Starting my own business has been the greatest lesson of my life – Amanda Stokes, Australia

Tell us about yourself?
I am an Author, Presenter, Educator, and mother to 3 children aged 7, 10, and 11 and the Founder of Raising Strong Daughters.

What is your business or job?
Three years ago, I had a sliding door moment. In May of 2017, I had come out about a private 20-year battle I had had with bulimia. I went on a journey of unlearning everything I had known to be true about food and my body. I had this moment where I realised that if this was my story- a well-educated, intelligent woman, then it would also be the story of many suffering silently. I knew I had to give it my voice and so I started the Mirror Movement at the end of 2017 to help mothers become better mirror models for their daughters. When I went to my Principal- I was working as a teacher at a private all-girls school, to say that I was going to start blogging over the school holidays, I was told as an employee that I wouldn’t be allowed. I made the decision with 3 days left of the school year, to resign and take a chance on myself.

How long have you been in business or your career?
I ran the Mirror Movement for 2 years at a terrible financial loss. I wrote a book that I struggled to get people to hear about, I ran events, and no one turned up. I had such an important message to share, that when anyone did hear my story, they would say everyone needs to hear it. I knew it to be true, I just could not get the word out. I also believe looking back, that there was shame attached to people coming to my workshops, as in mothers felt like they were admitting they were doing something that was impacting their daughter’s body image if they signed up…. It was an incredibly challenging time that had an enormous impact on my relationship. My husband was resentful at us having lost not only my $100 000 a year income but that we were losing money with every move I made. I knew I had to keep believing in myself. At 20 I knew I was meant to do big things, but I also understood I needed life experience first. When I came out about my disorder, I really believed that I had found my area and I was so confused that things were not taking off. At the start of 2020, after applying for 30 teaching jobs that I didn’t get, I knew I had to give myself one last chance, that there was a reason that the doors to teaching and giving up weren’t opening to
me. I decided to pivot. The Mirror Movement became Raising Strong Daughters, and instead of body image being everything, it became a component of a much greater whole. Suddenly people wanted to listen. Suddenly people turned up. Just before COVID-19 hit, I ran a sold-out event in the exact room 12 months earlier no one had turned up. Then COVID-19 arrived, and I found myself refunding all my events. I pivoted once again and turned my workshops into a book-‘The Tween Mother’s Tool Book: Raising Strong Daughters’ which I released in September.

Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in
the first place? or …  What you love the most about your current job? When I was making decisions about what to become when I was younger, I was unsure whether to enter teaching or Social work. If I had my time again I would’ve studied Psychology, but I entered teaching and was driven by becoming the teacher I’d needed when I was growing up- someone who saw students as more than scores but as whole individuals. In the early days teaching allowed me to focus on wellbeing, it allowed for creativity, but over time it became more and more about data and the curriculum became more and more crowded and my passion waned. I have always known I was meant to do more. Starting my own business has been the greatest lesson of my life. Reframing costly mistakes into lessons has allowed me to grow. I have had to practice self-belief and self-compassion when those around me had given up on what I was trying to achieve. As the founder of Raising Strong Daughters, I love supporting mums by empowering them to raise girls who know themselves, who understand others, who get to learn and understand all the things that I wish I’d known when I was growing up. This work fills my soul.

Who has been your greatest influence in business or your job and in your personal life and why? In the early days, I would compare myself to others and feel deflated. Everyone had more followers, more success, more opportunities and that was tough to deal with. In the end, I had to stop watching others. I often reminded myself that the bread aisle in the supermarket was full of different breads that showed up each day because everyone liked different bread. I started focusing on myself because I was the only one I could change. My greatest influence has been me- my attitude and my approach have impressed me. I have had to build myself up when others had given up on me.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
I think my greatest accomplishment to date was having my book rank #3 in Parenting Girls next to Michelle Obama in first place and Steve Biddulph in second. I am now probably ranked 35 but being third in that moment was an incredible achievement and a taste of what is possible.

What do you do to inspire other women? I show up. I share. I am honest and real. As a parenting expert, I get it wrong sometimes because my kids are not perfect, and their mum is not perfect. I am human. We all make mistakes sometimes,
but it is how we learn from these moments that allow us to grow. My motto is to always be better
than yesterday and what a gift it is that life gives us tomorrow to try again.

What inspirational qualities do you possess? I think my most inspirational quality is my ability to believe in myself. After a lifetime of punishing myself during those years of disorder, I now practice self-compassion. I am kind to myself always and I think that is inspirational.

What is your advice for other women that may want to do what you do? Keep going. I could have quit a gazillion times and I was encouraged to. If you believe in yourself just keep pushing. Put your head down. Don’t look at others, just focus on yourself and remember that there’s no such thing as an overnight success, and remember the bread aisle.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to Nikki’s blog. ? We only get one life, so live with no regrets.

What do you do for fun/relaxation? I love sharing a cheese board with friends. Laughter and great banter fill my cup to the brim! I also love having time to just be wildly creative and then working out how I can make my wildest dreams come true!

What’s the best way for our women here to connect with you?
You can find me on Instagram @raisingstrongdaughters_
Or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mirrormovementraisingstrongdaughters
Or you can visit my website www.raisingstrongdaughters.com.au