Miss FQ - - Contents -

How to bounce back when life throws you a curve­ball

At the age of 25, Donielle Brooke was win­ning. A hair­dresser at top New Zealand sa­lon Stephen Marr and the owner of two jew­ellery brands, she was turn­ing every cre­ative tal­ent she had into vi­able work. Life was head­ing squarely in the right di­rec­tion un­til a rou­tine mole check-up re­sulted in the dreaded words, “It’s can­cer”.

The ini­tial prog­no­sis was good; a mi­nor surgery was sched­uled. But then Donielle dis­cov­ered the can­cer had spread to her thy­roid and around the lymph nodes. Fol­low­ing thy­roid re­moval surgery and a pun­ish­ing round of ra­di­a­tion ther­apy, Donielle faced a six month wait to find out if the treat­ments had worked. With the bills stack­ing up, she set up a Face­book page to sell some of her beloved cloth­ing, and De­signer Wardrobe (DW) — now an on­line mar­ket­place with more than 90,000 mem­bers — was born. Four years on from her di­ag­no­sis and can­cer-free for three years, Donielle ex­plains how a bump in the road put her on the path to suc­cess.

What in­spired you to start De­signer Wardrobe? Al­though my treat­ments were cov­ered by health in­sur­ance, I didn't have an in­come to pay my liv­ing ex­penses or fi­nance the ex­tra sup­port I needed. Af­ter think­ing through my op­tions, I de­cided to sell most of my de­signer cloth­ing, but there wasn't a mar­ket­place in New Zealand tai­lored to sec­ond-hand de­signer items. I started De­signer Wardrobe on Face­book to fill the gap. It seems cray to start a busi­ness when you’re sick… De­signer Wardrobe was ac­tu­ally a great way to keep my mind busy — I would spend hours grow­ing the page by mes­sag­ing my friends and peo­ple in the fash­ion in­dus­try invit­ing them to join. I also man­aged to sell enough of my clothes to pay my debts off which meant less stress! How did you grow it to where it is now? When I was even­tu­ally well enough to re­turn to work a few hours a week, I felt re­ally flat. By this time I had 15,000 mem­bers on the DW Face­book page, so I cre­ated a proper web­site. It was soon ob­vi­ous I should make the busi­ness my pri­or­ity. Run­ning it is now my full-time job. What helped you stay strong dur­ing your treat­ment? I did a lot to help sup­port my health and mind. Coun­selling, natur­opa­thy (so I had sup­ple­ments to sup­port my thy­roid com­ing out), walks, yin yoga — and I learnt about the pow­ers of ev­ery­thing from crys­tals to re­lax­ing teas. My friend Libby Matthews is a nutri­tion­ist and she gave me recipes for smooth­ies, juices and easy meals which was in­valu­able. Some­times I felt like I wasn't get­ting any­where, but I had pa­tience and love for my­self. Has your out­look on life changed? Over the past four years, my life has changed in ways that I never could’ve imag­ined; health chal­lenges are just a part of it. The big­gest dif­fer­ence is that I used to try to be per­fect on the out­side, now I fo­cus on the in­side as that is what counts. I’ve learnt that when life seems un­fair, you have to keep go­ing. Look at the pos­i­tives, take small steps to bet­ter your­self and in time you will be­come stronger than ever. I have never felt hap­pier, health­ier and stronger in mind and body than I do to­day. What ad­vice do you have for oth­ers fac­ing hard times? Even if it feels like you can't and won't bounce back, be­lieve me you can! Start by adding some ‘feel goods’ to your day: laven­der oil on your pil­low at night or a Hi­malayan salt lamp next to your bed. Speak to friends about how you feel or find an out­let to keep your mind on some­thing pos­i­tive. That’s what DW was for me, af­ter all. What are your words to live by? Never re­gret any­thing in life. If it’s good, it’s won­der­ful. If it’s bad, it’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

When life takes a rogue turn, the courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion re­quired to get back on track can be im­mense. No one knows this bet­ter than Jess Quinn — who at nine years old lost her right leg to bone can­cer, and with it, the fu­ture she’d imag­ined for her­self. But with a never-give-up at­ti­tude, 24-year-old Jess is now liv­ing a lim­it­less life as a fit­ness in­flu­encer and in­spi­ra­tional speaker. A shin­ing ex­am­ple of true grit, we asked Jess to in­ter­view three other fear­less fe­males who’ve ex­pe­ri­enced ma­jor life hur­dles, and have bounced back bet­ter and stronger than ever.

As an eight-year-old, Deanna Yang wrote a bucket-list with ‘open a cookie shop’ at the top — in­spired by the home­baked treats her mum put in her school lunch. Eleven years later, Deanna found this list and flooded with nos­tal­gia, de­cided to ful­fil her child­hood dream. With no fam­ily in the coun­try to sup­port her and against the ad­vice of ev­ery­one she knew, Deanna gave her­self two years to make it hap­pen. She worked up to four jobs — com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­vi­sor, bar ten­der, juice-stall op­er­a­tor, retail as­sis­tant — all while study­ing a Bach­e­lor of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­gree full time. It was a grind, but in 2012, Mous­tache Milk and Cookie Bar opened for busi­ness on Auck­land’s Welles­ley Street to in­stant ac­claim. On day one, ea­ger cus­tomers were camped out­side the store in their sleep­ing bags, and the shop sold out of cook­ies 10 hours early. Within two years, how­ever, Deanna’s land­lord raised the shop rent by al­most 40 per­cent, forc­ing Deanna into the heart­break­ing de­ci­sion to close. Down, but not out, Deanna crowd-funded al­most $100,000 for a Mous­tache Milk and Cookie Bus which she drove around the coun­try, and to­day Mous­tache is not only back in the city, on Auck­land’s Karanga­hape Road, it also has a sec­ond out­let at the Univer­sity of Auck­land. More re­silient than ever, Deanna shares her story of per­se­ver­ance.

You share a quote on your blog, “Rock bottom be­came the solid foun­da­tion on which I re­built my life”. How does this re­late to your ex­pe­ri­ence? When the rent for the orig­i­nal Mous­tache lo­ca­tion was in­creased, my op­tions were to pay it — which as a new busi­ness was not sus­tain­able — or to not cry over spilt milk and get cre­ative. It was a re­ally hard de­ci­sion as that store held a lot of sen­ti­ment and love in it. But I be­lieved the soul of the busi­ness was not locked in­side the four walls of that shop — and ul­ti­mately its clo­sure in­spired so many more projects and gave me the drive to ex­pand and im­prove. Was start­ing the busi­ness in the first place hard? I had a lot of fac­tors against me start­ing Mous­tache. Not only was I young but I was also fe­male and Asian. The sim­plest things such as go­ing to the bank or see­ing real es­tate agents were so much harder than they needed to be. They’d take one look at me and deem me, and my busi­ness, to be a waste of time. Have these at­ti­tudes changed? To this day a ques­tion I con­stantly get is whether my par­ents paid for the busi­ness, not know­ing that I come from a very hum­ble, solo-mother back­ground. They don't be­lieve that a young fe­male Asian girl could have done this on her own. But the glass ceil­ing doesn't nec­es­sar­ily bother me — if any­thing it in­creases my de­ter­mi­na­tion to be suc­cess­ful. I took my mum to see Oprah when she came to Auck­land, and some­thing she said that re­ally stuck with me was that ex­cel­lence is the best de­ter­rent to racism and sex­ism. So in­stead of be­ing shoved in this box that so­ci­ety ex­pects you to fit in­side, do yo' thing and smash out­side of it. Where do you get your mo­ti­va­tion? I keep fight­ing for my mother, I keep fight­ing for my staff who are like fam­ily to me, and I keep fight­ing for the heart­beat of this lit­tle busi­ness that I truly be­lieve in. What’s your ad­vice for some­one want­ing to chase their dreams and start a busi­ness? Think less, do more. We live in an era where we have so much choice it’s of­ten dif­fi­cult to fo­cus on one thing. It's im­por­tant, ob­vi­ously, to think through your ideas and for­mu­late a plan, but don’t dwell on it so long that you get anal­y­sis paral­y­sis. You're bet­ter off giv­ing some­thing a go and adapt­ing to how peo­ple re­act to it. And don’t be afraid to fail. I went into Mous­tache know­ing there was a high pos­si­bil­ity that I would fail, but I'd come from so lit­tle that I knew that if I lost ev­ery­thing, I would still be okay. That life would go on and I could pick my­self up and the world would keep mov­ing. Did you make any mis­takes? Plenty, some gi­nor­mous, but it all re­sulted in the Mous­tache we see to­day. You can't have a rain­bow with­out the rain. So to deny the rainy parts of our jour­ney would also be to deny the beau­ti­ful rain­bows we've ex­pe­ri­enced. Busi­ness is all about tak­ing the good with the bad... and there's def­i­nitely lots of both!

“To deny the rainy parts of our jour­ney would also be to deny the beau­ti­ful rain­bows we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced”

jour­neyto he a mone_ lt si an h @ d c . e o r s o n

In 2014, alone in the of­fice of the jew­ellery fac­tory where she worked, Si­mone Anderson climbed onto a pair of com­mer­cial scales and felt her en­tire world shat­ter around her as 169kg came up on the dis­play. For three years, she’d lived in de­nial of her size — bath­room scales be­ing un­able to weigh her — so the re­al­ity check was dev­as­tat­ing. But it was also ex­actly what she needed to do some­thing about her health, once and for all.

Know­ing that the more peo­ple she told the more chance she’d have of achiev­ing her goals, Si­mone spent four sleep­less nights and tear­ful days be­fore mak­ing the brave choice to em­bark on a pub­lic ‘Jour­ney to Health’. She started a Face­book page, posted a photo of her­self in her un­der­wear, and an­nounced to the world that she was chang­ing her life­style. Two and a half years later, Si­mone is 92kg lighter, ob­sessed with healthy eat­ing and fit­ness and a source of in­spi­ra­tion to more than half a mil­lion fol­low­ers. It hasn’t been easy — her jour­ney has in­cluded a gastric­sleeve surgery and she’s faced self-doubt and on­line crit­ics — but she’s come out firmly on top. She tells us how.

How has your Jour­ney to Health changed your at­ti­tude to­wards your­self? I have un­der­gone some se­ri­ous men­tal changes. I was al­ways a bright, bub­bly and out­go­ing per­son, but with the weight loss I have gained a sense of achieve­ment and knowl­edge that what­ever I set my mind to, I can do. It has em­pow­ered me and I am now con­stantly push­ing my­self to achieve more as I know the only limit I have is my­self. How have you stayed mo­ti­vated to con­tinue? I try not to let my jour­ney ever rely on “mo­ti­va­tion” as hu­mans were just not built to have mo­ti­va­tion 24/7. So in­stead I rely on set­ting in place good rou­tines and habits that be­come sec­ond na­ture. This is my new life­style — not some crazy, quick-fix diet. You turned an in­spir­ing jour­ney into a lu­cra­tive per­sonal brand. Did you ex­pect this? When I first started my jour­ney there was only one, in­cred­i­bly self­ish rea­son for it — it was purely for me! As time went on, how­ever, I found I was re­ceiv­ing count­less mes­sages from men and women around the world who had de­cided to change their life­styles be­cause of me. This pushed me to cre­ate more con­tent around my jour­ney in the hopes of en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers in theirs. That I have been ap­proached by amaz­ing com­pa­nies to work along­side me is a to­tal bonus — I feel hon­oured every sin­gle day to be mak­ing a liv­ing out of my pas­sion for help­ing oth­ers achieve their goals. What ad­vice do you have for those want­ing to make a change in their lives? Cre­ate a sup­port net­work around you of peo­ple you know will have your back 100 per­cent, and set your­self small, achiev­able weekly goals. If you are con­stantly fo­cus­ing on the end goal then this can be­come over­whelm­ing and may hin­der your per­for­mance. Switch din­ner and wine dates with friends for morn­ing walks and smooth­ies. These small changes will make more of a dif­fer­ence in the long run than you re­alise. What is the big­gest chal­lenge you’ve faced since your jour­ney be­gan? The fact that the on­line com­mu­nity can bring out the best and the worst in peo­ple. I have met some of the most amaz­ing in­spir­ing peo­ple over the past cou­ple of years who have im­pacted my life for­ever. But along­side this I have also met some of the most cowardly, face­less key­board war­riors whose words have hurt me be­yond be­lief. What has been the big­gest les­son? Be kind to ev­ery­one — you never know what they them­selves are fight­ing on a daily ba­sis and your words have a long-last­ing af­fect. Also, let go of friend­ships that no longer serve you. I am a peo­ple pleaser and I want ev­ery­one to like me, so let­ting go of a friend who no longer had my best in­ter­ests at heart was in­cred­i­bly hard. But when I ac­tu­ally did it, I re­alised that in­stead of los­ing some­thing, I gained so much! If you could write a let­ter to your younger self, what would it say? Those hard days won’t be for­ever, there is a part of you that is stronger than you re­alise and you will find the strength to change your ways. Stay true to your­self and re­mem­ber that weight is only a num­ber and will never de­fine who you are as a per­son. Beauty comes from within and this shines so bright. Work hard, but more im­por­tantly stop to en­joy those small spe­cial mo­ments in life as time passes quickly. Every day holds some­thing truly beau­ti­ful — you just need to be open to it.

“Cre­ate a sup­port net­work around you of peo­ple you know will have your back 100 per­cent”

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