10

Thrifting Me Fabulous with Kimba Likes

Last weekend I happily gave myself over to be experimented upon. The wonderful Kim-Marie Williams from Kimba Likes ( http://kimbalikes.com/) was looking for guinea pigs for her new business idea – The Kimba Likes Thrifting Tour and I was more than happy to answer the call. The prospect of an entire morning child free to shop and drink fine coffee with some lovely ladies was too alluring to resist.  So I abandoned Dadabulous and made a rare pilgrimage  over the Anzac Bridge to meet up with RoboMum (http://robomum.wordpress.com/) and Girlzed (https://twitter.com/Girlzed) at the hip La Grande Bouffe cafe in Rozelle.

The point of rendevous

The point of rendezvous

Finding a niche and going for it.

If you’ve spent any time traipsing around the Aussie blogging landscape then you’ve no doubt encountered the delightful corner of cyber space that is Kimba Likes (http://kimbalikes.com/).  Kim-Marie’s world is all about fashion, friends, frivolity and of course her gorgeous menfolk  (her adored husband and son).  It’s a blog that radiates joyfulness at all the good things in life. Even if fashion is not your thing, its difficult not to be charmed by her enthusiasm and passion for beautiful things.

Recently the Kimba Likes blog has become a platform for a germinating business concept. The idea of hosting thrift shopping tours had been rattling around in Kim’s mind for some years but with her 40th birthday looming large on the horizon she decided now was the time to get started.  She took a leap of faith and resigned from a job that was making her stressed and miserable.  She knew that she dearly wanted to make fashion her livelihood but it was a question of exactly how to go about it. Kim-Marie had already established a reputation as a “master shopper”. Her friends would frequently seek her advice and “book her in” for shopping expeditions. Even strangers asked her for her stylist card. Meanwhile her blog was taking off and had attracted the attention of the bigger plays like Andrea and Fox in Flats (http://www.foxinflats.com.au/) and Nikki from Styling You (http://www.stylingyou.com.au/). It was simply a case of finding a niche and running with it. For Kim-Marie, the answer was thrifting – or breathing new life into second hand clothes.

Kim-Marie is lucky enough to live in Rozelle,  a thriving suburb in Sydney’s inner west with loads of character. Rozelle not only boasts funky cafe’s and edgy upcoming restaurants and bars it is home to the in Kim-Marie’s words “the Golden Triangle of Thrifting”. The cross formed by Darling St and Victoria Rd is abuzz with op shops, classic vintages stores and weekend markets. Kim-Marie knows this terrain like the back of her hand and loves nothing more than the thrill of chasing down a bargain whilst making a friend look and feel amazing at the same time. The idea of Kimba Likes Thrifting Tours was born!

Quirky cool at Rozelle markets.

Quirky cool at Rozelle markets.

Too much bling is never enough

Too much bling is never enough

The thrifting experience

On the morning of the tour we steeled ourselves with caffeine and headed off like a pack of cougars on a mission. As you would expect Kim-Marie had the low down on every store on the strip and directed us towards the best “hits”. The Rozelle Vinnies, though unassuming on the exterior was a hidden treasure trove of amazingness. The jumbled racks were crammed with labels, sweetie labels – designer fare at a fraction of the original cost. Kim-Marie scanned everything with her “magpie eyes”, quickly calculating whether any particular item was a bargain and assessing how it could be given a new lease on life. She also encouraged us to step outside our fashion “comfort zones”, encouraging us to play with new colours and styles.

I picked up this elegant woolen dress.  It’s nylon, angora, silk blend and is fully lined. Its very flattering to my figure type and I actually feel sexy in it ( a rarity indeed).

This angora blend dress is stunning on

This angora blend dress is stunning on

I also picked up this sequinned jumper for a little day time sparkle.

Find my inner sparkle

Find my inner sparkle

Having exhausted Vinnies, we headed to the sunny side of the street to check out the Salvos and U-turn.

U turn here for bargains!

U turn here for bargains!

Here I picked up this cute Tommy Hilfiger blouse.

The cuteness.

The cuteness.

And this Marks & Spencer linen vest in excellent condition.

Its the WOW at $6.00

Its the WOW at $6.00

I couldn’t resist this striped Chanel style cardigan and needed only the most gentle prompting from Kim-Marie to snap it up.  There may be a few similar items in closet-abulous but what can I say – I fetishise stripes almost as much as shirtless British actors.

I'm crushing on my Chanel style cardigan

I’m crushing on my Chanel style cardigan

By this time I was loaded up like a pack horse and decided to switch off the cashflow. The others intrepidly braved the Rozelle markets after refuelling at the Rosebud cafe.

Overall it was a fantastically fun morning. Kim-Marie is every bit as vibrant in person as she is online and I thank her for giving me a much needed injection of fab.  I came home with five “good as new” items for a total of around $120.00 and a successful bargain hunters glow.

To find out more contact Kim-Marie at styling@kimbalikes.com.

Love

Mumabulous

 

 

1

An Urban Oasis – Urban Nature

URBAN NATURE INTEGRATIVE HEALTH AND WELLBEING

216 Enmore Rd, Enmore

Ph: 02 9519 7232

Urban Nature is housed in a funky blue building at the end of Enmore Road’s shopping strip with its charismatic cafes and hip vintage clothing stores. Its an inviting sunlit space with soaring ceilings and a luscious herbal scent.

The clinic is home base to some 12 holistic practitioners covering a wide range of disciplines. There are three psychologists (all of whom are medicare providers) specializing in a cross section of child hood and adult issues. There’s an Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine expert with a strong focus on fertility problems and pre-labor help. The homeopath works extensively with children and families on  number of emotional and physical ailments.

The welcoming reception area.

Cathy Hartigan has owned and managed the clinic since 2009 on top of running her own herbal medicine and remedial massage practice. During her time at the helm Cathy has put her own unique stamp on the facility, giving it a fresh new look and attracting a wider range of practitioners. She took the important steps of establishing a business web site and joining the Marrickville Council Sustainable Business Network.

Cathy majored in psychology at university and went on to be a youth worker for a number of years before pursuing a career in naturopathy. The healing properties of plants is something that has fascinated Cathy since her student days. Once she began reading on this topic she discovered that her great grandfather had been a homeopath and had grown his own medicine garden. Her grandmother was delighted by Cathy’s new found passion and encouraged it. At the same time Cathy began to dabble with growing herbs as well as studying massage and aromatherapy. This fueled her passion even more and she began producing skin care organic skin care products from home. Finally after dipping her toes in the water Cathy dove straight in and completed a Diploma in Botanical Medicine and became a full time practitioner immediately after graduating in 1999.

Cathy is a genuinely compassionate soul with a soothing presence and a crackling sense of humor. She’s driven by a real desire to help people and a palpable enthusiasm for her craft. Her main focus is alleviating stress and anxiety. She strongly believes that this is the key to mental and physical wellbeing.  Massage and herbal medicine help relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety, helping clients to attain “clarity of mind”. This in turn helps them confront the problems in their lives head on.  Often she sees a change in her client’s outlook straight away.

She also loves to work with mothers offering pregnancy massage, an absolute godsend at that strenuous time in a woman’s life.

A cosy treatment room.

Cathy is a busy lady with a number of balls in the air. On top of running Urban Nature she has a part time job at the Bankstown Women’s Health Centre and is pursuing corporate massage work. This has meant that her interest in creating skin care products has been put into hibernation and her plans for the clinic are unfurling at steady pace.

For now she wants to create a calm space with a lovely atmosphere, “an urban oasis” for inner west locals. The team at Urban Nature have started to introduce group sessions and evening workshops to the mix. A ” Movement Meditation” workshop is coming up in October. Also she plans to use the centre as a vehicle for her other great passion, sustainability.  She walks the talk and uses environmentally friendly products and has taken steps towards making the centre more energy efficient.  Her relationship with Marrickville Sustainable Business network is very important to her as she hopes to reach out to like minded business owners and spread the message at a grass roots level.

For more information see: http://www.urbannature.com.au/

1

A Family Affair – Plum Clothing

Looking through Plum’s online catalogue is an exercise in self-restraint. Their collection of kids clothing is so delightful you’ll want to buy the lot! Plum is a small Australian family run company specializing in the design and import of baby and kids wear in sizes 0000 to 7. The extensive range includes both knit and woven varieties of: rompers, hats, bibs, bodysuits, leggings, shirts, overalls, skirts and dresses as well as sleep bags. PLUM’s designs are contemporary and practical whilst the fabrics have a gorgeous vintage feel.

Beautiful vintage style prints.

The company was founded in 1965 by Bob and Nell Pepper and was managed for many years by their son Rob. During the past year Rob’s son Shane Pepper and his wife Eugenie have taken the helm. This dynamic pair are determined to revitalize the brand and take the Plum concept  to the world.The Peppers have given the business a major overhaul by employing a new design team, introducing new product categories and embarking on a major marketing push. Excitingly the pair have begun making inroads into the USA. However the most satisfying aspect of the business is their association with the charity SIDS and Kids. Plum’s sleep bags carry the SIDS and Kids logo and thus have their stamp of approval. Moreover Plum tireless campaigners for the sleep safe message by sponsoring educational material and most recently a safe sleeping DVD that goes to all pediatric nurses offices & hospitals nationally. 

Eugenie’s involvement with the business has been quite recent but she has become a key driver of the brand’s fresh new outlook. She is well equipped for the role having set up her own interior design business which showcased the work of upcoming furniture designers and artists. Here she honed her flair for promotions and event management, which she later formalized through a Masters of Art Administration at COFA. This skill set is perfectly matched to the rag trade. Eugenie, Mum to Thomaz (nearly 5) and Chloe (nearly 3) is a poster girl for multi tasking mothers everywhere. While wearing her marketing hat she puts out press releases, develops relationships with specialist advertisers and co-ordinates the company’s social media platform through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.  She slips into event manager mode when organizing gala product launches for stockists and media as well as yummy, Mummies and Daddies. On top of all this she flexes her creative muscle by overseeing the fashion photography sessions and participating in the design process. Thomaz and Chloe get into the family act as models. Thomaz is becoming a junior Derek Zoolander. He is a “really, really, ridiculously good looking” little boy and he rocks his own version of “blue steel”.

Jesse (left) and Thomaz Pepper (right) channel Hansel and Zoolander.

Introducing Australia’s next Top Model – Chloe Pepper.

Sales are booming despite the tough retail environment and Eugenie puts this down to the couple’s ability to stay in touch with the market. In her own words Eugenie “absolutely gets what Mums need, knows what’s important and what will work”. She is constantly turning to her own circle of friends as well social media for inspiration and feedback. The latest Spring/Summer 2012 collection represents the company’s first dip into swimwear. The new range of rashies, sun suits, trunks, one pieces and bikinis are ” a collaboration of original colourful floral prints, funky 70’s stripes, nautical influences and cute French looks – well designed fashion swimwear that is practical yet stylish and above all – fun”.

Cool swimwear for boys..

And girls.

The Peppers are determined to grow the brand, by expanding the product offering to keep pace with their market. Introducing a clothing range for older kids will be the next step.Their plans to take on the world are slowly taking shape. Plum has stockists in the Philippines, Middle East and the UK and if all goes to plan, the USA will soon be added to the portfolio. Nevertheless no matter how much large the business becomes, Plum will remain firmly grounded in family values. The Peppers are committed to delivering a quality product with a high end feel but without the high end price tag. Their office is small and tight knit. The designers are mothers themselves with six kids between them. Naturally they understand that when it comes to children’s clothing functionality is just as important as style.

Eugenie is absolutely loving her new role. She enjoys how it draws upon all aspects of her talents and experience, not least being a Mum. She often reflects how fortunate she is to have this opportunity and how everything has fallen so neatly into place.

Plum Collections is stocked at David Jones, Toy R US, Baby Kingdom, Baby Bunting and a large number of smaller retailers. For more information see http://www.plumcollections.com.au or http://www.facebook.com/PlumBabywear?ref=ts

The Surprise Beginning
12

Chaos and Creativity – Alex Stone Jewellery

I’m sure she’d be embarrassed by the Super Mum moniker but if anyone I know has earned the cape its Alex Stone. Alex is Mum to three boys aged 5 and under and is the sole proprietor of her own jewellery making business – Alex Stone Jewellery.  Her husband Adam an IT contractor, is working full time as well as building his own software development business. Juggling two enterprises and three kids is tricky enough but the Stones who have recently emigrated from the UK, are doing it all without help from the extended family.

Alex is a trained silversmith and her work is mostly sleek, streamlined and contemporary. Yet she is not afraid to have fun with the colorful and quirky using  beads, buttons and gem stones. Every piece is unique and hand crafted in her home studio. The business began in the UK  in 2003 when Alex decided to turn her passion into her livelihood. She quit an unsatisfying position at the National Health Service to study jewellery design and silver smithing.  After graduating Alex was awarded a grant from the Princes Trust which enabled her to set up a studio. Before long she had built up a regular customer base and formed relationships with a number of retailers.

A frosted sterling silver pendant with pink enamel from the “Oceans collection”.

In 2006 the Alex and Adam made the huge leap of emigrating to Australia in search of a more easy going lifestyle. It wasn’t long before their first son Hayden arrived with Bradley and Bobby following in quick succession. Alex’s own dreams went into hibernation as she focused entirely on her young family. Around the beginning of this year Alex felt herself itching for a creative outlet, to find herself again.  Serendipity paid The Stones a visit. Whilst Adam was sorting through some storage boxes in the garage he uncovered a box of her old stock that she didn’t realize she still had.  Alex put photos of the rediscovered items on Facebook and people started asking if she was back in business. It was all the motivation she needed to set up a shop once again.

Sleek and modern – a Split d-bar ring in sterling silver.

Alex currently runs a stall at the Rocks market in Sydney once a month and sells through the retailer Free Range Living at Kurnell ( http://www.freerangeliving.co/index.html). Naturally  she operates an online store and is happy to ship anywhere in the world.  The business is experiencing a slow build mostly through word of mouth. Alex is a self confessed social media junkie, obsessed with Pinterest and these platforms are giving her brand extra legs.

Domed sterling silver pendant with two garnets.

Trying to work at home whilst juggling the needs of young boys is difficult and Alex is the first to admit that the frustration often gets to her.  However her extremely supportive husband, reminds her that her business is “a marathon not a sprint”.  Working at a steady pace and not allowing the stress to impinge too much upon her family life is the key to keeping her dreams alive. Whilst she thrives on the creative buzz of the Rocks markets she’s had to wind her participation back from fortnightly  to once monthly as she simply did not have the time to produce enough stock.  Also  family life has impacted the way she works. In the past she would spend days developing intricate pieces whereas now she generally goes for a bold, streamlined look which are quicker and easier to produce.

Loving the buzz at The Rocks markets in Sydney.

Eventually Alex would love to open a studio space outside of her home where people can watch her in action and where she can teach her art. For now she’s enjoying taking every day as it comes and finding inspiration all around her. She describes herself as being “obsessed with creativity” and driven to make beautiful things.

The cute and quick “Button” collection.

Check out more of Alex Stone’s stunning creations at : http://www.facebook.com/AlexStoneJewellery or http://www.alexstone.com.au/

A piece commissioned for last Valentines Day.


The Surprise Beginning
6

Post Script to Appetite For Destruction

The lovely Kylene from Smashcake very kindly gave us one of her awesome creations as a thank you for the Appetite For Destruction – Smashcake post. This was in no way expected and I’m touched that Kylene went to all this effort for us.

It was a bit much for us four, so we took it to a BBQ at a friend’s place yesterday. Here’s how it went.

P2 attacks the Smashcake with the novelty hammer.

P1 gets in on the action.

Pay dirt!

Mind you, the cake was not the only thing getting smashed that afternoon. The champagne went down a treat.

Love

Mumabulous

 

20

Appetite For Destruction – Smashcake

http://www.smashcake.com.au

http://www.facebook.com/Smashcake

What do you get when you combine loads of chocolate, cake and a pinata? If you answered a rocking great party, you’re on the right path. A Smashcake, the brain child of Kylene Lovat, is basically a pinata and cake in one lovingly constructed from chocolate. Whilst every Smashcake is unique and painstakingly put together, they don’t last long!  The idea is to use either the chocolate novelty hammer or a good old fashioned rolling pin to crack through the chocolate shell liberating the treasure trove of confectionery within.

Smash through to the surprise inside.

Naturally they are a big hit (pun intended) at kid’s birthday parties but they also add a fun touch to almost any occasion. Kylene creates Smashcakes for weddings, corporate functions and fund raising events. A Smashcake has even recently taken pride of place at a 90th birthday celebration, proving that they are wonderful for both the young and the young at heart. There are a number of basic designs on the Smashcake website to chose from. Alternatively Kylene consults with clients to come up with the party center piece of their dreams.

A fairy tale wedding cake.

Comedienne Dawn French, 54, once quipped “there are two kinds of women; those who like chocolate and complete bitches”.  At this rate Kylene is on track to becoming Dawn’s best friend forever. For Kylene chocolate is more than just an indulgence, its a lifestyle. She has dabbled in chocolate making since the age of 8 and has owned various bomboniere businesses over the years. Whilst she has a background in hospitality, chocolate is her first love and she has always been determined to channel this passion into a business venture.

The inspiration for Smashcake came 4 years ago when a close friend gave her an unusual gift. It was a chocolate box (literally) filled with sweet treats. Kylene was impressed by this novelty and it inspired to experiment with cakes shaped from chocolate. She set to work on a few prototypes which she then photographed to create her first brochure. This was strategically placed at her sons’ daycare centre, St Judes  in Randwick, and the orders began steadily rolling in.

The amazing jewellery box cake.

Kylene is mother to Haiden aged 7 and Jesse aged (nearly) 5. She has a part time job on top of managing the Smashcake enterprise. To say that her hands are full is the ultimate understatement. Luckily her husband and parents have been 100% supportive from the word go. Also running the business online has given her the flexibility to work around her other commitments. Its meant some late nights and early mornings but her long term vision keeps her motivated.

On the positive side, parenthood has benefited the business in a number of ways. Firstly being a Mum has given a Kylene an invaluable insight into the market. It’s provided her with a real    understanding of what kids enjoy and want. In fact  Jesse whose enthusiasm for Smashcake matches her own, is a font of  inspiration.  Perhaps more importantly, parenthood has given the business a ready made marketing network through daycare, school and sporting activities.

Jesse works on product development and testing.

Kylene is a great believer in social media and maintains an active presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Other than that the business is self advertising.  The people who attend the parties and functions tell their friends about the amazing Smashcake and momentum gathers through word of mouth.  It’s been a gradual build but with Jesse about to start school, Kylene is ready to step up to the next level. She currently operates mostly in the eastern suburbs but plans to take the Smashcake concept Sydney wide.

Whilst life is often frantic, Kylene remains completely in love with her craft. She thrives on coming up with new designs and would happily spend her free time creating art in the kitchen. The most rewarding part of the whole adventure has been the feedback from satisfied clients. She is surprised and touched  by the number of phone calls and emails she gets singing her praises. The enjoyment she has brought to families makes the hard slog worthwhile.

This is what it’s all about.


25

Making Memories – K Filipczak Photography

A Life Long Love Affair

Photography is in Kathryn Filipczak’s blood. Her Uncle (and Godfather) was a successful, respected photographer in her native Poland. When she was 8 years old her uncle gave Kathryn a camera and a lifelong love affair with creating imagery was born. Throughout her teenage years her uncle was her inspiration and mentor. Working closely with him she learnt her craft from the ground up.

Kathryn has squeezed alot into her (almost) 29 years. She worked as a commercial photographer for an advertising agency in Germany before moving on to live in Spain. An online friendship inspired her to come to Australia in 2004. Here she studied International Business and Marketing as well as Business Management. At the same time she started making inroads into her chosen career by working for a modelling agency. It was an invaluable experience which helped her build a list of industry contacts. However it had its downside. Despite its glamorous image the fashion industry was a tough slog. The hours were long and the pay was modest. The agency had total creative control over the finished product and Kathryn was uncomfortable with this. She is a fiercely independent spirit and wants her art to be her own.

One of Kathryn’s many fashion photos

A New Direction

Since having her son Robert (aged 3), Kathryn is determined to create a business own her own terms. Weddings are her bread and butter and its work she thoroughly enjoys.  Although she “cut her teeth” doing weddings in Poland, she was at first reluctant to enter the field in Australia due to cultural differences. Once she made the first steps, with some gentle persuasion from a friend, she absolutely relished the experience. She loves how each wedding is different and the way that Australian ceremonies reflect the couples’ individuality. Through word of mouth, advertising on the Gumtree website and pounding the pavement at Bridal expos, Kathryn is steadily carving a niche for herself.

Unique wedding photography

Kathryn is also passionate about working with babies and children and really wants to concentrate on the family portrait market. She has always felt a natural affinity for kids and enjoys working with them. Naturally Robert has inspired her and strengthened her resolve to move in this direction. As a mother she understands that kids need alot of patience and that they respond best when the vibe is fun, playful and relaxed.  She is constantly taking gorgeous snaps of  Robert because in her words “it is the only way you can stop time. It is just for your memories”.  This sentiment motivates her to create beautiful memories for other families.

Magic memories

The Mumabulous Makeover

Glamour photography is just another string to Kathryn’s bow. She picked up hair and make-up skills from her fashion photography days and can make over clients herself. Otherwise she can call in one of her contacts in the beauty business to style the shot.  I was fortunate enough to have a glamour session at Kathryn’s home in Sydney’s Brighton le Sands.  I came into looking like a typical frazzled Mum with blotchy skin ,wayward hair and tell take dark circles under the eyes. Kathryn reached into her bag of tricks and gave me light dusting over.  She was at pains to explain everything she was doing  to make sure I was comfortable with it.  I was happy just to let her work her magic. She produced a curling wand and hey presto I looked like I’d just stepped out of a salon.  Kathryn then lent me a sophisticated black lacey dress and some jewellery.  You soon find out that being Australia’s Top Model is all about following directions with Kathryn instructing me on where to look, how to hold my posture and to relax my face.  Again I trusted her judgement, particularly when it came to minimizing my frown lines!  The whir of the camera reminded my to the intro to Duran Duran’s classic hit  of 1981 – Girls on Film (which was released before Kathryn was born).  As she clicked away Kathryn made comments like “perfect”, “that’s beautiful” and “your husband is going to love it”. It was chocolate for the ego. I’ll let you judge the results for yourself. The before and after shots are below. I’ll say one thing – Kathryn was right, Dadabulous was impressed.

From drab to fab

I came away from my visit with Kathryn full of admiration. I respect  the breadth of her experience and her dedication to her craft. Achieving work/life balance has not been easy with a husband who works long hours six days a week and most of the extended family in Europe. Luckily she has a sister in law nearby who minds Robert when she is on assignment. Talking with Kathryn I  sensed that she one of those rare individuals who in completely in love with what she does.  She is unassuming about her talent and believes she has a lot to learn. Such is the lament of the artist. I think her beautiful collection of work speaks for itself. Take a look.

More Information:

Weddings – Packages include Kathryn’s presence at your wedding for 6 hours. She provides a CD with around 500 high resolution shots with full computer re-touching.

Family Portraits - You can visit Kathryn’s home studio in Brighton le Sands or she can come to you. Packages include a CD with 30 fully-retouched high resolution photos and one print.

Please see http://www.facebook.com/kasia.kasprzak for further details or contact her directly at  k.filipczak.photography@gmail.com

2

Success With Mess..

The Messy Spot

166 Maroubra Rd, Maroubra

http://www.themessyspot.com.au/

Tucked away inside an unassuming office block in Maroubra is a riotous explosion of colour and creativity. The Messy Spot is a unique venue where kids aged from 2 to 12 have free reign to let their imaginations run wild. Here kids are “smocked up” given paint and glitter along with a smorgasbord of art equipment and invited to go to town. Painting the walls is not only allowed its encouraged! From Tuesday to Friday The Messy Spot is open for casual visits. No bookings are required so kids and carers can simply rock up and choose from the many art options available. Over the weekend the space is transformed into a one-of-a-kind party venue where staff provide a fully coordinated program of painting and craft activities.  They’ll even do all the catering, leaving parents nothing to do but enjoy the party. What could be easier?

Don’t try this at home kids!

The Messy Spot is a wonderful concept. Its a place where kids and parents can get away from the TV and actually do something “hands on” together at their own pace. The staff are always friendly and have a lovely affinity with the children. They are more than happy to offer advice and suggestions to help the littlies create their perfect masterpieces.  Of course the best thing is that you can mess about with paint, playdough and glitter (the mortal enemy of Mums everywhere ) to your heart’s content and leave cleaning up to them.

Suzannah is very proud of her masterpiece.

How it all came about.

The owner Karen Levi, Mum to Zac (aged 7) and Ashley (aged 4),  has a background in event management and business development. After having a family Karen found that her passions and priorities had completely changed. Although she was strongly motivated to work “outside the home”, the corporate world had lost its gloss. More importantly her former career simply did not offer the flexibility she needed.  Karen laughingly attributes her decision to plunge into the small business abyss to Oprah.  She was sitting in front of the TV one afternoon breastfeeding Ashley, when Oprah turned to the audience and asked ” Are you living an authentic life?”  As naff as it sounds, this was Karen’s epiphany. At that moment knew she had to crystallize an idea that had been rolling around in her head for years. Karen’s sister had long been urging her to push ahead with her dreams but it took one rhetorical question from Oprah for it all to click together in Karen’s mind. Inspired by her son Zac, she  wanted to create something that would be beneficial to young families. Spending time playing with and observing Zac as a toddler helped her ideas take shape. She envisioned a venue full of colour and texture, where kids had the freedom to experiment and express themselves. Ideally she wanted it to be an oasis of creative spontaneity in a world that she saw as increasingly structured and regimental for children. The blue print for the The Messy Spot was based on the kind of place that Karen wanted to take her young son but there was nothing like it available. The astute business woman in her saw a gap in the market and an opportunity.

Karen Levi loves encouraging creativity in kids.

Karen’s first obstacle was getting the idea past her husband. It was a “hard sell”.  Karen’s husband, an IT professional at a leading investment bank, forced her to reign in her enthusiasm and consider the practical aspects of her decision. The couple set about putting the building blocks in place. Organising finance and insurance was a monumental task. However the biggest challenge was finding a suitable space to rent. On December 16th 2008, The Messy Spot finally opened. It had taken the best part of that year to do all the ground work.

The first year

Karen began an advertising blitz centred around the Sydney  Child magazine. Customers began to trickle in and the business gained momentum through word of mouth. The Messy Spot’s first year was the hardest yet most exciting of Karen’s life. Juggling a baby and a pre-schooler, she was physically worn down by the work. Exhaustion and illness took its toll but blind determination and the fear of failure carried her through. With the Messy Spot being the only business of its kind in Australia, there were no role models or mentors to follow. Mistakes were made and the business model evolved through trial and error. Three years later Karen thinks of the business as being still young and just reaching the point where it is self-sustaining.

Just some of the fun art tool available.

Work/life balance?

Work/life balance is a Holy Grail that Karen is still searching for. She owes much of her success to the support of her parents and in-laws. Their help with the children enabled her to channel her energies into the business. Once he was “sold” on The Messy Spot plan her husband became a Rock of Gibraltar despite working long hours in a high pressure role himself.  He organises Zac and Ashley over the weekend when Karen is busy supervising the party side of the business.

The future

Thanks to the power of social media and old fashion word of mouth, business is steady enough for Karen to start thinking about taking a step back. She admits this is difficult given her emotional investment in the project. The brand is still in flux and she is introducing a variety of new products such as Hen’s Parties, adult craft sessions and corporate events. Her long term goal is to build a franchise but its a question of perfecting the business package and finding people who are as passionate about the Messy Spot concept as she is.

Creative freedom – The Messy Spot philosophy.

Its been a bumpy ride at times but Karen clearly relishes the journey. Having travelled down the small business road she doubts that she could return to the corporate world.  In fact she describes herself as a once “serious corporate employee” turned “small business goofball”.  She enjoys being part of the community and the rapport she has with parents. Most of all she loves seeing the children who regularly come to the Messy Spot grow and develop.

Karen is proof that with vision, perseverance and a little bit of inspiration from Oprah an enterprising woman can turn mess into success.

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0

An Accidental Mumtrepreneur

Paint and Play

Where: All Sorts Action Studios

160 Bourke Rd, Alexandria

When: Every Monday, Wednesday & Thursday, 10am – 12pm

Cost: $12 per child or $20 for two siblings

From its gleaming  facade Sydney Corporate Park in Alexandria looks like just another bland industrial estate, not the kind of place you’d expect mums, babies and pre-schoolers to gather. Yet this maze of concrete, glass and stainless steel is home to All Sorts Action Studios, a haven for local parents. Action Studios is a fancy party venue and headquarters for the well known Adele’s Action Kids franchise. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays it hosts Paint & Play, a morning of fun activities designed for the under 5s. Run by the respected childcare professional Kirsten Doubek, these sessions are a wonderful alternative to playgroup.

Kirsten has thought of absolutely everything and Mums are welcome to pitch in as much or as little as they like. The pristine inside space is a nirvana for toddlers, set up with oodles of shiny new toys. There’s a dress up corner, (which my 5 year old headed straight for), playdough, and a craft table.  The outside area is an inviting suntrap, scattered with exciting cubby houses, and toddler climbing frames. The great news is that its fully fenced, so you can duck out fearlessly for a heart starting coffee. Not that have to even step outside the gate, as complimentary tea and coffee is available inside. A healthy morning tea, of fruit and crackers is served then the kids knuckle down to the serious business of bubble chasing, parachute play, dancing, singing and story time.

Toddler toy heaven

One of the cubbies in the outdoor area

As Kirsten traipses about with a bubble gun the littlies follow her squealing in delight. Parachute time is a big hit. Its amazing how a piece of circular fabric can provide so much entertainment but the kids absolutely love it. Kirsten then brings out the “big guns”, the twirling ribbons! The kids get in the zone, with some freestyle grooves to the tune of Lazy Town. Blame it on the boogie but after this the young ones are tuckered out enough to sit calmly and listen to a story.

Shake your booty!

The whole experience is like the best bits of daycare compressed into 2 hours. The facility has a comfortable baby change area and plenty of quiet corners for discreet breastfeeding, making it ideal for Mums with toddlers and newborns. In fact the place is overflowing with chatting Mums, gently rocking sleeping infants in prams whilst their toddlers are entertained.

A civilized morning tea

Fantastic – they cant get out!

How It All Came Together

Kirsten Doubek’s passion and enthusiasm for this project is infectious but Paint and Play wasn’t something that was years in the planning. Rather Kirsten could be described as an accidental mumtrepreneur.  Opportunity knocked unexpectedly and Kirsten welcomed it in.  Kirsten has a long history in childcare, having worked in a number of daycares and as a nanny since her teenage years. Taking time out of the paid workforce with her two young daughters, she took on the role of co-ordinator and treasurer for the Clovelly playgroup. This became a hit with local families and out of the blue Kirsten was contacted by Adele of Adele’s Action Kids. They were looking for someone to run play sessions at Action Studios and offered Kirsten the position. Whilst it was an opportunity too good to pass up, Paint and Play was difficult to get off the ground. Kirsten’s husband had serious misgivings and she was unable to get a business loan. Undeterred she ploughed ahead and boldly put all her start up costs on her credit card.

Paint and Play was officially launched in May 2011. It quickly attracted a loyal following and by the end of the year the business had paid for itself. Its momentum is testimony to the power of word of mouth. Kirsten hasn’t had to do much marketing other than list with the Sydney Child Magazine and website. Its a genuine example of “if you build it, they will come”.  For the Doubek family the business has been more than just a financial success, its given them an enviable work/life balance. Kirsten takes her two daughters aged 5 and 2 along to the sessions. She also gets the girls involved in the planning process at home using them as guinea pigs for new craft ideas. Its something that they love doing together.

If you’re looking for a stress free activity for toddlers come and check out what this talented and enterprising Mum is doing. For more information see:

http://paintandplay.com.au/

or

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Paint-and-Play/246363588712278

Kirsten leading story time

1

Kids Cooking Corner

Event: Kids Cooking Corner School Holiday class

Where: 24 Dalley Road, Heathcote

Cost: $30 pp

Contact: ph – 0430 013 336, kidscookingcorner@gmail.com

Kids Cooking Corner is a hidden gem tucked away in the leafy hamlet of Heathcote in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. The business was started a year ago by mother of three Robin Smith and has already attracted an enthusiastic local following through little more than word of mouth.

After many years working in her family’s chain of hair salons, Robin made the gutsy decision to follow her own passions. She quit the hair dressing game and plunged into a professional catering course at TAFE. She’s also had a life-long calling to work with kids and hence the idea for the cooking school was born. Together she and her husband Craig, a builder, converted a granny flat under their house into a bright and airy kitchen workshop.  When you enter the cooking school through the Smith’s spacious back garden, you are greeted by a scene reminiscent of the classic TV series The Good Life. Plump, fluffy chickens wander past the vegetable patches and under the orange tree where ripe fruit carpets the shady ground. It’s like a small piece of country living transplanted into suburbia. Harvesting this bounty is all part of the fun for the kids.  Meanwhile inside the kitchen, the kids who are serial visitors, all know the drill but Robin goes over the rules for our benefit. Rule number 1 is to have fun, rule two is that a mess is allowed and rule three is that you can eat as much as you want while you’re cooking. I like this class already.

Put some muscle into it!

The menu varies from class to class but is always simple and fun as Robin likes to encourage her charges to experiment at home. Today we did mouth watering honeycomb chocolate cheese cakes, strawberry ice cream and jaffa biscuits using fresh oranges from the garden.

The school holiday classes last for 90 minutes to two hours with a maximum of 6 children. Robin is extremely easy going and the students can participate as much or as little as they like. Naturally they all get into the fun stuff like crushing biscuits and whipping cream cheese. Robin is mindful that young attention spans are prone to wander so she often moves the action outside to collect fruit, vegetables and eggs when the chooks are laying. She doesn’t mind if the little ones want to take time out to bounce on the family’s super sized trampoline.

Nothing fresher

At the end of the session everyone gets to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Our morning’s efforts yielded splendid results. The cheese cake was decadently rich with a moreish toffee crunch. Yet the strawberry ice cream was the highlight – straight from the ice cream machine it is pure heaven. My girls and I needed no persuasion to wolf it down.

Ice cream bliss

Robin also holds afternoon classes during the school term and opens the place up for birthday parties on weekends. Imagine a party where the kids prepare all the food and someone else cleans up afterwards? It sounds ideal to me.

Mumabulous Verdict: 9/10

This is a lovely way for primary school aged kids to spend a couple of hours over the school holidays. The fact that the students keep coming back is the best endorsement any teacher can get. I’d encourage Shire Mums to check it out and spread the word.

P1s Verdict:

Can we go back to those people’s place again Mum?

P2s Verdict:

The picture says it all.

One satisfied customer