Natalie Pickett: “Things are very different when the buck stops with you — being the boss can be lonely”

Things are very different when the buck stops with you — being the boss can be lonely. I had a much better understanding of decisions I had criticized in former bosses when I started my first business and I needed to call all the shots. Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff […]

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Things are very different when the buck stops with you — being the boss can be lonely. I had a much better understanding of decisions I had criticized in former bosses when I started my first business and I needed to call all the shots.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, 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! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. 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. I’ve always loved business. 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.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Who am I to be brilliant?”

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, ‘who am I to be brilliant?’

Actually, who are you NOT to be?’

This is an excerpt from the quote written by Marianne Williamson used by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech in 1994.

Surprisingly, many of us have a fear of success. Culturally, in Australia, this is quite a thing. There is something known as the ‘tall poppy syndrome’, which is when someone gets ‘too big for their boots’ and is achieving great success, and there is a tendency from some to want to cut them down. We can probably all identify a time in our life when, for some reason, we kept ourselves small and didn’t put ourselves out there. For me, when I have become aware of that behavior, this quote is a great reminder that by shining your own light you are not taking anything away from anyone else. You are giving others the opportunity to do the same.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. I believe that things can be done — I am not saying I don’t have self-doubt, but I am very quick to run an idea through a business concept process to see if it can work. Once I see that it does, I ask myself ‘is this something that I truly want to do?’ Then I just get on and do it. If someone tells me it can’t be done, I’ll still find a way to make it happen.
  2. Being agile — you need to be adaptable. Best laid plans can quickly get changed from factors that are outside of your control. When things change, see how you can change what you are doing to make it easier and still go on to have a successful outcome.
  3. Grit — when things get tough, I do assess whether it is worth proceeding. Sometimes that means taking time out while you rest and recover, while still taking small steps towards your desired outcome. No need to quit — rest and restore your energy to continue if that’s what you decide you want to do.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

I started my career in banking but decided to take off travelling in my early 20s. I worked and travelled the east coast of Australia, then the USA, the UK and Europe, which included a couple of winters in a Swiss ski resort. 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 Australia. I grew this business from a small start up to a multimillion-dollar business, which I ran for more than 15 years until being forced to close due to the Global Financial Crisis. After returning to Melbourne with my partner, we decided to get married. We went back to Switzerland and held the wedding in the beautiful little village where we had worked. Our fairytale wedding was followed a few years later by the joyous birth of our beautiful daughter. Perhaps the wedding was more romantic than the marriage, as ultimately, we ended up going through a divorce just before I closed my travel business. It was a huge disruption, but there is always a ‘gift’ in such major life changes.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

Everything came crashing down. As much as this was a crisis, it was also an opportunity for me to create the life I really wanted. Having started my travel company at 28, when it closed, I was in my 40s and I am now in my 50s. But business is really my passion. I love to create and turn ideas into reality. Age is not a factor. I’ve created three new businesses in my 40s and 50s. My consulting, speaking and mentoring business really happened overnight. Because of the reputation that I had built through my travel company, I was in demand to speak at conferences. I had also mentored other business owners through certain projects. I had a unique skill set understanding how international marketing worked for the tourism industry, so almost overnight my consulting business became a 6-figure success, and I achieved this by only working part-time hours. The key for me was to make sure that I had time for me and time with my daughter when she was still young.

As much as I love working with other business owners to help them to grow their business and achieve their level of success, the consulting business relied on me to personally deliver all of those activities. Developing some activities into online courses alleviated some of that time pressure, but I still had that fire to create another business that could grow and develop to eventually work without me. I had been a fitness instructor in my 20s, and I had a passion for wellness — especially after working through the closure of my business and the realization of how important it is to look after your own health and wellness. This next business is Wellness on Time — an online wellness program to help people easily integrate wellness activities into their day. This was before the explosion of online wellness activities that has occurred since the COVID pandemic. It was still niche, but something that I knew would help and benefit people. Hampered by a few tech challenges and needing to rebuild programs a few times, this business still ticks along nicely, and although I still oversee it, it doesn’t require me to deliver all of the activities.

The next business — The Bubbles Review — I created in my 50s. This one really is a passion project — it is a blog, website and events and tours on champagne and sparkling wine. The idea came from a few different areas and I had created a business case on 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 and thought I needed to have more fun. I wanted to travel and drink champagne with likeminded people. I rang a friend who is a graphic designer and I told him I had just created a Facebook page and website and needed a logo. I described my idea for the logo, and whilst on the phone he created it and sent it to me. A few tweaks later, the logo was done, and I’d launched the website and socials.

The keys to success with all of these is that they all come from my passion, my core values and my desire to contribute and share my knowledge with others. When they become stressful, I remind myself that business and life is supposed to be fun. Our businesses should work for us, not the other way around.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

Needing to close my business due to the GFC could be considered the trigger, but what had happened before that was that I had come to the realization that I had been busy prioritizing everybody else — my family, my husband, my business — but I had lost sight of me. I wasn’t looking after me. I had allowed a pattern to form in my personal relationships and my work life where I would always put my needs last.

Every morning I was waking up feeling sad but continuing to pretend to be happy as I moved through my day. I knew things were not right and sought out therapies that might help. I tried something new. A chakra or energy healing, and a ‘spiritual alignment’. There is a process to align with your spirit to discover what you truly want. I was so blocked energetically that I hadn’t been allowing my intuition to be open or available. This session allowed me to clearly see some things that were important to me that I hadn’t been pursuing. But mostly, that I needed to trust myself and let go of fears around expressing emotions. Refreshed and renewed after this session, I started to work towards creating the life that I wanted to live. Sometimes things need to end so that you can start new beginnings. What happened next was that everything came crashing down — first in my personal life with a divorce and then the business closure. As much as this was a crisis, it was also an opportunity for me to create the life I really wanted.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

For me, it wasn’t necessarily a totally new skillset, but utilizing the skills that I had honed over the years in my travel company and transposing those to my new businesses. I had already been in demand for speaking engagements and had mentored some business owners with different projects, so the immediate transition to my consulting, mentoring, and speaking business was fairly seamless.

My travel company’s clients were the overseas travel agents, so my dealings were mainly B2B. The shifts were to take my interactions online, and for me to be the sparkling wine expert, while also utilizing social media and growing a B2C community of likeminded bubbly drinkers. The events and tours that we would run were all in my wheelhouse, but I knew I didn’t want to become a tour operator again. It’s a very stressful existence, so I wanted to be selective with the tours and events that we would offer. The goal became presenting select events and tours that I would want to do and share these joyful experiences with others. Although I had experience of building lists and growing social media followings, and had worked with my clients to do this, this was the first time for me to do this in such a big way. It was integral to the success of The Bubbles Review, so that was a major shift of focus.

My other business, the wellness business, although a different industry was very similar to my travel company, in that I sought out quality activities and brought them all together into one program, just like a travel itinerary.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

I have purposely kept the pace of growth of these business at a level that it doesn’t become overwhelming. This is important with all of them, but especially with my bubbly passion project. The number 1 priority is that it should be fun. I believe that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared. I love creating events and tours to share that joy with others. I’ve just completed a sold-out national tour of Australia with one of our events, The Bubbles Festival. During COVID restrictions, it was definitely 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 this to the USA and UK, when we are allowed to travel again.

We have a very lively and engaged subscriber list of more than 3,000 people, and social media following of around 8,000 across Facebook and Instagram, with a monthly reach of about 100,000. We feature articles on history, tastings, technique and the stories about people and lifestyle in Champagne and Sparkling Wine. It’s a nice little niche that is doing really well.

The other big shift for me in the past few months has been taking my consulting and mentoring business — Natalie Pickett Mentor — to global markets. By bringing more of what I do online, I get to share my insights to help even more people. It has opened up so many opportunities for me to work with business owners all around the world. Amazing things are happening, including being a co-author in the best-selling book ‘Becoming an Unstoppable Woman’, and being featured in great magazines like this one!

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are a lot of people that I am grateful for, especially after the closure of my first business. I am grateful to those who rallied around me and sought me out for projects, such as speaking engagements and other opportunities. I am forever grateful and was very blessed to have that support.

One person in particular for The Bubbles Review was my friend Geoffrey, who is the graphic designer who I mentioned, but he has an amazing skill set beyond that. His quickness to encourage me when I needed that logo was integral to getting started. He is also an accomplished and experienced writer himself, so he offered to copy edit my blogs for me, and provided encouragement on their content and readability. In addition, he is a former owner of an art space, and he provided the venue free of charge so that I could deliver the inaugural The Bubbles Festival, which has become a hallmark event for that business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

There are so many stories, but the one thing that comes to mind is the joy that I have created in my passion project. I get to travel the world and drink champagne. I have had to pinch myself to believe some of the amazing experiences, such as attending amazing champagne dinners, dining next to the Chef de Cave (chief winemaker) of Dom Perignon at one of the top restaurants in Australia. This was made possible by reaching out to other champagne and sparkling wine personalities and their generosity in inviting me to these events. Then to also get to tour the Champagne region in France, visiting the grand marque houses, as well as meeting small family-owned champagne houses. Combining travel and champagne allows me to combine all of my precious career experience into these trips. When we are able to travel again, these exclusive tours will be available to share with others.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

Yes, absolutely! Especially putting myself out there with each of my businesses. As soon as you put yourself out there, especially in the online space, you can receive challenging responses from people. The same when things don’t go to plan, but you just need to find the courage to keep going. I use my core values to guide me in each of my businesses. When you come back to the ‘why’ of what you do, you know that you are helping people achieve their desired success — in business, wellness, and in the case of The Bubbles Review, spreading joy through sparkling wine. When you center around your purpose like this, ground yourself in that belief, you become a powerful force for good. There is no need for self-doubt from that place of strength.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

In my mentoring work and my online courses, I talk about the importance of creating your own support network. That includes yourself. You need to be your own support person, be your own best friend, think about the things that you would want your very best friend to say to you. Make that your inner voice. Also look at who and what you need for external support, such as other team members, outsourcing, business advisors and mentors. To grow a strong business, you need to have good foundations.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

When I created The Bubbles Review, I wasn’t sure if people would even be interested in what I had to say. Would my knowledge, stories and writing be good enough? I knew I already had good knowledge, but of course I did further research. What I discovered about champagne and sparkling wine is that it is rich in history, personalities of different winemakers and their preferred techniques. There is always something more to learn. I also reached out to other sparkling wine industry people to seek collaborations and interview them. But the first big thing that I did was to just start. This is my advice to people when starting their passion project — just start!

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. Sharing my writing, however, was something new and originally took me out of my comfort zone.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

This is a mix of things from each of my businesses:

  1. Things are very different when the buck stops with you — being the boss can be lonely. I had a much better understanding of decisions I had criticized in former bosses when I started my first business and I needed to call all the shots.
  2. Things get easier — the things that seem daunting and all-consuming in the beginning become second nature as you and your business evolves.
  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. You get to decide your own version of success. Don’t be influenced by what you think other people think that you should be doing. There’s no need to do it all at once. 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.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

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 share that in my writing, my courses and speaking engagements.

We are very blessed that some very prominent 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 would love to meet Ariana Huffington! I love what she did in creating Huffington Post, and then transitioning to prioritize her wellbeing in her next businesses. It seems that we have a very similar outlook, and I would love to have a long lunch over some champagne with her and discuss life. Do you think she will be reading?

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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