At the start of every year I like to reflect on the key highlights of the previous year – both personal and professional.
I do this because I always find that looking back fills me with such a massive sense of achievement and pride and it also helps me to decide where to channel my focus for the year ahead.
Sure thing, I look at my wins, but I also look at my hurdles and am always amazed at how they seem to be the stages of my biggest growth and breakthroughs….. in business and in life. Plus, I also review my data – whether it’s website stats on what content is being digested the most or what you tell me in my annual survey that you want me to focus on more for the year ahead.
So, in this blog post I’ll share my 2015 Annual Review, the year that was, and let you know a little of what I have in store for you in 2016.
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It’s been in some ways the most successful game-changing year in my life so far and also one of the most challenging and life changing.
In a nutshell, the first half of the 2015 year was about working out who I wanted to be in this world, the change I wanted to make and how best I could make this change. The second half was about letting go of the old and coming into the new. Being bold, strong and stepping in to my new online space.
Now I always look back on my year that was and plan out the year ahead but for the first time ever, I’ve decided to share this with my followers and listeners.
I hope you’ll also do your own version so you can set yourself up for an ecoceptional 2016.
Now, let’s dive in!
At the start of 2015 I was running my eco-parenting retail business Sustainababy, as I had done for over five years up to that point around my young family. In 2014 though I’d stepped more into the space of eco education and knew my vision, experience and passion far exceeded providing new mums with greener alternatives to conventional baby products. I also knew I needed to be brave and very strategic in this new direction I wanted to take my business and also very smart, because money was exceedingly tight in my own household.
Without a doubt the biggest highlights for the year came towards the end in November when I launched both my new website lauratrotta.com and my Eco Chat podcast in iTunes. Both have been received so, so well and I’m just so thrilled that ‘Eco chat with Laura Trotta’ is currently sitting in the ‘New and Noteworthy’ list of iTunes!
I have all my wonderful listeners to thank for that. xx
January – March 2015
At the start of January we were still enjoying a family holiday on Sth Australia’s York Peninsula where I packed an annual planner and set some goals for 2015.
February was a month of actions; I launched a new offering greenHOUSE, the Home Energy Blitz that guides participants over 21 days to making small tweaks in their homes that make a massive change to their energy consumption, and bills!
I also started my weekly eco chat segment on regional ABC Radio 639 North and West with Sarah Tomlinson.
Behind the scenes I was working with my web developer to build a new membership platform for my popular Home Detox Boot Camp. I’d created this e-course in early 2014 and ran the first two rounds via email, but it soon because obvious I needed to step up and make this a premium offering, complete with membership site to house all the content, for participants to continually refer back to.
So it was all systems go!
On the personal front I got through the transition of sending my first boy to school. He took it in his stride. I was an emotional mess (when I thought I’d totally be fine)! But we got there, thanks to some of the more experienced mums in the school community taking me under their wing.
On a really painful account, my father, who I haven’t had a great relationship with in recent times, lost his home and found himself without a base for the first time in his life. This affected me and my sisters and we all went through a whole swag of emotions and grief.
There was also a tragic death in our community.
The husband of a friend who I played netball with for years died in a traumatic incident underground at the mine. He was a much loved larrikin, husband and father of three, who’d lived in our small town for 25 years and it shook our close-knit community to the core.
The big employer in town also laid off around 80 positions due to continuing low commodity prices and our town was plunged into a deep depression. Sadly we knew that hundreds more positions were going to go and be announced later in the year, so everyone, including my own family, were feeling under immense pressure and just that awful anxious feeling of an uncertain future.
April – June 2015
I re-launched Home Detox Boot Camp with a new membership site and some new guest experts and my largest number of new home detoxers to date joined to kick-start their journey to a toxin free home.
I was super busy interviewing my guest experts and holding LIVE Q+As with my Home Detoxers. But I was also loving watching the transformation so many of my participants were achieving…. namely clearing up their children’s eczema, reducing the frequency and severity of their headaches, and having the entire family sleep through the night! All due to switching to natural cleaning, pest control and personal care products and ditching the toxins in their homes (their words, not mine!).
On a personal note, my Grandma, my last living grandparent died at the age of 94. So I headed over to Melbourne to pay my respects at her funeral with my little sister. I came face to face with my dad for the first time in two years and he wasn’t in a great way at all, but we chatted and the communication lines were tentatively opened once more. As I get older I realise more than ever that forgiveness enables growth and that family is family. Wounds, however how hurtful, do stop stinging after a time.
Meanwhile in my immediate family we were under intense financial pressure due to my husband being sued for an unfortunate incident where he stood up to authority on behalf of our local community but made a naive mistake in the process.
It was actually on Good Friday when I stuck up poster on our hallway walls and together we brainstormed all the different ways we could improve our cashflow or make some money, as we had tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills to pay. It wasn’t going to get paid by us simplify selling items on eBay, it needed big action so we just put up any idea that came to us.
I stuck ‘Sell Sustainababy’, my online retail business, up on the wall and my hubby said ‘You don’t Want to do That!’ and I replied, ‘No I don’t, but let’s talk about it.’ And we did (chat about it, that is!) and the more I thought about it and registered how I felt, I realized that selling my retail business would not only help our family’s cash position but it would provide me with more time to do what I really, really love, and that’s to inspire, guide and educate others (not just mums of young children) to live more sustainably.
The sale would also help provide funds for me to build my new online home, my new website. So I started thinking about it a bit more and getting legal and financial advice and by the end of the financial year had decided to definitely take this step and I’m so glad I did.
It never ceases to amaze me that adversity almost always leads to opportunity and new directions and in a strange, bizarre way, I’m thankful that we were forced to review our situation and make some big decisions. This quarter was stressful and painful in so many ways, but having gotten through it I look back and see it as an important stepping stone to where I am now.
As always, in June I did the St Vinnie’s Community Sleepout, organised by our local Bank SA, to raise funds for the Homeless and was humbled when my lil business (aka me!) raised the most funds out of all the businesses in town (not a bad feat considering BHP Billiton is one of those businesses!). For the first time ever I opened up and shared how homelessness had touched my family, a ‘normal’ middle class educated family, and how we all need to make an effort to support those who are less fortunate, as issues like mental health, domestic violence and homelessness don’t discriminate. As a result of opening up, rather than receiving judgment (which I feared), I received a heap of love and understanding and comfort in return which kick-started some healing in me, and more forgiveness and understanding for my Dad.
July – September 2015
After realising that I couldn’t continue to grow my eco-education products while juggling a family and award-winning eco retail business at the same time, I put my baby, Sustainababy on the market and I started fielding offers of interest.
I also started working with my web developer to create my new eco education home on the web, lauratrotta.com. This was a huge quarter in getting everything ready for my new website – getting the look just right, logos, photoshoots, copy for all the pages etc.
It was a battle having my photoshoot since I’d put on weight with the stress of the first half of the year and my normally-glowing skin had also broken in rosacea, another side effect of the stress we were under, but I did it anyway. Now that I knew what I really wanted to do (create a new eco living blog) I wanted to get it out there asap!
Meanwhile we were living under the cloud that my husband could lose his job in the ‘Big Cut’ and so we started brainstorming and planning just what we’d do if this were the case. Because we’d be forced to stay here in a house we had a mortgage on, simply because due to the economic situation in town no houses are selling and it’s so hard to even rent them at the moment.
It was a really hard time to live here. Not only were there big cuts on site but small businesses in town were going under too as people just weren’t spending any money. It was really hard to stay positive.
The ‘Big Cut’ came and went with hundreds of positions shredded onsite. My husband was the only person in his small team at work to survive and at first we didn’t know whether to be relived and happy or disappointed. We chose to be relieved and grateful. If you live in a small community where every family has one person employed at the main employer, you’ll know that job cuts and workplace accidents impacts everyone.
My son’s class at school lost 30% of its students in a month, as did the entire school’s population. People had to leave town to either look for more work or take their payout and travel around Australia home schooling their kids until the economy improves. Farewelling so many friends was taking its toll.
On a positive, the Outback was in full bloom with brilliant red Sturts Desert Peas and we escaped for a weekend to Whyalla for me to go scuba diving with the giant Australian Cuttlefish. A much needed mini break to get out of the depression that was gripping our town.
I also travelled north up to Palm Cove to attend a retreat with some amazing women I was in a business mastermind group with and finished the few days with an entire day out on the Great Barrier Reef scuba diving with turtles, sharks (gentle ones) and brilliant coloured corals and fish. I was in heaven.
October – December 2015
In the final quarter of the year I ran another round of Home Detox Boot Camp and was overwhelmed once again with the large numbers of women who had entrusted me to help them break up with toxins in their home.
I won two awards for my efforts in the sustainability education space, Silver in the Sustainability category of the 2015 St George banking group Ausmumpreneur Awards and I won the Flinders University Education Award for the Far North in the Brand SA Awards.
And for the first time, I was a podcast guest, being interviewed by both the lovely ‘Suitcase Entrepreneur’ Natalie Sisson and Karly Nimmo of Karlosophies. In both interviews I shared my business journey and the highs and lows along the way, sharing some of my best tips to help others building an online business, particularly when they live in a regional area with not much support nearby.
October and November were a real blur with finalising the new website and also launching my new Eco Chat podcast and of course, finalising the contract for the buyer of Sustainababy.
After finalising the sale contract I was working super hard to get it ready to move on. I held my final market day stall and celebrated with organic sparkling wine and some organic raw food platters for my loyal customers. I did shed a tear or two…. okay…. at one moment I totally lost it, but it was understandable. I’d build Sustainababy from an idea to a multiple award-winning and profitable business from the ground up, all around caring for my two young boys.
Packing up the stock to take to the market was hard at times – just packing up products that my boys had used as babies (not the exact product as they had their own of course, but the memories all came flooding in). Not to mention being constantly thanked and hugged by members of my local community at that final market day– many of them customers with babies, some who just wanted to say thank you for just under six years of continuous presence at our local market in a small town in Outback South Australia, that just happened to have the state’s highest birth rate.
Personally, this quarter was so much brighter! All the excitement of the business sale and launching of the new website and podcast were sinking in. And we were super busy with dance concerts and end of year festivities (I spend Tuesday evenings learning hip hop and tap dancing!).
And to top it all off, we packed up the car and headed away for 3 weeks over Christmas to see family in Adelaide and Melbourne and even sneak down to my old home town of Sale where I caught up with some old school friends before enjoying few days R&R at Phillip Island.
So that’s my year in business in life!
Blog and Podcast Review
As I mentioned, I always take a look back before looking ahead and part of this process includes checking out what content of mine gelled with you the most.
My Top 5 blog posts since my new website launch in November 2015 were:
- Is Borax Safe?
- Wholefoods Christmas: Macadamia Nut Shortbread Recipe
- How to Stay Green During the Busy Times
- Homemade Christmas Gifts: Thieves Handwash
- 6 Good Reasons for a Home Detox
This is really interesting as the most popular post, was one I only published two weeks ago!
On the other hand, my Top 5 most downloadable podcasts were:
- Episode 4: I’m a Freak (an Ode to Michelle Bridges)
- Episode 1: You’re More Eco-Friendly Than You Think
- Episode 3: Why Making Small Changes Are More Sustainable Over Time
- Episode 2: Eco Living Verses Frugality…. Which is more green?
- Episode 5: The Environmental Impact of Toys
These are all my first five episodes, which were released in October and November last year. I’m not sure why but maybe my earlier podcasts are most popular because new listeners are scrolling to the bottom and starting from the start…..or maybe just because they’ve been published longer. Who knows!
Annual Survey Findings
I’ve also recently surveyed my followers and over 100 of you lovely people replied and told me what you wanted to learn more about.
I asked which of a select group of topics I love teaching was the most important to you right now and you have spoken!
It appears that you want to pick my brains more on eating more wholefoods, reducing toxins in your home and growing your produce! Which I’m so thankful to hear as I’ve been busy crafting a new offering that I’ll launch in mid-2016 along these lines since they’re my favourite topics and I just love teaching them too!
You also shared the biggest challenges to living more sustainably and not surprisingly, time came out on top. I so get this as I’m a working mum of two young kids and my husband works full time outside the home and time really is a premium. Which is why I’ll be sharing more tips with you this year on how I organise and plan my home so we, as a family, can live as green as possible (while still having a social life!).
Money came in as the second biggest challenge and I think this is a funny one because living more sustainably more often than not allows you to save truckloads of cash. But yes, I do get it as organic food and eco-friendly products cost a premium and investing in this area is a tricky mindset that needs to be overcome in your eco living journey.
I then asked what ways are you currently involved in my community and what’s your preferred method of communication from me. My email newsletter and blog posts won in this section, which doesn’t surprise me as I’ve been blogging for almost six years (albeit under my previous brand) and my podcast is just a baby.
I’m really thankful I asked this question though as so many of you have personally emailed me as well saying you love my blog posts and don’t want them to disappear just because I’ve started a podcast.
I’ll take this feedback on board and will continue to blog and have some super-blog posts on my site this year, and I’ll make a concerted effort to have transcripts from my podcasts too. This won’t happen for my longer Eco Hero interviews (you’ll need to tune in to listen to them in full) but I’ll make sure I have transcripts of my regular Eco Chat episodes up on the blog too for those of you who just want to skim them there rather than listening to an audio while you go about the housework, walk, gym session or road trip.
And lastly I asked you to tell me where you live and what age bracket you fall into. The vast majority of you are Australian in between 36 – 45 years. This didn’t surprise me either since like attract likes and I’m Australian in that age bracket too. What did surprise me though is that over 15% of you are US-based, which is so incredibly exciting!!
So, what can you expect more from me this year?
More blogging, more podcasts, more interviews, and more of the same – cutting edge eco education programs that inspire, educate and guide you towards living more sustainably because yep, you guessed it! I’m all about making green mainstream and helping you to create an ecoceptional life YOU love!
PS – in the next week, I’ll be making a super exciting announcement for those of you who want to make a decent living while saving the world, because the two aren’t mutually exclusive you know! And keep an eye out as I’ll also be re-opening the doors to Home Detox Boot Camp again real soon!
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