Step inside the home of Australian expat in Singapore, Simone Jackson and you’re instantly enveloped in a calm yet energising space that feels both like a relaxing tropical retreat and the perfect spot for an impromptu party. Which is much like the duality of Simone herself - mother to three girls, Milly, 11, Florence, 9 and Clementine, 7 - she is focused in business, committed to self-care and is a renowned entertainer...
Jackson has built a long and impressive career in Public Relations which began in her hometown, Brisbane after university, where she admits she was “so young and naive.” “One of the first movies I worked on was Shine, which was opening the Brisbane International Film Festival. I had to drive Noah Taylor around in my dad’s car for two days. He asked if he could smoke a cigarette inside, I was in such a panic. I think I said sure if you hang out the window.” Continuing the star run in London where she was based for over a decade, Simone then took some time off while having her children (and moving between London, Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore!). After a brief stint working at her children’s school (“cherish your teachers, they are amazing people!”), she has come full circle and launched her own pr, brand & retail consultancy business. Shop Girl is much more than the name suggests. Simone offers a bespoke service aimed at helping local and expatriate Singapore residents to launch and evolve brands and businesses. Working with a category mix – from fashion to swimming schools to school shoes – Simone is connecting and driving so many women and helping them follow or re-ignite their entrepreneurial dreams. On her daily inspiration? “My clients inspire me. They are all mothers who have changed their career path and set up their own businesses while bringing up small children. I am so grateful for them giving me a chance so I want to do the best job possible. They have all incorporated a way to give back to society in their businesses and the ones with teams put so much effort into creating a positive workplace culture. It really is true every time you buy from a small business they do a little dance.” We caught up with Simone in her gorgeous home to talk raising girls, career changes, time management tips and life in the tropics. Make yourself comfortable, it’s an inspiring and entertaining tale (this mama loves a chat)… Photography: Clare Barker Wells
What are your most vivid memories of your childhood?
I grew up in Brisbane in the 70s and 80s with my sister who is three years younger than me. Running through the sprinkler, riding bikes, making up endless games, creating It’s a Knockout obstacle course, putting on shows, backyard cricket, and swimming – it was like an endless summer. Looking back my childhood reminds me of the cartoon Charlie and Lola in that we had so much freedom you barely saw your parents. I remember building a marble run from a garden hose one day. I thought it was such an amazing idea I called Wombat to tell them about it. My first pitch. I couldn’t believe they never called me back. So much to learn. I also spent a lot of time talking on the phone to friends – I did, and still do love a chat. Once Telstra had to intercept a call as my Dad was needed for a medical emergency. Think I had been talking for two hours! Prank phone calls to our parents at work were also a favourite.
When did you move to Singapore? Where else have lived abroad before?
We moved to Singapore in 2011. Prior to that, I had lived in the UK for ten years where I met my husband. We then lived in Sydney and Melbourne for two years where he completed surgical fellowships. Each child was born in a different country providing three very different experiences.
Tell us about your career before you set up Shopgirl?
Upon finishing university I was very lucky to land a job with The PR Company in Brisbane. An agency specialising in rock ’n’ roll and film publicity, owned and operated by the formidable Suzanne Snape. Working with Suzanne was like another three years of university. She taught me everything. There was no such thing as I don’t know or that’s not my job. If you didn’t know the answer you would find it and you had to be prepared to jump in wherever necessary which often meant stuffing 300 envelopes with media releases at all hours. I am so grateful for this training. With no email, I used to drive precious publicity photos to media outlets and pick them up again so someone else could use them. I met some incredible people during this time – singers, tour managers, actors and directors. One of the first movies I worked on with Suzanne was Shine, which was opening the Brisbane International Film Festival. I had to drive Noah Taylor around in my dad’s car for two days. He asked if he could smoke a cigarette inside, I was in such a panic. I think I said sure if you hang out the window. Suzanne used to send me to do the meet and greets when the bands arrived at the airport as she hated small talk. I remember talking to the Sex Pistols about the weather and asking Neil Finn how many times he had been to Brisbane (grabbing at straws here) and he answered about 30. I was so young and naive. I had always dreamed of living and working overseas so off I went to London with one of my good friends. We temped and travelled, having a blast. One temp job turned into a permanent job with another boutique company called iLUKA who provided hospitality for sponsors of sporting events, primarily the Olympic Games. This was four years of meeting more amazing people, travelling, long hours and lots of fun.
Tell us about Shop Girl…
Shop Girl just launched this year. I had fallen into working in early childhood assistant teaching (cherish your teachers, they are amazing people) which I really enjoyed but as my children were getting older I was finding the juggle of the set hours and location more challenging. As my girls entered their next stage I felt it was also time for me to think of a long-term plan. I knew I couldn’t go back to working for a company as I needed flexibility plus so much had changed on the technology front. I went on a social media course and completely freaked out. It was like an entire university subject in two days. I put it on the back burner until I had a conversation with my neighbour who owns Hanway, an online menswear store. I love their product and as we talked about social media and other ideas I thought “I can do that”. I talked to another couple of friends who own small businesses (Swish Swimming and Ten Feet Tall). As small business owners with families, these women were wearing so many hats. I have created my business model to be flexible to their needs and to look for “creative”, budget-friendly solutions. I describe myself like an interior designer who works with what you already have. So far the business is going well, I am very clear with my clients if you need to scale back or change track we can do whatever your business needs at that time.