Here, we chat with Nettlefold about the purpose behind T-House, her varied career, the valuable business insights she learnt as a stay-at-home mum and society’s views of older women in leadership roles.
Tell me about T-House and why you launched it?
T-house is just an extension of my interior decorating and product development company. We used to be called T@conceptshop, we changed its name when I decided to retire from interior decorating for clients and wanted to do something to help charities close to my heart.
T-House is an information and entertainment platform for all things to do with house and home but includes my views on ageism, lifestyle and a YouTube channel on building our dream house. By building on our audience through this platform, we promote and sell our products to raise money for our charities.
T-House is a not-for-profit, so we give 100 per cent profits to our charities. I simply wanted to help, not just give money, but be included at grassroot levels and create something that perpetually creates an income for these charities.
I still wanted to use my creativity somehow, but I also wanted to use my connections and network to give my charities a bigger voice and raise money for them.
Before you launched T-house, you had a career in banking, advertising and interior decorating. You were also a stay-at-home mum. What are the lessons you learnt in those roles that you have taken into the rest of your career as an entrepreneur ?
Wow, how long do I have to answer this? I have learnt a number of skills from each of my occupations.
All of them have made me a much more rounded and informed person. All along the way, I have been so blessed to be mentored by amazing bosses – all of them were men who believed in my abilities and encouraged me to be my best.
In merchant banking, I learnt to think fast on my feet, to back myself and to be accurate. I learnt the art of persuasion and how to deal with stress. I learnt heaps about the economy, foreign exchange and the value of a dollar and how to invest it.
In advertising, I was a media strategist. I learnt so much about the psychology of demographics and their interactions with various media forms. I worked on all the marketing briefs with creatives and clients, so I understand the principles of marketing.
I learnt how to work efficiently and effectively, I learnt how to pivot when plans got changed at the last minute. I also managed a large team so I learnt how to deal with co-workers and work related issues. My greatest lesson was the art of negotiation and presentation, two of my strengths.
In interior decorating, I ran my own business, so I had to learn how to set up a business plan and manage running a small business. I was so lucky I didn’t have to chase business. The products I designed were selling quickly and that propelled me into getting heaps of decorating and design work. It was all word-of-mouth. My work did my marketing.
I learnt how to trust my creativity and my intuition, I learnt to listen and understand my clients and what they wanted to achieve, even when they didn’t know themselves.
Creativity in decorating is something you either have or you don’t. You just need to trust your knowledge and your gut.
My greatest lessons have been learnt from being a stay-at-home mother. I learnt the art of listening, patience, being organised, managing my time, multitasking and how to work hard when you want to achieve anything in life. I also learnt that you can do anything if you apply yourself. I taught my children the same lessons .
What’s it like launching a business at 60? What are the benefits of having so much experience behind you ?
I don’t think about age, it’s just a number. I might be 60 but I feel like a 40-year-old or even younger at times. I didn’t think about my age when I wanted to launch T-House. I just thought about the objective. It’s been the best thing ever especially since I began this business and journey during 2020’s first lockdown in Melbourne.
There are so many benefits of having all these experiences, I have lived a blessed and full life with so many adventures and opportunities that have enriched my skill set.
Age is not just a number, it is also an accumulation of knowledge, confidence, life experiences. You know how to deal with a variety of people better, you deal with stress better and you have the time to invest in your projects .
Have you ever faced any challenges in business in terms of your age? Have you had any experiences of ageism ?
I have been very lucky in business, I have only had one interior design job that I pitched and I didn’t get the job because they thought I was too old. They didn’t just come out and say it but it was implied, in that they wanted a young and more progressive team on the job.
Again I have been fortunate I’ve only had few experiences with ageism and funnily enough, it’s been mainly from younger women.
What is your opinion of how society views older women in business and the workplace?
I believe women who have worked hard to get to the top and have managed to stay there are to be admired – but there are not many of them in this country.
I am sure all of them had to work twice as hard as men to get to the top, but sometimes society does look at these woman as being tough b……! I know when I was the media director of Lintas Australia and handling major accounts, I was called the Ice Queen and I was under the age of 30. Maybe that’s just how women in general are perceived in top business roles.
Women of a certain age are generally more confident and they just want to get on with the job, they know how to do their jobs but unfortunately this is sometimes seen as being tough and unwelcoming.
If you could give your younger self any career advice, what would it be?
Well this is a hard question to answer. Sometimes I think I accomplished so much so young, I didn’t really celebrate the wins. I just kept working harder to be better and to achieve more, but then again, I would not be who I am without all the accomplishments. Maybe I would say don’t be so hard on yourself and trust your instincts.