Women on FIRE – Mrs. Smelling Freedom

Today I’ve got another story about an awesome, successful woman – Mrs. Smelling Freedom. She’s a successful international businesswoman from southern Europe working toward achieving financial freedom in the next 600 days. Lets hear more about her story!

Tell us about yourself! 

Hi I am Mrs Smelling Freedom and I live in a Southern European country. Lots of blue skies and sun where I come from J I am married to a cardiologist and have three kids aged 15, 12 and 9 – two girls and a boy. I also have a dog, a cat, a bunny (recent addition to the family), a turtle and around a hundred Koi and goldfish.

hopper the happy bunny
CMO Note – Sooooo adorable!

How did you become interested in personal finance, and financial independence? 

My FIRE journey started 20 years ago, although I had never heard about financial independence at the time. I was 23 and had just finished my Masters and I was determined to start my own business. I had studied IT and Marketing, so I focused on the Internet – we were in full dot com mania at that time. However I did not set up a dot com. I was not convinced that many of the ideas I was reading about made sense, but what was clear was that web developers would be in high demand. So I set up a web design agency.

In my country at the time many businesses had still not cottoned on to the realities of the Internet. My job consisted of trying to convince business people that this new technology was not just a fad that would go away. Happily I struck gold with two big clients – a local airport and a small chain of hotels. These were the two projects that got me going. Within 3 months of starting I had my first employee and things slowly started ramping up.

It was very difficult. I had no capital and the banks refused to grant me an overdraft (more on that later) so I did not pay myself a salary for the first three years and used all the money from projects to finance the business. Every cent we earned was immediately ploughed back into the business, either for salaries or for new equipment. It was bootstrapping taken to the extreme.

What is interesting in retrospect is that living without a salary for three years and depending on my partner to put food on the table forced me to live very frugally. Living a frugal lifestyle was not a “thing” at the time, but I always laugh when I read articles about people trying to cut out luxuries to be more frugal. Nothing beats the frugality you experience when you have no money to spend. I was hard core frugal by necessity, not by choice.

Fast forward a few years. I got married, had three kids, and the business kept growing. My company became the largest web development company in the country, winning multiple awards and working on several high profile projects.

Then one day I got a call to meet up with a partner from a Big Four firm. I thought they needed support with their website but to my surprise the meeting took a totally different turn. They asked me if I would consider selling my business to them. Quite honestly my first reaction was totally negative but luckily instead of just ruling it out I asked for a few days to think about it. A week later we met again and I said that I was interested in started discussions. One year later we signed the final papers and closed the sale.

The sale happened two years ago and I have no regrets. I stayed on to manage the team and we have taken our work to new heights. Operating with a Big 4 brand name has opened up new horizons and we won lots of international work. Over the last two years we delivered projects in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Italy, with more exciting projects coming up over the next few months. I have discovered that I rock an abaya and have learnt so much along the way.

What’s unique about pursuing financial independence as a woman – and a mom?

I mentioned above that I was not granted an overdraft. The full story is that when I approached the bank to ask for an overdraft facility the bank manager refused my request “because you will soon get married and then you will have a baby and shut the business down”. Basically I was refused a loan because I had a uterus that I could possibly use one day.

The day I got an overdraft is actually seared in my memory. It was a week after I got married and my husband signed a personal guarantee to cover the loan. I was too much of a risk as a single woman, but with a man taking responsibility for me then I became acceptable. I will never forget the anger I felt that day, but I had no choice. I needed the overdraft to grow the business so I sucked it up and marched on.

In retrospect that bank manager did me a favour. You see five years after founding my company I had my first child. I had lots of plans and was sure I was going to cope just fine, but nothing could have prepared me for the reality of having a baby. It got hairy for a while. However I was determined to prove all the naysayers wrong and by hook or by crook I pushed through.  I was also determined to live up to my husband’s trust in me. So I guess that cloud had a silver lining after all.

Tell us about your FIRE journey – and motivation. What does FIRE mean to you? 

I am still not sure what will come after I achieve financial freedom.

What I know for sure is that I want to have more time to dedicate to my foundation. I set it up three years ago with the goal of helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds. As things stand we employ three counsellors who support children in a primary school in an area that has an above average rate of social problems.

This year we plan to take another step forward. Hopefully we will raise enough funds to employ a fourth counsellor who will sit in middle school. That way we will be able to continue offering the same support as the children grow.

So I guess that what I am after is the freedom to dedicate more time to projects I feel strongly about. If I am able to keep growing this project then I will be truly blessed.

What advice would you have for other women, and moms, on this path? 

Invest in a pair of earplugs. Do not listen to naysayers and do not waste any mental energy on them.

Have faith in yourself and pursue your dreams. If you want to become an entrepreneur go for it. Contrary to what many people say entrepreneurship is a family-friendly career choice J

Life is always full of opportunities and surprises and it is important to be open when these come along. I now look back on the last 20 years with a smile. I made many mistakes along the way but at the end of the day growth is always hard and it is impossible never to stumble. What is important is that when you do fall, you then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. That is what differentiates the winners from the losers. It’s not that winners never fail. Winners persevere until they finally find success.

Where can readers find you? 

I blog on www.smellingfreedom.com. At the moment I am pursuing an audacious goal of attaining full financial freedom for my family in 600 days – I want to have sufficient passive income to cover all our expenses and a hefty travel budget over and above that. The plan is based on building up dividends and rent from a number of properties (both commercial and residential) that I am currently converting.

I post daily updates and photos about progress made on this journey and I would be absolutely delighted if your readers joined me for the ride! Follow me on Twitter @SmellingFreedom, Facebook , or Pinterest for regular updates on the way to financial freedom.

CMO Here Again

Thanks so much to Mrs. Smelling Freedom for coming by to share her story! It’s great to see an awesome, amazing woman (and mom) working so hard towards financial freedom. And in only 600 days! I look forward to when I can say the same thing. 🙂

I hope you’ll leave a comment for her down below!

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7 thoughts on “Women on FIRE – Mrs. Smelling Freedom”

  1. That’s a cool story Mrs Smelling Freedom – I can’t believe the bank manager did that, such shocking behaviour that was so normalised at that time. And you’ve already set up a charity, and even have time to adopt rabbits? You are killing it, and will be at FI in no time!

  2. Awesome story! Congrats to all these achievements! And I saying this as fellow European, father, web developer. Kudos to you, have all my respect. That situation is so typical over here on the old continent. Sometimes it seems that being successful on an average level could be a piece of cake over the pond (which I know is not the case so don’t crucify me). So many things aren’t that easy to do just because of this type of nonsense reasons. Glad that you defeated the stereotypes and was able to chase and reach your dreams 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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