Where were you raised and what influenced your decision to go into graphic design?
I was born and bred in Newcastle and raised by Italian migrant parents. I moved to Whitebridge when I was five and haven't left! I have always been a hippy at heart with a stubborn streak and am motivated by a challenge. I felt that graphic design was the perfect profession for the business-savvy artist. It's a combination of problem solving, intuition and creativity but requires a thick skin as design carries some measure of subjectivity.
What experience did you gain before launching your business Graphika in 2009?
I'm fortunate to have worked in both small and large design companies in Newcastle. As a young design graduate, I worked in a boutique art studio, then the newspaper and two advertising agencies. I have worked on design projects from small startups to large corporations and met some amazing people along the way. This experience was invaluable and set the foundations to start Graphika.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Both my parents owned their own businesses, so I was raised with a strong business ethic. I have always had a passion and desire to start my own business and have never been afraid of hard work. The business was born out of mother's guilt. After having my second child I realised it was time to be at home for my children and start my business around them.
You recently attended a forum on small business and mental health at federal parliament. It was led by Senator Michaelia Cash and attended by Scott Morrison. Why were you asked to attend?
Prior to attending, I was one of three business owners from Lake Macquarie to be selected to participate in a video case study called 'Ahead for Business'. 'Ahead for Business' is an initiative led by Everymind and includes a website and App with tools and tips to help small business owners manage the everyday stressors of business and to take action for their own mental health. From this video I was asked to be the voice for small business owners at a roundtable discussion at parliament. It focused on the challenges small business owners face and how this affects their mental health. It was the first step towards seeing government support and positive changes for small business owners.
What mental health issue resonate for you as a business owner?
This year Graphika celebrates 10 years in business so I certainly have felt the highs and lows that have go hand in hand with owning a business. Isolation, workload pressure (or at times lack of work), fear of failure and cashflow can definitely trigger feelings of stress and anxiety.
What was your input?
As the voice for SME owners, my input at the roundtable was to highlight the stresses that I come across while running my business. These issues seemed to resonate with the majority of SME owners in the room and included cash flow, long work hours, taxes, isolation, lack of time away from the business and the inability to 'switch off'. These messages were compiled and summed up with ideas going forward. The second visit to parliament included a workshop with other stakeholders. Now the Small Business Mental Health Working Groups are ongoing.
As a business owner, how do you maintain your mental wellbeing?
Exercise and maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle are key to my own sanity. I do try and wake up early to go running. I find that an early exercise routine is a great start to my day followed by coffee! I would also be lost without my diary and setting daily tasks to help me stay on top of things. I balance this all out by spending quality time with family and catching up with friends.
What takes the biggest toll on your emotional and mental wellbeing as a business owner?
As a woman in business with three children, it's a combination of being there for my kids, the demands of a very busy, sporty household, plus juggling the pressures of work deadlines and cashflow.
Isolation, workload pressure (or at times lack of work), fear of failure and cashflow can definitely trigger feelings of stress and anxiety.- Melissa Horvat
What changes do you think would be beneficial in OHS or other legislation regarding mental health?
It would be beneficial for all small business owners and their staff to undertake mandatory mental health and wellbeing training, subsidised by the Government. This should also be supported by ongoing workshops and regular 'check-ins'.
Has the Canberra experience altered your views on mental health?
Small business owners all begin feeling invincible, we do not start out with the view to fail. In the early stages of business, it never occurred to me that as the business grew so did the stress! My involvement in Canberra has made me realise the lack of education, understanding and support that small business owners receive, not only in the early stages of business, but overall. This in turn affects their mental health. I am now more empathic for those business owners suffering from mental health problems, and my understanding and awareness of mental health issues overall has heightened.
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