Welcome back to another instalment of The Everyday Gal interview series. This month I was stoked to catch up with Madi Gleeson – whimsical writer, social media guru and owner of cheese platter and grazing table business, I AM BOARD. Madi chats all things business, Bali and everything in between.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself…
Well, most importantly I’m on the Leo-Virgo cusp so I have a bit of a split personality. If I’m not out with friends getting wild you’ll generally find me at home cruising, sending emails or planning social content. I’m an introverted extrovert. I’m a walking contradiction, I like my own space but also like to be the centre of attention, but I thrive when I’m working hard out of the spotlight. I live by the moon but regularly make decisions with my head over my heart.
Your writing is none short than captivating and you are full of knowledge and wisdom – is an ebook on the cards anytime soon? Because I am all for it!
Thank you! I’ve had on my mind that I definitely want to write a book/e-book for a really long time. I wrote my first manuscript when I was about 11 and then printed it out and put it in officeworks plastic pockets and handed it out to my friends. It’s definitely something I want to do, but for now my focus is just on I AM BOARD and channelling as much energy in that direction as possible.
How is 2018 shaping up for you?
2018 has been wild. It’s been super busy with so much happening for I AM BOARD. On a personal level I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’ve been investing time in really good people and I’m seeing the results of that show in the work that I’m putting out. It has far exceeded my expectations with I AM BOARD and I’m just loving what I’m doing.
What’s it like living in Melbourne compared to other places in Aus, such as the Gold Coast or Byron?
Melbourne is a completely different space to the Coast. Living around Coolangatta and Byron I was always surrounded by inspiring people and places. Everyday was early morning walks and sunset strolls along the beach. Melbourne is super fast paced and you have to be on your A game or you can really get eaten up. We move faster, talk faster and live faster down here, everyone is in a rush. But I feel really lucky to be able to bring that coastal element into my lifestyle here. I still try to take at least 20 minutes every day to reconnect with myself and how I’m feeling / what I need. Otherwise I know that I would just get into that grind and be miserable. I definitely feel like owning my own business gives me the freedom to take that time. Melbourne is a beautiful place with so much culture and colour. I love that every day you can find something new and every night you can eat a different cuisine from a different restaurant. It’s a cultural melting pot and that helps to keep me inspired when I don’t have the ocean.
Best piece of advice you were ever given?
Negative thoughts can control your life and impact everything around you – but so can positive thoughts, and you choose which one you’re going to give power to. My Dad told me that when I was going through a period of really bad anxiety and it changed the way I think and act completely. I now don’t bother to waste too much energy on negative thoughts but really focus on the positives.
You traveled to Bali recently – how was the island experience and how did you find leaving your new baby back in Melbs (I AM BOARD)?
I love Bali! My parents live there and it feels like going home in a sense! I was there with my best friend Chiara as well so we had heaps of fun! I was living on Island time, my phone was surviving on 3% battery for most of the trip and wasn’t high on my priority list. I cruised through the two weeks balancing my time between seeing healers and drinking margaritas. The down time was absolutely necessary to reconnect with my parents and closest friends.
I was totally fine about leaving I AM BOARD, I had my team in Melbourne that I had complete faith in and they nailed it. I’ve found that when you trust people you empower them to do their best and I placed 100% trust in the Girls during that time. The first BOARD they did while I was away I was actually on the flight to Bali so there was nothing I could do. I had no choice but to believe that they could do it and they did!
What is home to you?
Home is wherever I feel most at ease. I feel as much at home in my apartment in St Kilda East as I do floating in the ocean at Wategos or sitting by the pool chatting to Mum and Dad in Bali. It’s when I’m around my inner sanctum, when I feel strong, brave and empowered. That’s home.
You’ve recently launched the enigma that is I AM BOARD (congrats by the way!), how are you finding running your own business and what does life look/feel like nowadays?
Thank you! I bloody love it. I love every single exhausting day of it. Life is exciting and full of passion and creativity. Owning my own business has given me the power to give everything a go. Life is definitely different, I never realised how little sleep I needed! I try to spend as much quality time as I can with my nearest and dearest to keep me grounded, when it all gets a bit much I reach out and they catch me. Life is busier but I have such a sense of purpose. I have a lot of people that I’m accountable to now and I love the responsibility.
What inspired/led you to start I AM BOARD?
I essentially grew up in a catering company which my Mum’s best friend owned for 24 years and my Mum worked in for 20 years. I used to fake being sick so I could go spend the day in the kitchen with them. I’m a shit cook but I love eating food and feeding people – cheese boards and grazing tables was a great way to that without burning cereal. I love the aesthetic of the BOARDS and that was a space I was familiar with, after thinking about it for over a year I just finally decided to do it. I did a BOARD for my friend Bridget and she was really supportive and encouraging which I think gave me the confidence to take the leap.
What goes on during a typical day at I AM BOARD?
Because it’s early days, every day is different! Most days I wake up around 7am (if we don’t have BOARDS earlier) and I will check emails and social media before hitting the markets. Once I get to the markets I source all of our produce from the deli, fruit shop and nut shop – it’s my favourite part of the day! I grew up in the South Melbourne market where the catering company I mentioned earlier was based and I love the familiar faces. Then, we have a commercial kitchen where everything gets prepared to go out for the day. I’ll do lots of the prep on my own or with one of our team. Then we head out to create the BOARDS! We will have anywhere between just me or 6 team members on any given day. I always try to make an appearance at every board, not because I’m a control freak, but because I want every client to know that we are a small operation and I genuinely care. I’ll help out with the initial set up before shooting off in the van to the next BOARD or to deliver a box. We set up the boards and get all of the social content then once everyone has headed home for the day I will go through and post on our socials, maybe while sipping a wine.. depending on the day. There’s a lot more prep and cleaning that goes into it than people realise, for how great they end up looking it’s really not that glamorous. We get our hands dirty, but it’s all worth it. That’s what a usual day looks like, maybe a Monday morning will involve a bit more sitting at cafes doing a bit of admin, replying to emails while we are not so busy. But mostly, it’s pretty go, go, go!
You’re quite the social media wiz – what tips do you have for young business owners wanting to launch on Instagram?
Thank you! Social media definitely comes naturally to me as a writer or storyteller. I want to bring people into I AM BOARD and so I use Instagram to do that. My advice would be…
- Content is king – sharp, in focus, beautifully edited photos make up the foundation of a great social media profile. But the other 50% is creating captions that engage your audience and tell your story.
- Understand the difference between Stories and posts – Some stuff makes fantastic insta story content, but does not belong on your profile and vice versa. Use stories to show more of the down and dirty behind the scenes, really let the personality behind your brand show through. Your profile should be clean and consistent.
- Engage! – If people are going to the effort to ask you questions, send you DM’s or tell you they love your work, give them the courtesy of a reply or like. I give myself a few minutes at the end of every day to do this – sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes 5 minutes… but sometimes it leads to an order, so it’s time well spent.
Have you made any mistakes thus far in your business and how do you approach setbacks?
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, I’m very much human!
Every set back in a new opportunity. An opportunity to learn and grow and sometimes even laugh. You have to have a sense of humour in business, otherwise you will go nuts. Mistakes do happen, we are only human but I always try to assess why something happened, how it could have been prevented and what processes can be put in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The same mistake twice isn’t funny but the first time I try to let it slide. The business is young and it’s learning to crawl, I know we have to walk before we can run and for now I’m happy to fall a few times if it means we can run faster when we finally do.
You studied journalism at uni – did you find the course beneficial and how have those skill helped you shape the brand identity of BOARD?
I did! It taught me the value of storytelling and it taught me how to communicate effectively. These have both helped when I’m doing anything with marketing, PR or sales. I studied at Bond University and I was really lucky that they had so many elements of design, social media and video content creation incorporated into the journalism degree. I left uni feeling like a Jack (or Jill) or many trades which has given me the confidence to give anything a shot.
What’s it like owning a business as a 20-something?
It’s interesting. I have friends that are still at uni or that are working in grad positions. They work 9-5 and then want to party all weekend or go for dinner at short notice. I’m lucky to have a flexible inner sanctum who respect the fact that I need to have plans scheduled in. Sometimes I look at my friends and think, yeah it would be cool if I could go out on a Friday and come home at 11am the next day. But the sacrifice is worth it. I make my own hours, I do everything I need to do, I can factor in time for myself every day and I’m empowered to take charge of my own life. I don’t need to let loose on the weekends because I honestly enjoy what I do every day. I believe that the grass is greener where you water it and I chose this and I choose to water the grass every day.
Are you open to mentoring/coaching other young entrepreneurs in the future?
Absolutely! Once I’ve got more experience and knowledge under my belt I absolutely want to share it with others! I’m so lucky to have so many amazing mentors in my life for business and personal life, I swear by them. I have one of my Dad’s best mates who I’ve sought spiritual guidance from almost my whole life, I have Sandie who owned a catering company for 24 years who mentors me in business and I even have a friend Kate who is on our I AM BOARD team, she’s younger than me but she mentors me in so many ways. The way she handles setbacks and the drive and determination she has always inspires me and if I feel like I’m getting down on something I will go to her for advice. I think we can learn a lot from people younger than us. I 100% believe in the benefits of mentoring and coaching and I would definitely love to move into that space.
Coffee order? Kombucha! I don’t drink coffee, I know *sacrilege*, I swear by The Bucha of Byron for my kick in the morning.
Fave coffee shops/cafes in Melbourne? Las Chicas in Balaclava is my local, but I also love Top Paddock and Proper and Son.
Go to outfit? Linen. A linen dress belted at the waist or a linen shirt with my Levi’s!
Ideal Sunday? A little bit of work and then getting into nature. Going for a long drive into the country, horse riding or hiking.
Next travel destination? California, I hope!
Proudest moment? Doing a BOARD for a complete stranger for the first time, it was the first time I felt like I AM BOARD was really going to work!
Current soundtrack? Paul Simon’s Graceland – or any of Mitch White’s Spotify playlists!
Favourite board? THE GIRLS! It was inspired by nights with my best friends and I love seeing it used in the same way!
Any podcast/book recommendations? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Always.
But in the last 12 months the books that have the most significant impact on me are The way of the peaceful warrior and sacred journey of the peaceful warrior which were recommended to me a mentor. The Originals is great as well. I listen to Garance Doré’s podcast, Pardon My French, whenever I’m on a plane and they inspire me SO much.
All images are Madi’s own.
For more images and business chats, head to Madi’s instagram.