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Trendsetter: Jill Chivers

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Can you give us a little background on your career to date?

I’ve had a varied career and background – let me summarise:

Marketing degree straight from school, moved to Sydney from Queensland as soon as I finished my degree (at age 20)– bravest decision in my life, complete leap of faith knowing no-one in Sydney, didn’t have a job, so just leapt off the cliff and … and managed to fly.

  • Got 2 jobs in Sydney – one at the University of NSW as a research assistant, the other answering the phone for Channel Ten on Saturday and Sunday evenings (taught me so much about dealing with difficult people!).
  • Headhunted to work for Deloitte in their health consulting division, age 24.  Migrated to Deloitte’s Consulting IT division and worked as a change leadership professional on multi-phase, multi-year, multi-million dollar IT implementation projects all over Australia. Career highlight: serving as team leader on a global virtual team based in Canada supporting all Deloitte practitioners around the world.  Deloitte was a 6-year experience that shaped much of who I am as a professional to this day.
  • Completed MBA, became a professional image consultant – fascinating to study management accounting and colour systems at the same time!
  • Started investing in property with my husband and now have a double-digit portfolio that makes a profit.
  • Joined boutique training and facilitation firm in Sydney, designed and developed team and leadership programs for largely financial services clients. Discovered how much I love this kind of work and that I’m a natural facilitator.
  • Reluctantly started my own training, coaching and facilitation firm in 2003 (boutique firm I was working for went under).  Became very successful and had an enviable client roster including Macquarie Group, IBM, Deloitte and KPMG (created and delivered over a 4 year period KPMG’s most popular program on record, a 2-day leadership program for senior managers and directors). Became a Certified Professional Facilitator and delivered programs in Asia and the USA, as well as in Australia.
  • Started to explore and work online, in 2009 – steepest learning curve ever!  Had some failures, learned a lot, and now have three successful online-based projects and websites:
    •  www.shopyourwardrobe.com – biggest success so far, based on my own experiences of ‘slaying my shopping dragon’ and developing a healthier relationship to shopping and recovering from shopaholism.  We have a faculty of 15 professionals and paying members from all over the world.  To date, over 50 media stories on television, on radio and in print in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
    • www.yourmediamastery.com – media spin-off website based on all the invitations received from entrepreneurs and networking groups to share how I achieved (and maintain) so much mainstream media success.
    • www.jillchivers.com – this is Jill Chivers Central which overviews my skills and experience, online projects and is mainly geared towards corporates.
So that’s my potted history!

Tell us about how it your business came to be?

My current and main project, Shop Your Wardrobe, grew out of my own experiences with shopping too much and having my consumption spiral out of control.

In 2009, my income changed (went down) but my spending didn’t.  I was buying more and more, but wearing less and less.  I was adding clothing, shoes, accessories, you name it, to an already over-full walk-in wardrobe, and by the end of that year, I was brinking on being out of control with my spending. 

I certainly didn’t need any more clothing. Or shoes. Or earrings. Or animal print boots. So why was I continuing to buy them?  I knew that if I didn’t find the answer to that question, I would spin out of control and never be free of the shopping albatross around my neck.

So on December 15, 2009 I started an extreme personal challenge – to have a year without clothes shopping. Oh, it terrified me!  I felt such a kaleidoscope of emotions – fear, excitement, trepidation – and shame.  I was embarrassed that my shopping had taken me to this point.  But I knew I had to face it.  And face it I did.

That year changed my life.  It changed how I think about shopping, and it changed my feelings about consumption.  And it certainly changed my shopping attitudes and behaviour!  I no longer feel a compulsion to shop, most of my shopping is done in my own wardrobe (hence the name “shop your wardrobe”), and I have met a range of fascinating and courageous people who work in this field and who are facing their own shopping demons.

I am intrigued by our consumption patterns, both collectively in the “shopping culture” we all live in and individually and how those shopping behaviours impact the health, wealth and happiness of individuals. 

I was approached by and am working with a media production company to turn this idea into a documentary and/or television series.  Watch this space!  One of my goals is to share the “conscious consumption meets sustainable style” message with as many people on the planet as I can.

Can you talk us through any obstacles that you have faced in building your company?

Ah, obstacles, I’ve had many.

  • Learning to work online.  Cyber space is confusing enough but when you work in a cyber commercial space (i.e. trying to make money online), it adds an extra dimension of complexity.  What I know about working online is such a small part of all there is to know, it is a vast and complex landscape which many uninitiated fail to understand, and therefore they simply fail.  I had a significant failure with my first website (now decommissioned), and I learned so much from that experience which helped me to create more successful websites as a result.  I’m still learning about working online and I’d love to have a full-time team member who could take over many of my online challenges (including SEO, SEM and some social media).
  • Working on my own.  I’ve been a “solopreneur” for over a decade, but when I worked full-time as a corporate facilitator and trainer, I was always in contact with other people – running live face-to-face workshops and so on.  The last few years have seen me focus on online projects which has heightened my isolation factor, and causing me to feel somewhat disconnected and alone.  I have set up structures to reduce the impact of feeling so isolated and alone, but this is still something I struggle with from time to time.
  • Believing in myself.  Most people who meet me see that I’m a confident person, and I am, in many ways.  But backing yourself to start a business is a whole different form of self confidence.  Especially when you are the founder, creator of all content, strategist and visionaire, marketing and sales professional, and chief filing clerk and rubbish removalist!  Putting yourself ‘out there’ takes not only a lot of confidence but a sustained level of confidence.  You have to stick at it and persevere through the thick and thin of it.

I’m sure I’ve had many other obstacles, but those are the top three.

Was founding your own business something you always had on the career agenda?

Absolutely not, I started my career working for big companies and organizations (BHP Billiton, the University of NSW, Channel Ten, Deloitte) and didn’t think I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body.  Nor was I interested in starting and running my own company.

Deloitte, in particular, was a career experience that I loved.  Working for a global advisory and accounting firm offered so many opportunities, both career and personal/social, that it practically took a crowbar to get me out of there.  But as it turned out, it was the best decision I could have made on many levels.

Being your own boss has many upsides, but I advocate cautioning women to consider the starting of their own business as NOT being the golden pot at the end of the rainbow – it isn’t nirvana.  There are many downsides and it’s a lot of hard work – different hard work to working for someone else.

I love working for myself, in the main.  Sometimes the balance of everything I need in my work is there, and sometimes it gets out of kilter and I need to stop, reflect and take remedial action. 

Tell us about your personal struggles and how you over came these?

I’ve had my fair share of these, too.  Most recently, facing up to and healing my shopping problem was one of my biggest struggles, and a public one, too.  I’m glad I made it public, because over shopping is an issue shrouded in silence and shame – I meet so many women who have not told a single soul that they shop too much, and they are so grateful that I’ve told my story publicly as it makes them feel less alone.  Added to that is the fact that the collective “we” (society in general) understand so little about shopping problems, that I believe it’s important to shed some accurate light on the problem.  So, my shopping issue has been a recent personal struggle.

How does it make you feel to have started your own business? 

I feel it’s a huge accomplishment.  I’ve been running my own businesses since 2000 and the fact that I’ve made money, positively impacted the lives of my clients, and developed as a professional and as a person, all add up to this being one worthwhile experience!

What advice would you give to any of our readers who dream of starting up their own business but just don’t know where to begin?

Talk to other women in business – successful women in business in particular.  I have met a lot of women in ‘business’ that really are running hobbies.  Many of these women I have met at traditional “women in small business” networking events or groups, and with all the love in the world, my observation is that many of them don’t really know what the “business” part means.  They have passion, they love what they do (it’s often what brought them to the place of deciding to start a business)… but they don’t know how to set up structures to increase their chances of success, they don’t know how to measure success, and they don’t know how to actually turn their passion into profits.  If it ain’t making money, it’s not a business – it’s something else.   So I would encourage other women to harness their passion and set themselves up to succeed by understanding what ‘starting a business’ really means.  Get educated before you start.

Connecting with other savvy women in business is also important.  But beware – not all opportunities to connect with other women in business are created equal.  Find the right group/s for you and commit to being part of them. Be discerning in who you seek advice and input from.  Bow out of networking groups that don’t serve you.  I am part of a small master mind group of like-minded women in business, and we meet every month for a decent chunk of time (3 hours).  We get to focus on each woman’s business, and we don’t miss a meeting throughout the year (excepting emergencies).  This has kept us all focused, helped us identify and reach our goals/focus areas, and alleviated any sense of isolation which can beset a woman working on her own. 

What has been the most profound thing you have learnt to date in your career?

That I can do it. I can succeed. 

How would you best describe your investment style in three words?

I would describe my investment style as being long-term – there’s no “get rich quick” in anything I do or my belief systems, I’m in it for the long haul; it’s solid – it’s practical, down-to-earth, achievable, often literally “bricks and mortar” investments; and it’s about return – if there’s nothing coming back, it’s not an investment, it’s a cost. 


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