Career Q&A: The Importance of Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway!

In this Career Q&A I feel very privileged to be sharing with you the inspiring story of Melinda Clarke, a passionate entrepreneur who’s climbed a number of interesting mountains throughout her career. A short business course at Monash University, combined with a collection of city maps, helped form the inspiration behind the first edition of The Melbourne Map. Please read on to enjoy the compelling story and advice Melinda shares with us as she embarks on developing the updated edition of The Melbourne Map.

Melinda Clarke, The Melbourne Map

Melinda Clarke, The Melbourne Map

Please tell us a little about a day in the working life of Mel

I usually rise about 7am, resist the temptation to look at the phone but take it downstairs with me and place it on the exercise bike control panel. I do 30 minutes on the bike and find that goes in a nano second as I catch up with social media posts and follows. I never used to be into Facebook and Instagram, however it is now an integral part of my marketing strategy so I need to keep up to date.

I prepare a protein shake for breakfast then sit at the computer to check emails and the schedule for the day. Sometimes I become sucked into the vortex of interesting articles and posts.

No two days are the same for me. My current project is a series of tasks and major hurdles that need to be addressed. I am constantly preparing information for potential partners – suppliers, sponsors, banks, etc. There is a crowd funding campaign to prepare for (promotional video and strategy), blog posts to write and most importantly keeping up with the research for The Melbourne Map.

There are regular meetings with the artists and trips to the city to either meet with someone, or take more research photos.

 

How does this differ to your career ambitions as a young adolescent?

Oh wow, young adolescent seems so long ago. I didn’t really like high school and found the skip in my step when I went to Stotts Business College for a year back in 1977! I pictured myself as the best Secretary ever. Back in those days there were a pool of secretaries in the middle of the office and the men around the perimeter in their offices overlooking the city. The opportunities and thought patterns of women back then were so different to now. I was employed at the head office of an international glass company for five years, working my way up from the mail room to Secretary/Personal Assistant to one of the executive directors.

I left to take up an accounts and administration position at the Technical & Further Education Board, saved madly and then put the backpack on and went discovering the world for a couple of years. This is where life and possibilities really came to light and I thoroughly enjoyed my 23rd and 24th year travelling through Europe and America and working my butt off as a waiter. The people you meet… Christopher Reeve (superman) was one of them.

Instinctively I knew I wanted to have my own business however it wasn’t entirely clear what that would be. Upon my return to Australia I tried my hand at manufacturing and selling neck warmers to the ski industry.

Melinda Clarke, The Melbourne Map

Melinda, circa 1990

What was the defining moment that set you on the career path you are on today?

In 1985 I enrolled in a short Business Course at Monash University where I learnt the fundamentals and skills to prepare a comprehensive business plan. This changed everything. On my travels I had collected some pretty interesting city maps and I really thought Melbourne should have a good tourist map so I used this as the subject of my plan.

With my Business Plan finished, I then embarked on a five year journey to make The Melbourne Map happen. Granted, I didn’t realise at the time it would take that long and require so much time and money. The course had taught me to be much braver and realise that if I don’t know something I can have the confidence to ask someone and learn (no google back in those days).

I had jobs in between, really interesting ones, running events on boats and trains, doing bookwork and PR for a hotel and assisting a producer at a Film production company. Career for me was just taking every interesting opportunity that presented itself, working really hard for those people, learning as much as I can and having fun.

The map evolved, and at present I am documenting that journey on my blog. I ran the Melbourne Map business for around 6 years after publishing the first edition in 1990. Here is a neat little video on the map produced back in 1992 if you are curious.

I met my partner during that time and had two gorgeous children. In 1997 we moved to the Bellarine Peninsula and set up Australia’s largest abalone aquaculture farm. That journey was HUGE and would take up too many pages, but having never seen an abalone or tasting one before we started, I used the same determination and principles, writing and following a comprehensive business plan and riding the enormous learning curve.

What is one of the best decisions you’ve made in your journey to success and career happiness?

After my experience on the aquaculture farm (12 years) and the personal price our family paid on that journey I found myself single and the sole breadwinner to support my two children. I was approached by the accounting firm I used to engage and they asked me to help a few of their clients set up their businesses. I felt very comfortable in this space and enjoyed passing on my knowledge, garnered from running a multi-million dollar company and employing a large workforce. The principles of running a business are pretty much the same, no matter what the size or how many noughts are on the balance sheet.

I loved this consulting work but one day when I was assisting my daughter with a job search on SEEK I saw a position with Back to Back Theatre in Geelong. Long story short I landed that “job” and enjoyed an incredibly rewarding 5 years with this amazing creative company.

For the past two years The Melbourne Map has been niggling in the background. On many occasions I have been asked if I would attempt an update. A few more ‘splinters in the banister of life’ prompted me to ditch my safe and secure path and jump head first into The Melbourne Map 2.0. The opportunities the digital age presents to the project this time around is terribly exciting. I find myself on more huge learning curves, especially wrapping this grey head around technology, yet I really am having a ball.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career/business in your industry?

If you have an idea, then the best advice I could give is to write it all down, bring all those notes into a really comprehensive business plan. There will be parts of the business plan that may be foreign to you, like defining your market, or preparing financials but you must persist with all the segments of the plan and get it all on paper.

The Melbourne Map

Melbourne Map, 1st Edition

Please tell us more about your plans for The Melbourne Map

So now I have come full circle in my “career” and ploughing through the work that needs to be done to produce the next version of The Melbourne Map. I have engaged two artists and together we are making the new map a reality. I am hoping that the image will be ready for printing in May next year.

If you would like a FREE copy of the original 1991 colour Melbourne Map it is available for download from our website. Click here to download it.

I’d be delighted if you would come along with us on the journey. There will be regular blog posts and also the smattering of social media stuff on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. We are hoping that Melbournians will join in the process and we encourage you to contribute to the research by letting us know what you think is important to include in this next version.
Meanwhile we are recording the drawing of the illustration on time-lapse video and will regularly share those fun snippets of progress.

Next on the agenda is an app for The Melbourne Map and then possibly illustrations of other Australian cities. Stand by………

Karen Hollenbach

Karen Hollenbach

Thank you for reading my insights.

As a storyteller, I help quieter and thoughtful folk communicate better online (and offline). I enjoy the complexity of people and helping others through my coaching, training and online courses.

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Karen Hollenbach