Buvette Masthead

CBR entrepreneurs: taking the leap

Emma Grey

You have to be comfortable being in a constant state of ‘I don’t know’. I am accustomed to knowing what I’m doing, and knowing what’s going to happen next, but I haven’t felt that way for about three years.”


That’s Trish Smith, creator of the Airpocket. She’s a Canberra entrepreneur and former recruiter and public-sector scribe, whose Kickstarter campaign for her snazzy seat-pocket carry-all successfully ended on the weekend, raising nearly $50k in start-up funding.

The mindset shift when becoming an entrepreneur shook Trish’s previous need for certainty.

“Now, ‘normal’ for me is waking up each day with a stack of problems – some enormous, some fairly benign – that need to be solved. And the only way to get through each day is to wake up feeling confident that you will be able to solve them,” she says.

Building a business takes time, as Trish explains.

“Although I’ve been working on this idea for a few years, it’s only now that I feel as though I am actually running a company – Kickstarter is the starting point, and everything before this has been laying the foundations, pouring the concrete.

“I’m very excited about the next phase, about taking my product to the market. I’m looking at partnership opportunities that could be hugely beneficial in terms of growing my business and in developing my own skills as an entrepreneur – the scaffolding is definitely going up, and I’m feeling completely energised.”


Another Canberra entrepreneur, Hilary Wardhaugh, is launching the website for her new venture, Pop Up Office, in May. The idea is to create a “mobile socially engaged co-working community… being productive and networking all whilst sharing some of Canberra’s lovely easting and community spaces.”

Hilary hopes to address the sense of isolation faced by many small business owners and create a new, vibrant social network in Canberra, with face-to-face and online ‘hangouts’, business and social events.

Making the decision to start a business causes people considerable angst.

Can I really do this? What if it falls flat? Where do I start? How do I find my first client? What do I charge?

These are the questions that faced former public servant and now business-owner and author, Matt Fenwick, who says “I measured myself against the stereotypical entrepreneur. A man with a golden beard, skydiving from a balloon, $100 notes fluttering out of his pockets. An unquenchable appetite for risk, and inexhaustible reserves of self-confidence. That’s not me, so I thought being an entrepreneur was something that other people did.”

The leap from the public sector would have been easier, Matt thought, if he’d had a guide that stepped him through that shift. So he’s written one.

Life Without Lanyards: From public servant to entrepreneur is packed with practical advice and case studies from successful business owners who took the leap from the public service. It’s the scaffolding people need if they’re keen to shake up their professional life and start a business.


One of the common threads woven through the narratives in HerCanberra’s 15 Women to Watch series is that Canberra has a vibrant and growing small-business community. There is support. There’s a receptive market. There are ways to start small and minimise the risk.

As Matt says, when people um and ah about whether or not to give it a go — “Life’s too short to die wondering.”

You can support Trishs campaign here and Matts book here. Look for Pop Up Office soon here.

Feature image of female entrepreneur from shutterstock.com


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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