From Stay At Home Mum To Business Gun, In 2 Years

Business Manager of Totalspan Toowoomba, Penny Stuart, had been a full-time Mum for over 10 years, when her husband Nick approached her with a business proposition. “An acquaintance who was selling real estate gave Nick a phone call and said ‘I’ve got something you might be interested in’. At the time we were actually thinking about buying another property – we hadn’t considered buying a business,” she recalls.

Perfect timing

As it happened, the timing of the opportunity dovetailed perfectly with Penny’s own desire to re-enter the workforce, “Prior to Totalspan, I was a full-time Mum and did some cleaning on the side for a bit of extra cash. With our youngest at school, I was at the point where I was thinking about looking for work. I thought it was time for me to do something, just for myself. As for what field I was going into, I didn’t really have any clue!” she reveals.

As they explored the Totalspan opportunity further, Penny says she was excited for Nick, but had some trepidation about how well she’d adapt to such a foreign environment,

“I was happy for him to do something else because he was sick of his job, so the change was going to be good for him.”

“As for me, I didn’t know how I would go, because I’d been at home with the kids and didn’t really have any experience in anything,” she explains.  

“So it was a bit daunting for me, but it was a good decision we made.”

Penny points out that the decision wasn’t arrived at overnight and that she and Nick considered a range of criteria in the evaluation process, “Nick did about 8 months of research to see what the finances were like - so that was a huge factor. The business had to already be going well. It had to be something he had background in too – we wouldn’t have gone out and bought a coffee shop, for example.”

Thriving in a whole new world

Having purchased the business, Penny soon found the challenge she was looking for and embraced it fully, “The first few months were a HUGE learning curve for me. To start, I couldn’t even really do emails or anything!” she laughs.

Stepping into what she describes as ‘a whole new world’ Penny  quickly picked things up and in the process gave her self esteem a boost, “Just learning all the bookkeeping side of things and the Council applications – that was a hard task. Two years down the track though and I’m kind of proud of myself really,” she says, reflecting on her new skill set.

“It comes to me easily now. So yes, it was a huge learning curve, but I’m glad, because I needed to do something.”

Penny now runs the office like a well-oiled machine, handling all Council applications, accounts, sub-contractor contracts, general administration and accounts payable – in her words, “Pretty much all the business and money side of things.”

Freedom to choose

Despite the workload, Penny keeps a clear delineation between her home and working life and  focuses on the aspects of the business she enjoys most, while ensuring the rest is delegated, “I only do 3 days a week,” she says. “I don’t really want to do any more than that and I’m not interested in any of the selling parts.  Nick and I have our set tasks of what we do - our own areas - so that’s a good thing.”

Mixing business with pleasure

When asked about how the business has affected their personal relationship, Penny says its been easier than she expected, “We actually get on really well in the workplace – which I was surprised at. Of course, we have our differences, but in general we get on pretty well and we discuss things together – he doesn’t just go and make a decision without me knowing about it,” Penny shares.

As for how owning a business has changed the man she’s married to, Penny reflects, “ I think he’s much happier in himself now.”

Looking forward, Penny says she shares Nick’s goal of building the business up so they can spend more time with their children, “Oh yes, absolutely that’s the goal for me too. I just want to be successful, have a happy lifestyle and a good balance between work and play.”

“Owning your own business is fulfilling, you feel like in control of your future.”



Favourite thing about being a franchisee:

“The flexibility is great. For example, today I’ve to go at 1pm to go pick one of our kids up, so that freedom is really good.”

Penny’s advice for new franchisees:

“I’d say go for it! What have you got to lose? That’s how it was for us. Take each day as it comes - and try not to stress about things too much. I know that’s hard for some people. Just give it a go, I’d say!”