“I’m Joanne Diver. I live in regional NSW with my husband and two children and my business is The Backyard Garden Enthusiast. I grow flower and vegetable seeds and sell them at markets and through social media. 

I come from a background in natural resources management. I was forced to end my career in that field and when I was looking for something else, I had so many ideas and didn’t know how to work out what was right for me. 

The My Big Idea workshop focused on my interests and talents in such a visual and nurturing way. I was still working at the time and the process helped me narrow down my talents and interests. I had never done any learning about myself from that point of view, and it was so encouraging – hearing some of the other women’s stories was like, ‘Joanne, you can do something, yes, you can!’ There was almost a level of grief about leaving the other career, but this one is a whole new learning curve and is very much about me and my ethics and values. 

The learning that you’re exposed to at Sister School is all very practical and it’s a very safe place to learn. You can say ‘I know nothing about this, does anybody know?’ and you’ll have all this support and encouragement or other people saying ‘I don’t know about it, either’, which is also helpful, because you feel a little bit more normal. 

It broke down the barriers and replaced them with all of these positive things – it’s helped me gain a sense of value and worth because other people are supporting me and my product. One expert helped us with branding and I loved it, but I was stuck, I wasn’t sure which way to go. She was great, she helped me clarify the direction and I was able to head off with some level of confidence.

Sister School taught me things about myself that I was able to take home, especially to my daughter. I hadn’t previously been exposed to those kinds of life lessons and encouragement, which I realised I really needed. I find myself letting people know that this opportunity is out there and it’s not a scam! 

Starting a business has given me a sense of purpose and worth that had been eroded. When I was growing up, my work ethic was ‘you work for someone, you work hard, you make money’. This is certainly riskier than what I’ve done before but it has given me the power to do things the way I think they should be done. It allows me the creative input and inventiveness to be continually interested and inspired. 

Success, to me, is being busy. And it is having a sense of purpose and worth and being able to contribute to the family financially. It’s also having the financial resources to be able to reinvest in the business and explore other avenues. 

My business might not be something that is listed on the stock exchange – and I don’t think that’s my goal! – but it is there, it does make a difference, whether it’s just to me or a few others. The little things matter – whether it’s a seed or whether it’s something small that you’ve learnt through the whole process – and hopefully that is shared throughout your family and your community.

Coronavirus has stopped the markets but there’s a revival in self-sufficiency and also veggie seeds. I have tried to pivot to satisfy that demand. It’s constantly a juggling act, but it’s also about realising my and my business’ limitations. At the digiPivot workshop, I said ‘Look, up until a week ago, Pivot was a fertiliser brand for me, it wasn’t a business term!’”