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Interview with Clare Bowditch

Get business tips from the founder of Big Hearted Business

Top tips

  • Do not imagine you can do it on your own
  • Be brave, do the work, but make time for “play” as well
  • If it’s not working, ask yourself why it isn’t working

About Clare

Clare Bowditch who is a speaker at Small Business Festival VictoriaClare Bowditch is something of a conundrum.

She has managed to combine her artistic talents with the hard-nosed qualities of a successful businesswoman.

She is an ARIA award winning songwriter, performer and Logie-nominated actor. But what is not widely known is that Clare is also the founder of Big Hearted Business.

Her corporate character teaches creative people about business and business people about being creative as one of the new pathways to success.
Apart from her music and her acting, Clare has been mentoring business people for more than a decade. She is passionate about innovation, problem solving and the benefits of right-brain thinking in everyday business.

Clare has given her time and talents to enrich Small Business Festival Victoria, where she will be speaking to business operators and would be entrepreneurs about her special approach to business.

But where did her double life all begin?

“I had my first job at thirteen and I worked hard to support myself through my teenage years working in other people’s businesses on weekends and during holidays,” she said

“I was always curious about “how it all works”. But it took so many years for me to actually acknowledge that as a musician, I too, was a running a “business”. The very word sent shivers down my spine – I wanted it to be: “art first, business second”. And that’s what it is.

“As the years clocked over and I became a mother and realised the huge advantages of living a self-directed life, I just started asking more questions, looking for more examples of how it was possible and telling those stories to more people,” she said

But Clare needed a vehicle to drive those passions which became the inspiration for her company – Big Hearted Business. BHB is based on her philosophy of doing something you like, acting constructively and making a contribution to people and community.

“I believe that running a successful business; doing something you enjoy while contributing to the world is actually possible. For so long I myself felt alienated in this belief: I felt like the only measure of business success that the world acknowledged was fiscal-success. That for me was never enough and after talking to many trusted colleagues and friends I realised the same is true for so many other people,” she said

Clare wanted to share her world view and to help others who were gifted but just couldn’t see the wood for the trees because of a lack of education, an inability to relate to people and a lack of support.

“I was tired of seeing excellent, talented, good-hearted people trying and failing to make their living….I knew there was a way I could help because I’ve been fortunate to receive a lot of great advice in my life and I wanted to pay it forward. That’s how it all began! 

So what does Clare tell small businesses owners in the creative industries who are struggling with the mind-numbing chores running of a business?

“Running a big-hearted business is also about running a holistic business that allows us to be who we are, to “have an actual life” and enjoy the adventure wherever possible.

“I help people remember why they’re doing what they’re doing: why did you start your own small business instead of working for someone else? If it doesn’t feel the way they imagined it would feel, then why not? This exercise helps them identify where they may need more support,” she said

Support is a critical concept embodied in the Bowditch model. To Clare it is all about identifying your strengths and weaknesses and then recognising trusted friends and business colleagues to provide advice along the often rocky small business pathway.

“Running a successful small business of any kind is a hero's journey of sorts and we all need buddies along the way. Which of your friends do you trust? Which ones are further ahead in their business journey and can you meet with them regularly to debrief, ask questions, learn and get insights?” she said

To Clare, remaining open to the adventure and asking for support are part of the challenge of being a successful small business person. Those who will succeed work to their strengths and get help, either personal or educative, for the areas they identify as weaknesses.

Successful small business people, to Clare, have taken up the challenge because they are “big-hearted”. They are people who want to contribute to the lives of others and make a positive impression on the world

“Identifying who you help, and why, will help you understand the exact places your business or idea can be most successful. Who are your fans, your customers? Where is it WORKING; where are you connecting with them?  What is it your customers are asking for, are coming back for. What is it that they are mentioning that they enjoyed? Again, write these things down: it’s in here that your profitability is hiding,” she said

Clare on being creative:

Clare has reversed the creativity proposition and has resolved that many non-creative business people could benefit from thinking ‘outside the box’.

“Everyone’s creative; there is no such thing as a non-creative person, especially not when it comes to entrepreneurs. In its essence, creativity is about connecting with the things that truly make you feel alive and it all starts with our mind.

“The problem with running a small business, however - and I’ve been guilty of this so, so often - is that we get so caught up in all the nuts and bolts that we forget why we started it, and how to have fun doing it. We forget that we started this whole thing so we could have freedom and choice to do some of the things we enjoy. We get so worried about paying the bills that we lose our ability to enjoy the moment.

Clare's creativity tips: 

“So – one simple exercise again - get out your pen and paper, and write down ten things you used to do as a kid that made you feel alive, ten things you really, really enjoyed.

“Another tip: go ahead and download a free mindfulness app like “Smiling Mind” (for whom I am an ambassador) and spend just five minutes, in the morning and at night, reminding yourself about what it feels like to be calm.

Remember too that creativity is actually just a way of thinking about things or doing things in a new way: it’s a way of solving problems, of remaining open to the fact that there is a solution even if you can’t quite see it. It’s not just born in quietness and calm, it is also born in chaos and panic: whatever you’re feeling, transform it, flip it, use your creativity to channel it and make use of it,” she said

And what advice would she give to small business owners about staying inspired and persevering when faced with a challenging business environment? 

“Do not imagine you can do it on your own. Read books, listen to podcasts, speak honestly with others who are trying to do what you are doing. Don’t imagine you’re the only one struggling, or that it should be easy.

“It’s like a love-affair: you have your honeymoon at the start, and then you keep correcting course all the way through and you stick at it!  If it’s not working, ask yourself why it isn’t working. Come and watch or listen to some of the Inspiration Bombs at - they’ll make you feel better.

“Be brave, do the work, but make time for “play” as well. Make sure you are diligent and disciplined around technology. Turn the phone off for an hour a day, or don’t check your email at night, or just create rules that work for you so you don’t feel that your work is your life. Otherwise: what is the point of it all?

And how does Clare Bowditch juggle being a CEO, business owner, actress, musician and full time mum to three little ones? How does she switch off? 

“I plan long-term and take one day at a time. I don’t believe in “balance” so much as dynamic-equilibrium; how it “works” is always changing.

“I turn off the computer, put the phone on flight-mode, and walk outside. I play a song. I speak to a human. I anchor myself in the domesticity of life. These things, believe it or not, make me very happy.

“It’s so easy to go insane with the details of running a business but I remind myself that I’m only running a business because I want the freedom to have choice in my life and make a difference where I can,” she said