My Occasional Address Speech
Deputy Chancellor CSU staff both Academics and Administration Distinguished Guests. Graduates. Ladies and Gentlemen. Family and Friends
Hello I am Simone Eyles a former CSU student and the co-founder of 365cups, I am extremely humbled to be asked to present to you today and hope I can share my story.
This is the third time I have been in this room, the first back in 2001 when I graduated, the second just last week as my little boy Josh received an award for citizenship at the Kooringal Public School presentation night and here, now, today.
In keeping with the theme of “3”s I would like to tell you 3 stories …
I left school in year 10 and didn’t get my HSC — I scored a pretty ordinary job, in a very cool industry straight out of school. I worked at a place called Auburn Advertising in Leichhardt, Sydney.
My job was in the “cut books” department and as our agency looked after the majority of the Sydney Car Sales Market for the weekend papers, I spent all week matching the copy off the invoice, to the ad in the paper, photocopying it twice, once for the invoice to go out to the client, and the other for our own archives.
This place was the kind of place where the saleswoman where glamourous, driving fancy red cars and the art department on the 2nd floor had about 40 graphic designers working on Macs — the art department was the envy of the building with most of the staff where casual clothes while we were all stuffed in suites!
Apart from the cool casual clothes, I had always had an interest in art and once I was promoted out of cutbooks and into the traffic department I got to spend more and more time in the art department.
I was in the room when the art director unveiled the first digital camera AA bought, it was about $8k and the size of a shoe box, I never knew how heavy it was, no one was allowed to touch it.
I could tell you more tales about AA like shoes getting thrown in board meetings or lavish long lunches, but I will leave it at that and tell you apart from some of that crazy stuff, my boss was an incredible woman and nurtured me and when I was brave enough to tell her I wanted to be a graphic designer, she told me straight away that I needed to head to university and get my degree.
As a young woman living out of home, without a HSC my options were limited, Sydney uni, newcastle or a place called Wagga Wagga.
It was 2 years after I left Auburn Advertising that I would start my life in Wagga as a uni student, I had spent the summer before uni in Wagga with a bunch of new friends I had met — all Wagga girls and I had a pretty wild time. I remember leaving sydney on Valentine’s day, all my stuff was packed and in the removals truck and I was driving down for the last time not to return after a few days and something happened.
The motor in my car blew up at Jugiong.
So here I was early feb sitting on the hume highway (it was very hot) with my car steaming, all my belongings on a truck, no job in Sydney to go back to. I was just thinking OMG what am I doing?
Life likes to throw you little hurdles every once in a while …
After a few tears and a few hours just sitting on the side of the road, the NRMA came and towed my car and I jumped on a bus and was back on the road again to Wagga.
Coming to Wagga and going to uni felt like home, for the first time in my life, things felt right. I was a little older than my classmates and having worked full time for a few years already, I took full advantage of the “uni lifestyle” however I always knew uni would one day be over and I would have my degree and be able to get a job as a “graphic designer”
It was in my last year of uni where things got a little wobbly again for me and after barely being able to afford the rent, I had to give up the little apartment I was living in and go live in a share house, lucky for me one of my classmates needed someone to take a room in her house, and I moved in with Courtney and an
IT student called Marz.
Moving in with Courtney and Marz was a blast, we had the best TV — all our computers were networked so we could share music and we spent most time sitting in our rooms and chatting to each other on ICQ — Marz had a fancy car and would pick us up any time day or night. We had lots of fun.
But one day uni was finished, Courtney went back to Adelaide and Marz went back to Sydney and it seemed just like that those people and those days were over. Little did I know that Marz and I would now be business partners.
It took me a while to get a job after uni, I really wanted to stay in Wagga and eventually I got a job at the local newspaper, this meant a lot to me as I knew my Boss from AA would have been really proud, she was an old school newspaper advertising rep (who got dumped by the paper and started her empire because
after she left all the car yards just wanted to deal with her not the paper)
But sometimes your darkest moments can be your greatest gifts!
After a few years in Wagga it was time for me to move on, off I went to Western Australia and then Alice Springs, by now I am all grown up, have a mortgage, am married and about to have a baby.
Living and working in Alice was incredible, if you are looking to fast track your career, get on a bus, train, plane right now and head to Alice Springs! However our time in Alice came to an abrupt halt with the shock diagnosis of Congenital Nephrotic Syndrome in our 4 month old baby Josh. CNS is a rare kidney disease, all children diagnosed with CNS need to have a kidney transplant between the age of 4–6
Such a shock, within a day he was diagnosed, we were to be sent on the first Royal Flying Doctors Flight to Adelaide for treatment, silly me just packed my laptop and a bag of clothes, thinking I would be gone for a few days but I was to leave Alice and never go back home again.
When Josh was diagnosed, it was awful, it was it was just like a huge blur, I feel like I was in a daze for a year or two and slowly that fog seemed to clear, and being a bit “internet savvy” I was desperate to speak to other parents. I couldn’t find anything in Australia and turned to a forum in the US — where to my surprise a woman reached out, as she knew another mum whose boy had the same disease as my Josh and both these women lived in Brisbane, Australia.
These women would be the first in a small community of other Australian families I would be connected with and who are now my dear friends, where Kidney Disease is often rarely talked about when we get together.
After years of daily, day long hospital visits for treatment, life somewhat went back to normal, I decided I would publish a book of stories about these amazing families, a beautiful book, non icky and medical no blood and guts, you know because I had plenty of spare time on my hands.
It took 2 years to publish the book Kidney Kidnections, published by the amazing Kidney Health Australia, for a long time I thought I was doing this great generous gift, but little did I know that this process was the most cathartic, self healing, self imposed form of therapy anyone could offer themselves, also a huge lesson on how to have an idea and work with people all over the country on bringing that idea to life!
Through Josh’s treatment we were advised Josh needed to be in a capital city for all his treatment. From Alice, to Adelaide, Brisbane and desperately wanting to get back to Wagga — to have a nice simple life and after not really settling in Brisbane we bought a house and after two weeks of living in our new house, a job came up for my husband here in Wagga- you know one of those jobs that never ever comes up. It was this time of year 2010 two weeks before Christmas and we were just sitting in our loungeroom laughing, because you know, of course this would happen after we just bought a house, and of course it was too good an opportunity not to go for, he enquired about the job and he got it and we got to come back to Wagga.
So we get back to Wagga and all is great, we buy a house and because I am still spending a lot of time caring for Josh I think to myself it would be cool to open a cafe … I call my old mate Marz and tell him about my awesome drive thru cafe, that has this awesome ordering system (which I want him to build for me) and he says ditch the cafe and let’s make the ordering system and sell it to everyone else.
Hello 365cups! Well it wasn’t called 365cups then, from that initial conversation we pretty much talked everyday about our App — I researched the business model and Marz started the build, we would work on this at about 9pm every night for a few hours, way after work and time with the family … the name of our business was important and after about 80 names, with most taken with a place holder, we came up with “365cups ~ skip the queue”
The business model was sorted, the name trade marked and we were ready for market, our first client was Trail Street here in Wagga and they are still with us today.
I buy a second hand car — a $500 subaru in fact as my husband works 6 days on site out of town, so I have my Josh my crappy $500 car and I start spruiking this App 365cups around Wagga and the Riverina. I would often park my car around the corner when I went to see people however to my delight my Josh was spoilt and has had so many milkshakes on the house, people are just people and usually understand when you have kids.
About a year into 365cups and after Marz sells his house in Sydney and moves to Wagga, we manage to get featured on 60 Minutes and have this incredible story go to air and 3 days after that Josh got pneumonia and was rushed to Westmead, where he begins hemo dialysis. Hemo Dialysis is a form of treatment when you are in kidney failure. His transplant is booked for October but that is over 6 months away, the team advises Josh stay on hemo dialysis till transplant which means we have to stay at Westmead, Josh is 4 years old and more than a year is spent in hospital … again.
I kinda kept working, Josh was and is always my priority but to deal with long-term health issues in a child you need to have a break from being the crazy overbearing mother and just be a person, and 365cups allowed for me to do that.
I remember a client calling and all the machines were alarming and he said to me “where are you” and I am like oh in the ward, the machines are alarming but it’s OK. Sadly long term hospital exposure does that to you — some alarms make lots of noise, but when the codes are announced over the speaker, thats when you need to panic, well the drs don’t but those codes, you don’t want to hear. Anyway that all sounds dramatic but thanks to an amazing team at Westmead and my amazing husband Craig who donated his kidney Josh is now 2 years post transplant and doing well.
365cups went live in January 2011 after about 6 months, I often tell people we were a start up before we knew what a start up was. Today we are restructuring our business and hope to have that finalised in a few weeks, so watch out for that! It is exciting times for us!
We have clients from boutique cafes in the bush and national retailers, our purpose is to help businesses and customers make technology work for them, if that is ordering a coffee from your favourite cafe before you get there and businesses being able to extend their service beyond their front door, that is what we do.
365cups has allowed us to travel the world twice, hang out with some incredible people, we have been featured in most metro and regional papers a few times, won some National awards, appeared on TV and maybe we will be appearing on another TV show soon!
Not bad for two mates who shared a house in our CSU days who had an idea and went for it. We now employ 3 staff in our office here in Wagga and love that we can build our business in a regional centre and thanks to technology and the internet, we are not restricted by a geographical location
An extraordinary moment for me was the time I spent with Ruslan Kogan when he came to Wagga, however theres been some hurdles as well, but compared to what I have dealt with in my personal life, I don’t tend to sweat the small stuff when it comes to business.
Sometimes you have to remember the advice you give to everyone and apply it to yourself!
To conclude, let’s stick to my theme of “3s”. I want to pose 3 things for you to contemplate and incorporate in your lives from today.
Firstly: As graduates, are you here today finishing or starting? This is an important question to ask yourself at times of reflection, because if you have something horrible happen in your life, it could be the start or the finish of something. With time and the right approach, things are almost always OK.
Secondly: If you want to do anything you can, be a great leader, an incredible community citizen, publish a book, or start a tech company, you can do it — like Nike and Kogan say, there is nothing more powerful or true than the phrase “just do it”
Thirdly: Pay it forward! In Australia we don’t do this very well, in the US you walk around Silicon Valley and people throw themselves at you to connect you and help support you, competition is important in business, but collaboration will take you further than you can ever imagine.
I wish you all the best, congratulations and go forth and live and work with creative integrity, embrace the feeling of fear, and accept you will deal with failure and rejection, I can tell you we experience more rejection than sales at 365cups and some huge hurdles along the way but it all turned out OK. Listen to that little voice inside, it is always right!
If you embrace these notions I promise you, your life and career will give you pleasure and freedom no amount of money can buy.