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6 July 2021

How thinking – and living – outside the box helped two single mums do their thing

Two friends deciding to go into business together is usually a massive step. But for single-mums Stephanie Lane and Holly Thompson, joining forces on Goodspace – their online platform selling vintage furniture and homewares – was simple compared to the realities of raising their daughters under the same roof.

They had some kinks to iron out – most of them stemming from internalised expectations that single parents should struggle silently and alone, and that stable, 9–5 work is the only way to make a valid income. But once they found their groove, Steph and her daughter Frida, and Holly and her daughter Lola, became a flourishing family unit.

We chatted to the businesswomen, friends and housemates about how shaking off conventional ways to live (and work) has helped them support their girls, run a business and live a life they love.

 

Thanks for chatting with us. We’d love to know how you decided to join forces in business and life – did blending the two things come naturally?

Holly: The living-together part came first.

Steph: Being a single parent, I was having a really bad time trying to get a new lease. I was talking to Holly about it – we’d been friends for a couple of years at that point – and we realised we could do it together.

Holly: We were both living in small apartments and we were just like, “What are we doing paying for these tiny places?” So after both our leases were up, we found a bigger place. It just worked. Steph was in a big corporate accounting job, with her daughter in childcare, and coming home every day exhausted. I was doing Goodspace, making just enough money to survive, basically. I’d started it as a hobby and to get a bit of extra money when Lola was six months old. And I said to Steph, “If you quit the job, I’ll teach you what to do so you can make your own money, spend time with Frida and you won’t be stressed.”

Steph: I quit the job and didn’t go back.

Holly: We were selling separately, and then last year, at the start of COVID, we put our resources and different skills together under the Goodspace banner. We thought: let’s just go in hard and do it.

 

Because of your professional partnership, you probably have a bit more insight into one another’s money habits than most housemates! How do you handle all the practical or everyday admin tasks together?

Holly: We are a partnership, so it’s like being in a regular partnership, where Steph will go do the grocery shopping and then I pay for things, and it just equals out.

Steph: We tried some of those budget-splitting apps at the start—

Holly: But it just didn’t stick. It requires a certain person. It’s not us.

Steph: We do things separately and differently, but we definitely help each other a lot. When it comes to work, Holly does a lot of the sourcing and she’s better at the photography. I deal more in the customer service and styling. We work well together, but we definitely each have our things we’re better at.

Holly: Steph is better with the accounts. We play to our strengths.

Steph: We pretty much do everything together, including the school runs. We’ve got a studio out the back that has all of our stock, but we shoot in the lounge. On a typical day we’ll set the shoot up, I’ll style it all and then Holly will shoot it while I’ll be doing admin stuff. We can give each other feedback too. Then we have to be done before 3pm. We’ve been trying to structure our time to get it done more efficiently, but sometimes you’ve just got to wing it.

Holly: We both take a lot of pride in the things that we do, but you kind of have to lay your ego aside.

 

What do you get from running Goodspace that a more traditional job doesn’t offer you?

Holly: I don’t feel that our society is really set up to support mothers in workplaces, let alone single mothers. With Goodspace, I’m in control of my own time, my own money. I’m able to work and be successful at working while still being able to do all the parenting stuff and look after Lola. I’m in control. It’s given us so many opportunities that I never would have had otherwise – and I can be there at school pick-up.

 

How did your plans for the future change for the better once you made the leap together?

Holly: When I was running Goodspace on my own, there was only so much I could do. The money I was making was just going straight towards bills. I was struggling to buy groceries.

Steph: Our partnership gives us the means to do so much more than we could if we were on our own. I think that’s the biggest thing, both personally and in business: we both give each other things that we wouldn’t have independently. I mean, the minute we joined forces, our Instagram went from 3,000 followers to 30,000 in a matter of months.

Holly: So the fact that we’ve combined work and life is actually working for us. We’re not just making a living. In the future we want to have a proper studio warehouse where we can shoot and have meetings and work, and keep it a little bit more separate than what it is now.

Steph: You should see our living room right now. We’d love to get a bigger space where we can also support other women in business. We’ve noticed the benefit of businesses supporting each other, and we know that promoting each other elevates everyone. We’d love to feed into that a bit more and have a space for people to come to work and flourish, especially other single mums.

Steph and Holly’s tips for doing your thing
  • Communication. You’ve got to be aligned with the right person – someone you can be 100% vulnerable and yourself with, whether that’s in business or in living.
  • Find something you love. It might sound cliché, but Goodspace came so naturally to us; we’ve never had to force it.
  • Just do it. Try an ‘unconventional’ living arrangement and see if it works. We’ve had so many people be like, “Oh, this is so crazy that you’re doing this thing.” Society thinks it’s so wacky and weird. Just let go of that.
Do what moves you. Find out more about the unique things Aussies are doing, loving, saying, eating and dreaming about in the Sense of Us report.

 

 

 

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