Prioritize yourself first — I don’t mean that you are ruthless and only think of yourself, but if you are not prioritizing what is important to you, you will become a slave to the business and others.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Pickett.
Natalie has founded multiple businesses, with both 6 & 7 figure success stories. Her insights from her triumphs and so called ‘failures’ led to discovering, that success, is less about hard work, and more about finding joy in your every day. As a mentor, and speaker, she shares her knowledge of how to take your business, and your daily life, from surviving to thriving.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I’m from Melbourne, Australia, but have spent time living in other parts of the world. In my 20s, I worked and travelled the east coast of Australia, then the USA, the UK and Europe. I returned to Melbourne after 7 years and at age 28 I established an inbound travel company, bringing visitors from all over the world to visit Australia. Almost 30 years on, I have a few different businesses. I still live in Melbourne with my daughter who is now 19 years old. Travel (when not in restrictions) remains a big part of my life.
Even as a young girl, I used to convince my friends at elementary school to play ‘business’ with me. I’d be the head of some corporation, or I’d convince my siblings to play ‘shops’ with me, and I would work out each item’s profit margin. People think that a ‘business mind’ is different to a ‘creative mind’, but when you can create something where there was nothing, that’s creative. Turning an idea into something bigger, such as a business that benefits everyone who buys from you, is undeniably creative. I love being able to do that.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
As a serial entrepreneur, I have founded multiple businesses with 6 and 7 figure success stories. I have had my share of triumphs and so-called ‘failures’. After having to close a business during the GFC, I established a successful consulting, mentoring and speaking business — Natalie Pickett Mentor. I like to operate from my core values, one of which is ‘fun’, which we can often forget to make a priority in business. I love being able to share this knowledge with others, to help them to take their business and daily life from surviving to thriving.
The Bubbles Review is my passion business. The ‘Aha moment’ was a culmination of two things. The first was that I have always loved champagne and sparkling wine. For my 18th birthday (the legal drinking age in Australia), I had a champagne luncheon. I love the stories, the romance and the glamour of it.
The other came to me at a marketing seminar when the presenter mentioned that because he had wine review websites, he claimed his wine purchases as a tax deduction. That was a true ‘Aha moment’, and I knew mine would be about sparkling wine. Once I did the business case, it was an easy ‘yes’ and I could incorporate my travel industry skills to run events and tours. Creating a business that means you get paid to drink champagne is pretty awesome!
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
The Bubbles Review is my bubbly passion project — it is an award-winning blog, website and events and tours on champagne and sparkling wine. The idea came from a few different areas and I had developed the business case for it. I knew there were several ways to monetize it, but first I let it sit whilst deciding if I wanted to put myself out there and start another business. The impetus to move forward came when I was working on some stressful consulting projects in my other business and thought I needed to have more fun. I wanted to travel and drink champagne with likeminded people.
The keys to success with any business is that it needs to come from passion — it needs to have something driving you beyond money. You need to work out your ‘Why?’ — why do you want to do it? Money as a driver will get you so far, but it won’t motivate you long term. When you align with your core values and the desire to contribute, that will be the driver for your business. The goal for this business was to share the joy of sparkling wine. We debunk the myths and make the art of drinking champagne accessible. We share stories on history, the people, champagne and sparkling wine reviews, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide tours and events for people to join us and celebrate all things sparkling! When the business becomes stressful, I remind myself that business and life are supposed to be fun. Our businesses should work for us, not the other way around.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
My advice is to just do it. It is so much easier to start a business now than it has ever been. Do the business case first, but in the beginning, start small until you find your voice. For The Bubbles Review, I wrote the first blog ‘How do I pronounce Moët” (which BTW is a hard t at the end!). I sent it out through a few networks and it just flew! It ended up with a reach of about 260,000, because it was a bit controversial, and people were sharing it and tagging their friends. I tested the interest with this first blog and then thought the business ‘had legs’. People were interested in what I had to say, and they enjoyed my writing style. I had already done a business case on how to turn my passion into a business, and through my previous experience of event and tour management, creating tours and events for this business would be an easy transition for me. I started with a few small events before creating our hallmark event The Bubbles Festival.
The keys to success with all of my businesses is that they all come from my passion, my core values and my desire to contribute and share my knowledge with others. This is so important with your passion project. It’s your values that will drive you. The first law of value states ‘Does it add value?’, and then ‘Does it make money?’ When you prioritize yourself first, the process is to ask yourself ‘Does it add value for me?’ Then ‘Does it add value for others?’ If the answers are ‘Yes, yes, yes and yes!’, then make a start!
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do It for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Through my Natalie Pickett Mentor business I created a free video series sharing business stories, and the one on turning your passion into a business is all about making sure you don’t turn it into a burden. So many business owners that I have worked with find themselves busy running their business, spending most of the time doing things that do not bring them joy. My advice is to start small to prevent becoming overwhelmed. When you create solid foundations, you can create a business that you can easily scale. But if you try to go too big too quickly, you may end up overwhelmed, and very quickly your passion has become a burden.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
Champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared, and I love creating events and tours to share that joy with others. I’ve just completed a sold-out national tour of The Bubbles Festival in Australia. During COVID restrictions, it was a logistical challenge, but I was so pleased to have been able to deliver these events after needing to postpone them in 2020. I hope to bring The Bubbles Festival to the USA and the UK when we are allowed to travel again.
The downside of business can be that you end up working on everything else to make the business run, but you are no longer doing the things that you love.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
What are my priorities?
What do you want from this business?
Do I want to keep it small or grow it much bigger?
Once you establish good foundations, you can make the decision whether you want to grow and scale. Keep in mind, that may take you away from the part of the business that you love.
My ‘Why’ was that I wanted to share the love of champagne and sparkling wine and chose the events and tours that I wanted to do — and to create lots of opportunities to drink champagne!
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
This is not my first or only business, so there weren’t a lot of surprises about what was involved.
But when things do well and there are a lot of demands on your time, I need to check in with myself, and manage stress levels and pressure. It is important to take time to develop and evolve the concept — ‘What will it do?’ … ‘How will it look?’ — and make decisions at each stage about next steps and how you want to grow.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
There are certainly days when I think the pressure is too much, especially managing large-scale national events, but I have purposely kept the pace of growth of this business at a level that it doesn’t become overwhelming. This is important to me as it is my bubbly passion project. Make sure you take time out for your own health and wellness. Daily meditation is vital for me. It’s in those moments of stillness that inspiration comes. The idea for The Bubbles Festival came to me in a morning meditation. I like to think that it was divinely inspired!
I have lots of aspirations for the growth of The Bubbles Review, and I set it up to be able to scale it when I want to. The number 1 priority is that it should be fun, and sometimes I need to have a chat with myself and remind myself to take my own advice!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m a recovering perfectionist. I always think that sending emails out to databases is a stressful thing, and it is important to double, triple check everything — proof read, check on preview and check on test email. With one of my first EDMs, I did all of that but forgot to check all of the links. I sent it out, and something went strange with the sales link for the event, and it was a deadlink. Someone wrote to me straight away, which was embarrassing but very helpful. I fixed the link and sent out again with a ‘Oops!’ subject line. Although it was embarrassing, I think sometimes the ‘Oops!’ follow-up works even better, as people who didn’t open it the first time do. You also get more engagement as people write back with replies and you can make fun of it. It’s important not to stress the small stuff!
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
When it comes to not just champagne but also great women in business, I am truly inspired by the stories of the great women in Champagne. In particular, the Veuve Barbe-Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin, also known as the Widow Clicquot (Veuve means widow in French). She was a visionary who took a small business and built a champagne empire. She was a legend in her tumultuous times, and she showed the world how to live with style. At 27, Madame Clicquot became one of the first businesswomen of modern times when she took over the Clicquot business after the death of her husband. In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company — a role she undertook with passion and determination. According to the Veuve Clicquot company description of her, Madame Clicquot’s character might be summarized with two words: audacious and intelligent. Imagine the audacity of this decision at a time when women were not even allowed to open their own bank account!
Madame Clicquot is credited with many innovations that have steered the success of champagne — the riddling process to remove the sediment from the bottle; improving the bottle so it would withstand the pressure of the bubbles; creating Rosé champagne by adding some red wine; and her PR and branding, creating the first labels on a champagne bottle — the yellow label that still adorns the Veuve Clicquot bottle today. She was willing to take risks and would seize each new opportunity that arose — eventually expanding her business to all four corners of the world.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
While this business may sound like a frivolous pastime, I believe that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life. At our recent Bubbles Festival, I said to my team that ‘we’re not saving lives, but we are spreading joy’. After all the lockdowns, people were excited to be out and socializing, we received glowing reviews and many people came to chat and personally thank me for creating the event. I also have a policy with our events that we give to charity, so in each city we chose a local charity and gave 5 dollars from the sales of our VIP tickets. I think it is important to acknowledge the privilege of being able to socialize like this, and give back whenever we can.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Being the boss can be lonely. You are the one carrying the load — mentally and physically getting the work done. Establish a good support network that starts with you knowing how to support yourself.
2. Make sure you establish good foundations before you grow — even when you’re starting small, create systems, templates, seek good advice on structure and then automate what you can.
3. Prioritize yourself first — I don’t mean that you are ruthless and only think of yourself, but if you are not prioritizing what is important to you, you will become a slave to the business and others.
4. Get clear on your ‘Why’. This is your passion project. Get clear on why you are doing it, what you want to get out of it, and how much time you want to spend working on it. You get to decide your own version of success. It’s okay to stay small and grow when you’re ready.
5. Don’t put off living your dream life waiting for something to happen in the future. It really is about enjoying the journey and each of the steps along the way.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Life (and business) is supposed to be fun! My movement is ‘Living the Dream’. People think they need to wait until they ‘achieve’ to start enjoying life. I’ve discovered that ‘Living the Dream’ is less about working hard and more about following your joy. When you operate from a place of joy, that is what you share with others — and lots of joyous people makes for a better world.
It is possible to define your own version of success and easily take the steps you need to achieve your goals. It is possible for you to not just ‘Dream the Dream’ but ‘Live the Dream’. I’m passionate about sharing this with the world, and I share that in my writing, my courses and speaking engagements.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When the late economist, John Maynard Keynes, was on his deathbed he was asked whether he had any regrets, and he said something like “My only regret in life is that I did not drink more champagne.”
I think this is a great reminder to seize the day, savor the moments and enjoy life. Live life without regret.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I have a great idea for a movie about the great women of Champagne. Can we tag Reese Witherspoon and see if we could meet for a champagne lunch to discuss?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.