Wilhelmina Ford is the poster child for persistence. Her latest venture, ShareAbode, is an exciting new platform that helps single parents share the cost of housing with other single parents.
1. Tell me about your company? What problems does it solve?
My company, ShareAbode, is a unique solution to the very real housing challenges that single parents face in Australia. Put simply, it's a platform that enables single parents to meet other single parents to share a home with. This has the obvious benefit of making housing more affordable, as the bond, rent and ongoing living expenses are shared. But there are the added benefits of practical support, emotional support, and less isolation.
2. What is your role, and what do you love about it?
My role in ShareAbode is “do anything and everything I can while the kids are at daycare or school”. I have basically grown the business with my kids at home with me full-time over the last two years.
What I love most about ShareAbode is that it is life-changing for single parents. When a match is made, it changes not just one single parent's life, but two single parents lives and their children. I love being able to facilitate that.
3. What is a piece of advice your parents gave you that sticks with you to this day?
Both my parents are psychologists, so they've dished out some pretty deep thinking and ideas over the years. The best would be that “if you can feel it, imagine it and believe it - then with persistence you can achieve it”.
People always want to know what research I did to get into my business or the business before that, and for me, it's always been heart, passion and belief. I didn’t look at the ways I could fail, I only looked at what it would feel like to succeed.
4. What is one thing you credit your success to?
Persistence. It's not the service or the product that makes a business successful, it's the persistence behind it to stay on a given course until a goal is reached. Persistence squashes doubt, fear and exhaustion, and brings in focus, strategy and a never-give-up attitude.
If you look at everything in our world today, everything that was developed, it all came from one person who believed in being able to create it with such conviction they persisted despite numerous setbacks and challenges. In the end, they all got there. Light bulbs, computers, phones, airplanes. History shows persistence pays off, long after others have given up and gone home.
5. What technologies/innovations are you particularly excited about?
The sharing economy is really starting to become a booming industry, which is very exciting and nerve-wracking to be in the industry too, as I don’t consider myself tech savvy at all!! Many people across the world have started to see the benefits of car sharing, co-working, co-living, community and coming together to reduce the use of resources and get things easier and cheaper. There are some interesting buildings of co-living happening around the world that are set to come to Australia, too.
I’m deeply passionate about sustainable living and there are some incredible innovations currently happening in this space: housing designs being more energy efficient, built from waste; shoes made from plastic; and bags from used bits and pieces. Anything to do with the recycle and reuse sort of mentality really grabs my attention because I feel they are needed today more than ever to reduce the constant drain on the planet's resources.
“if you can feel it, imagine it and believe it - then with persistence you can achieve it”
6. What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
I wouldn’t. I think everything I've done, chosen and experienced ultimately led me to this point in my life. Although I'm still continuing to learn, evolve and change, I wouldn't have it any other way. There shouldn't be any shortcuts. Life can be hard at times, but that's what gives us the resilience and adaptability we need to move forward.
It's the crazy things, the silly things and the sad things we experience and do that morph us into the people we are, the people who have the ability, knowledge, and/or skill to fulfil our purposes and passions.
7. What does your morning routine look like?
On a workday (which is three days in a week) it's all about getting me and the kids out the door by 8am to get them to daycare and school. Then, it's back home again to my home office to go through the things that are most urgent and important for me to do with regards to ShareAbode.
I am very driven on these days, because they are the only days I can fully focus. And the focus is usually on how to grow the business, do something different, post something different or connect with someone different. I am then out the door again by 2.30pm to collect my son from prep and my daughter from daycare.
The other days are less rushed, and I get to do work in between my daughters' naps, which is usually just catch up work and maintenance on the business sort.
Regardless of the day, I'm always up at 5am. I make a point to read something that I can learn from or think about first thing, and do it whilst my cup of tea is still delicious, hot and uninterrupted. Then I set the day's goals or intentions and work through them. I have learnt to not be “stiff” with life since becoming a single parent, because its always surprising. Going with the flow instead of beating yourself up for not finishing a certain email is much more helpful to productivity, confidence and being persistent.
8. What do you to blow off steam?
I was an avid dirt bike rider for many years, but I stopped three years ago when I had my daughter. Now my kids are older, I plan to get back into that next year, with them. For now, I workout at the gym about three days a week. I also love having a laugh with other mums in the complex. We sit and chat in the street while the kids all burn of the rest of the day's energy. I also just like doing fun things with my kids, like going to the beach, or play centre or painting and drawing with them.
9. Do you have any personal experiences of gender inequality, bias or discrimination in the workplace?
Not really. I have had my own business since my late 20s, so I have been out of the employment industry for a while. Before that, I actually managed a big group of tradesman in facilities at Taronga Zoo.
10. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I have a huge back tattoo that no-one ever sees - not even at the beach, because I always wear a one-piece. People always seem surprised about it.