After working too hard put her in hospital, Startup Victoria's CEO created a hotline to help founders

Georgia Beattie, CEO of Startup Victoria. Photo: Pause Fest/ Facebook.

Georgia Beattie is a passionate, brightly-dressed poster child for the Australian startup industry.

Fast-speaking, and sparking with ideas, she has firsthand experience as a founder to help her steer the ship at Startup Victoria, a nonprofit organisation established to support the state’s startup ecosystem. She became its CEO of eight months ago.

Before taking on the role, while working for her own startup, Single Serve Packaging — a packaging solution that offers a ready to drink glass of wine — Beattie ended up in hospital after burning out.

While it was a wake-up call, the experience ultimately inspired the idea behind a new initiative now being trialed by the startup organisation: a hotline to help other entrepreneurs.

“Before I became the CEO of Startup Victoria, I founded, accelerated, and exited Single Serve Packaging, also known as Beattie Wines,” she said.

“At the end of my journey with Single Serve I felt ready but to be honest it was the first time I enjoyed a good night’s sleep in a little while.

“In my reflection on my journey, if I was to do it again I would do it in a completely different way. Why? Two reasons: firstly, the vision of single serve was the perfect sip of wine. Yet once I scaled, the volume of plastic we used in our packaging troubled me.

“Secondly, in talking to other entrepreneurs, it was clear we all faced very similar problems. There was a lack of organised help to ensure that our creative ideas would succeed and scale. We ran into problems that could have been resolved if we’d been working with others.”

“It doesn’t matter how good the business is, if I’m not running it, and healthy, then I’ve got nothing.”

Even studying entrepreneurship while at Babson College in Boston couldn’t prepare her for the hardest lesson of business: health first.

“The biggest thing that I learned was how to write myself in as an asset and keep myself not stressed and … healthy and mental health, physical health, all of those things,” she said.

“I’ve made the mistake, I’ve completely ran myself into the ground, to the point where I was running my business in a hospital.

“I was like ‘Oh, this isn’t right. I’d better change something.’

“I had a stomach problem. I just completely stretched myself out and it manifested in physical disease. It forced me to take those learnings and completely change the way I had done my business.

“It doesn’t matter how good the business is, if I’m not running it, and healthy, then I’ve got nothing.”

She said while everybody requires different levels of fuel for their body, it is important that you find your balance and stick to it.

“It was when we were expanding overseas, so I was travelling a lot. Which does strain your body,” she said. “You need to be really regimented in the way you treat yourself with your exercise regime, sleep — sleep’s a critical one for me.

“Everyone’s different, but you’ve just got to work out what it is for the best case scenario today and try to stick to it. You’ll go in and out of a pattern but at least you know where the benchmark is so if you want the most out of yourself, this is what you have to do.”

Photo: iStock.

With this hardship in mind, and the lack of support in Australia for founders, one of her first tasks at Startup Victoria has been to trial the help hotline.

“What we’re actually bringing together at the moment is a phone line… so you’ve got mentoring on the phone,” she said, adding that Beyond Blue may be a partner in the initiative.

“You can say, ‘I’ve no idea how I’m gonna make salaries this month.’ Or you can say, ‘Do you know of any co-working spaces in Melbourne?’ Or whatever it is.

“We can have a PDF and we can have a look at it or we can make it searchable and people can call up and say, ‘Hey, this is what I need from the startup community. Can you help us?’

“That’s something that we’re doing a trial on.”

She says it will also help with the times in business when you doubt yourself, or are over-complicating a situation.

“So, it’s just bringing you back up. (To say) ‘Actually it’s not so bad, I’m gonna get through this. Let’s just work out what I need to do in the next hour and the next day, the next week, the next month.’

“(That’s) what I’m hoping this phone line will be useful for. When you’re super stressed.”

*The writer traveled to Melbourne as a guest of Pause Fest.

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