Publisher Emma Mactaggart talks about supporting the community, having a routine that supports wellbeing, and learning from the tough times.
Q: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your small business?
I am a sole trader of a business that empowers children to navigate their future through story.
is my overall brand that supports Boogie Books, a publishing businesses, Child Writes, a literacy program for primary school-aged children and LiveWriteShare, an online program for adults. The Child Writes Fund is a registered charity, and it also supports an international campaign 'International Read to Me! Day'.
Q: Why do you think mental health and wellbeing is important to small business owners?
For me, mental wellbeing is resilience. Having a business where you are in charge of every decision is very challenging, and requires a resilient mindset.
Q: What impacts have adversities in the Toowoomba region such as floods, drought and COVID-19 had on small business owners?
When there is adversity that is global in its impact, I feel as though everyone collectively reels and then has to focus in on themselves and their business. The resources are diverted into literally mopping up. When everyone recovers, they look up again and reach outwards and the resources shift again.
Q: How have you looked after yourself and any employees' wellbeing to help manage changes and challenges in your work and life?
It's an accumulation of all the little things. I have to stay true to my own moral compass and be truthful about my ability to make a difference whilst looking after myself. I work with contractors, so being open to things going wrong before deadlines is important. This means always having a back-up plan! My own personal routine also helps me look after myself:
I no longer set an alarm:
Sleep is my absolute priority and it is non-negotiable.
I have to do one good deed each day:
I have had extraordinary role modelling of volunteering since I was a child. My parents were constantly involved with community events, and I was encouraged to give my time when I could. It was always understood that giving time was something you actually did for yourself, and if anyone benefited, then all the better! That buzz that is associated with feeling wanted, included, useful and needed is what I understand now as a dose of dopamine, and you actually do feel good.
I exercise every day, unless I choose not to!
If everything is about balance, then resting is an important part of that. Sometimes it is impossible to raise your tempo to run when your body is begging to walk. Sometimes your mind is too frantic to also think about frantically pushing weights. Being kind to yourself includes having days when you choose not to exercise, or to deviate from your exercise plan and swap what you are doing.
I always try to book meetings or appointments with 30 minute windows on either side:
This means the pace of my day changes completely and rather than hurrying to the next meeting, or thinking of the next task, I can be fully present at meetings. By slowing things down, I also can debrief, write notes, think about the conversation, and yes, fit in a crisis or take advantage of an opportunity if the day warrants it. Finally, I have at least one day where I am completely uninterrupted by anything other than my own to-do list.
By creating a day without being answerable to others, I can change the tempo dependent on what I need. Being self-employed means being self-motivated and self-driven and self-propelled. Public holidays, weekends, hours of the day don’t change my work / play routine. If I need to do it, I do it. If my own to-do list includes being outside, and hanging out with my chickens, checking my bees, and foraging in my veggie garden, and NOT working, so be it; or it may be researching for another book (which can be happily reading for hours); or it could be simply clearing my emails and tidying up my desk so I can really nail some creative tasks the next day. It’s great to know and understand your own limitations, what makes you stressed, what brings you joy.
Q: What does community mean to you and your small business? What are some things you do to connect with others?
It is absolutely everything! Yes, everything! I don’t exist without the community, its support, and the opportunities that are afforded to me to contribute and to grow. My way of giving back is doing things like volunteering for Lifeline Darling Downs and South West Queensland; and founding the Facebook group #tlcfortrc which is about being positive and supportive of local businesses.
The Facebook group is very genuine and empathetic, and people want to help each other. The group shares things like where to get coffee or who to ask about getting fresh fruit and vegetables delivered. As the COVID-19 lockdown lifted, the posts were more about businesses and individuals looking for services and products. The group shares the love with positive comments and support for each other’s businesses.
Q: What advice would you give to small business owners in the region who might be having a tough time right now?
'It too will pass'. It is better to see life like business. Its challenges and problems and joys and successes all come in waves and they move past us, so it is incredible to really embrace what you can learn from the tough times. For me personally, if you tell me it can't be one, I will simply add it to the list of things to overcome!