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Samantha Wills

AROMABABY Founder and CEO, Catherine Cervasio

AROMABABY Founder and CEO, Catherine Cervasio

Although initially I was very upset at being retrenched, I actually registered a business name the very next day and went into action woman mode. I began dreaming of how my new life – and my business, would look.
— Catherine Cervasio

In my experience, if your partner has an issue with your career or your business, it will be an issue for your relationship.
— Catherine Cervasio

Catherine at one of the many workshops she runs for mothers and midwives over in Hong Kong and China. 

Catherine at one of the many workshops she runs for mothers and midwives over in Hong Kong and China. 

lately, the only downtime I’m having during business trips is whilst I’m physically in the air.
— Catherine Cervasio

To me ‘success’ is all about living the life you love... and being in a position to make a small difference somewhere in the world. I feel blessed to have been able to work around raising my beautiful two sons. So yes, I consider myself successful.
— Catherine Cervasio

Aromababy Founder, Catherine Cervasio with her sons. Image from Damien Pleming, Sunday Life

Aromababy Founder, Catherine Cervasio with her sons. Image from Damien Pleming, Sunday Life

the most rewarding thing is having developed a business from becoming a mother.
— Catherine Cervasio

Both my mother and grandmother would encourage me to look for fairies in the garden when I was a little girl. There was always a sense of ‘make believe’ and ‘magic’ in my childhood.
— Catherine Cervasio

­NAME: Catherine Cervasio

COMPANY: AROMABABY Natural Skincare; Aluxe Pty Ltd

TITLE(S): Founder and CEO

AGE: 50

INSTAGRAM: aromababy_official

(personal) ladycatherineslife


How would you describe yourself in 5 words?

Loyal, determined, nurturing, passionate, free-spirited

What is the long version of how you got to where you are today?

During my early twenties I had spent some time working for a publishing company. The main role of the organization was to produce a luxury lifestyle magazine called Tempo. Editorially we covered everything from caviar and truffles to the Pirelli calendar and La Perla lingerie. Being a small organization, I was able to hover around the art director Tania and watch her skillfully put pages together (before computer software did the job) and have input across a number of areas of the magazine. With a flair for writing (both my mother and Nan have been published) it wasn’t long before I talked the editor into allowing me to compile the beauty pages.

I had developed an interest in ‘wellness’ and natural skincare as a teenager – reading Earl Mindell’s The Vitamin Bible from cover to cover and offering anyone (who would listen) advice on supplements, nutritious food and do-it-yourself skincare products. I used fresh avocadoes, yoghurt, honey, oats, sea salt and chamomile tea to make face masks and scrubs. I became excited about the benefits of (and making my own) natural beauty products which were basically non-existent, on a commercial level, at the time.

I moved on after two years. I began a new role, working on reception and as PA to the CEO and Founder of a well established fashion accessory/millinery company. Shortly after, my employer asked if I would like to move away from admin to focus on a new area, because I ‘had a keen eye for product development’. I declined. I thought it sounded too much like ‘sales’. He persuaded me to give it a go by offering overseas travel, my own office, a company car and a pay increase – and added, if I did not enjoy the new role, I could have my old position back. I agreed. Although with no formal qualifications in marketing or branding, developing product came naturally to me. I began to work mostly within the fashion sector, designing body care and accessories to fit in with corporate branding perimeters for the likes of Sportsgirl, Myer (Miss Shop, Lingerie and Fiorucci) and Esprit. I also took care of gift with purchase (coming up with ideas for those cute, branded cosmetic bags you receive when you purchase fragrance and cosmetics from department stores) for brands including Dior and Estee Lauder.

The Founder, who had originally employed me there, was eventually bought out by his business partner and shortly after, retired. The atmosphere was never quite the same. The company announced it was planning to close down the division I worked in and so I was retrenched only weeks prior to Christmas in 1993. Around the same time, I had received the news that we were expecting our first baby.

Although initially I was very upset at being retrenched, (I recall many of the female staff gathering in my office and we all cried) I actually registered a business name the very next day and went into action woman mode. I began dreaming of how my new life – and my business, would look.

Much of what I had worked on previously, was about identifying emerging overseas trends and incorporating those into product for clients in Australia. I knew the role involved a strong element of my own personal interpretation or ‘design’ so I began to look for new clients who I believed would benefit from what I had to offer.

Despite beginning my business with orders from a number of Australia’s leading retailers, my focus quickly switched from fashionable body care to baby products as I pondered what I was going to use for my soon-to-be-born baby. I had sound knowledge of brand trends and observed aromatherapy and natural ingredients as emerging elements in personal care design for adults. I noticed also, that no company was adopting the ‘natural’ theme into baby product development. 

The more I researched baby skincare ingredients, the more I discovered potential links between a number of commonly used ingredients and skin irritation or infantile eczema. I became very passionate about developing products for babies that would provide parents with access to ‘choice’ in the type of products they used on their children. At the time, parents were only offered one ‘style’ of formulation, which was used in a variety of different brands. All of the products available appeared to contain these ingredients that could potentially lead to irritation. My aim therefore became to provide a selection of baby care products to parents and health professionals that was different to anything else on the market; that was (in my opinion) safer, kinder to the environment, cruelty-free and offered an alternative to families whose babies were unable to tolerate existing product formulations. My brand needed to be free from sulphates, petro chemicals, artificial fragrance, parabens, propylene glycol, talc, phthalates, synthetic vitamin e, colouring, animal ingredients (no lanolin, goats milk or dairy) and many other ingredients which are still used in other baby products today – over two decades later!

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 you elevator pitch on what you do?

Aromababy Natural Skincare was developed as the first brand of its kind to combine the use of natural and organic ingredients with research.  Our products have been used with impressive results, on sensitive skin and in select hospitals, since being launched over twenty years ago. Aromababy is still entirely produced in Australia and is exported around the world including to Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, parts of Europe and UAE. We also provide education and run workshops to help empower women and health professionals to make more informed decisions around skincare choices for pregnancy use and for babies.

Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?)

If I look back ten years, I was with who I thought at the time, was the ‘love of my life’. I would have envisaged myself to now be happily settled with him and perhaps working several days a week - supporting his business and involved in product development or marketing either for Aromababy or another brand. I would be spending all weekend cooking for the family and finally be fluent in French. I never envisaged I would be selling to China and learning Mandarin, running workshops across Asia and so on. My business became a challenge for our relationship and we separated several years ago.

What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’?

To me ‘success’ is all about living the life you love, having healthy, authentic connections with those who matter most and being in a position to make a small difference somewhere in the world. I feel blessed to have been able to work around raising my beautiful two sons. So yes, I consider myself successful.

What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally)

On a professional level there is a part of me that would love to do the Women’s Leadership Forum at Harvard, join a Board and grow my business to the next level. There is however, another part that would like to simply step back and see Aromababy in the hands of a larger organization who will take it global.

When it comes to the crunch, family is what matters most to me so a little more work-life balance would be great. Personally I want to be in a position to spend part of the year in the France or Italy within the next five years – after my youngest finishes school. It’s not difficult to work remotely with the tools available to us nowadays. I would love to write a book – I already have the title sorted. I would also really love to do some work in Chinese orphanages – sharing the power of ‘touch’ through baby massage with care-givers.

I am really happy on my own, I’m very independent and have a group of beautiful girlfriends in my life but there is a part of me deep down that would still love to find that special man to share my life with.

Did you study anything specific for the career you are in?

I did not study at university; in fact I left school at 15 and only returned to study a Diploma in Aromatherapy in my thirties. Then I went back to study further as an Infant Massage Instructor several years later – these are the ‘tactile’ parts of my business and integral to the workshops I provide for mothers and their babies, as well as for health professionals, in Singapore, Hong Kong and China. You could say I’m more interested in spiritual growth than an MBA right now.

What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date?

One of the most rewarding moments in business was last year. I won an export award and my eldest son – the reason I started Aromababy, was with me at the presentation dinner. It was so wonderful to share that special moment with him. The only thing missing was my second son, who was not old enough to attend. The National finals for that award are coming up so I really want to take my youngest this time. I have just returned from China where we won another 2 awards. For one of the awards we were the only international recipient and it was for ‘brand experience’ (my educational workshops) – I felt I was bringing these awards home for “Australia”. I find the entire “Asia” experience really rewarding actually. I run workshops and have presented to hundreds of mothers and midwives in China and Hong Kong. It’s really special and they highly value the personal stories I share.

Another exciting experience was almost two years ago. I was approached on behalf of a Chinese ecommerce giant. After many months of communication, they requested a meeting over breakfast in Melbourne. Even though I had an idea who the meeting was with, it was only made official one day prior. The interested party was a self-made billionaire; his story is an inspiration to many. Whilst I had prepared financials and a business plan, he seemed more interested in understanding how my brand could fit into his channels to market, whether my IP was protected internationally (which it was) and then basically asked ‘how much’ would it cost to acquire my brand. I remember thinking, ‘this is going to be one of those stories I share to inspire others one day’. Had I really wanted to sell my business it may have become a reality that morning. For me it wasn’t about a potential ‘financial transaction’ it was about the experience. The message? Dream big. Anything is possible.

Every time I receive feedback about our product helping with eczema, from parents or health professionals, it is one of the most rewarding parts about what I do. We’re about to launch an Anniversary soy wax candle – the aroma has been carefully crafted without artificial fragrance which is extremely rare. There is a message inside the lid which is dedicated to my sons - the most rewarding thing is having developed a business from becoming a mother.

Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace?

My workspace is divided between the office in my Melbourne warehouse and home (which these days may also be a hotel room). Our showroom is light, bright, with white leather lounges and a chandelier. I have had many interviews in that space and it’s what I love most about our premises which is stuck in the middle of an industrial area. If I need creative time however I generally work from home.  I prefer to be in feminine-inspired spaces (soft furnishings, flowers) and to be able to see outside – near nature or the ocean. When I’m travelling I like to stay in the same hotels because they feel like ‘home’. I always request a high floor and in cities such as Hong Kong or Shanghai, this can mean you’re literally perched on top of the world, working from the 90th floor and looking out to what feels like the heavens. These two cities have my favourite views – after work I sit perched on the window ledge with my note book and watch the city light up, one neon light at a time. It seems like every minute the view changes as the sun sets and neon signs light up the sky scrapers. It’s mesmerizing. I love it.

What are some frustrations you have experienced on your career journey?

As one would expect, when you are an innovator there are copy-cat brands which eventually emerge. This was certainly true for Aromababy. On one occasion I was approached by and subsequently appointed a sales agency, whose team I then personally trained, providing market knowledge and education. They had no experience in baby skincare but had been in the nursery industry for some years, importing goods which were manufactured in China. Their sales channels were perfect for Aromababy including calling on stores we already sold to in addition to having one or two key accounts we hoped to gain. That organization went on to develop a baby skincare brand within months, without our knowledge, which adopted a similar-looking ‘stork in a square frame, with silver outlines’ packaging design. Some products even had an identical name, highlighted the same key benefits and had the same directions on labels, in almost identical packaging. We took legal action and they shortly after changed their packaging design. Needless to say we parted ways, however in the process, we lost the only one major account they had secured – an important, National retailer, as the direct relationship had been with the agent and not with us. This, off the back of another so-called ‘natural’ brand who modeled their brand on Aromababy “only cheaper” some years earlier, led me to wonder if building something unique was really worth it, or if indeed running a business was really what I wanted to do. Someone actually said to me recently “oh I know your brand, I used to work in pharmacy – have you changed your name? I thought you were called XXXX ”. It was that cheap brand, still being confused with Aromababy, almost a decade later. Yes it’s frustrating.

When I launched Aromababy it was the first brand of its kind and therefore I had to come up with an entire ‘language’ for the natural and organic baby sector that would enable our team to communicate to both consumers and store buyers. The market for baby skincare has now become over-saturated – there are multiple brands now using the same marketing and messaging that we developed. Of those brands, there are also several using the word ‘organic’ prominently in their name or on packaging, when only a small fraction of the overall formulation is certified organic. This has the potential to both confuse and mislead customers and can damage our industry. I used to find this to be really frustrating however now I prefer to focus on our key points of difference and twenty year history. A retail buyer commented recently to me that she could not believe how ‘cut throat’ the baby skincare category had become, with newer brands all trying to undermine each other. It is interesting to see how much the landscape has changed and how there is little difference between pharmacy and grocery baby brands, it’s all about who offers the most margin or has the largest marketing budget (or both). Rather than compete in this mass space, we have stayed true to our positioning and instead focus on working with key retailers who value our brand heritage, efficacy and niche market positioning.

When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load?

Over the twenty years I’ve cried many times for sure.  From exhaustion, from overwhelm particularly as a new mother -  trying to soothe a young baby and take a business phone call at the same time.

The last several times I cried were during business trips to China, where I travel regularly. One time, I was on a train from Nanjing heading to Shanghai.  I had kept an eye on my luggage – which was in view near the doors, the entire time. A lovely couple boarded and the wife sat next to me, one stop before Shanghai. We got talking. She was returning from USA to Shanghai for the first time in twenty years. Shanghai was the train’s final stop. We went to collect our luggage together and mine was gone – it had been stolen. I had my entire trip’s worth of clothes, shoes and personal care however the most upsetting thing was I was heading to present a workshop and all the products, samples and handouts were gone. I was met in Shanghai by a friend who took me to the police stationed there. I made what I thought was a formal complaint or ‘report’. I cried. My friend (a former business agent) told me that this incident has ‘taken away some bad energy’ and to be positive, that good would come into the space where something had been taken away. His words really resonated with me. A part of me was still upset but I began to see the situation differently. The poor thief would have been very disappointed to open the suitcase and find it was mostly filled with some weird, luxury baby product brand from Australia! Upon trying to make a claim from insurance I discovered there was no actual ‘report’ - the policeman had just made a hand written note which could not be used. It was another learning experience.

Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten increased or lessened as you progress in your career?

Yes I would say I do put pressure on myself, however it fluctuates. I am the sole Director of my business so I need to hold myself accountable – it’s important. I believe there is a certain amount of ‘pressure’ that goes with running a business in general. If you’re goal oriented, or have an entrepreneurial spirit, no doubt you aim high and have milestones you want to achieve. Perhaps my personal situation further impacts the pressure I put on myself as I have been a sole parent to my two sons for the past 11 years. In many ways it’s an enormous responsibility both on a practical and financial level however I am also aware of the importance of allowing myself to just take a breath and trust the universe.

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

If I need to clear my head, I take a power walk in nature, near water which always helps. I try to take some time out when I travel – but lately the only downtime I’m having during business trips is whilst I’m physically in the air. I have several, beautiful friends whom I can talk to if things get tough however with my current workload, it’s not always possible to make time to get together and talk. Nor is it easy for me to pick up the phone and say ‘hey, I’m having a hard day – can we get together and talk’. I try to focus on the positives and I guess I just keep going. I have learned to become quite independent, resilient over the years, which is not always a great thing when the best thing for you may actually be to reach out and get some support. Having been in business for so long I tend to think that if I’m not ok, I’ll work it out – because I always do.

Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how?

For the majority of the twenty plus years, my career has had an absolutely positively affect on my life. I’ve enjoyed a flexible working environment, I have been able to work around two amazing sons (now 17 and 23), have been able to support many charities and causes which are close to my heart, I have been able to travel (including with my family) and so on. On the downside, however, I went through a messy divorce with my ex husband and the business was used as somewhat of a negotiating tool. At the time my business was the only link I had to any form of independence and it provided me with an income, the flexibility to work around my young boys and it gave us a sense of ‘normality’ amongst the chaos. I was also intensely connected to my business on an emotional level – purely because the idea had come about as a direct result of my becoming a mother. I fought hard to be given a chance to buy my ex out of my own business and I chose to also buy him out of our family home in order to keep things as stable as possible for our children. This was only possible, however, after enduring a legal battle lasting 3 years which put a huge emotional and financial strain on me. My ex-husband moved overseas (where he has lived for over a decade) and I put the business on hold whilst I worked on rebuilding a safe and loving environment for my two boys.

I went on to have a long relationship with a new partner. He was successful in his own right and extremely supportive initially. It was, for the most part, a fairytale kind of love story – complete with four children between us. Despite almost five years together, my business (and hence my independence) was at the core of the disagreements which began to develop.  In order to focus more on our ‘family’ (and his needs) my partner asked that I sell the business, sell my family home (we were living in two houses at the time) and cease having any public profile (including being involved in my charity work and anything else that put me in the spotlight). Needless to say, we separated. It took us until recently to completely cut ties and perhaps for me to put the relationship completely behind me. We had dinner together only weeks ago after he had walked away from yet another relationship – he again asked about ‘my profile’. I nearly choked on my food. If I had carried the tiniest bit of hope deep inside that someday we would reconcile, it disappeared at that moment.  In my experience, if your partner has an issue with your career or your business, it will be an issue for your relationship. Clearly his story around ‘my career’ meant it affected our relationship. I believe everything happens for a reason and to this day I feel blessed to have had such a beautiful experience.

Has your journey at times felt lonely? How?

In the start up phase you’re often working on your own. Fast-forward a year or two and you may have one or two staff, however even with a small team it can still mean you are somewhat isolated. We’re still only a small business – we aim to outsource where we can and keep overheads lean. We have no Board, I have no business partner and for part of the time, I’ve been without a life partner so sure, it can feel lonely at times. What I do have are amazing friends and there are some great networking events these days where you can connect with other like-minded women in business. As my sons are older, I have greater flexibility in how I manage the business – travel, for example. We chat regularly about business at home – marketing, strategy, finances; I find it inspiring (and interesting) to hear the viewpoint of a teenager.

What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights?

I’m a fairly positive person. I am not one to get anxious over day to day stuff. Whilst I certainly recall being stressed around the time of both copy-cat episodes, I engaged legal support early on which enabled me to step back and allow the experts to do their thing. I was also anxious before (and often during) overseas travel when my children were younger - leaving them behind was always difficult. The anxiety eased naturally as my boys became older and as I learned how to take a deep breath and trust that all would be well. I do get stressed over finances from time to time - working on building export markets means you have to sit it out and wait for the orders to come. Everything is an expense, the travel, marketing, samples, trade shows, and keeping a warehouse full of stock. I have nobody to back me up so it can get scary at times. Most times, I’m more likely to have sleepless nights when I’m excited, which is not a bad thing.

If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently?

I believe all the varied roles I have had, have led me to where I am today - from working in publishing, fashion and beauty, to product development and luxury goods. If I would do anything differently it would likely be to stay at school longer. At times I wonder if my life would have turned out differently had I pursued a university degree but hey, you could say I have been schooled by the University of Life! A rich tapestry of experiences has led me to build the business I have and made me the woman I am today.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

You are enough. Dream big and remember, everything will be ok.

Who are some women in business you admire & why?

For someone who has never lived outside of the city where I grew up, I really do admire women who have had the courage and vision to pack up and move abroad for the sake of growing their business – take Emma Isaacs of Business Chicks for example. Not only did she build a thriving business in Australia, she moved with her family to USA to replicate the model there.

Jacqueline Arias from Republica Coffee is another great example. I recall having dinner with her twelve months ago and she explained how she was looking at moving overseas to take her business to the next level. Not just ‘looking’ she was on the ground in USA investigating schools (she had one son still studying) and really doing her due diligence. Within months I’d learned she was off. What a woman.

Perhaps I admire the strength in these women because moving to a new city to build my business is not something I’m sure I could have even done. I mostly admire women who are successful in both ‘family’ and business – those who work to keep their families together, alongside building an empire - it’s something I’ve always strived for. For me there would be little point in have a successful business if my family was falling apart.

What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with?

I love to be around people who have vision and are action takers. It’s the reason I was so excited to meet the Chinese businessman I mentioned earlier. I’m intrigued by the way men think and operate – even if I don’t agree with everything, I find it fascinating. I mostly surround myself with a small group of close friends. One brings her infectious smile together with intellect, in another I admire her gentleness and ability to listen, another brings spiritual wisdom. They are all part of my tribe. I aim to avoid drama at all costs - there is a sense of calm being around people who refuse to attract chaos into their lives.

Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it?

I’m not certain there is such a thing as ‘work-life balance’ however I do strive to have some form of ‘balance’ in my life. I try to mentally switch off when I fly. I am not one of those people who pull out their laptop and work on emails during flights. I’m more inclined to put on my headphones and listen to music. It’s cathartic. I did speak to someone for 8 hours on the way to Hong Kong recently. Turns out we went to the same school – small world. I take long walks most weekends and when I’m travelling for business I also walk as much as I can. It’s my ‘me’ time. I love to cook. As a family we always have meals together – although my eldest son is not always home for meals these days. I love making my son’s lunches and weekend breakfasts - home is my favourite place in the world. So long as I have quality family time, I’m ok.

Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit?

I have definitely considered giving up – selling the business, even giving part or all of it away, on more than one occasion. However just as intensely as the feeling arises, it subsides; the phone will ring and someone will tell me an amazing story of how an Aromababy product has helped their eczema or soothed their baby’s nappy rash. I recall one time when I really thought “I can’t keep going with this”. The kind of thoughts that run through my head include I’m not tough enough for business – I’m too sensitive, I care too much, I won’t compromise on quality and cut costs, I don’t have what it takes (including a husband). But the feelings always pass and I realize I can ‘do it’ I have ‘done it’ for ten years or twenty years – or whatever the case may be at the time. Now in our 23rd year, I’m definitely looking into an exit strategy within 3-5 years unless the right opportunity presents itself sooner, however it will be on my terms, when it’s right for the business and for me.

What is the biggest misconception about what you do?

That it’s “glamourous” to be in business or I’m “lucky” because I travel for work.  If they only knew …

What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry

If you are starting out in business, you require a really strong USP (point of difference) and to protect your intellectual property from the outset. Now more than ever, it’s a global playing field. To launch a brand you need to now invest in global IP protection – trademarks, social media handles as well as having your trademark secured in other languages/characters (for example in China). International IP protection is vital to sustain a business long term as the Australian market is not always enough for a specialist brand or service. The last thing you would want is that you have an exceptional opportunity to launch, for example, in South Korea, only to discover that your trademark has already been registered by another entity and is not available for use.

This could result in an expensive re-branding exercise or worse, an inability to trade in the region. If you are starting out in the skincare industry – or the baby skincare industry, the above of course applies however in many countries there are even more stringent regulations for importing baby products. This is particularly so, for example, in markets such as South Korea, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Europe so my advice would be to choose a less complex entry level region first, if you’re looking to expand beyond Australia.

It’s always a good idea to pay for expert advice if aren’t sure of entry barriers for export. I heard stories recently of two different brands that announced publicly they had “researched the market and were going to “sell to China via Hong Kong”. This is illegal and commonly known as ‘black market’ trading. In China there are people employed to scour store shelves for products which have not passed the registration process (a lengthy and expensive exercise) and being caught without the required licenses could cost you your entire business, not just the potential China market.

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 believe whatever my path has been is the way it was meant to be. Every journey in life is not without its challenges – these are each designed to help us grow and learn our ‘life lessons’. I’m happy with where I’m at. There have been times where I have managed a huge workload and then times of ease, times of elation and other times of despair, times of flexibility and then of rigidity. These experiences are not exclusively related to business, this is ‘living life’. If I were to start my business again, sure I would do some things differently – hindsight is such a beautiful thing. I would definitely follow my heart more; be guided more by how I ‘feel’ about situations, people, ideas.

I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be?

I helped a stranger in the street a few years ago – I noticed her immediately when I parked, negotiating unsuccessfully with her defiant son aged 5 or 6 who was walking away from her. I was in the area for a meeting with a new pharmacy buyer so across the road I went. Distracted by the woman, I had left my handbag in my car and so went back to collect it. When I returned to my car I saw the little boy was running away from his mother, down the street. I saw the look of desperation on that mother’s face. She was also with a toddler and had an infant asleep in the pram. I offered to run after her son (in my heels, business suit and with a bag of samples). Twenty minutes later I had to return to the woman without her son. I had been unable to coax him to stop.  I was devastated. She told me that they had only moved to the area from overseas a week earlier. Long story short, the police were called to assist and her son was returned to her.

I had a successful meeting and the pharmacy now stocks Aromababy. After my meeting had ended, however, I noticed the police were still near my car, talking to the woman and her family. I went over to find out if I could do anything to help and a policeman told me the same thing had happened and he had delivered the boy back to his home only days earlier. He continued, explaining the family’s apartment had little furniture and the children did not have beds. The entire situation really affected me. I cried all the way home and explained the story to my sons. We agreed to purchase some items and I asked a few other business owner friends if they had items they could contribute. Weeks later, I connected with the lady and arranged a time to visit with my sons to deliver mattresses, clothes, bedding and toys. When we saw each other again we both just cried. There were no words needed. The experience for my sons and I was beautiful.

If we can somehow make a small difference, do small things to positively impact another person’s life, not just in business, but in general, the blessings are ours. I would like my legacy to be that I lived my life in this way and encouraged others to do the same. I believe “being of service to others, is truly a gift we give ourselves”.

The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important?

I am passionate about empowering women and having a positive impact on those around me. I come from a family of three sisters and we are all really different - all strong in our own, unique way. We have no business owners in our family so I look to women’s networks to find support and role models in my career. My mother was an only child. Her mother was an only child. All three generations of women had very little support yet they were strong and resilient. Both my mother and grandmother would encourage me to look for fairies in the garden when I was a little girl. There was always a sense of ‘make believe’ and ‘magic’ in my childhood. My mother only recently took me to a corner of her garden and excitedly showed me a group of mushrooms which looked to be out of a story book. They were red with white spots. She had placed small fairy figurines amongst them. It was beautiful. I never want to lose that.

“Business” in some ways tends to draw on our ‘masculine’ traits, our strengths, resilience. As women in business I believe we should not only be encouraged to embrace our inner child, but our femininity also. Being a woman in business is not always easy. Not having a business partner means for me it can also get lonely. When I read these interview questions I was both excited and emotional to share some of the private aspects of what being a woman in business means for me, in an effort to support other women who may feel they are not alone when they read my story. I truly believe that by surrounding ourselves with supportive, positive role models who allow you to be yourself – to tell it like it is rather than live life behind a façade, it can lighten the load and we can each make a genuine, positive impact on each other.

What are some of your favorite quotes?

I like the quote ‘do small things with great love’ by Mother Theresa. Maybe we can only do small things. But there is no limit to the number of small things we can do or the amount of love with which we do these small things. We can definitely all make a difference. It’s what I aim for in my life.