Getting to know…Jennifer Long of Seven Hats
Seven Hats is a locally run business that offers a range of services to start-ups and small businesses in and around Sydney’s Inner West.
Tell us about yourself
Originally from the UK, I travelled to Australia when I was 24 and stayed for 6 months on an extended tourist visa. After returning to London, I found myself missing Sydney and so I came back in 2003. I have been here ever since. It feels like there are more opportunities here than in the UK. You can dare to dream. I miss and love the UK but Sydney seems young and vibrant with a can-do attitude where anything’s possible. Not to mention the incredible lifestyle and weather.
I am a mum to 2 little boys who are 3 and 1.5 years and partner to a wonderful Irish man I met over here. We moved to Five Dock after living in the Eastern Suburbs, as we wanted somewhere more chilled out and family focused. I’ve met a huge amount of people here through day care, playgroups and Facebook groups like Inner West Mums. I also run the Five Dock Families page, which is open to anyone living in 2046. I started it to connect myself and other people to the rest of the local community. I love to feel a part of things and this probably stems from not having my own family and old friends around.
I have a varied background and worked for a few different sectors including Education, Health and Social Services, and large financial corporations. For 7 years I worked for a graphic design college where I studied before being headhunted for a role. During my time it grew from having 3 Australian campuses to a total of 6 with schools in New York, London and Manchester. Working for a small company provided me with a great wealth of knowledge. I was running the back office solo for a number of years. All the customer service, print and digital marketing, social media, website and blog posts, copywriting, accounts, procurement, building management, student liaison, event organising… you name it. Our CEO was great in that he placed a lot of trust in the team and we would often spend time bouncing ideas around in order to ensure the college was at the top of its game. I learnt so much from working so closely with some top creative thinkers and the environment certainly improved my own design eye.
How did the business idea of Seven Hats come about?
Originally I thought I’d start an artistic/creative company. I had some ideas flying around for a while but nothing seemed quite right. Then I had a classic 3am light bulb moment when a voice inside my head saying “just do what you’re good at” which is basically a little bit of everything. I feel I have a great balance of left and right-brained thinking. I can be perfectly organised and logical which helps with many administrative tasks but I also have an abstract side that is constantly whirring away to come up with creative solutions to any challenges, whether they’re related to a design or otherwise.
I realised that small business owners often can’t afford to take on extra staff, even on a part-time basis, and sometimes they’re so busy they don’t even have time to stop and think about how they could do things differently in order to make their life easier or to grow their business. I wanted to be able to help those people out and be a cost-effective and commitment free solution.
What services do you offer?
My services range from marketing (including social media), graphic design and branding to office management where I can look any processes in place and see if they can be improved. I can catch up someone’s accounts for a few hours and make sure bills are paid or chased and everything is reconciled and filed away. I can also organise events or write proposals. Almost everything a small business needs, I can offer. If I feel that something is out of my scope I try to find out who could be the right person or company to help.
What do you love about your business and what you do?
I love the variety and I never know from client to client what they’ll want or need. Being a new business owner myself (I went live with the business in May) I feel I am learning with everyone else so I really get where they may be at. The fact that I can get a bit more balance for my own life is amazing. I also love that I can earn an income while meeting and working with new, interesting people.
What is your point of difference from other virtual assistants out there?
My main difference is the variety of things that I can offer a business owner. I prefer to think that I am a cross between a consultant, where I can share knowledge and expertise, and a general dogs-body where I muck in and get tasks done.
Although much of my work is completed virtually I really prefer to meet and introduce myself to clients to ensure there is a good fit. This is why I focus on just the Inner West as it means that I can do the face to face work as well as working from home. When I work onsite with someone I find the gold is in all the talking that takes place around the tasks and the opportunity may arise that I can offer some strategic advice and inject a bit of creative thinking. One client I’m working for has been running her company solo for 9 years so she is loving having a someone with fresh ideas who also files, helps pack up and ship off her goods, makes her a cup of tea and saves her a fortune in graphic design costs. You may not get that from a VA or friends and family. Someone impartial who genuinely cares, but is not connected.
What motivational advice can you offer other mums wanting to redefine their career post children?
I went to a talk on starting a creative businesses run by Sydney City Council. All of the speakers said the same thing, “just go for it”. Often these business owners didn’t have a proper business plan in place. They just made up things as they went along. The universal truth is, you have to start somewhere and no time is better than now. Total cliché but it’s true.
Children change our lives so much. Many of us have period of time where we’re not in the work force and our confidence can be effected, especially if our career is what defined us pre-children. Kids put you out of your comfort zone with everything, so why not take that one little step further. You already know you can do way more than you ever thought you could and there’s no better time than now. DO IT!
What would you consider to be your top 3 life achievements?
Aside from having children (as physically, mentally and emotionally it’s HUGE) it would be:
*Moving to Australia – anyone who moves to a different country without friends, family and their support network would understand. As a child I couldn’t stay at a friends house without getting home sick so it was a huge achievement for me moving here.
* Canyoning – I am not always the bravest person the world and so conquering Claustral Canyon with 8 burly men and little me, something well out of my comfort zone, was a huge achievement. I kept on thinking that there is no way I can possibly do this! But after falling down a waterfall backwards, a few tears, a leach and becoming paralysed with fear on the climb back out I eventually found myself in a warm pub, whisky in hand and feeling pretty proud of myself. There is nothing more satisfying than overcoming your fears.
* Starting my own business – It really has been a lifelong dream. I’m delighted that I bit the bullet and went out on my own and I’m looking forward to what the future brings.
Favourite genre of book to read?
I’m a sucker for fantasy novels and read all the Game of Thrones books that were written before I watched the TV series. I love anything slightly other worldly; from Tolkien to Pratchett. You can lose yourself in that world for a while.
The most recent non-fantasy book I read was ‘Wonder’. A beautiful, heart-warming, tear-jerker of a book about a 10-year-old boy who has a severe facial deformity from birth. Written from different people’s perspectives it reveals how his face affects how people interact with him and how he interacts with the world. A great lesson in empathy and one all children should read.
Favourite way to relax?
Unfortunately too often I find I’m scanning my phone in my ‘downtime’. A habit that needs to stop. In an ideal world relaxing would be a glass of wine with my partner or friends, which is an absolutely wonderful way to spend a couple of hours without children. I am also a massive fan of going for a drive with the radio on. I’ve also just started back at Bikram yoga. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly relaxed when trying not to faint in a 40-degree room but I’m sure I’ll start to reap the benefits soon.
Favourite spots in the Inner West?
I love the Bay Run and live nearby. I also love Rozelle village, Dawn Fraser baths in Balmain and Cabarita pool. As an avid cloud lover I think the inner west skies at sunset are incredible. It’s something I missed when I lived in Bondi!