BYRON BEACH ABODES: Chapel Property
BYRON BEACH ABODES: Cottage Property
BYRON BEACH ABODES: The Villas
BYRON BEACH ABODES: Magnolia House
NAME: Taliah Lowry
COMPANY: Byron Beach Abodes
TITLE: Owner / Creative Director
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Very fortunate and (very) hardworking woman
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? I was born in Bali to hippy parents who moved all over the world, so not surprisingly, home was the most important thing for me growing up, it still is. It is clear now that even though I was young I was deeply influenced by the beauty and simplicity of our life, especially our time in Asia. I finally stopped in Byron 20 years ago, met my husband a couple of years after and it felt entirely natural to put my hand to renovating, creating homes.
There was a tiny studio just next to our first home at the Arts Factory Lodge in Byron, and we decided to renovate it together. I loved the entire process and I guess it all evolved fairly rapidly from there. We always say: ‘this is the last project’ but then an opportunity presents itself and we can't help ourselves!
The re-design, and renovations came first. The idea of turning the properties into rentals followed when it became clear we needed to find a way to pay for our expensive habit of buying Byron Bay real estate.
Eventually we began listing our re-designed, and styled properties on Air BnB. Before long and without planning for it, we had a little business that was growing rapidly, so we had to come up with a name and create a very basic website to showcase our properties, again, not thinking it would gain any real traction.
We started with the Pineapple Cottage and The Chapel, and then decided to take over the management of our villas which we rebranded, re styled and furnished to fit into the Byron Beach Abodes (BBA) concept.
I opened an Instagram account, and off we went, full speed ahead, trying to keep up with the bookings, enquires, shoot requests, magazines, etc., we were on an unexpectedly fast train.
Next we added The Chalet, and our own home, Magnolia House (as a shoot location) and pretty soon our original website crashed from too much traffic. It was a classic case of denial. The website had been a reflection of my mental thinking in a way: of course I was not going to succeed so why invest in a platform that would suggest that?
I didn’t start off with a traditional foundation – in childhood, or in my career. I learned through doing and experiencing. At first I had to battle to get people to see my vision and accept it, and then work even harder to get over my own self-doubt. Sein has been an incredibly supportive partner in my process. It’s only taken me 40 years to start believing in myself, but the people closest to me believed and supported me all along.
Now the business is finally able to support my gypsy heart. It takes a lot of funds for a family of five to go anywhere, and my first love is to travel and adventure with my boys.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is your elevator pitch on what you do?
I am a lover of design first, and a businesswomen second. I design and renovate houses for people like me who enjoy refined simplicity, beauty and love a good holiday. We own and manage a family-run accommodation business in my hometown of Byron Bay, offering our uniquely designed and styled homes for holiday rental. Late at night, from each of our properties, you can hear the waves break on Clarks Beach. It is the sound that keeps me here, yet it also transports me and all our guest to our dreams.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) No. When we sold the backpacker’s lodge our plan was to move to the South of France with our boys, and find a cute fishing village to call home.
One thing led to another and the business grew and we are still here, still trying to catch our breath. But loving the process.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? Success is having the opportunity to do what I love doing, to keep my family happy, and healthy and somehow make ends meet while doing it.
Ultimate success is being able to pass that on, to give back and make others in my world, and the greater world happy. Sharing success, is my greatest success... if that makes sense.
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally)?
I have a few amazing friends who have devoted their lives making a huge difference in places like Cambodia, Indonesia and Nepal. I would like to contribute my energy to these amazing causes and to do it with my three boys. I haven't quite figured out how to do this while they are in school and I have a demanding business to run, but this will be my ultimate achievement… one day soon… I hope.
…To get to the point of not having anything to do with the day to day running of the business and to concentrate solely on the design process.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? I was on my way to study interior design in Melbourne, when I met my husband in Byron. I made a complete life u-turn and it was the right decision. It forced me to learn on the job, to research and inquire and develop my own design aesthetic. I believe that design it comes naturally, it’s triggered by passion and it’s not something you can teach.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? Being able to do what I do…again and again…and become more passionate with each project. To sit alone in one of my just finished homes and take it all in, the defining moments and the talented people who make it possible.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? I work form my iPhone, my office, is my day to day world - thesupermarket shopping isle, my lighthouse walks, my dining table, the treadmill at the gym, cafes .... my phone is an extension of my arm and it enables me to multi-task. I could never work from an actual office, it's not an option for me.
What are some frustrations you have experiences on your career journey? You know Byron may be an international destination but it is still a small town. When I my business started taking off I encountered some undermining from a competitor. In every sense this was a rude awakening from accomplishing my dream and receiving accolades into a nightmare of no holds barred rivalry.
I strongly believe the more competition the better it is for everyone; the more amazing places there are to stay, to eat, shop, visit then the more aesthetic people we will have flocking to this beautiful part of the world. Sein and I are big foodies and love flying to Melbourne for a weekend to eat our way through the incredible culinary artistry that city has to offer. We wouldn't do that if there were only one great place to eat!
I hold strongly to the philosophy that we benefit as individuals and as a community when we support each other. As much as this and similar experiences have been extremely frustrating, they have also helped me musterthe courage to be very vocal and active about supporting others in my industry.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? A few weeks ago we were in the process of buying a property, selling a property and dealing with a legal situation with a partnership property, all in the same 24 hours. It was so overwhelming at a certain moment I couldn't breathe. Self-doubt was gnawing at me and all I wanted to do was drop everything and walk away. Instead, I cried. I cried on and off for days and that really helped me through it all.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? Ohh the pressure! There really is a heavy weight to expectation. People have been incredibly positive and enthusiastic about my work but with each project I feel I set the bar higher and that means the decisions I make become more daunting. I have not yet found a way to do it differently.
If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? I have a dream team of capable women working with me and they always have my back.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? I really see it from the glass half-full perspective. My personal life has been enriched through all the creative people I have met so far in my career. People who have visited my homes – the photographers, makeup artists, designers, guests – so many wonderful people who have opened up new worlds for me. This aspect helps to offset the crippling, chronic time deficits and guilt of a working mother.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Feeling that I am not being the best mother… that I am going to fail… am I doing the right thing? Oh I have a lot of sleepless nights!
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? It has all happened for a reason and I wouldn't change anything ... yet… I may have got here a lot sooner without the self-doubt.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? You know I think my 21 year-old self got it right. I spent my teenage years in the US and all my friends worried so much about the ‘future’, what should they study, where should they live, who did they want to be? I was a lot more relaxed about the future then. I really trusted myself and somehow knew I would discover where I wanted to be. Later of course, after I had three children, jumped headfirst into design and starting developing my business, I became spectacularly good at worry and putting pressure on myself.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? I admire Elly Bradbury first and foremost. She built her career helping others. She has an amazing entrepreneurial business mind and her business just keeps going forward in leaps and bounds despite enduring extreme hardships and the loss of her husband, all the while raising a child and inspiring so many others on her journey. She manages to build villages and help communities in need ... all while being the most humble, beautiful woman I know. She is my mentor and a dear friend.
And Sybil Steele, she had a passion for woman's rights and extraordinary artistic talent. She combined these and grew a successful business to inspire other woman to follow their dreams.
Both of These women combine business with helping others in a very powerful and organic way.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? Confidence, intelligence, compassion and heart.
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? Balance? It’s more like juggling…every single minute of every day.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? Usually when exhaustion sets in I want to give it all away. I tell myself this is not me; I just want peace and a simple life. And then I get a good night’s sleep and I am back at it.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? People often think that I'm poolside drinking cocktails in one of our abodes enjoying an endless holiday, when in reality I’ll be in my daggy cleaning clothes doing the grocery shopping or posting a "poolside " photo.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? You have to start somewhere. Have a vision and work backwards from there.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what? I love what I do and would do it again and again ...perhaps in Europe next time.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? Supporting other woman in business and in self-development. I want to inspire others to follow their dreams no matter what their background is.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? We need to work together, not just be together talking about working together. If we are side by side in business as we are in life, there is no limit.
What are some of your favorite quotes?
'Know the value of knowing your value'
"A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman . But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult " Melinda Gates .
"Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others " - Brian Tracey .