for weddings, parties and corporate events.</p><p>When we moved to the Coast a few years ago we also moved gelato production to a kitchen in a local gin distillery. It was one of those fateful moves, we found ourselves making gelato in a beautiful mud brick building surrounded by botanical gardens. We use as much as we can from the garden in our gelato – oranges, lemons, lavender, geranium, even fresh turmeric. Customers were always asking us where they could buy the gelato aside from at markets and events, and the space at Distillery Botanica is so magic it seemed a shame not to be making full use of it. So earlier this year we opened Bar Botanica. We sell our gelato, coffee, plus light meals and cakes, and soon we'll be adding local wines and gin cocktails. It's garden-to-plate dining. Dan makes incredible food based on what is growing locally and seasonally and our lovely customers can enjoy it all while sitting on our leafy terrace or on a picnic rug in the garden. It is a dream.</p>
What did your career entail prior to Mr Goaty Gelato and Bar Botanica?<p>Before my gelato career (still feels funny saying that's my job) I worked in PR and marketing. I studied media, worked briefly as a journalist and moved into finance and investment marketing in Sydney and London. It was a stable and very well-paid gig, but ultimately not for me. My last full-time corporate job was Australian head of marketing for a foreign bank. My daughter was only two and I requested to work from home one day a week. This request was denied. Shocked and upset, I resigned on the spot. In hindsight it was a push I'm grateful for, but like many women who've experienced similar it was extremely disheartening. At that point we decided to go for it with Mr Goaty, so I freelanced as a Marketing Consultant for a year or so to keep money coming in while working on our business.</p><p>Work-wise I'm busier than ever now but hugely fulfilled and motivated. It's bloody tough managing all aspects of a business – admin, marketing, staff etc. but working on my own terms, with flexibility and agency counts for so much.</p>
What inspired the launch of Mr Goaty Gelato?<p>Believe it or not, Dan has always loved goats! And I've always loved ice cream. We tried goat's milk ice cream in the UK and that planted a seed. When we moved back to sunny Sydney and Dylan was born he was ready to try something new and get out of restaurant kitchens. His feeling for flavours and cheffing brilliance, combined with the inspiration we felt living in Australia where produce and food is so amazing is really what inspired the gelato.</p>
What prompted your move from Sydney to the Central Coast?<p>Have you tried buying a house in Bronte?! There were a few prompts but money was definitely a factor. The only way we could reconcile starting a business (ie. zero income) and buying a house for our little family was to leave Sydney. I grew up in the East and Dan had caught the surfing bug so our new home had to be beachside and close enough to the city. As well as affordable real estate we wanted a slower pace, more space and access to decent food and coffee! The Central Coast ticks all these boxes and many more. </p>
How are you finding life on the Central Coast?<p>We love it here. The natural beauty of the Coast blows me away. You've got stunning beaches and Bouddi National Park, with everything else in the way of shops, services and transport that makes life easy. It feels like the food scene up here has really started to take off in the past few years and it's so exciting and satisfying to be a part of that. </p>
What are some of your favourite pairings with gin?<p>I tend to stick to classics done well. Faves are an icy G&T, a dry Martini or a Negroni. Moore's Dry Gin with Fever Tree Tonic and a slice of lime is sundowner perfection. </p>
How do you make time for yourself? What does that look like?<p>Right now it looks like a lunchtime yoga class, a quick lap session at the pool once a week if I'm lucky, and a cup of tea with my kindle on a Sunday afternoon while Spike sleeps. Time for myself is scarce, but I'm counting on that changing soon when Dylan starts school and Spike is in full-time daycare. </p>
How is it working with your husband?<p>Pretty good actually. We both work very hard and respect each others input and value. Sometimes there are blowups but for the most part we're in it together. It's a very honest working relationship! Our skills are so different. I'm in complete awe of his cooking and he thinks I'm a "really good emailer."</p>
How did you manage to create a network in a new area?<p>It's been surprisingly easy to find a local network and friends on the Coast. Lots of families move here from Sydney so there's common ground, kids the same age, and a general openess to meeting new people. I think we have more time up here. Most people I know work part-time or freelance, cost of living is lower so you can afford to. I was among the first of my mates to have a baby in Sydney and that felt very lonely. Thankfully I've met enough beautiful, supportive and soulful women on the Coast that it feels like home. </p>
What have been some of the biggest challenges in setting up and running your own businesses?<p>The first couple of years are such a steep learning curve and it's brutal working so hard for minimal and inconsistent financial return. We reached that magic 2-3 year mark when you actually start making money, but other growing pains start. Now the biggest challenge is finding good staff and keeping them. On a personal level there is sacrifice. Running a business means a lot of stress and strain on your mental health and relationships come under pressure. Start up investment and cost of running a business is huge. I don't buy many clothes, I drive a smelly old car (not the ice cream van) and our holidays and time-off are very limited. </p>
What tips do you have for women who might be looking to make a shift into running their own businesses?<p>No half measures. Perhaps some women manage a side hustle but my advice is to give it everything – your time, money, and your best pitch always. Building a network of professional women you admire and genuinely like helps immensely when your need short-cuts, advice and sounding boards.</p>
What are the 10 things you’re loving at the moment?<ul><li>Aldi chocolate, Aldi wine, Aldi corn chips…basically Aldi! </li><li>My local library</li><li>Swell drink bottles</li><li>Go-to Tinted Zincredible</li><li>The Ordinary serums </li><li>Mr Goaty Passionfruit Cheesecake Gelato with Hazelnut Crumb. </li></ul>
When Sarah Cowen set out to make a practical, beautiful baby bag, little did she know that she'd start a cultural movement in the process.
"I set about finding groups of women who could make my bags, and who would be empowered themselves by this enterprise, using the money they made to support their own babies. The idea of mothers helping mothers," she says.
Without a background in fashion or a file full of contacts, Sarah's research and love of community led her to a Mexican village, where her spectacular range of bags are now created. Alongside the beautiful designs and practical carry items (which now extend beyond baby bags, to everyday totes and clutches) that are produced and cultivated in this small village, so are meaningful relationships and lifelong careers.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?<p>Interestingly, I don't have a background in design or fashion, but I come from a highly energetic and adventurous family who encourage ideas, and who have all followed their own dreams and visions in one way or another.</p><p>I grew up just outside of London and like many a pommie story, I ended up in Sydney whilst travelling the world after university. 17 years later, I am still here, with the addition of a husband, 2 kids, a house, a cat and a business… Oh, and a love of Aussie words for what I previously called aubergines and courgettes. </p><p>I do think I was always going to end up doing something creative and something which involved seeing the world and experiencing other cultures. My father was an amazing commercials director and that world always excited me. I am at my happiest when I am making things, so seeking out a career in TV production, which I continue to do, has been an exciting path for me, and really Memah is just another large production.</p><p>Despite not following a traditional path into fashion, I have always loved fabrics and colours, tassels and embellishments. I have always been drawn to unusual detailing on clothes and love a hunt for something unique… Let me get lost in a market any day of the week! </p>
What led you to launch Memah?<p>When I was pregnant with my son, Archie, I was busy looking for a baby bag and found them all to be mass-produced and rather dull and uninspiring.</p><p>I could see there were some innovative and practical ones out there but did I really have to carry something around every day that pre-baby I would never have considered? I knew that leggings and sloppy t-shirts were on the horizon but surely I could at least retain some style with my everyday bag?!</p><p>Anyway, I ended up with a plain black bag as a last resort and decided when I was pregnant with my second child, Myla, that I would get to work designing some alternatives.</p><p>I have never felt a stronger sense of community as I did joining the mum club. I met some wonderful friends at mother's group to turn to for advice. Old friends had been super generous passing on hand me down pieces, and I became part of social networks bringing together other mums to buy and sell stuff, and to share tips. This just made me feel that there must be a way to continue this sense of community in what I wanted to make. I then set about trying to find groups of women who could make my bags, and who would be empowered themselves by this enterprise, using the money they made to support their own babies. The idea of mothers helping mothers. </p><p>My research took me to this beautiful village in Oaxaca, Mexico where there were communities of weavers primarily making rugs. I could see that there were three generations of women working harmoniously together on one single rug. So after crafting my designs in Sydney (born from my love of these woven rugs) I knew it was time for the three generations of women in my family, my mother, myself and my four-month-old daughter to jump on a plane to meet these artisans. And so Memah began.</p>
Your bags are handmade on the verandahs of your artisan’s homes in Mexico. Can you tell us about this process?<p>When you see how much work goes into each bag, and the pride of the artisans behind it, you know it is a real labour of love. At Memah we say "woven by hand with heart." Every bag takes over four days to make, and by staying in the homes of our makers I experienced and gained an understanding of the craft and detail that goes into each piece. I actually became part of their very welcoming village community.</p><p>Every bag is hand-dyed, hand-woven and hand-stitched using time-honoured skills passed from generation to generation which trace back to the ancient Zapotec Culture. The natural wool is dyed in small batches over open fires, before being left to dry in the sun. Sometimes the wool is dyed twice to reach the unique vibrant tones characteristic of Memah. The tapete rugs which form the bags are woven on the looms one at a time before the bag is sewn into the desired shape by another family member. The leather straps are the last part to be stitched and these are all made in a home workshop in a nearby village. </p>
How did you source the artisans you work with?<p>Taking the leap and getting on the flight to Mexico was really the start, and from there it evolved, through staying in the village and knocking on doors.</p><p>The beautiful thing about Teotitlan Del Valle is that everyone is connected somehow, so once you meet one artisan, you get to meet the rest of their family, friends and neighbours, all whom can offer something unique to the process. It became extremely collaborative very fast. In fact, one of the highlights of the journey so far came when we needed to expand the choice of leather available so one of our weavers, Ello, her 8-month-old son and I flew to another town to meet artists who specialise in leather and expand our team. This was the first time Ello had been on a plane and it gives me goosebumps even now when I picture her face as we boarded.</p>
Can you share some details of your baby bags and what they entail?<p>We have three different types of bags – the baby bag, the nappy clutch and a matching little girl's bag.</p><p>All bags are handmade from 100% natural wool and are lined with a premium black wipe-clean nylon lining. Pockets, pockets and more pockets. All bags in our range have multiple pockets for ultimate organisation. I actually don't think I could live without pockets now, and when designing the bags I thought carefully about all the pockets you could possibly need… Then added some!</p><p>Our baby bags have detachable soft leather shoulder straps, and triple dipped chunky gold metal hardware such as D hooks to enable the bags to be attached to a stroller.</p><p>Most importantly, the bags are stylish, vibrant and versatile as well as practical, so they can be used outside those early baby years. The larger baby bag makes a great weekender and the smaller nappy clutch is perfect for those much-needed kid free nights out. </p><p>One of the unsung properties of wool (thank you nature!) is that it is highly water resistant, so when they do get wet in the rain, the water just runs off… A bonus when you just need to get out of the house whatever the weather brings as that coffee simply cannot wait!</p>
How do you like to style your bags?<p>I think our bags really do the styling for you. The pop of colour and the striking geometric designs derived from the Zapotec traditions complete any outfit and help your baby's stroller stand out.</p>
How do you incorporate colour into your own wardrobe?<p>It might be easier for me to answer how I add blacks, whites, and neutrals into my wardrobe! I think from the early days of me loving my fluro neon wardrobe growing up in the eighties and nineties, I have always been drawn to clothing with bold prints and bright colours. It's fun to leave the house in vibrant colours. I think as soon as you put on some colour it can change your mood. I don't think you need to wait for a change in season to pop on your bright colours; bring summer to your day by wearing them.</p>
If we took a look inside your bag today, what would we find?<p>A very different array of things now than if you had asked pre kids! Now it can almost be classed as dangerous to leave the house without some form of kids' snack which I can make a Hansel and Gretel style crumbed pathway with to get them out of the park and back home!</p><p>But for me, I always have a small notepad to jot down ideas that spring to mind. Despite technology, I will always be a pen and paper girl. I always have my Thank You hand cream, and maybe you might just find a chocolate Lindt ball or two!</p>
What tips do you have for women looking to launch a side-hustle?<p>It's never going to be the right time. You are never going to be able to afford to do it. You will always doubt whether it will work – whether you are good enough to pull it off, whether you have the right experience and what people will think.</p><p>But I reckon all of those thoughts are less important than the bigger worry of never knowing if it was going to work and never fulfilling your own dream to try it.</p><p>So in short, just take the plunge and work out the rest as you go along rather than trying to have all the answers before you start and therefore never starting.</p>
What have you found to be some of the most challenging parts of starting a business?<p>It's certainly not one long straight road, and the challenge is to stay confident that these twists and turns will land you in a better place. Holding onto your energy and tenacity isn't always easy when those inevitable moments of doubt creep in.</p><p>For Memah, great challenges arise with the lengthy time it takes to make each bag and the distance it needs to travel from the remote Mexican village.</p><p>That's what makes each piece meaningful and unique though, so we wouldn't have it any other way.</p>
As a woman juggling a career, a family, and now a business – how do you make it work?<p>Lets just say it's a work in progress!</p>
What hacks or organisational tips do you implement in your everyday life to help life happen more smoothly?<p>Getting up before the rest of the tribe wakes up works for me. Just gives me time to shower, sometimes go for a walk, and gives me that crucial 'me' time that I won't get for the rest of the day! I am also a fan of lists… These days if I don't write it all down there is every chance it will get forgotten!</p>
What’s ahead for yourself and Memah?<p>Spanish lessons… There is only so far Google Translate is going to be able to take me!</p><p>Truly though, the exciting part is that I really don't know. If you asked me two years ago what I would be doing, I wouldn't have said designing bags. I would, of course, love to see Memah grow and for it to be a primary source of income for the artisans in Mexico. If they didn't have to leave their village home to earn an income for their growing families, that would be amazing. If I see the bags being enjoyed by mums all over Australia, that too would be wonderful.</p>
The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.