Peace Mitchell loves her work

In today’s interview, I’m excited to introduce Peace Mitchell. Former primary school teacher, now author, presenter, speaker and co-owner of two successful businesses, Peace provides women with the skills, encouragement and platform to thrive in their own enterprises.

Her journey hasn’t been linear, or easy - but Peace is a life-long student driven by a clear vision and an unwavering commitment to educate and promote her community.

I found her focus, honesty and achievements inspiring - and am in awe at how she’s built a life that supports the individual needs of her family with her career. I really enjoyed learning more about Peace’s work.

Photographer:  Beth Jennings

Photographer: Beth Jennings

Hi Peace, thanks for being available for this interview. Can you tell us about your current work, and how it came about? Ok, well I run two businesses, AusMumpreneur and the Women's Business School. AusMumpreneur is Australia's number one community for Mums who have their own business. Over the last 10 years we've helped thousands of women and been a big part of celebrating and acknowledging the work that they're doing as well as showing them what they're capable of and helping them to believe in themselves. Each year we also run the National AusMumpreneur Awards and Conference.

The Women's Business School evolved from AusMumpreneur. We could see that the women had incredible skills from their former careers but didn't necessarily have all of the skills needed to run a successful business. We created a course that would give them the groundwork to bring them up to speed in those skills that they didn't have.

We run two programs. The first is Ignite, which is for people who are pre-launch or who have an idea but aren’t quite there. It gives people an overview of all the things they need in business: business and strategic planning, sales, marketing, finances, time management – all the fundamental skills you need to run a business. It's a six-month program and we actively guide them through that time, spending a month focusing on each topic and working through the program.

Last year we launched Accelerate , designed for more established (five-years+) business owners. Our first intake has just graduated, and it's been a game changer.

AusMumpreneur and The Women's Business School work hand-in-hand – they’re about elevating women and helping them see and reach their potential as capable business leaders.

I’ve so many questions but first, being an entrepreneur and running a business to support entrepreneurs - that's quite a leap from school teaching. How did that happen? That's a great question. When I first went into teaching, I was able to develop the curriculum and framework for my class. For example, during one term we did Under the Sea and I spent the school holidays putting butchers paper up and around the whole classroom and stencilling on big dolphins and mermaids and sea creatures. I found seaweed that I hung from the ceiling and played dolphin sounds and crashing waves music. It was a really creative, immersive experience for the children.

While I was on parental leave, a standardised curriculum was brought in, where we were all required to teach the same thing, the same way. When I returned, I found the new approach stifling, and it just sucked all the joy out of school teaching for me.

The appeal of being an entrepreneur is that it’s creative and I wanted to start a business before I knew what my business idea was. I also knew that the key to being able to run a business, and be at home with my family, was to have an online business.

I remember the first business workshop I ever went to, which was in the 90’s, it was about online marketing. The guy at the front asks, Okay, put your hand up if you've got a computer at home. In a room full of people, I was the only one who didn’t put my hand up. Then he says, Put your hand up if you have an email address. And again, everyone else except me put their hand up. I don’t know how I found the workshop – but looking back, I just find it so funny that I didn't even have a computer but I knew that I was going to have an online business.

Where do you think that drive to be an entrepreneur come from? I come from a bit of an entrepreneurial background. My Dad loved growing plants, particularly palm trees, and he would take us to the Saturday markets where we'd have a stall and my sister, brother and I would sell the plants alongside him.

I’d always felt that you could just make something, take it to the markets, start a business and you’d sell it! My first couple of businesses were along those lines - I went into bikini design of all things. I don't know what I was thinking. I had no fashion experience and knew nothing about the industry. But I was really into embroidery and making hand-embroidered bikinis. That idea didn't go anywhere because I couldn't get the manufacturing happening, so I launched a travel blog which was a lot of fun, but again, it didn't really get off the ground. It wasn't until my sister suggested we do something together that I really got on the path that led me to where I am now.

Our first enterprise wasn't actually a business, it was a non-profit organisation which my sister and I, together with our friends Liz and Karen, founded after Cyclone Larry. Through that work I found I had a passion for working with women to show them their potential, and helping them to develop that potential.

You genuinely want to help people? Well, I believe that investment in women is the number one way that we can change the world. Through years of working with them I’ve learned that most women don't start a business just to make a profit. They actually start a business because they want to make a difference, to people or the environment; so their businesses are often purpose-driven.

That’s interesting - why do you think women lean towards building a purpose driven business? For thousands of years women have been the nurturers, carers and homemakers, looking after children and the elderly. It's part of their DNA to have that caring role, and having a purpose-driven business is an extension of that.

It’s those feminine qualities that I see come through in so many women's businesses. Not necessarily all of them, but so, so many of them come from a deep heart-centred place of wanting to care and nurture, and that's what's driving the purpose in many women's businesses.

What are some of your earlier jobs? Apart from working for my parents, I worked at the local movie theatre, in it’s sandwich bar, that was fun! I've worked as a painter – I painted the ceiling of the chapel in a boarding school – my Michelangelo moment. I’ve also worked as a kitchen hand.

Thinking back to your childhood, can you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up? From about the age of nine when my sister was born I always wanted to be a mother. I also wanted to be a teacher and a marine biologist and a hairdresser. My first business was in high school, braiding my classmates hair for a dollar a braid. I never went into marine biology but I did marry a sailor and have lived on a boat. And as for teaching I now have my own school which my nine-year old self would be pretty impressed with.

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face? Where do I begin? It's been ten years and there've been a number of times where I've almost sold the business, almost quit, almost walked away!

Business is hard. It’s not easier than being a primary school teacher, that's for sure. There are no guarantees that customers will buy from you, or that that what you did last year is going to work this year, or that you'll get enough customers to cover all of the expenses.

Peace and sister/business partner Katy at Mumspreneur Awards, 2018.

Peace and sister/business partner Katy at Mumspreneur Awards, 2018.

And going through years of hard times, it’s hard to stay motivated and focused. We've had terrible things happen to us, trusted the wrong people and lost money, and times we’ve felt that we could lose the whole business.

What has kept me going is our vision and knowing that this is what I'm meant to be doing. I’m here to empower women, be part of the rising of women and giving them a voice. It’s that strong belief that’s carried me through the hard times.

I also think having my sister as a business partner has helped keep things together - she doesn't want to let me down, and it's the same for me. That sense of responsibility. When things go crazy, we’re like, Okay, well let's try this and see if this works then. And it works and off we go again. But yes, being in business, it's hard.

That was honest, thank you. What is your standout, proudest career moment? I’ve had many, but a recent one actually resulted from an inspiration I’d got during a trip to the States. I heard a woman, Collette Flanagan, the founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality whose son was killed by a policeman. She said, If you have privilege and you have a platform, it's your responsibility to use that platform to let others share their voices. In that moment I came to understand that just by being white, I had privilege. So, this prompted me to think about all the women in Australia who needed a platform and how I could support their journey and help to give them a voice through using the platform that I have.

At last year’s AusMumpreneur awards, we introduced the Indigenous Business Excellence Award and the Multicultural Business Excellence Award. We’ve always had indigenous and multicultural women in our community, but we attracted a lot more because they felt invited, welcomed and included. There were ten finalists in each category.

All this leads to my proudest moment, which was on the night of the awards. Sarifa Younes won the Multicultural Business Excellence Award, and her acceptance speech was phenomenal. In a room full of 350 rowdy people, you could have heard a pin drop as Sarifa shared her message. How she grew up as an orphan, valuing her education because she knew it was the way to change her life. She came to Australia highly educated and qualified, but the assumptions people made about her because she was Muslim were heartbreaking and she struggled to find work. People assumed she was quiet and shy and submissive to her husband, because of how she dressed – which is not who she is at all. Despite all of that she is now a phenomenal business woman who is doing incredible things. And at the end of her speech, the whole room, stood up and she was given a standing ovation. We've run these awards for 10 years and it's never happened before. It was a pretty amazing moment for her and for me too!

Is there anyone whose career you admire? Someone who I particularly admire is Dr Tererai Trent a Zimbabwean woman who grew up in poverty. She was married at 14 and had four children by the time she was 18. Her husband was abusive, she was illiterate and came from such a sad background with generations of this happening in her family, to her mother, grandmother, great grandmother back for generations.

Peace and Dr Tererai Trent and 2018 Sante Fe Retreat

Peace and Dr Tererai Trent and 2018 Sante Fe Retreat

Tererai had to do her high school diploma by correspondence, through the post office, at a time when it took three months for her work to get to the UK to be marked, and another three months for her results to be returned. Sometimes, six months after submitting a paper, she’d finally get it back only to find that she’d failed. She’d then have to redo it. It took eight years before she finally got her high school diploma but through all that time she never gave up!

Then she applied and got into university in America! She didn't have any money and her husband was not supportive of her going. So, she had to try and find the money and ask friends to get support. She eventually was able to go to the US and got her degree, and her PhD, but of course she had her children with her, and she was very poor.

She told me a story of having to go to fruit and veg shop and asking for leftovers. They said that they couldn’t give them to her, but they put them out near the backdoor between 5:30-6, and she could take them before the garbage collectors arrived. Tererai said some days she was working two jobs, and studying and if she didn’t get there by 6:00, she had to go through the garbage to find the fruit and veg.

I heard her speak in 2017 at the Emerging Women conference in the United States – she’d just released her book, The Awakened Woman. Her story is incredible. She’s now an international speaker and is Oprah’s all-time favourite guest.

An opportunity arose for me to go on retreat with her in America last year in Santa Fe and I spent a whole weekend with her. It was Tererai’s first ever retreat and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It really showed me that whatever your dream is, it doesn't matter how big, if you believe that you can achieve that, and you're prepared to do the work to reach that dream, then you will reach that goal. It might take you time, but you can do it. So yes, she's someone who inspires me.

What a story. Do you have a mentor? I don't have a structured mentor relationship, but because of the community around me, I have lots of women who I trust and respect and call upon for advice across a number of different fields. Susan Pearse has been very much a part of my journey. She is a Hay House author and has written a number of books including one of my all-time favourites, Do Less Be More.

You’re a massive reader, do you read much fiction? Yes I do - for fiction I read paperbacks. But for self-development or business, I read audio books. I find it easier and a good way to balance both learning and enjoyment.

What are your current career ambitions? I'm excited about the potential for the work we're doing in Australia to be happening in other countries. I'm not sure what that looks like yet or how that's going to happen, but I know in my heart that it will and I'm excited about what’s next in my future business.

Can you imagine a different career to what you're doing now? I love interviewing people, and currently have a weekly program on Facebook Live called Women will change the World TV. I’d love my own TV show, to inspire a larger audience watching interviews with incredible, interesting women who are changing the world in some way.

What would you like in your career right now? I would really like the support to get me to my next step, that big vision of taking The Women’s Business School to the rest of the world.

Finish this sentence - If you knew me really well, you'd know that … family is everything to me and it's at the heart of everything I do. Also, the work that I do with women is all about supporting them to be the best person they can be so that they can be their best for their family.

What impact do you think that you're having on the people you work with? I think I hold up a mirror for them so that they can see themselves and their potential and what they're capable of.

Peace’s family living big, relocating from Melbourne in 2018, sailing to their new home in Whitsundays

Peace’s family living big, relocating from Melbourne in 2018, sailing to their new home in Whitsundays

Other than work, what do you love about your life right now? I'm loving my family right now. We’ve just moved up to the Whitsundays. I didn't know how it was going to go, but incredibly we’ve all just settled in so beautifully and the kids are blossoming in their own way.

My middle son has been invited to join a band and he's made new friends. And my youngest son is doing coding and developing his tech team. He's only 14 and he's already working on his entrepreneurial journey of creating incredible things. And my daughter has just started prep and she's so ready for school.

My husband loves being in the Whitsundays. He takes passengers on his boat out to the islands. And my eldest son has achieved his dream and is now working with the Australian Ballet. It's just so beautiful to see all of that magic happening for the people I love most.

Indeed, that’s lots of goodness going for you right now. Just to finish up, some rapid-fire questions – what’s your favourite song? I'm loving Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd. The lyrics are beautiful.

And your favourite book? I’ll give you two - Playing Big by Tara Mohr, and The Awakened Woman by Tererai Trent, that I mentioned earlier.

Your favourite movie? My favourite movie of all time is Grease with Olivia Newton-John. Actually, I’m listening to her audio book at the moment as well.

And finally, your favourite piece of art? It's Botticelli's Venus.

The ultimate representation of the feminine, thank you Peace.

I was interested in Peace’s perspectives on women’s inclination to set up businesses which have purpose, on the basis of the genetic history. She recommended The Athena Doctrine as a book which specifically discusses this topic.

If you’ve found Peace’s story interesting, you can read
about other people who love their work here.

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