Beautiful You Coaching Academy Event // Photos courtesy of Fi Mims Photography
Roooar Magazine Christmas Dinner // Photos courtesy of Fi Mims Photography
Belinda Davidson Evening Lecture // Photos courtesy of Fi Mims Photography
NAME: Jade McKenzie
COMPANY: Event Head
How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
Small woman with big ideas.
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today?
My career journey has been extremely varied. Now I look back, my entrepreneurial side started to develop as early as primary school when I started sticker club subscriptions and memberships!
Although I had this entrepreneurial side, after high school I had no idea what I wanted to do and I felt lost in a sea of people who seemed to have a very clear direction. I knew that I wasn’t really interested in getting a degree (although I did study Psychology for 6 months, because that’s what I thought I had to do) or pursuing a particular career, but I did know that I wanted to help people somehow and do something that was creative.
That was very broad though and I was really stumped!
I started working in the nursing home that my mother and my nan had worked at, and I loved being around people, helping the oldies, and being a part of their day. I quit university to work there as much as I could and I loved it. I much preferred getting paid and being able to support myself out of home, than studying and being poor.
After a while though, I knew I needed to move on, so at 19 I took a traineeship in a suburban accounting firm and pretty much worked my way from the bottom up, constantly changing positions and up-levelling my skills because I couldn’t sit still in one job for too long. I was always drawn to learning more and doing more. After six or seven years there, I knew I had outgrown the roles and I felt the need to explore either working in the city, or with bigger businesses, so I quit.
I moved in to another finance role, where I soon realised I didn’t like it at all, so I left to work with a new superannuation company with an entrepreneurial flair.
From there I worked with entrepreneurs within venture capital, but found it just wasn’t for me. Working with men in finance showed me a couple of key things:
One - that it’s hard to be taken seriously as a female in a male dominated industry (it doesn’t help when you look like a 16 year old girl).
Two - it was all very cutthroat, with many crazy ego-based antics.
Three- ultimately, this wasn’t the world I wanted to live in.
Call me crazy but I wanted something meaningful and beautiful.
Throughout all of this, I had always been working a second job, first in the nursing home, then in various not for profit organisations. I knew that I wanted to help people in a big-picture way, and so I applied for a grant to become the first paid staff member of a charity that I was volunteering for. I ended up winning the grant, and became the General Manager; helping build the charity into a national organisation with beautiful programs, a solid community base, and many amazing fundraising events.
After a few very intense, emotional and rewarding years, I became pregnant, and I knew that once I went on maternity leave, I wouldn’t be back. I knew that at 30, it was my time to take all my business development skills and everything that I had been giving to everyone else, and use them to build my own future – so I did!
I didn’t know what my business was going to be or what I was going to do, but when my daughter Cerise was about three months old I knew that I wanted to centre my whole business around connection, and in-person experiences, and soon, Event Head was born.
The work and job fulfilment that I so craved in the early days, when I didn’t know what I wanted, just seemed to evolve, and now I spend my days gratefully immersed in the world of event planning and management, coaching and mentoring. You’ll find me working away with a huge smile on my face, and a heart bursting with happiness, surrounded by beautifully kind and amazing people daily – bliss!
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph. What is you elevator pitch on what you do?
I am an event professional for heart-centered entrepreneurs who want to bring more meaning and impact to their work through events.
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally)
Professionally, I would love to have a strong global brand and presence, and have over 1,000 entrepreneurs go through my flagship program by 2018. I would also love to have a million-dollar business that has a gorgeous and thriving community, full of passionate and positive entrepreneurs and business owners.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in?
I have my diploma in Events Management, together with a life coaching certification from the Beautiful You Coaching Academy. However, a lot of my event management and business development experience comes from practical, and on the job experience.
There’s nowhere you learn faster than the school of life!
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date?
The most rewarding part of my career so far has absolutely been starting my business with a newborn and growing it into what it is now. I didn’t come from money, I didn’t know how any of it would go, and I ate a lot of jam on toast in the early days! But I did everything I could, day and night, to build my little business up and up. It wasn’t always easy, but I’ve never felt much reward in staying within my comfort zone. Now when I look around, I have created something that fuels and sustains me, gives back to the world in a way that lights me up, empowers incredible women across the world, and allows the business owners I hire, to live their passions too.
Tell us about your workspace. What inspires you about your workspace?
Right now my workspace is mainly the couch and the kitchen table! I conduct my client calls and coaching sessions from the dining room table, and I really love that clients get to feel like they are in my home.
I love that we can have a cup of tea and feel relaxed as we work together
What are some frustrations you have experiences on your career journey?
My main frustrations in my early career were not knowing whether there were other possibilities out there, and not knowing what the next step could be. I grew up only knowing the school > university > stable job model, and I didn’t really want any of that!
Luckily, I got that one sorted eventually! Within my business now, my frustration lies mainly within my perceived lack of time, and budgetary restraints. The finances definitely frustrate me from time to time, as I have a big vision and I would love to invest more, but my husband and I are just average Joes who come from humble beginnings. I’m working on it though!
When was the last time you were overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work/workload?
The last time I cried from work was due to pure exhaustion after a HUGE event, mixed in with pure relief that it was over. It was a combination of a huge workload, high pressure, short deadlines and a skeleton team, along with many, many hours and many, many challenges. But we got through it, and there were a lot of important lessons learned. I don’t cry at many events anymore, but when I do it’s for good reason!
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career?
It is a bad habit of mine to constantly put pressure on myself to do more, achieve more, and be better, and it’s not always healthy. I think a big a-ha moment for me in the last 18 months was realising that the only pressure that gets put on me is from myself, and my high expectations. My husband has always been supportive, my clients have always been great, and my team are amazing, so I have to keep pulling myself back when I feel that craziness rise up, and give myself a break.
As a business owner, you often can’t just check out/have a week off when you are dealing with personal things, so how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough?
When I’m in that state, I focus on just doing one thing at a time. We tend to pile so much on the to-do list, and with a long term vision it feels like that list just gets longer and longer. But, there have been pockets of time where I have been really ill and all I could manage was one thing at a time, or even for the whole day. Whether it was checking my inbox and replying to anything urgent, finishing off one tiny job, or just putting on my out of office response; by doing one thing, I could relieve my guilt somewhat and be able to close that laptop lid and not be tempted to open it again. Not looking at my phone though is another story…
Has your career affected your personal life/relationships?
It absolutely has. At times, you feel like you are stretched so thin that there isn’t enough of you to go around. When you travel, or have client work at all sorts of hours, you inevitably miss a celebration or social occasion. Your energy is spent on your business, or your immediate family in the early years, and it feels like there’s not enough headspace for it all. I found that starting a business with a newborn baby made this even worse, as you have a little human to nurture and tend to, and there is already such a huge learning curve around that, as well as having to focus on that area of your life, which not everybody in your personal life understands. On the flip side though, my business has affected my personal life in the most amazing way by giving me so many new and incredible friendships and relationships that I can’t imagine living without now, not to mention experiences I never would have dreamed of. It’s been a beautiful way to connect with people who are loving, inspiring and supportive and such an exciting adventure!
Has your journey at times felt lonely?
Having been involved with business development before with past employers, I knew what to expect. So whilst I had felt incredibly lonely in the past, this time around I felt wonderfully supported by family and friends. This did have something to do with having a baby though, and people feeling sorry for me!
What causes you anxiety/sleepless nights?
I actually have anxiety, so my brain naturally causes it (ha!), but in my business, what causes my sleepless nights is when my heart really, really wants something and I am waiting for an outcome. That, and online launches! I have learnt by now that when something I really desire doesn’t come to fruition, it’s ok, and there will be a better or different opportunity on the horizon. It doesn’t stop me from being invested in the outcome though, and spending a good few days worrying about it!
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently?
Hmm that’s a tough question, but I have to say no. I feel like every experience I’ve had has given me an incredible lesson, or the strength to be where I am now. Even when things in the past have felt hurtful or I felt so lost, I can see how it’s made me stronger in my business and I wouldn’t change that experience for the world. The only thing I would like to change though is my age!
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
Even though you may feel different to everyone else and question why you think the way you do, or crave the experiences you do, all of this will serve you in the years to come. In fact, some people will tell you that that’s what makes you special. Embrace it all, be confident that you will be led on a journey that’s mind expanding and soul fulfilling, and that you being you is the best thing you can ever do.
Who are some women in business you admire & why?
You, Samantha, for the incredible journey you have been on, your complete and utter dedication to your vision and the amazing footprint you are leaving on the world.
Julie Parker, Founder of the Beautiful You Coaching Academy and a dear friend, for her endless generosity and incredible smarts. I watched her build her business over the years and she deserves everything that has come her way and more.
And Lisa Messenger, for her shining entrepreneurial spirit, and her ability to show a whole new generation of female business owners and entrepreneurs what can be done with a whole lotta savviness and determination!
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with?
I admire their passion, their tenacity, their lust for something big and beautiful, and their kindness of spirit. They look like love and they act like love, and that is something that I have always admired and connected to.
Work life balance ... Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it?
For me, work life balance does not exist. The scales are always tipped at different angles but I do have ebb and flow. Some periods of time are super hectic, and I don’t have time to cook or clean or do my laundry and I snap at stupid things. Other times I can take it slower, enjoy my tasks for the day, and watch movies with Cerise on the couch.
What I’ve learnt to do is to pre-empt these periods of time and prepare as best I can. Organic and pre-prepared meals delivered to the house are wonderful. Cold pressed bottled juices from the local are my favourite way to keep up my nutrition. Telling my husband what is coming up and how it’s going to affect the household means we are all on the same page. And having my mum come and help out with the house once a week helps us keep things going. The early years of any business are always crazy, and you have to be conscious about how you spend your time, whether it’s at work or at home. When I’m unplugged, I prefer to spend my time with my family doing something fun rather than worrying about grocery shopping, cooking or cleaning so I’d rather outsource that stuff first and focus on the things I love doing. That’s probably the best balance I’ll ever have!
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit?
God yes! There have been times where I have completely questioned my abilities and myself. Am I good enough? Will I get more clients? Can I support my family and pay the bills? Do people actually care about what I have to say? I have noticed that these feelings come up in times of low energy when I am about to do something big and hit the next level. New level, new devil - and the devil likes to pop his little head up and make me question EVERYTHING about myself. Up-levelling really likes to keep you humble!
But then I remember that none of this is actually about me. All of this is about the people I want to serve and what a shame it would be if they felt lost and over whelmed and something within my business could make them feel empowered, confident and excited. There is something inside of me that BELIEVES in what I do so much. I’ve seen the proof now and there is no other option other for me than to keep going. In my first year, I asked myself – do I believe in this? Do I believe in me? And the answer was yes. I was just overwhelmed and sometimes scared about what it meant for my family and me. Now when I feel like this, I know it’s time to take a little break, and that it’s a feeling that will pass as I get my mojo back and take a clear and strategic look at what is currently happening in my business.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do?
I think the biggest misconception is that events are only for people who have a big presence in their industry or who have a lot of money. You can absolutely have beautifully successful events with a small group of people and a small budget. In fact, that’s how many of my multiple 6 figure and 7 figure clients started out! It’s not always about the numbers; it’s about having a platform to share your message, and building a gorgeous community along the way.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry?
Get as much on-the-ground experience as possible. You can study and read books, but nothing will teach you faster than being on the ground running.
Managing events and being in those situations in real life will teach you what kind of leader you are, how you work under pressure, how you solve problems, how you manage different types of personalities (good and challenging!), where your strengths and weaknesses are, and most importantly – where you passion lies.
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 at the start I knew what it took to get here, I may have had a panic attack thinking about it all! But I would absolutely do it all again for the incredibly valuable lessons I learnt along the way.
I like the quote‘ Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be?
I would honestly love my legacy to be one of community and connection.
Through my work I hope to empower thousands of people across the globe to have the confidence and know-how to create meaningful interactions with one another. I want to give people the ability to spread knowledge, wisdom and kindness. Most of all, I want to enable people to create purposeful events with powerful outcomes that change the world.
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)?
It is so important that we all support each other in our business journeys and that we show each other what is possible.
Without the amazing women I have looked up to along the way, I wouldn’t know what a coach was and I wouldn’t be one. I wouldn’t know about online-based businesses, or have one. I wouldn’t know about scaling and creating impactful businesses. I wouldn’t know it was possible for women to have million-dollar businesses run from their homes. And without them I would have felt alone and lost in some ways. I certainly wouldn’t have the support and kindness I needed in the hard and challenging times, from someone who knows what it’s like to be in my shoes.
We are born to be in communities and have meaningful human interaction. If we can support each other, encourage each other and light the way for each other, there is no stopping the amazing work we can do together in this world.
What are some of your favourite quotes?
One of my absolute favourites and one that I keep coming back to is:
“Here's to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” - Unknown.
“It is my wish for you that you realise just how strong you are and just what you can do beautiful one.” - Unknown