March 6, 2022


Author: Kathy Skantzos
Category: Manage Finances

Founder of Bay Botanica and The Good Bugs, Zoe Shacklady offers a practical and realistic approach to entrepreneurship and starting your own business, after a successful career in financial services and becoming a mum.

Mother-of-two ZoeShacklady built up a solid career in financial services over many years, until she had two kids one after the other.

After a four-year pause in her professional life to raise her children, Zoe had wondered if she would be able to enter the corporate world again.

“When you’ve been wiping bums for two years, you do start wondering – even me who had been quite successful prior to having kids – who would employ me for anything? I just wipe bums all the time. You lose your sense of what you can do,” she explains only half-jokingly.

Instead of re-entering the workforce, Zoe decided it was time to have a crack at something she had always wanted to do – starting her own business.

Birthing a new business

Working for herself, Zoe initially pivoted into financial planning and also ran the operations and finances for global brand Roses Only and the Australian offshoot Mr Roses. On the side, she was keeping bees and playing with fermented foods while looking after kids.

Zoe’s interest in gut health led her to founding The Good Bugs, a little business built on the benefits of gut-friendly ferments. She even wrote a children’s book with the same name to help parents educate their kids about healthy tummies.

While The Good Bugs was chugging away in the background as she was juggling kids, Zoe saw an even bigger opportunity and recently launched a new line of alcoholic kombucha, Bay Botanica.

“I’ve been plotting this for a couple of years. I decided to finally do what I have been thinking about doing for some time,” she says.

“I saw a bit of an opportunity with kombucha. There were a number of non-alcoholic kombucha brands but there weren’t any alcoholic ones, and I liked the idea of doing a sparkling kombucha that has a very low alcohol percentage.”

At only 4 per cent alcohol compared to Champagne or Prosecco which is around 12 per cent, and with beautiful Australian native flavours such as Kakadu plum and lemon myrtle and ginger and finger lime, Zoe describes the drink as “a celebratory beverage that’s not going to knock your head off”.

‘One-man band’

Being an entrepreneur and having your own business isn’t for everyone, Zoe explains.

“It’s really tough being on your own starting something. You have to wear every single little hat – the accounting, marketing, sales, website development, every aspect, everything,” she says.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted. You’ve got to be mentally quite strong and you also don’t have the camaraderie you get with a team.”

If you have a solid job that gives you a good balance between lifestyle and financial gain, Zoe suggests to really think it through before you quit your day job.

“People who’ve got a really solid job, maybe it’s not lighting their fire every day, but, let me tell you, neither does running your own show,” Zoe explains.

“If you can earn a salary and it’s not too bad and it’s consistent, you’ve got to be working pretty hard on your own to get to that,” she adds.

While Zoe plans to have the business for the long-term, she is realistic that “it’s not 100 per cent sure it’s going to work”.

“You’ve got to not take yourself too seriously and be prepared for it to also blow up in your face and make you look like a complete idiot, whereas getting a nice job is pretty straightforward really,” she says.

“I may fall flat on my face with this and there’s going to be competition. If it doesn’t work, then I will go get a job with my tail between my legs and try to work that out.”

The good grind

If it’s the challenge and lifestyle you really want, “the sky’s the limit” when you have your own business.

“The trick is to find what’s right for you and your lifestyle,” Zoe adds. But she cautions that doesn’t necessarily mean following your passions in order to have a successful business.

“There’s an old English saying that says there’s money in muck. If you can find a really boring thing that no one else wants to do that can be a really good opportunity. I think that is something that Instagram culture has really forgotten. People who can stick out the boring work can do well in the right industry,” she says.

Zoe adds that her previous financial services business was not always exciting and could be “bloody boring” at times, if she’s honest.

“There were some good parts but mostly it was a bit grindy. I knew I was on a good thing and I just had to sit with it,” she says.

“Being able to be a success and make money is not always a pleasure cruise. You’re not going to love every minute of it.”

Finances come first

The big piece of advice from a former financial planner turned entrepreneur is to not dismiss the importance of having solid capital before starting your own business. According to Zoe, you’ll need more than you think, and the income is never consistent.

“You’ve got to be pretty well financed to start something,” Zoe says. “Be extremely pessimistic about how much it’s going to cost. Things come out of the woodwork all the time.”

Being self-employed for 20 years and working in financial services for a decade, Zoe adds a word of warning that “you can never really budget properly” when you have your own business because your income fluctuates all the time.

“I’ve been self-employed since 2001 and I’ve never known since that time what money is coming to me every week, so how can you do your financial planning?” she asks.

“It takes a lot to make your own money, to actually clear your own salary. Turnover is one thing but if you can’t make a salary then you may as well work down in the shops and actually get money.”

Don’t forget super

Zoe adds how important it is to have enough money going towards long-term savings and superannuation – something many self-employed people disregard until it’s too late.

“The people least prepared for retirement were the people who were self-employed,” Zoe says as she reflects on her days in financial services.

Her attitudes are practical and at times blunt. But a conversation with Zoe really does help you get real about money.

P.S. – Zoe has decided to put her business on hold while she deals with selling her home and moving her family closer to the city.  We’ll get an update on her and the business later in 2022.

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