Interview with Samantha Murdoch
Photography by Lily Hatten from Artemis Rising Photography
The Well is a safe and encouraging space in Byron Bay, Australia where like-minded women can connect, talk about their experiences in business in the hopes that it will share the often heavy load. We got to talk to founder Samantha Murdoch on building a community and bringing together diverse perspectives.
I’ve always been really passionate about mental health and challenging the social stigma about talking about mental illness and struggling with poor mental health. I think as a society we do ourselves a huge disservice by not talking about our emotions and struggles- if we can learn to talk more openly about having a crappy time, then I think we can all grow from that. I got into teaching as a way to connect with young people and to create change in the next generation. I have seen a huge change in how mental health and wellbeing is dealt with in a school context from when I was a school student and even more so in the last 8 years of teaching. On many levels I love teaching but it has been demoralizing at times and doesn’t give a lot back. In the last 12 months it was really clear I needed to make a change. I’d been a freelance hair and makeup artist in Sydney for 3 years or so, and when I moved to Byron Bay I found it hugely challenging to get things happening. I hadn’t built up a community yet and I really missed that. I had some branding done with Lucy Tann, a local graphic designer who was also a friend, and I realized I loved talking about business and also realized that we were both so scared and unsure of ourselves on the business front. As Lucy’s design studio grew, she was having all these conversations with other young women at the beginning of their business hustle and they were also terrified and didn’t feel confident. We spoke about it, and me being me (driven, overexcited and solutions focused) pushed for us to run an event that all these incredibly talented women could come together at and share the heavy load. And from here The Well was born, and grew so fast. Our events sold out last year, we have made some in- credible contacts and built a community that I am so proud of. 2019 is going to be huge, for The Well, and for me in terms of my career. Bring it on I say.
Challenges Women Face in Business
I really think that it comes back to issues around self-worth and women not valuing their skills, time and expertise, and for me this has really fed into anxiety in a big way. If I had felt more confident in my skills and just who I was as a person, I probably would be in a very different place in my career, as much as I am so happy with how things are falling into place now! I am so lucky to connect with this huge group of women all at such different places in their journey in business and life, and so many of them have times of feeling anxious and unsure of where to turn to for support. Yes, there are networking groups already out there, and there is a fair amount of support for small business, but there wasn’t anything aimed at supporting your emotional wellbeing. Nowhere to turn to at 11pm at night when things go wrong, or you are still working on a project and losing your mind. It’s an incredibly stressful thing starting and running a business, and I think the fact that The Well has just acknowledged this and that has been a powerful thing. Acknowledging that its rough out there and then building this community of support is what we are aiming to do. I also think that one of the biggest challenges for women starting a business is often the same for women in the workplace- we need to shift the way we think about work and the way that businesses run. We work SO hard and most workplaces put workplace wellbeing at the bottom of the list. There have been some big changes lately, and Byron Bay is such a great place for it. There is a real culture of sustainability here and for the first time ever that is being extended to people! Recognizing that looking after your physical, emotional and mental well- being and doing the same for your staff doesn’t sound all that revolutionary, but putting it into practice in a larger business community that doesn’t necessarily share the same values is incredibly challenging. This magic thing happens when women come together with no agenda other than sharing, connecting and offering unconditional support and we are so excited to watch things grow and deepen in 2019.
Gathering of Perspectives
We think long and hard about who is the best fit to speak at our events, we want to make sure we have diversity of experience, background and ideas; it is a challenge for us but one we really relish in. I get such a kick out of seeing a room full of women all different ages and at different stages in their life and business, it is truly remarkable. We set out early on to create a space that is inclusive, non-pretentious and welcoming to all and it gets me all emotional seeing it in action. We have women in their 40s and 50s come along who have decades of experience in business and then we have women as young as 20 who are at the beginning of a long journey–the fact that these women feel confident and comfortable to come and connect is kind of wonderful. There is so much to be learned from one another’s vastly different perspectives and experiences in life, and I believe that The Well, in starting from a place of valuing wellbeing, is a place where these voices can come together without fear. I know for me personally, it has been so good for my growth to have a safe space to share my thoughts and hear those of others.
Advice for Finding Community
I moved back to this area just over a year ago and I found it really difficult at first to find my people but I kept reminding myself that it takes time to find real, authentic community. Things started building slowly, but when we started The Well it’s like the whole world opened up to me so quickly. My advice would be that if you are looking for your community of like-minded souls, then get out there and create it. Of course, not everyone is going to want to, or being able to get something like The Well happening, but there are smaller ways to do it. Before we started The Well I started connecting with people at events and talks at local coworking spaces – honestly, coworking spaces are such a hive of activity and community and these connections have led to so many opportunities! A little bit of courage and a project that you can work on with others can go a long way and you never know what might come of it. Social media can be a huge help with finding your people, but I also think it’s worth remembering that nothing beats face to face real connection.
Learn more @the.well_ on Instagram.
This story was first published in Issue 10: Perspective.