Dinner with Mia Freedman
Recently we hosted Mia Freedman, along with an audience of fifty ladies, for an evening of inspiring conversation, as well as dinner by Gramercy Bistro, in our newly relaunched space, The Cullen Rooftop.
Overlooking the Melbourne cityscape, surrounded by lush, red carpet, hanging plants and bold artwork by Adam Cullen, guests were seated at a long table adorned with linen tablecloths and delicate green and white florals, as Mia’s sharp wit and uplifting honesty entertained the group.
Here’s our wrap up of some of the highlight topics discussed by Mia throughout the evening...
Inspiring her team, as she became editor of Australian Cosmopolitan at age 24:
I think I was just super confident. I think I made a lot of mistakes. I’m a journalist and a writer but no one teaches you really how to be a manager of people, that’s something you just have to learn. I think having a child was really helpful. I had a child within a year of starting and that made me more patient and rounded me out, I suppose. The people who were onboard with my vision came along with me.
So I guess the moral of the story is, you can’t be everything.
Starting Mamamia and growing the business:
I started Mamamia after I left magazines. I knew that I didn’t want to write about myself every day, I just wanted to create content about a whole bunch of things I was interested in because it was a fairly revolutionary idea back then in 2007, that women were interested in lots of different things. There were parenting blogs, celebrity blogs and there were news sites but there weren’t things that covered all of those. And every woman I knew was interested in lots of different things from politics to pelvic floors to red carpets.
I am a really good content creator but what I am not is a strategist. I started Mamamia, I did it for about two years in my lounge room creating six pieces of content a day, teaching myself how to code and do all this stuff. I made about $4 in two years from Google ads and had a redundancy from Channel 9, which I was writing a column for to make some money.
And it wasn’t until my husband came on board. If it was just me in the business, if I was still the complete boss of it I would be rocking quietly in the corner somewhere and there would be no business because I couldn’t do it all myself. What I’m really good at is not enough to grow a business. So it wasn’t until my husband came on board – and whether it’s a husband, a partner, an investor or a friend, someone who’s got complimentary skills to you, which he does – he was the one with the strategy and the vision and all those kinds of things for the business. All I could see was this little blog that I had to do more and more content for and he said, “No, if it’s just you, you’re the single point of failure for this as a business.” And I went, “That’s sexy, thanks babe.” Quite harsh but he was completely right because when it’s just me, it’s called Mamamia, I produce all the content, and I’m going to burn out and it’s not scalable and it’s not saleable. And he identified that. He was 100% right. And every time our business moves forward, to every phase, even the most recent one, which is about to be launched in the US, it’s been him going “Here’s where we need to go” and me going “I can’t, it’s too far, too hard.”
And now I know not to fight it. I’ve stopped struggling to try to be the boss. And I sleep better at night than he does. So I guess the moral of the story is, you can’t be everything. The business needs so much more than me. I’ve got to know what I’m really good at and try to quarantine myself with that as much as possible.
At the start of a business everybody has to be a generalist and then as you grow and you go from start-up to scale-up, which is what we are now, you’ve got to hire specialists.
It’s actually not possible to be present all the time or even necessary, I would argue.
Finding balance and being present in every moment:
I’m never present. A couple of things that I think have just become massive burdens for women — now we have to be balanced and we have to be present. Always be present. F off. I can’t. I’m a creative person and I live in my head. I just do. I used to always just think my mother was super vague but now I’ve realised it’s just her way of retreating from the world. And especially in those years when you have little kids and everyone wants a piece of you, sometimes it’s good just retreating into your own thoughts. I am disconnected a lot of the time and I would like that to be different but I feel like that’s just become another thing to feel guilty about — that you’re not present enough. It’s actually not possible to be present all the time or even necessary, I would argue.
I think this idea of balance, as well, can be a real burden. How many men do you know angsting about balance, down the pub going, “I’m just really worried that I don’t have enough balance. And do you think we can have it all?” Men don’t talk about balance! They have children. They have jobs. They don’t have existential angst. Even the term “having it all” is outrageous because it implies greed. You’re not like that kid in ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’ who wants all the cake. You’ve got to earn a living, you want to have a child – you’ve just got to do it. And this idea that somehow we all have to find balance. Maybe you’ll feel balanced for about six or seven minutes, maybe, once every few weeks — enjoy that time. Because there are times when you have to lean into work and there are times when you have to lean away from work and lean into your family or lean into your parents because they’re not well or lean into a girlfriend or lean into yourself because you’ve got mental health problems or an illness. This idea that life is this even thing and we’re all walking around hash tag gratitude, hash tag blessed — I just vomit. I think it creates more pressure for us and makes us feel like failures that we’re not in this Zen state all the time.
Working from a digital platform:
One of the reasons I love working on digital media is that it’s two way. One of the reasons that I got impatient with magazines is that it’s not a two way conversation it’s just broadcast media. It’s just at you and television is the same. I find digital is just a great place to work but my God it’s fast. One of the challenging things about employing non Gen-Y digital natives and start employing people in their 30s and 40s — as tech savvy as some of us are — we’re not as fast because it’s only called technology if it wasn’t around when you were alive. For millennials and Gen-Ys it’s just life, you don’t even think about it. So, for us we want the speed of young people, but the wisdom of older people, and by older I mean over 30.