Gemma: Nanny and Entrepreneur
Ruby Brown on June 21, 2016

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When Gemma applied to join Nanny Match I was absolutely floored. Her resume presents like a beautifully designed picture book. Gemma has a brilliant mind, an open heart and one seriously exciting business under her wing.

Hi Gemma! Tell us a quick Gemma story. Where are you from and what lead you to where you are now?

I grew up in North Queensland in a small town called Ayr, in the Burdekin Shire, whose main industry is sugar cane. My parents are both teachers, and are honestly the smartest, most capable people I’ve ever met; they encouraged myself, my brother and sister to pursue anything we dreamed, and led by example with their creativity, confidence, determination and kindness.

I studied Architecture and gained a Masters degree in Brisbane after completing a year of professional experience in Shanghai. This is where I first really experienced bicycle-commuting culture and met the most inspiring and ballsy young creatives, which motivated me to really question my career path.

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Tell us about To Barwyn and Back?

Even after describing the label hundreds of time I still catch myself tripping on words and really wondering what the best way of articulating it is…

What I found as an architect, and as a young person, was that when I became a professional I really had to stop dressing for fun and more for function and context. On the days where I felt like I expressed myself fashionably, in garments that were work-appropriate, I wasn’t able to ride my bike due to the restrictions of the garment. On the days I rode and felt good in my clothes, I often felt out of place at work. In architecture we studied urban settings and how their increasing densities could affect resource-consumption, and I was acutely aware of how cycle-commuting culture and other active community-based cultures could positively affect what people have come to refer to as the climate crisis.

I’ve always loved a challenge and embraced an opportunity to nut out a complex problem, and while I sewed my own clothes for a short period of time, the idea to turn my experience as a young commuting professional into a career really only came to light when my architectural career seemed like a place where I could not really challenge norms or be innovative, which I had always felt was my passion.

Now, I describe the label as adaptable, intelligent garments designed from high-performance fabrics to support a more active lifestyle. My dream is to get people cycle-commuting more, and inspire design that combats the current ostracism that comes with functional bikewear.

What made you decide to start your own label? Did you have an ‘aha’ moment?

Yeah – I guess my aha moment was recurring, in conversations with others and through simply witnessing cycling culture in Melbourne and hearing about accidents and people who didn’t ride due to vanity. I thought that honestly it could be the most exciting problem-solving exercise, and at the time I was so unsatisfied with my work environment that being passionate, driven and poor seemed a lot better than being financially stable and unfulfilled.

There’s certainly days where I feel like pinching that idealist, but other days where I’m so stoked I took the leap. I’m working on my current first small collection to be manufactured locally.

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How did your life change when you left full time employment?

I realized I had to motivate myself. That if I didn’t work hard I would only let myself down. It was easy to begin with because I was so excited and was constantly learning. It was a lot harder when I began to tackle the business fundamentals like planning, legislation, fees, and finance but I try to maintain perspective and have developed behaviours to stay focused such as going for rides and reading some incredible publications (Hero magazine, the Gentlewoman and Office Magazine for example).

If you could go back to 2012 Gemma, what advice would you give her?

2012 me was babysitting, freelancing (trying to get an architecture job in Melbourne was hard, having studied in Brisbane) and working at a café. I was so motivated to be an architect. I wouldn’t tell myself to change the path I took - I gained some incredible experience and met some incredible people – I would probably just encourage myself to trust my gut more, and really stand up for what I believe in, and be more confident in my ideas, because that’s what has really taken the most amount of time, feeling really confident that others will value my ideas.

How has nannying supported your various creative pursuits?

So far, nannying has not only provided financial relief, but has also connected me with kind, interesting and loving people that have provided me with perspective and grounded me for the past 10 years. Mums and dads have provided good contacts when I move to new cities and have also been encouraging in my other pursuits. In giving to the families through my creativity I’ve felt appreciated and treasured, and that has been invaluable.

What are your three favourite things about working with children?

My three favourite things would be;

  • their energy, it reminds me how good it feels to be silly and active and how stagnant we can become!

  • their interest and passion for learning, I love it, I love chatting to them and giving out information and learning things together

  • I love their honesty and rawness, I always just feel really at ease around children

What’s the best piece of advice that a child has given you?

That’s a tough one. Some kids have given some great advice as to how better act as a panda, ninja, dinosaur etc… but I would say, even though it wasn’t given in the form of advice, a young girl I used to look after once remarked that she didn’t like me as much when I wore black. It’s funny because I wear so much colour usually and I find that I don’t feel like myself when I wear black – and she obviously picked up on that. It was like she was telling me to just be myself. Well that’s what I took from it anyway!

What are some tips you share with young women who are thinking about starting their own small business?

Trust your gut. When you’re having a tough day remember that it’s all part of the bigger picture and establish practices to remind you of that bigger picture. Remember that success is so much tastier when the journey is difficult. Being busy and trying to juggle things I often say no to social events, but every now and then I see a mate and it completely refreshes and energizes me. Don’t forget to be a human!

Tell us about an important woman in your life?

I usually speak about my insanely cool mum when people ask me about important women, or my incredible sister. But Tess, my best friend and housemate, has been my hero this past year. She’s comforted me when I feel useless, surprised me with room renovations, magazines, flowers and coffee subscriptions when I’ve felt limited and uninspired, and when the boring business stuff overwhelms me, she researches, plans and gets my creative and impulsive ass into shape. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have her in my life.

What’s next for you?

The first collection! Some fine-tuning designs, producing samples with a local manufacturer and working on a video with some other talented kids to showcase it. I’m super excited.

Read more at Make Nice.

Check out Gemma’s website here and Instagram here.

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