Hello all, and welcome to a very special Working Women Wednesday entry into my series on successful moms. Today I’m honored to share the story of Kylie Travers, a very successful writer, speaker, and all around amazing woman from Australia. She is a three-time PLUTUS award winner, and a former homeless single mother who fled domestic abuse, created a successful career from blogging by writing and traveling the world, and became a millionaire – but then faced medical issues that caused her to nearly lose everything. She didn’t give up though, and now that her health has stabilized she’s working her way back up there!
I find her story very inspirational. Long time readers will know that I’ve overcome quite a few significant challenges in my own life (like my husbands near death from septic shock) to get where I am now, and I’m the breadwinner/sole income earner of my family. Frankly sometimes would have been easier to give up. But I never have, and I never will-and neither does she. So I really empathize with her story, and I think you’ll be just as impressed as I was.
Her story is long – but I think it’s worth reading all the way to the end. I hope you do too.
So without further ado, here’s Kylie’s story.
1. Tell us about yourself!
I’m based in Melbourne, Australia with my two daughters and best friend/partner. I’ve gone from being a homeless single mother of two special needs children to multiple international award-winning CEO, speaker, author and charity ambassador. I love travel and finance, which I managed to create a career out of, much to the delight of my children as they often get to travel or do experiences like hot air ballooning or swimming with dolphins when I do it for ‘work’.
I work mainly doing business and marketing consults, freelance writing for national and international governments, tourism boards and finance companies as well as running a few of my own websites. One of the things I love to do is buy websites, increase their revenue then sell them for a profit. Although, websites aren’t the only things I flip.
I buy things to resell, which I have made over $10,000 in some months doing. I started this back when my kids were younger, now I have it down to an art, knowing exactly what to sell, selecting items with good profit margins, listing quickly and flipping fewer items for more. I have an eBook here on how I do it and all my tips.
2. Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there? And are you a millionaire or are you on the way?
I have been a millionaire and am on my way back to it. In the past few years I have experienced domestic violence, divorce, homelessness, robbery of everything including my underwear, cancer issues, paralysis twice and level 10 pain (childbirth is an 8, level 10 is where you black out because your body can’t handle the pain). So, while I got to millionaire status at one point, it went due to ill health.
Now, I take a salary from the business, which will be increasing next financial year to $250,000. The business pays for many of our expenses because of the nature of my work, and the fact I work from home which means things like a percentage of housing, electricity, bills etc. are all tax deductible. Our family ‘holidays’ are usually work related around me speaking at an event, or doing marketing for a company and we get extra time either side. So in reality, my income + benefits would be higher.
3. How did you get started in the workforce?
I was working as a kid! My parents had me doing chores of course, along with a paper route but I quickly worked out ways to make extra cash and did things like car washing, babysitting, party plan etc. I dropped out of school in year 11. My mum died from cancer when I was in year 10, I was sexually assaulted and not coping. I went from being in advanced extended classes to failing so quit.
I had already started in the workforce at age 14 as a check out operator. When I quit school I continued this, then my dad got me an admin role in a government agency, which I hated (but was extremely grateful for). I went into hairdressing and became a qualified hairdresser and beautician, then on my days off worked as a dental assistant.
Once I finished my training (it’s 4 years in Australia), I had my own business until I had kids. In 2009, when my eldest was 2, I started blogging which resulted in landing a book contract, international speaking, freelance writing and eventually the whole career I have now.
4. How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
As mentioned, my career has been a bit all over the place. I set a goal to be a millionaire by 30 (I was 25) and started blogging about what I was doing, along with ways to make and save money. An article I wrote was picked up by Wiley, a large publisher for business books, to turn into a book which quickly snowballed into freelance writing for sites such as Yahoo and speaking at conferences.
I won Best International Personal Finance Blog in 2012, which was also the year I left my abusive husband. Sooner after that, I was robbed of everything including my underwear, raped by someone I trusted a few weeks after that, and we ended up homeless.
In 2013, I moved cities to be close to my family who didn’t know what had been going on. I started volunteering and by 2014, I founded a company to manage my marketing and business consults, websites and speaking. At this point, my company, websites and everything I had was worth over $1,000,000.
In 2015, I ended up paralyzed and had a cancer scare. It resulted in multiple surgeries and doctors not knowing what was going on with my back. They thought I had the cancer my mum died from when she was 37. Instead they found it’s a rare condition I have been told not to Google as it will tell me I’m dying, cancerous polyps that continue to grow, but I’m fine. I have annual surgery and it’s not an issue for me.
Because of the health issues, I nearly lost everything. I had let myself get overwhelmed, stressed and my life was not where I wanted it to be. I won 3 Plutus awards by 2015, had been a director on a board for my favorite charity, was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year, runner up for 2 other business awards and a finalist for numerous others, along with landing another book contract and I was getting constant requests to speak but it didn’t matter. My health was shot and I nearly gave up.
End of 2015, I was able to walk, come off all the pain medications and we moved to Melbourne, Australia. I took some time off to decide what I want to do and now I have it worked out. I have a mixture of clients I do consulting work for, we travel, I do mentoring, public speaking and writing.
5. Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
I am pursuing FIRE. As my business grows, I have been outsourcing everything I can and right now, we are transitioning to my partner being a stay at home dad as it’s what we want. This is a big change for me as I was a single mother for so long. It also means dropping his six figure income, so I want to be at a level I am comfortable with financially before we do so. We are still working this out properly, so the series about bread winning moms on here has been fascinating and so helpful for me. Ultimately, I’d like everything I do to manage itself and for me to be able to step down.
Financially, my plans are pretty big. I have a specific income and business goal in mind I have a specific house I want for my family, mortgage free. We also plan to buy a property in New York and possibly a few other locations. We will be taking annual holidays, travelling everywhere we want to.
CMO Note – I live in Connecticut, right next door to New York. If Kylie does end up getting a home over here, I hope we’ll be able to visit each other!
I have a few smaller ones like get veneers on my teeth and laser eye surgery next year for my birthday. Our biggest focus though is our health and we invest in preventative treatments when needed.
6A – What’s the biggest challenge of being a breadwinning mom – and what’s the best part?
The biggest challenge then was getting it right. We landed in that situation because of my ill health, we had just started dating and he went from my new boyfriend to my fulltime carer and step parent of my kids. I needed help most days to shower, go to the bathroom, get dressed etc. I had some good days and once we got the medication right it was a little easier. The stress levels were high though.
Because it wasn’t a planned choice, it was a difficult transition with many disagreements and both of us ended up depressed for a while. However, now we are choosing to do it, it’s completely different because we both want it and don’t have the added stress of surgeries, medical bills, paralysis and the kids are older, so less is required.
The best part about being the breadwinner is having the support to fulfill my dreams and ambitions, along with those of the family. Knowing what I am doing fulfills all of us is amazing.
6.B. How did you get to be a millionaire?
I got there through smart investing, buying/growing and selling businesses, shares and being focused. It was a goal of mine to be a millionaire by 30 and I was determined. I read everything I could about money and put everything into practice. I lost it because I invested more in business/money/focused on that instead of ensuring I was healthy as well. I ended up stressed out and too sick to do anything.
As a six-figure earning the key, for me, has been determination, focus and self-education. I am a high school dropout. It was setting a goal, learning everything I can about it, having mentors, reading books, connecting with people doing what I wanted to do and implementing everything I learned that resulted in my income.
Another tip I’d add, is to know your worth and charge accordingly! Whether you work for yourself or someone else, don’t be afraid to push for the amount you want. I have tips on how to work it out and implement it here.
7. Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
There is probably no way to structure this answer nicely, without making me look like an obnoxious so and so. There is science behind it all, so I hope it makes sense.
I know many people who have had issues because they are a woman and I have been subjected to sexual advances, mainly online. However, I have personally found being a woman was a huge advantage. I only discovered why this has been the case for me recently after reading “Not Just Lucky”, and it has to do with my looks and the judgement we make as a society based on that. Basically, white female privilege. I have taken it upon myself to learn as much as I can because it left me slightly mortified.
For starters, most of my career I have worked for myself, so bosses as such weren’t an issue. I left my abusive marriage at 27, was divorced by 28, an international keynote speaker, author and had won multiple international awards by the time I was 30. As such, it has been clear to all clients and everywhere I have spoken that I am motivated, driven, intelligent and not to be messed with. Since I have traveled and achieved all I have with two young kids, not many assumptions have been made about me, other than most people assume I am older than I am and struggle with that element. I am often assumed to be 40 until they meet me or see a photo of me, then they get really confused. I have always been treated with utmost respect in working relationships.
Now, to why I was mortified, I discovered how much our looks and attitude can play into this, which for the most part we have no control over. According to numerous studies, how I look has all the trademarks for success, meaning, it is total privilege because of how I look and has played into my attitude or confidence which contributes to success. It has been eye opening but I also know I will never fully understand it.
I am an extremely confident, outgoing, friendly person. I am super naïve when it comes to flirting and relationships though so that often goes straight over my head and I assume everyone is just being friendly. This is both good and bad. The looks thing though, has been proven scientifically through numerous studies. People who have certain features are more likely to be successful, but also those features and the success are more likely to increase their confidence which leads to more success.
– Research by the University of Queensland found blondes earn on average 7% more than other women.
– Weight can impact by as much as 12% per annum. Slimmer women earn more and have higher success.
– For every 3 inches taller than average they are, women earn 5% to 8% more. I am 3 inches above average.
There is so much more to it including facial features, eye color, smiling (it increases the perception of trustworthiness) and being attractive, but not too attractive. Dressing conservatively, but not too conservatively, wearing some make up but not too much. Basically, all those things we push against, which seem so superficial, play a huge role in how we are treated.
When I read all this research from numerous universities and studies, I discovered, to my horror, I am the ideal. I am above average height, slim but not too skinny, hourglass figure, friendly, I smile a lot, I wear some makeup but not too much, I prefer to dress in a combination of corporate and 1950s, so conservative but not overly so. Blonde, Caucasian, open blue eyes, attractive but not intimidatingly so. I am early 30s making my youthful plus I have had so much life experience which others don’t have which means I can and should be taken seriously.
This is something I am now struggling with. I was so naïve about my privilege and how much has been easier for me because of how I look. I had a distinct advantage over many who have tried to go from homeless or struggle to where I am and it came down mostly to appearance. I didn’t look poor, or like I was struggling. I have the skill such as speaking, writing and negotiation skills I was taught from a young age by my father, which made me ideal for many businesses and charities. I am comfortable in front of the camera, have a great backstory they can use and present well. I used this and being a woman to my advantage.
Online has been a different story. I had to set up an auto responder to my business social media profiles there were so many men being inappropriate. The good thing is the people who genuinely want to work with me love the response and those who are simply hitting on me or being crude leave.
My Facebook autoresponder is “Thank you for your message. I’m not on 24/7, so will respond when online next. If you are pitching an MLM ‘opportunity’ I’m not interested. If you are a guy hitting on me or ‘oversharing’, my boyfriend will respond. Thank you!” On LinkedIn I shut people down right away or block them.
When it comes to people wanting to pick my brain, which I find happens way more for women than men, I refer them to my mentoring sessions. It stops the time wasters and those genuinely wanting help, pay.
8. Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy.
FIRE is my big financial goal. Being able to work if/when I want to, do only the projects I want and have enough coming in from my investments to retire completely but still have the lifestyle we have is the ultimate. Along with owning my home outright, travel and all that. Setting a goal to be a millionaire by 30 and writing about it was the beginning, my ultimate goal was always financial independence.
My passion for finances has helped significantly and means my hobby is researching businesses, real estate, shares and finance. I’m lucky because members of my family are similar, my brother works for the Australian Taxation Office, other siblings have been in banking and finance, plus extended family enjoy discussing business, retirement, travel and how to do it all. I love being able to take complex financial information and make it simple for people to understand as well as provide lots of ideas including ways to make money from home or running a 21 Day Money Challenge. As a result, my business is my passion and is funding my lifestyle while helping others.
For savings, I was taught from a young age to save at least 10% of my income, preferably 50% when expenses were low. I have not always been able to do that throughout my life, however, 10% to 50% is the aim.
In Australia, employers pay into your retirement find 9.5%, so I began retirement savings from when I was a teenager automatically. Our government had co-contributions when I could access when I was doing hairdressing and it grows in the background for me. I cannot access it until over 65 (which the government keeps changing and making older), so I don’t plan on it for retirement. I consider it a bonus.
I like to invest in businesses, particularly websites. I have a few passive ones that tick over in the background making money I am content with and they run on their own. I also buy and sell websites, plus have my two main ones Kylie Travers and The Thrifty Issue.
I invest in myself with education, courses, mentors and books. All of this has increased my knowledge which lead to increased wealth and opportunities.
When it comes to shares, I like blue chip ones and invest fairly conservatively.
My original plan was to invest in real estate, then my marriage broke down, we sold the family home and I was not in a position to get a mortgage. My ideal is to have 4 rental properties and I love the idea of buying unit blocks to renovate and flip. The property market in Australia is ridiculous though, so you need to have a keen eye and patience.
9. What’s the top three pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
1.) Check out my top tips
I have an eBook with my top 10 tips for how I went from homeless to CEO which outlines the importance of gratitude, your mindset, my 10 step method for success with goals, how to make more money and other tips.
2.) Set it up properly from the beginning
Read everything you can about setting up a business. Get a website, if you can afford to get professional help to do it, you should. Set up the right structure and make sure you are managing the finances and tax properly.
Take the time to do a marketing plan and execute it. Know your target audience and analyze everything to ensure you can tweak your business as needed to maximize results. I have 12 tips on how to do this, along with marketing advice here.
3.) Invest in yourself
- No one else has as big an interest in how your life turns out as you do. You need to work out what you want in life then go out and make it happen. Invest in yourself.
- Work out how much you want to earn, know your worth and price accordingly. I have a formula to help you work this out here.
- Read everything you can, listen to podcasts and watch videos on things you want to learn about. These can change your life!
- Invest in taking the time to boost your confidence and sense of self worth. I have 20 tips for that here and tips on how to cope when life is falling apart.
- Invest in your health. Take time out, schedule the beauty salon if you want, go to the gym, walk instead of driving, do what you need to do to look after you! Here are 10 tips to help you do everything and tips to stop you getting overwhelmed (aka lessons I learned from my body shutting down).
- Invest in learning about money. There are so many blogs you can read, books, podcasts and more resources. Get your money sorted so you can afford to invest in everything else. Try our 21 Day Money Challenge to kick things off. It’s free and has tips you can do each day with some of our readers saving over $20,000 doing it!
10. Where can people connect with you?
I am more active on The Thrifty Issue – www.thethriftyissue.com.au which also has a Facebook group, Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and email list.
I am also at www.kylietravers.com.au which has Facebook, twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as well. Or feel free to connect on LinkedIn.
CMO Here Again
A huge THANK YOU again to Kylie for stopping by and sharing her story today! As I said in the beginning, I find it hugely inspirational. She brought herself and her family up from nothing to success, ran into significant health problems and lost some of it-but never gave up. I think we can all learn a lot from her story.
I also wanted to comment on her response to Question #7. I was glad to see that she brought up the subject of so-called “conventional attractiveness” and success. It’s something I don’t see talked about a lot, because it’s one of those facts we don’t like to think about. But it’s so true, and I’ve seen it at play more times than I care to think about in my near 20 years in the workforce. I also hate it when I see how there are people out there that think it’s appropriate to use LinkedIn, a site specifically for business, to pick up women. I mean, really? Come on!
I also found it interesting how she’s now struggling with the idea of how much of her success might be attributed to the way she looks, and not all her hard work and sacrifice. After all, she can’t help the way she looks any more than I can – or any of the rest of us. That’s actually what makes these statistics so frustrating, I think-the fact that a lot of this is just out of our control. And I don’t think talking about it makes her a “bragging so-and-so”, like she was worried about being. I think it shows a lot of self-awareness and desire to perhaps help others who aren’t born with that advantage.
Be sure to leave a comment for Kylie below!
And if you know anyone who is a breadwinning, six figure, and/or millionaire mom (or mum!) who I can feature on the site – or if that’s you! – drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my new one-stop shop page for Breadwinning moms, featuring all my prior articles and interviews, plus some updates on prior interviewees!
Be sure to follow my blog for more great posts via e-mail or WordPress, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter and say hello! You can also check out what I’m buying or baking on Instagram, what I’m pinning on Pinterest, or the latest books I’m reading (or want to read) over on Goodreads.