Well we are here. December 2022. This year has been a literal whirlwind!! 

I was chatting with my husband the other day, saying I feel like I have achieved nothing this year. Which very obviously isn’t true, but very much reflects how I have felt about 2022. After 2 years of challenge, I had high hopes for this year, and it certainly met some of them and fell short on others. I yet again was met with pirouetting my way through the year from the outset – starting off with ripping up (literally) any event plan for the year I had as covid ran rampant through our community. For an innate planner like me, the challenge this brings is on many fronts – yes financially, but also mentally too. I have learnt many lessons from the year of 2022, and the ones before it.

Disclaimer: This wrap-up may not be your usual one. It is raw and real and everything in between. I am not sugar coating any of it, so please go into reading it with that in mind. If you are not ‘here’ for sharing the lows, I suggest not reading beyond the initial celebrations.

Let’s kick off with some of our big achievements of 2022:

  • Our 2022 Awards was our biggest yet! Over a thousand women nominated. Over 500 attended our evening. And our very small team made it all happen in 3 months.
  • We launched Soar Magazine in PRINT for the first time! And created 2 more issues! Thankyou to Jess McEachen for your incredible hard work in turning a vision into reality! To Erin Priestley, Red Pencil Designs for your design work on Issue 2 and Kate Fleming, Inside Out Print & Signage, for printing them!
  • We created many ways for women to connect, this year focusing within our community with our gather + connect events, hosted by members. The passion they had to be together was such an inspiration to me this year!
  • I bought back (quietly) my business nurturing and spent time helping a number of women 1:1, in my Inner Circle group and Planning Days. It was the best watching all involved flourish! 
  • We celebrated over 400 women renewing their memberships and welcomed over 200 new women to our beautiful community. And supported a number with membership extensions who had been hit with financial hardship. And we watched numerous connections and referrals occur within our members facebook group and gatherings.
  • We had a little brand refresh with help from Erin at Red Pencil Designs and Rachel at Hopscotch Branding Studio!
  • We showcased hundreds of women across our social media, our blog, monthly spotlights and annual partners.

I have so much gratitude for all the women who made the above (and more!) possible!! Our sponsors, our partners, our supporters, our members, the SAW dream team – THANKYOU!

But behind the successes, was a challenging year. Mentally and physically more than anything.

The loss of our events for another year has implications many may not realise. This arm was one of the income streams for SAW (although a smaller one), it also funded our Event Planner and team hours on social media in relation to the events (pre-covid). Without events the last couple of years, it meant we lost our wonderful event planner and financial support for the team. Not to mention the avenue that helped us most bring women together – our in person events. While we did some smaller member only events, we were limited in doing other events. The risk of restrictions and illness made it financially too risky for our small organisation and the constant sickness in my world and our team made it impossible to plan anything extra at late notice (given we had already cancelled all our plans!). Online just simply cannot provide the same experience, and it really hurt us in many ways, lost income, lost exposure, lost opportunities. I really hope we can rebuild our events in 2023.

Illness, hit myself, my family and our team (and their families) hard. We were tag teaming sickness. One of us would get better, and then another one would go down. It was soul destroying after a while. We couldn’t seem to make any ground. We were constantly chasing our tails and falling behind. And I felt like all I did was apologise, to our team, to members and to others I felt we didn’t meet planned objectives. This year we made it through – with the minimum. I don’t think any of us truly thrived this year and I have been crawling towards December! I’m looking forward to a better flow next year and more time for my own wellbeing amongst it all.

This year we had so many beautiful new faces join us, but like all memberships it also meant farewelling a lot too. To remain viable we increased our membership investment this year, which had many reassess their involvement. It was the hardest decision (aside from all the covid related ones!) I have had to make, but for us to still be standing in 5 years time it was necessary. It was a huge lesson for me too. SAW started as a side project, I never thought we could make it what it is, and therefore some of those early decisions 4+ years ago and undervaluing what we do, hurt us this year. A big reminder to truly think about what you want the future to look like when setting those early foundations. It has been emotionally really tough to stay focused on the long term vision, not take things personally and accept that parts of SA Woman are not for everyone – and that is ok!

The undervaluing what we do, what we offer and also myself, has long been a challenge for me. I am far better at seeing the value in others and encouraging them to see it too, than to see it in myself. It was the support of some wonderful women that has helped me see that more this year, doesn’t necessarily make it easier to make decisions though! Because alongside that, is my passion for what we do to be accessible to all, which can make it tricky!

We launched our incredible Soar Magazine this year, and what a learning curve that has been!! Going from a self-made online version, to a full print version was a big jump. And the costs were far more than I imagined it would be from copy to design to print, it all added up – and I really didn’t think about this when setting advertising/sponsorship needs. This was one part of SAW that made a financial loss for us, but at the same time is one I am so incredibly passionate about and so proud that we pulled off (thankyou Jess!)! Seeing the excitement on the faces of the women inside it, I simply can’t not do it. So we will try again next year and hope at a minimum, we can break even. On the positive we sold over 200 print copies and had over 2000 reads on the digital version!

Our Awards on the outside was an incredible success! But the pressure it put on the team, was immense. We never expected such an incredible response, and it truly felt like our 4+ years of hard work had finally spread the word further to reach and celebrate as many women as possible. BLOWN AWAY still as I reflect on that! The work that went into planning the event (which I thought would have 300 people and ended up with 500 attending!), into the magazine, the social media, the communications, the website build and more was huge! We definitely need more hands this year, and the many offers of help from our members on the night had me realise the pride in this not just for our team – but for our members community too. Many of them came, not knowing who would be on stage, but genuinely wanting to celebrate the women there.

I stepped further back into my business nurturing shoes. Something I had stepped back from a little when my youngest arrived almost 3 years ago. I felt my intuition return during sessions and conversations. I saw all the ways my background, knowledge and experience can help women and felt confident to just be me. I’m not a mentor, and I won’t ever try to fit that ‘standard’ mould again – which I felt I ‘should’ last year. I just can’t. The wellbeing of women is too important to dismiss that part of the business journey. And also dulling part of my light is not what the world needs.

Motherhood. Phwoar. Being a mother AND a business owner has presented a vast amount of challenge this year. All the illness as previously mentioned. Add in the different age range and needs of my 3 children (if you didn’t know! I have 2 boys 11 and 7 and a 2 year old little girl). My constant pull between being a present mum and having my own ambitions. I have met so many other women this year in that same space of wanting to do a lot, but reality not allowing that. Being more realistic about what I am actually capable of with 3 children, is something I must get better at next year! But also speaking out more on the challenges and assumptions made about mothers – that our businesses are little small, hobbies. That careers and businesses aren’t often seen with the same priority as the jobs of men. The lack of valuing the input and offerings is another thing I have noticed.

Creating a village. The need for a village around women has been ever present this year. From our small team helping each other or picking up when I have been unwell (and vice versa). To the support I have behind the scenes with my husband, with daycare, school and grandparents. And of course the community I have around me of other working women. It has all been so needed this year and reminded me why our Members Community is so needed for so many, knowing there are people there who care is so important. In addition, mentally, ensuring we have the mental health support we need is imperative, from GPs, to Psychologists, to therapists, to spiritual guides and many more. All of which have helped me through my own challenges this year of overwhelm, anxiety and mild depression, without them I wouldn’t have gotten through. We need them in our village too!

Thinking about the future of SA Woman has been something I have been working on all year. Our surrounds have changed considerably since we started, more following our lead and doing what we have and continue to do, added challenges in the economic climate and so much more. This has had me think a lot about the future of SA Woman. I have spent a lot of time listening, observing and thinking about where we sit in South Australia, where we sit in the space of supporting women and where we need to go to make the most impact for women in business and careers. How can we get them seen more? Appreciated and recognised more for their contributions? Have them supported and connected? And also ensure we are here for another 5+ years. The pieces have been coming together with the right support around me and I’m excited about the year ahead.

It’s been interesting to reflect and go back to the beginning of SA Woman and what my original vision was. It has been great to see all we achieved of that, but also how far I deviated too after following what everyone was telling me I ‘should’ do and offer, as opposed to what really fit our core purpose of connection and showcasing. The word ‘reimagined’ has been coming up a lot, and I definitely think this is what 2023 will look like. We will be cementing our future, being clear on what we do, what parts of our business are for which group of women and better spreading the word (we have been very quiet this year aside from awards!). And I would like to think we have proved ourself and that the broader community knows we are here for the long term. Now the break ahead will be implementing a lot of this to hit the ground running for next year.

This year the work we are doing at SA Woman was really being recognised in the wider community. I was sought for thoughts and input in a number of government initiatives, asked to be involved in other events and more. It became clear to me that advocating for our women is an area I am really passionate about. Certain announcements also had me realise that this western suburbs girl simply isn’t in the right ‘circles’ or honestly taken seriously enough, but I won’t let it stop me speaking out for the challenges working women are facing or the huge contribution we make to the South Australian economy. It’s something that I shied away from, but something I need to do more of.

This year has certainly been a doozy on many fronts for me. All the successes, equally met with a vast amount of challenge. It was the year of being battered and bruised, but also being clearer on what we need going forward. And also a sense of gratitude for all those who have supported and stuck by us through such a tough year – your support and encouragement is never forgotten I assure you! I have felt the feelings of 2018, where I took one last chance on a dream which is why we are here today. 2022 was another pivotal moment in my business journey and that of SA Woman. Now, let’s bring on a wonderful 2023!

Soaring Together,

Carly x

Founder and Business Nurturer
SA Woman
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