Introducing: Womaneer, our new series that highlights and celebrates the oft–overlooked women of our day who are making waves in the fields of politics, crypto-currency, not-for-profit, and design. Each of these women have something in common: vision, grit, and a heavy dose of persistence that keeps them going despite the odds.
These women are proof that the gender gap is closing… that is, if you fight for it. With some guts, you can become the next pioneering voice in your field—a Womaneer. We’ve heard from Australian designer Anna Quan, and now for the next Womaneer in our series, entrepreneur of mother of two, Ali Smyth, who is the founder PR and communications agency, Electric Collective three years ago and now co-directs Electric Collective Fashion all while raising two kids.
Always on the hunt for authentic and unapologetic women who design a life that works best for them, we sat down with Smyth to talk about the importance of kindness, giving yourself a break, and learning to not sweat the small stuff.
I was always the girl in our group of friends that organised the nights out, the weekends away and the trips overseas. I love organising, communicating and seeing plans come together. I ended up getting my foot in the door by turning up to a restaurant I knew was frequented by the publisher of an international publication and hitting him up for an interview over his dinner. Sure, it was kind of crossing the line of privacy a little, but it got me an interview with my first PR role so I regret nothing! He has also since become a very dear friend.
I’ve worked across big international corporate brands from Westfield, Luxottica and Pernod Ricard, local and international designers such as alice McCALL, Ten Pieces and Macgraw to smaller local designers and then of course all my amazing lifestyle brands and venues - Mary’s, The Lansdowne, Fratelli Paradiso, Young Henrys and 10 William.
I’ve learnt over the years that genuine kindness goes a long way, and it’s always nicer to be nice. I clearly remember those that genuinely helped, cared, and nurtured me when I was a junior; and I vowed that if I ever made it into a position of management I would always try to ensure my staff were encouraged, respected and looked after.
I founded Electric Collective three years ago with a view to represent clients that I personally love, but also blend together despite coming from different worlds. Music, fashion, food, art, they’re all part of our everyday life, and I wanted to work with brands that didn’t just stick into one category. Electric Collective manages some of the most incredible venues in the country, as well as Australia’s most recognised and respected designers. In December 2017, I partnered with my divine friend Adriana Glass to form a fashion arm of the business, Electric Collective Fashion, and we now co-direct. Having a like-minded business partner is invaluable and I thank the universe every day I sit next to such an inspiring woman.
It’s not for everyone. I don’t stop, I don’t sleep much (but that’s mainly due to my five-month-old, Spike) and I’m constantly juggling. But I love life this way and it’s how my personality thrives. I’ve always been someone to rise under pressure, and having multiple children and businesses keeps me motivated and peddling a million miles an hour. Also, what do people do in the evenings if they don’t have children and business?!
The biggest challenge for me would have to be giving birth to my first child, Luna Wolf on the same day my husband and I opened Mary’s in Newtown. That was a very interesting 6 months.
There is certainly more support for female entrepreneurs starting out. It’s amazing to see people wanting to help other people succeed, but it’s also pretty special that there are now internationally recognised female-led support groups, seminars and events that you can join or attend. The internet has allowed these groups to flourish and networking has certainly been made easier due to technological advancement.
I think if you ever fully shook that off you wouldn’t have the adrenaline to keep going! It’s important to have a bit of nerve doing something new, but never self doubt. If you don’t believe in yourself who will? (Besides your five-year-old).
It’s helped me to shrug of things that I may have got caught up on before. I really don’t sweat the small stuff as much, and knowing you have to be home at a certain time most nights (unless there are events on) pushes you to prioritise daily tasks. Sitting on the floor of the bathroom playing make believe games with your kids while they bathe, or rocking a crying baby to sleep makes me smile to think that I used to the worst thing in my life was a spelling mistake in a press release. I’m still as meticulous with detail and careful as ever, though I’ve certainly relaxed my response if something has gone wrong.
We don't ever stop. Ever. Respect to anyone out there being a mum and working—Whether it's full-time, part-time, for someone else or running your own business. It's hard work. And kids don’t give care about what happened in the office. They want you, and they want all of you. And rightly so, clients too. Empathy and understanding is something all working mothers deserve.
Having the support of an incredible partner has allowed me to flourish in my industry because I know when I’m not home, he has my back. Explaining to him what I need and why, and having him understand is invaluable. We work together (mostly) seamlessly—it’s a very even playing field, so sitting down with a partner, family or friends that can help you and explaining how you need them, setting timelines and expectations is highly recommended. That, and ensuring your office is situated above a wine shop, like mine conveniently is.
I care passionately about who I work with, who I represent and who I pitch to. I believe being real and genuine has helped me gain respect among my peers.
As long as my kids get the best of me, I can play games, dress ups, go to their soccer games, hip-hop classes and Easter hat parades whilst maintaining a professional career; I’m happy. I don’t really know what work/life balance is because work is such a huge part of my life. But I love what I do, I love who I represent, and because of that I bring it home with me—I do make an effort to switch off for those precious hours between school pick up and bed time, but I’m always back on emails after the babies are sleeping. The balance is about ensuring kids and partners get the good bits too.