1. Become an expat
Music lover and former muso journalist Emmy Burns upped sticks in 2006, moving by herself from Australia to New York to further her career. Taking up the post as the Head of Publicity at an indie rock label, Emmy has gone on to found Rock Is Religion, a socially conscious brand communications agency that pays it forward to the music industry.
I’d wanted to live in the US ever since I was a kid and there just weren’t the opportunities in Australia that I wanted for my career. I had already made many great connections in the US music industry from my work as a music journalist, so when the Head of Publicity gig cropped up, it was a no brainer!
I needed at least $10,000 to move, but I only had about $1,000. I couldn’t have made it through without the kindness of my friends here. Life in NYC is a world of difference from my life living in Bellevue Hill, Sydney! In NYC, money talks. For example, in NYC, every single time you move apartments, at the very least, you need $5,000 to start!
What I love, though, about the US is that it really is “the land of opportunity” – if you’re willing to work hard and fight for what you want. I remember telling a US artist I’d interviewed about my big move. He told me to be careful because Americans are not as friendly as Aussies, and they will take advantage of you. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really think anything of it… but looking back, it was probably the best advice anyone’s ever given me about moving here.
There are many more obstacles here than in Australia, but with a tight network of friends and industry colleagues, even the greatest of obstacles doesn’t seem so bad. As the song goes, “I get by with a little help from my friends”. In NYC, it’s more like, “I get by with big help from my friends”! Your friends are your family here and paying it forward is what it’s all about. Becoming an expat is the best decision I’ve made in my life. It has changed me and helped me grow into the person I always wanted to become.
2. How to become a stay at home dad
Former architectural designer and bar owner, Matt Martino, 37, swapped his slide rule and bottle opener for nappies and feeding times as a Stay At Home Dad. The life-changing move meant Martino’s wife, Jane, could concentrate on her fledgling PR company, while Matt concentrated on their growing brood.
I was looking for a new career challenge and my wife’s new business was taking off. When we got pregnant, the decision was obvious – no stress and no real deliberation. Our timing was perfect and I had no male ego problems to contend with. I love to cook, food shop and don’t feel the need to fulfil any career ambitions – I love supporting my wife’s.
By my own admission, men are not natural parents like women. So, my boys get a male role model at home and the instinctive, natural, maternal love from their mother when she comes in at the end of the day. Guys get home, unwind and swap hats from worker to Dad while women never stop being a mother for a second. It’s more natural for them. I never feel like our boys, or our relationship, has been out of balance. Our family has benefited specifically because the decision was financial and also mutual.
My days are now spent occupying the kids and keeping my sanity (which can be a delicate, hard-fought battle). I try and get out to cafes, shopping, anywhere so that the kids experience lots of challenges, environments and situations. I have a day off that’s not on a weekend where I can do my stuff. Other than that, I take the boys with me everywhere. It is sometimes hard or inconvenient, but it is good for all of us and, ultimately, so rewarding.
It can be lonely for a guy. My mates are at work during the day and most want to spend time with their families when I have free
time. When women have babies they can hang out with their friends who also have kids. Women say they love the idea of a guy to hang out with, but the reality is that I am an outsider and don’t share the same issues.
It is easy to lose your identity – most people see the kids when you walk in a room and don’t even say hi to me anymore.
I understand how mothers feel; the loss of identity, the loss of value and self-worth, the frustration, the boredom, etc. I feel honoured to see it from the other side. Just don’t lose your self and become the baby’s nanny – do something you enjoy, that’s just for you.
Matt’s tips for stay-at-home dads
• Treat and relish the responsibility like a job but don’t treat your kids as employees.
• Don’t plan anything – you can’t – so enjoy the randomness.
• Don’t compare it to your old work or your partner’s day.
LESSONS FROM MAG 2.0: While managing a commercial
career is still a general juggle for most entrepreneurial
mums (and something we have written about frequently),
participants in our Magazine 2.0 Experiment wanted us
to fill a different hole in our reporting, and asked:
‘What about the dads?’
3. Run for public office
After successfully creating her own group of businesses, Rebecca Cherry, founder of Cherry Enterprises, thought it was time to stop focusing on simply shaping her future and consider helping shape the future of her home town, Melbourne. In late October, Cherry decided to ditch the briefcase in favour of the ballot box, when a friend suggested she run for council.
While the idea to run for council had always been a lingering thought, in the back of my mind, the ball only seriously started rolling when a member of staff from the Melbourne City Council, earlier this year, made the passing comment, “It would be great to have someone like you on the council, someone that really gets things done.”
Over the following days, I phoned a lot of my contacts to get some input and ask some questions, and what I received was a resoundingly positive response. “Go for it,” was the general feedback. Although, I had now realised this was what I wanted to be doing, I had no idea where to begin. So, I went to an information night to find out the process involved in nominating for a council position and what sort of resources would be needed to take the next step.
A week or so later, as I arrived for a meeting with a business colleague, I noticed that she was already having a coffee with another woman. It turned out that my colleague had organized for me to meet this lady because she was working on Peter McMullin’s campaign for Lord Mayor and, given my interest in becoming a councilor, believed she was a woman to speak to. We had an interesting chat and I got an understanding of the amount of work involved in running a campaign and the sort of
team I would need to put together to be successful.
When I arrived back in my office after the meeting, I received a phone call from another business associate asking me if I wanted to run on Peter McMullin’s ticket. While very interested, I said I needed to have a look into McMullin and his team’s policies to ensure they aligned with what I would hope to achieve on the council. It turned out that our visions matched very well and so I thought, ‘Why not?’
Where to from here is really up to the business proprietors and residents within the electorate but, regardless of the result, it has been a highly interesting journey and one I will not regret taking.
Rebecca’s Tips for running for public office
1. Ask questions. Talk to everyone you know, and particularly to people who may have experience in running a campaign.
2. Align yourself with people you trust and that have the same policies and vision. There is no point running a successful campaign only to discover what you want to achieve once in office are not the same things.
3. Build a great PR and marketing team. These are the people who will be representing you. If they are not doing a good job, it is your image that gets hurt.
4. Quit the city life and farm alpacas
Nearing their 60s, Lauris and Andrew Jephcott decided to buy some alpacas to maintain the grass on their small coastal property. Fast forward three years and the couple have upsized to a larger property in southern Victoria’s Otway Ranges with their growing gang of grass-guzzling herbivores.
We bought our first alpaca early in 2000. Like so many, our transition from city-based professionals to alpaca farmers involved a steep learning curve. We began with one pregnant female and a young male, and now have around 50 animals on our farm. Our stud, Alpaca Marengo, concentrates on breeding black alpaca with the aim of producing high quality, fine, lustrous black fibre for yarns, garments and other uses.
Alpaca farming requires a considerable financial investment and returns can be slow. You can’t take your alpacas to market next Thursday if you want to get rid of them – there’s no organized sales infrastructure.
A key cost in setting up was the initial stock. Alpacas are slow breeders, and multiple births are rare. Even today, when prices have dropped considerably from the earlier import of alpacas into Australia (some 25+ years ago), breeding animals cost a lot more than sheep, or even cattle. A reasonable quality female can cost in excess of $5,000, and stud males, even more.
Vet bills are inevitable, although generally alpacas do pretty well, but there are always accidents, illnesses, castrations and the occasional problem birth to deal with. We also need vet checks to register a stud male and to enter some auctions and sales.
Even after 25 years as an established industry in Australia, alpaca farming is still largely focused on stud breeding. Prices for fibre (alpaca fleece) are a little higher than for sheep, but most people produce much less. Alpaca fibre prices paid by the Australian Alpaca Fleece Ltd range from around $25 per kilogram for top quality white fibre, to $5 or less for other colours with lesser quality.
We process our fibre into yarns for knitting and textile crafts and produce a range of luxury knitting yarns, knitting kits and gift packs under the label ‘knitalpaca’. Prices for finished yarns are around $200 per kilo, with around $100 per kilo outlaid for processing. So we produce a valuable product from our animals (and combine with other growers for greater quantity), and sell a specialty product to local and other markets.
We’re committed to our alpacas to the extent of buying more property, so we’re in it for the long term. Alpacas are here to stay in Australia, providing the most beautiful luxury fibre and a very interesting lifestyle for alpaca farmers.