16 Questions to help you connect with bold women entrepreneurs who are making life work for them.
I'm so thrilled to introduce you to my Aussie friend, Nici, who does something I've always wished came more naturally to me - she is a professional organizer. And, as you will read, she is someone who has boldly designed a life that gives her the freedom to do the thing she was meant to do. Nici's current business, Life Without Strings, may be relatively new, but she has been an entrepreneur for nearly 30 years and I love her story.
I had the pleasure of working with Nici back in the summer of 2012 on the London Olympic Games. And then we crossed paths by chance in San Sebastian, Spain later that year on simultaneous vacations. We've stayed connected over the years and I've always enjoyed her beautiful photos and updates from her travels around the world. I also find her new business fascinating, so asked her to share more about it.
In a nutshell, Life Without Strings is a monthly subscription service. It's so much better than a book you keep on the shelf. It works with you and motivates you to make positive changes. As a member, you receive unique ‘guided projects’, which teach you, step by step, how to order every area of your life. These friendly, easy-to-follow projects motivate you to attack areas of your life and put them in order. It’s like following the recipe in a cookbook. They work on the simple idea that everything has a place. For example...
Does your wardrobe work for your busy life? Can you find a flashlight or a battery when you need one? Are your kitchen cupboards and fridge a mess? Do you pay too much for insurance? Do you have a will which reflects your current intentions? Does your scheduling and list-making work for you? Bathroom cabinets, shoe racks, garages, book cases, key organizing, your leaving and coming home routines, kids toys, stationery, jewelry, laundry - they are all covered. Members receive 2 projects per month and you can subscribe for as long as you want to. Check out their website for more information.
Nici is based in Sydney, Australia, but currently traveling in Greece. (Her Instagram account is one of my faves - a combo of stunning travel shots and life-organizing inspiration.) I'm grateful she took the time to share her story with us. I just loved hearing about her choices, challenges and advice. I hope you do too!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are.
If you can be born neat - I was. I straightened, I put things in order, I lined everything up. I thought that everyone did. Growing up was a journey of wonder – how could people not do these things?
I discovered (with much shock) that people liked what I did, so I set out to create order in other people’s lives. In 1990, I started ‘Wife Without Strings’ in Sydney, Australia. It was a concierge business that went into homes and offices to declutter, sort, organize and style. We made digital lists for clients so they could tick boxes and we would shop from a personal shopping list. We planned holidays, reorganized wardrobes and filing systems and set up household schedules. I had 32 employees and over 400 clients when I sold the business in 2001. In 2002, I did a crazy thing and bought 25 acres of land in the wine growing area of the Hunter Valley, 2 hours outside Sydney. Then built a home + 10 room boutique hotel on that beautiful piece of land. 10 wonderful (mostly, it did have it’s moments) years went by, building, styling, opening and running the hotel. Meals where cooked, gardens planted and much marketing & cleaning happened in the middle. It was the hardest work I have ever done. After the hotel was sold, I travelled, lived in London for a year (where I met the lovely Sara) and returned to Sydney in 2014. I went back to doing what I love - being an organizer , declutterer and stylist for private clients. I began to see that working one-on-one with a client was great for those that could afford it. But where was the help for those on a budget who wanted to make order and learn great habits? There was nothing but self-help books. There was no guide, no mentor. So, I started working on the revamp of Wife Without Strings, turning it into Life Without Strings in 2017. It’s an online subscription service - so anyone, anywhere can now benefit.
2. What are you most excited about in your business right now?
Life Without Strings launched in November 2017, so we are new. What excites me most is the number of clients we have helped already. It’s not about someone coming and sorting your life and possessions. It’s all about you doing it for yourself (with guidance), so you develop the positive habits. If we could take a pill right now to be fit, we all would but we would not have the habits to maintain that fitness. So, that’s what excites me the most - watching clients learn and establish for themselves habits that I know will change their lives for the better, forever. Our Instagram and Facebook sites and group are growing and I love posting everyone’s best (and worst) shots. Please follow us @Life Without Strings.
3. What is your super power or ‘zone of genius’?
When I think of the word “genius’ I some how think of it as a ‘stroke of genius’, like it has to be something instant and earth shattering. In this case I don’t think my level of genius is like this. I think its more about my ability to work to a routine, stick with the process of running a business. I work on things I want to achieve, bite by bite and gradually success comes. I work with enthusiasm and zest and just stay with it. If you believe in yourself and your product or service and keep at it - it will come.
4. What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome along the way?
THE SLOW PATCH. It’s always the biggest challenge a small business faces. You start with such enthusiasm - you work on getting the right logo, the right website and the right structure. The launch is exciting and all goes well but then things slow down. You are busy working IN the business and you forget to work ON the business. The challenge is to motivate yourself again and throw yourself with great energy at your business and push through the quiet patch (where you start to doubt all that you are doing) to get yourself to reach the next goal. I find taking a break, then working on a plan and having a mentor have got me to the next level. A coach is a wonderful way to keep you focused on achieving your goals.
5. Tell us about a bold action you’ve taken.
I have made the decision to spend 3 months every year away from my hometown Sydney. I have done this now for 5 years. My work travels with me and I find these months the most productive. It’s hard to step out of your routine life. It takes commitment and a lot of self-knowledge. Ripping yourself away from family, friends and familiarity is hard and, honestly, each year during the month before I leave, I don’t want to go. I rent out my home for these 3 months so I have to pack everything away (this act alone keeps me living in a very minimal way), I hand back keys, say goodbye and step off into the unknown. I may not be able to speak the language and I won’t feel comfortable all the time but it’s a challenge I need and enjoy.
6. What are your 3 favorite things about your life today?
My business really helps people. I see my clients blossom when they create order, declutter their lives and start to live with more style. I see their businesses grow and their relationships thrive.
I truly do what I love and love what I do. Seeing a client released from mess and start to adopt an organized life gives me great joy.
I can work from anywhere. I have my trusty MacBook and away I go, writing, promoting and talking to clients from all locations (a beach view works well for me).
7. In one word, what is your theme for this year?
8. What is your crazy, wild, maybe-someday dream?
Sounds crazy but I am living my dream. My parents both died by the time they where 64. I am 55, so the someday dream has to be now. I write about my travels and take lots of photos as I wander about the world. So, the growth of my travel blog is another thing I am working on. I write under my name and have a blog at www.nicistanford.com
9. What are you most afraid of?
Am I any different to anyone? It’s failure. I totally know that people grow and blossom when they step away from possessions and I know order and organization makes people feel in control. My fear is that I am not going to get my message out there and be able to help them.
10. Give us your #1 piece of life or career advice.
Learn to do a ‘great list’. Wonderful, creative thoughts and brilliant ideas flow through our clever brains constantly. Learn to grab them and record them, put them in order and set yourself up to achieve them. Work out the best way that a list works for you and where it should live – your phone, your computer, Post-it notes or on paper. Treat your list as your master plan. Review it constantly. A good working list means you are in control.
11. What is your morning routine?
I try not to use an alarm, I leave the curtains open and I wake early. Then it’s straight out of bed and onto the floor for a pilates/ yoga workout. Shower, dress and make my bed (it’s the largest thing in your bedroom and if it’s a mess the whole room looks like a mess). Then, I put on a load of washing, it’s all got to be clean! (I sound like a freak here – I’m not that bad). Then breakfast whilst watching the news and checking overnight emails. I am a morning person, so I work on my list (I am always working on my list). What are today’s priorities?
12. What do you do to recharge when your energy is low?
I go back to the simple things - a walk on a beach, getting my feet into the sand, no headphones, just listening to the sound of the waves and (hopefully) the sun on my back.
Cooking is my second recharge default - something hearty like a soup and then biscuits - with lots of ingredients (better than cake because you can eat a few and no one notices - a bit tricky when a slice is gone out of the cake).
13. What is your favorite resource [besides your smart phone!] that makes life and/or work easier for you?
It’s my MacBook Air - this lightweight tool allows me to work anywhere in the world. It contains all my writing needs, my much loved spreadsheets and my photos.
14. Give us 2 excellent book recommendations – one personal development and one for fun.
‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki. Its an oldie, (written in 1997) but a goodie. It’s a sensible, easy read on financial independence.
The second is a passionate and fascinating novel set in early Barcelona. ‘Cathedral of the Sea’ by Ildefonso Falcones.
15. Is there anything else you want us to know about you?
Reading this again I sound like a total control freak, I promise I’m not. I just know that if everything is in its place, life is easier, more relaxed and more fun!
16. Share a photo that represents where you are in your life.
Thank you to Nici for sharing such great insights with us as well as a little view into your world. My favorite part is knowing that you are living your big dream right now. It's so inspirational.
You guys, life is too short to stay cluttered! I've been de-cluttering one little space at a time and, each time I conquer a project, it feels so liberating. Visit the Life Without Strings website to get on their email list and they will send you a free sample project to help you start organizing your life: www.lifewithoutstrings.com.au
You can also follow Nici and her business at:
Thanks for following along. Please drop me a line here if you have any questions, comments or suggestions. And, if you're also ready to design your life to live out your big dream, I can help you! Sign up for a free 45-minute coaching chat here.
And stay tuned for our next Leading Lady!