How many hats can one wear?
My name is Hannah Walker and I wear many hats! Mum, business owner, friend, teacher, nurse, referee, IT professional, wife, chauffeur, cleaner, laundry maid and sales weapon - just to name of few of my daily hats!
My story today comes from a view of a Mum in business.
I think it is easy for women with children to only ever be seen as the caretaker and not be taken as seriously as their male counterparts. However, I believe women (not just mums in business) bring some amazing qualities to the table of any company.
My business (my third child) Proppy.co.nz was born in an auction room in Auckland when my husband and I were trying to upgrade our house and move into something bigger before the arrival of our first child. As most people have experienced buying a property is a stressful time. As the auction was in full swing with my husband (Tyson) bidding, I went into labour.
We knew there had to be a better way to buy property and so we got thinking. We did a whole bunch of research, looked at what was happening overseas, spoke to some super smart people and realised that this old school way of doing real estate could in fact be taken online and could save everyone a whole lot of time and money.
And so, in 2016, just one year after our son arrived (for the record - not in an auction room!), Proppy was born.
Now… I wasn’t always into real estate! I’d had family members tell me over the years that I should go into real estate but like all children we think we know everything, and our parents have a lot to learn! So, I pursued a different sales career (financial markets/online sports websites & registration) before getting into real estate. So, what drives me to get up in the morning?
Apart from usually been woken up by two little boys jumping on me...I get up each day because I enjoy life and if you know me, I am a glass half full person. I love my family and want to do the best by them, and I want to be someone that they (and myself) can be proud of. I want to teach my boys that women can do anything, we can have it all! The beautiful family, and the career! Plus, I have a team of 30 plus people at proppy.co.nz wanting to talk to me - and there is only so long I can ignore their calls!
So where did I get my determination and drive from, well.... I grew up in Timaru and we holidayed in Wanaka (summer and winter) and was mad about sports…. tennis, skiing, touch rugby, rugby, swimming to name a few! We were a tennis family and my sisters and I were always competing in competitions throughout NZ – I even won a gold medal at nationals when playing for the Southern Districts team. Sports, taught me determination, mental resilience and self-motivation. I believe these are the foundations of a successful future. After school, I headed off to Otago University! Here I was a typical student, I dropped the tennis, met boys, discovered beer and Poppas pizza! I had a lot of fun at Otago for 5 years and came out with a degree in Physical Education (Exercise Prescription & Science) and a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Marketing. I haven’t used my PE degree much and actually don’t know many of my year who did, but we have some great memories of Otago Uni life. However, I feel a degree teaches you so much more than what you learn in exams and essays. It’s the ability to adapt and apply yourself.
Soon after completing my degrees, I flew across the ditch to Sydney where I met Mike Purchas – now the founder and CEO of Sportsground. When I first met Mike, he was in the process of setting up a company called MarketSource. I still remember the day when I walked into this tiny office in Chatswood…. knocked on the door and stepped down into this room which was jam packed full of people working and one was in a ski jacket underneath the air conditioning unit as that was the only space left for his desk.
They say in life you get a light bulb moment- it's one that will ultimately be the one that defines who you are as a person. For me it was when Mike offered me a job. Mike saw something in me, something I didn’t even know existed yet. He took a risk and gave me my first real job after uni. It was nothing to do with PE but was in financial markets and my job was to sell futures pagers to the brokers in Sydney. Clearly the writing was on the wall - I was always going to be selling!
With Mike at the helm, I learnt what it was like to work in a small but growing business and the challenges that you have along the way. Hard decisions need to be made sometimes to progress. Am pleased to say that we managed to be so successful we got to move out of the Chatswood office to some very nice new offices in Mona Vale with bush views and continued to go from strength to strength!
In 2004, I wanted to head to London and travel – do the O.E. I was given the opportunity to launch MarketSource in the UK. I took up the challenge and moved to the other side of the world with a job.
I set up the business and we did well in London but as technology changed our futures pager became outdated. So, I took a role working for Tradeweb (Autex). Here I had an insight of what it is like to work for a corporate company, experienced the company being bought out, learnt how to deal with existing relationships and continued my sales career selling to the Global banking community.
I lived there for nearly 8.5 years and managed to earn a UK passport along with plenty of great experience and good times entertaining and selling to clients with the help of the company AMEX card! Times have changed over there now and I think I was lucky to be there when I had the opportunity.
All good times have to come to an end, and I decided it was time to return home when I said no to an English man's proposal and ran home to good old NZ.
Once I returned to New Zealand my cousin signed me up to online dating and that is where I met my husband – Tyson Walker. He was my first date, and I was his and he likes to joke he has a 100% strike rate!
Anyway, Tyson and I got engaged about a year later in Sri Lanka and 3 months later we were married. If you know me, I like to just get things done so that’s what we did! My Mum practically had the whole wedding planned before we got home from our holiday- it was just sorting the little details out from there!
During my pregnancy Tyson and I spent all our spare hours confirming Proppy and setting the business up while keeping it a secret from all friends and family. Setting up a business is not easy and especially hard when you are trying to disrupt one of the biggest industries in NZ.
Eventually we both took a leap of faith, a huge risk and handed in our notice to our employees and started Proppy.co.nz. It took 2 years before launching which is a stressful process with no income and living off savings. Budgeting became important and we cut back on the good things in life to bring Proppy.co.nz to market.
Am proud to say that Proppy has now been profitable for the last 2 years and we are set to make a record profit on the 31st of March with the business expanding. It’s exciting leading the way with technology in real estate and with these interesting times that we are experiencing people can rest easy that we can still sell their house using our technology – online auctions, online negotiations and tender.
So, what have I learned through all of this that I can pass on to you….
Life is all about balance. Make time for yourself, your family and business. Use a diary and set dates, plan fun times around work so you have things to look forward to. Make use of your wider support networks to allow you to do this.
Make time for yourself – for me it is exercising and keeping fit. My favorite things to do are walking up Mt Iron or around the lake or going to the movies. Tyson and I try and have “date night” once every 2 weeks and I do a babysit swap with my friends.
Take the time to celebrate. Look at how far you have come! Having a business, a family or simply just trying to get ahead regardless of your situation has its ups and downs - focus on the ups and give yourself a pat on the back for every win – not matter how big or small. Just remember that baby steps are still valid steps!
Find common ground with everyone you meet, there will always be something you have in common and use this to build a rapport. Business is about relationships and life is much easier with good friends around you to support you through the good and bad.
There will be times in your life that you will fail – we are not all perfect. If you fail, fail fast and move on! Proppy is quite a different model to when we first launched. We adapted, changed things around and tweaked and tweaked and now we have a successful, robust platform that is world leading in technology in the real estate industry.
Things have not always been smooth sailing in business and one of my hardest moments in business was launching proppy.co.nz. We had kept the business a secret for so long and quickly realised when we launched that we should have told people and looked for clients to launch with earlier. Because of this it was a slower start than expected and it was tough to take when people did not jump on their computers and list their properties straight away. We coped though and worked hard and took any listings we could get and I am grateful to people who took a chance on us and helped us get to where we are today – a trusted brand within NZ.
For anyone out there thinking of starting a business or if you have a great idea – go for it! While owning a business is stressful it definitely comes with perks. One of those being that you can work your own hours, be your own boss and you don’t need to ask someone if it is ok to take a day off. The reality is though – owning a business will make you work harder than you have ever done before so don’t set up a business if you aren’t prepared to put in the hard yards when you start.
Being a woman in business is not always easy and being a Mum on top of this is even more challenging. It’s hard to juggle your time and make sure your children don’t miss out. Reality is though, that most Mums work these days as we need to, to help with the bills. Times have definitely changed over the years and it continues to do so. Look at what is happening in the world today with COVID-19. This event will change history and will affect our future, but it is how we deal with these things as to what shapes our future. I like to think that I have an extremely positive attitude and keep smiling no matter what is thrown at me. Take risks and reap the rewards! Am proud to be a woman in business and am excited about the future!
So, would I change anything – absolutely not! All the hard work, the disappointment, the heartbreaks have defined who I am as a person, as a mum and as a business woman. I am proud of what I have done and where I have come from. Life’s tough as a working Mum but if you get real with your expectations, you will survive and make sure you celebrate your success!