Carrie Kwan - Helping Mums in Business Thrive
Carrie Kwan is one of three daughters born in Singapore, and raised in Australia, by a couple of hard-working, devoted Chinese parents. Today, living in Sydney with her husband and two boys - Coen and Remy; Carrie’s life is exceptionally full as a parent and co-founder of Mums & Co - a membership based network for thriving business mums across Australia.
With a soft spot for pilates, figs, books and coffee, Carrie is deeply passionate about making meaningful connections with people and the power of the pen and storytelling.
At a very young age, reading books like Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, I remember falling in love with stories.
I remember looking at my family's Britannica Encyclopaedia books and my dad’s subscription to National Geographic with awe. As I got older, I fell in love with quotes and wrote haiku poetry, then throughout High School and University I started writing about fiction as well as topics I felt were important - they were never published but they certainly took pride of place in my diaries and notebooks.
When it came to my career, it made sense to begin in corporate marketing. My first placement was in marketing as a PR executive with Ernst & Young. Working and travelling across Europe for over five years was a wonderful experience and yes, I would always write about my travels, sending an update to all my friends and family - with no idea of the influence that had on my future career, I was a walking pocket digital lonely planet guide!
Eventually I gave up my well-paying job with an institutional bank to follow my passion and founded Daily Addict in 2018 - an online concierge, curating the city’s best experiences.
The catalyst was being asked by a mentor what I was passionate about. I struggled to come up with an answer, but eventually I had the idea for Daily Addict and I just couldn't stop thinking about it - how it would work, what it would stand for, what type of content and experiences I could introduce people to and how that would serendipitously enrich their lives - one experience (one newsletter edition) at a time.
It was literally a burning desire - without an off-switch. Now that I was able to answer that question, I spent a few months working on the business plan, resigned to work on it full time and then launched the very first digital newsletter edition from my apartment living room on 15 January, 2008.
The launch edition focused on a new hole in the wall cafe in Balmain called the Little Marionette. I launched it with my personal savings, and spent about $10,000 on building a custom website - looking back it could probably have been launched for as little as a few hundred dollars!
Launching a ‘boot-strapped’ digital start up at a time when the tech was new and exciting, but as Carrie confesses “I wish I had better support and a greater network to tap into”.
Fast forward to 2016 and, with all the valuable lessons from her previous venture, Carrie co-founded Mums & Co - another awesome concierge style service, but this time for the busy working mother who owns their own business but doesn’t necessarily have the time or resources to capitalise on the shared knowledge and perks one gets when they work in a larger corporate environment.
Recognising that women are much stronger together, Mums & Co was created to bring women together where they can pool their collective smarts and negotiating power to tap into the resources needed to be successful.
Having a positive, sponge-like approach towards learning and then doing something about it (for the small breakthroughs as well as the bigger ones) has always helped me; so it made sense to share that with others. The learning journey is not always easy, but it’s such a gift.
When I was living in London in my twenties I had my heart set on a job at a dream company - a training and development firm that dealt with high stake negotiations. When the opportunity for a placement came up, I rehearsed and prepared. Thoroughly.
I was ready for the interview, and things went rather well in the beginning. I answered every question with confidence, until the last one when the interviewer asked me if there was a time that I could recall when I’d miserably failed. I gave a quasi answer, one that was about hiding a strength as a weakness and she saw straight through it. I tried again, but scrambled to come up with one scenario where I had failed.
The problem was, I couldn’t admit to failure, let alone talk about what I did with that failure and how I learnt from it. Sure, seems silly now given how easy it is to fail - we can fail in relationships, in work and even in making pancakes.
Everyone has weaknesses and if you can’t identify weaknesses in yourself, how can you identify them in others who we hope to help? Being self aware and being ok with not knowing all the answers was a big lesson I learnt that day.
I’m proud of stepping into the unknown and building my first venture into a well regarded start-up, inspiring tens of thousands of people to enrich their lives with meaningful new experiences through our early adopter recommendations. This endeavour allowed me to get a taste of the entrepreneur’s path - it’s a generous community, solving big problems, creating new solutions and harnessing the power of digital technology for the benefit of many.
I think it’s important for all of us, no matter where we are in our journey to acknowledge that it’s not all smooth sailing - we all have our personal demons and I’ve certainly had my share.
I was a real people pleaser from an early age. It means that at times I second guess myself or spend more time and energy than I should analysing encounters and actions - with people I care about, as well as the people I’ve just met.
The imposter syndrome is also something that rears its ugly head when I’m outside my comfort zone; and let’s be honest that happens a lot in the startup world. I’ve come to find a become friends with it, like accepting it for what it is, and saying “Hi” as quick as I say “goodbye” a lot quicker!
Perhaps one of the most surprising discoveries is that I’ve come full circle in helping small business owners - something that’s been in my blood since I was young with my father, grandfather and great grandfather were all running their own business.
When I think back, it was as real for me now as it was back when I started the DailyAddict.com.au - as a lifestyle guide we featured more than a thousand small business stories.
Today, that passion is alive and real at Mums & Co where I get to help women like myself, who are juggling the balance of motherhood with their own business, to not only survive but thrive - and as Maya Angelou says “to do it with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style”
It’s great to know we’re on the right path - while we’ve already hit a remarkable community of more than 10,000 business owner mums, with over 340,000 mothers across Australia who own their own business, we know we have a lot more work to do.
I’m proud of the opportunity to co-found this IAG backed venture and to be one of the 1 in 10 business owners who launched their business while being pregnant - making me part of the fabric and family of our thriving network.
Family has always been central to my being. Now that I’m a mother, the values and principles, behaviours and beliefs that my parents, grandparents and extended family members have instilled in me come to the fore.
My two boys are a huge source of pride and purpose; and my husband continues to be my true north - incredibly supportive from our very first encounter, through two start-up businesses, and raising two children.
“My husband is my true north”
I want to be remembered for being a person who is kind, brave, positive and encouraging of other people’s limitless potential.
As for what’s next, we have many exciting plans for Mums & Co. We’ve just released an important study on business mums in Australia and are about to launch our marketplace for thousands of business owners to connect.
By arming mothers with the resources they need to work on their own businesses means they can better balance the things that are important to them - the time to spend with their children when they most need it, and the flexibility to raise families as well as achieve their ambitions.
We know that women doing meaningful work, they’re incomes and levels of self-reported happiness increase - probably has something to do with them get satisfaction from all areas of their life - from being a mum, an entrepreneur and a successful business woman!