What I learnt starting a business as a young mum

Most women are excited to find out they are pregnant with their first child. That wasn’t the case for me, a 17 year old who had just finished high school. I had two years of a bricklaying apprenticeship behind me and a baby certainly wasn’t on the agenda. By eighteen years old I was a single parent, unemployed, receiving government benefits and living with my parents.

I knew if changes weren’t made this could have negative impacts on my son’s upbringing. Having sole financial responsibility of a child weighed heavily; I had brought him into the world so how could I provide a better life for him? What I did next would have lasting positive effects on both myself and my baby.

My first step was to gain financial freedom. I got a casual job working for promotional agencies in shopping centre. Realising I had a talent for the events industry I started to ask questions to learn as much as I could about the booking systems, how much they charge, what the shopping centres liked and didn’t like. I researched starting a business that would give me the most flexibility with having a child to also take care of.

I googled as much information I could find about starting a business, then enrolled into a business course and sat down with an accountant to find out what fees were involved. At the time it cost $1000 to register a company with ASIC and gain an Australian Company Number. I also needed public liability insurance. It took months to save the money needed to start my own company but I was determined.

I went on to start an events company and within three years employed over 100 staff working for clients such as Westfield, DFO and Mirvac. While my business was growing, I diversified and built a second company – an aerial dance studio. I managed to accomplish all of this by the age of 25.

If I can do all of this with nothing but my parents’ garage, mobile phone and a basic website then what is stopping you? Here are some of the steps I took.

Getting yourself on track financially

Living off government benefits meant that after all the necessities were paid for I had $16 left each fortnight. Finding consistent work in the promotions and events industry helped ease the financial burden of single parenting and started the thought process of what else I could do to better my situation while learning the ins and outs of the company I worked for. My advice is to be realistic in your current financial situation and with your budgeting. Can you afford to remain unemployed or can you upskill in an area you could then grow into a business or career?

Further education

I enrolled to study a Diploma of Business. Then came the juggling act all parents experience when they return to work or study. I utilised both childcare services and friends and family to babysit, making completing the Diploma more manageable. You gain a world of advantage by acquiring additional qualifications. It’s always worth investing in you!

Strive to want more

Avoid complacency, constantly challenge yourself to do more. Do you have a hobby you could turn into a business? Is there an opportunity to deliver a product currently in high demand? Surround yourself with like-minded people who have your best interest at heart who will encourage you to remain on task and grounded.


There were times when I had no money to pay for additional marketing. This is where going back to basics was a necessity. Utilise free advertising platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to get word of your business and products out there; make a business page, update it frequently and interact with your client base. I also walked throughout the neighbourhood dropping flyers into mailboxes. Use a range of advertising materials to ensure you reach the widest range of clientele.

Back yourself

I didn’t personally know any business owners who could understand what I was trying to build. And without guidance, I made many mistakes along the way. But I learnt from them and as a person, a mother and a businesswoman, I progressed. You, too, need to be your number one supporter. If you aspire to accomplish great things, believe in yourself and accept that you may make some very human mistakes that you will overcome. Life isn’t about making the right choices, it’s about making the best of the choices you have already made. I continually strive to help people be the best version of themselves they can be. If sharing my story just helps one person change their life for the better than it will have been worth it.

Casey Mackinlay, business owner, motivational speaker and author of “Girls Don’t Lay Bricks”