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Naomi Findlay the Renovation Queen

Jul 9, 2020 | Female Founders, Founder, Hunter Central Coast, New South Wales, Newcastle, Podcasts

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Today I’d like to share with you the story of Naomi Findlay. Naomi is a remarkably hard-working woman with a ridiculous amount of active projects, all of which aim to position her as Australia’s queen of property renovation and home styling. She has a digital video series, Renovie, hosted on Youtube with nearly two hundred episodes and approaching two thousand subscribers. She has a blog and hosts a weekly podcast, Reno Radio. She has appeared on TV shows including Channel 9’s Location Lifestyle Living and Channel 10’s The Home Team. She created an app, Rapid Reno Mate, designed to make home renovation a breeze. She has designed and runs courses and workshops to assist people in many facets of renovating, styling and selling their home. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! The list goes on and on.

Perhaps even more remarkable is that creating beautiful spaces was not the first career path Naomi chose for herself. In fact, Naomi is Dr Naomi Findlay PhD, and in a previous life worked for around 15 years in radiation oncology in Australia and around the world. To learn why Dr Findlay would completely overhaul her career in pursuit of a new life, first, we need to go back to day one, and hear the story of how two conversations with two mentor figures spaced a decade apart would end up sending Naomi down two very different paths.

Transcript

Naomi 

… When you love something so much…. You know, I have to work really hard on my money mindset, because I’m like, it is amazing that I get to earn a great income doing what I do, but at times, I’m like, (whispers) “Oh, I’d do it for free because I love it so much, you know?”

Adam 

Hi, and Welcome To Day One, the show for regional startups and the organisations that support them. I’m Adam Spencer, and today I’ll be sharing with you the story of Naomi Findlay.

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Naomi  

Hey, everyone. I’m Naomi Findlay. I am the founder of NaomiFindlay.com where I get the pleasure of creating amazing spaces, inspiring others to do it, and then teaching them how.

Adam 

Naomi is a remarkably hard working woman with a ridiculous amount of active projects, all of which aim to position her as Australia’s queen of property renovation and home styling. She has a digital video series, Renovie, hosted on Youtube with nearly two hundred episodes and approaching two thousand subscribers. She has a blog and hosts a weekly podcast, Reno Radio. She has appeared on TV shows including Channel 9’s Location Lifestyle Living and Channel 10’s The Home Team. She created an app, Rapid Reno Mate, designed to make home renovation a breeze. She has designed and runs courses and workshops to assist people in many facets of renovating, styling and selling their home. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! The list goes on and on.

Perhaps even more remarkable is that creating beautiful spaces was not the first career path Naomi chose for herself. In fact, Naomi is Dr Naomi Findlay PHD, and in a previous life worked for around 15 years in radiation oncology in Australia and around the world. To learn why Dr Findlay would completely overhaul her career in pursuit of a new life, first we need to go back to day one, and hear the story of how two conversations with two mentor figures spaced a decade apart would end up sending Naomi down two very different paths. 

At what point did you start to get attracted to the idea of beautiful spaces and creating those spaces around us?

Naomi 

If I’m totally frank with you, it was always there.

Adam 

Oh, really?

Naomi 

Yeah, it was always there. I was that kid that painted their furniture, that rearrange the Tupperware cupboard, that, you know. I was always like that and I was always really arty… Then in Year 11, I had a meeting with my career advisor, and he was a voluptuous, middle aged man. He literally said to me, “Naomi, I don’t know what you’re thinking. Smart girls like you don’t do art, they do science.” 

Adam  

Oh.

Naomi  

Then my HSC comprised of extended physics, extended chemistry, extended math, extended english, and then I ended up in a science career. 

Adam  

Isn’t that incredible? How-

Naomi  

One conversation, literally hey.

Adam  

Why did you, there might not be a good answer to this… but why do you think you listened to him?

Naomi  

I listened to him because I was a rule follower. I was bought up really conservatively. Really conservatively. My parents are absolute rock stars, hey. They’re salt of the earth blue collar workers, like they’re amazing…  Like I look back and I go, “Wow Mum, wow Dad, you smashed it. You did good.” 

… They taught me everything I know. So why did I listen? I think I listened because somewhere deep inside of me my really conservative upbringing was like, “That’s right. I am a really clever kid, and so I should use that. I should use the most of my talents”, and I guess I didn’t value my innate talent like I do now.

… I know it does not look like I’m a rule follower right now, where we’re sitting, but I was a crazy crazy rule follower at school. I did all the things that you know, Mom and Dad asked and I did well in my HSC. I went to school, studied medical science. Medical radiation science. Then I worked in radiation oncology, for around 15 years in Australia and around the world. I came back, you know, did the good girl stuff. Got married, had babies started my PhD, and then I went from working clinically to teaching at uni in Med Radiation Science. Then went, “Wow, I’m really young.” Like I remember being 28 and looking at all these Professors and Ass. Profs all around me and going, “They’re my next steps”, you know. As a senior lecturer, I was like, “Wow, my next step is Associate Professor. Will, I look like that when I become one?” It freaked me out. I was only, I think I was 28 or 29, at which point I remember having a really pivotal conversation with another lecturer. He used to call me Nomes. He goes, “Nomes, What do you want in life?” I went, “Oh my gosh”, John was his name. “John, all I want in life is I just want to create amazing spaces.” He looked at me and he went, “Well just go do it” and I’m like, “I can’t. I’m throwing away everything. Oh, my God, I studied so hard. What will my parents think? What will people think?” And then he went, “I can’t believe you care.” I went, “Oh.” And that started everything. I then studied design whilst I was still teaching, and then started up my own business and then as soon as I could afford to, I left one career and started another.

Adam  

How, important do you think that advice was from John, to say just do it?

Naomi  

Oh, it was epic. It was certainly epic. It was permission. You know, it was permission from someone I respected, someone who knew me well, and someone who interestingly on reflection, and I’ve never said or thought this before… But he was a very conservative man, similar to what my dad is. So if I think about it, it’s kind of like a younger version of my dad going, “Well, why not? You know, why not do it, you can do it, just go do it.” I guess that level of permission on a subconscious level is quite powerful.

Adam  

… so what was that next step, after that conversation with John?

Naomi 

So that next step was, because I am a rule follower going, “Cool, what do I need to do then?” What are the qualifications I need? What does that look like? 

… Where do I need to learn? What do I need to learn? What courses do I need to study? What do I need to put in place? How can I break down everything I’ve got on right now, plan it out and then rebuild a better version of me?

… (from earlier) How can I do that? How can I blend that with my… I had two kids at the time, and during that time when I was studying, I then became a single mum. So it was like, how do I blend that? 

Adam 

So at 28 John says go and do it. You-

Naomi 

Go and do it.

Adam 

… be very, you break everything down. Then you go and study design. 

Naomi 

Correct. 

Adam

Whilst being a single mum at the time?

Naomi 

Yes. 

Adam

And still working? 

Naomi

Lecturing, yeah. 

Adam 

… between him saying, “Go do it” and you making that transition to do it full time, what was the time span there?

Naomi 

Probably three or four years.

Adam 

Okay, and all that time you were still teaching?

Naomi 

Yep, 100%

Adam 

Okay, so how did you feel at that point in time? That seems like a lot.

Naomi 

It is, yeah. It is a lot. But you know, I do subscribe a little bit, sometimes to my detriment my close friends might say, that there is always enough time. There truly is always enough time. It is really how you picture time, you know, and how you manage it. Whether you fear it, whether you embrace it, there is always enough time. I don’t know if it was an Olympic motto once I don’t know, but I do believe that if there’s truly enough will there is always a way. Always.

Adam 

These are great audio snippets. Was it that degree, was that the only thing stopping you from… When you said about four years it took you to make that transition? 

Naomi 

Yep.

Adam

Was it having a degree the thing?

Naomi 

No, so I didn’t actually get a degree in design. I only got a diploma, which was one of my sticking points for my, in my head. I’m like, “Well, you have a PhD in Medical Science. You need a PhD in design.” You know, it’s been one of my biggest-

Adam

Really?

Naomi 

Yeah, it’s been a really interesting mind game for me. That for me to be really recognised and really successful, I need to, you know, be as traditionally and hierarchically recognised in this as I was in my previous field, which is quite an interesting kind of mind jump that I’ve given myself. 

Adam 

How do you feel about that now? 

Naomi 

It’s rubbish. 

Adam 

Okay. 

Naomi 

It’s rubbish. Part of it was for me, one of the challenges wasn’t just getting officially trained, which I, you know, you really need to be, but it was also… It was money and time. I couldn’t just walk away from a career that supported me and my kids. Then eventually my now husband, like I had to, you know, I had to work out how I could tier it off. I had to work out how I could start to build a business, as well as a nest egg, so I could taper off one, start the other and have a buffer. It was very much like a titrated process.

Adam 

Okay, how did you do that?

Naomi 

With a plan. Three plan?

Adam 

Okay, three year plan. Is this an actual, you sat down and wrote this plan out? 

Naomi

Yeah, absolutely. If it’s not written, it’s not real. 

Adam 

Okay. 

Naomi 

Yeah, I wrote it out. So these are the things I would need to do. Here would be the goals or key sort of elements that I’d need to achieve in the new business. This is how much money I’d need to save up to last me a certain amount of time where the new business got traction, and this is how I could taper off in the other.

Adam 

… How did you actually get your first customer?

Naomi 

Do you know what? My first ever customer, I remember the day that they called so randomly, because we all know how hard SEO is and being up on Google’s page. Randomly. I had a website up and I was driving out of my street and I reached the top of the hill and my phone rang, and I pulled over to answer it, and it was someone who randomly found my website, called me and asked me if I could do work for them. Random hey.

Adam 

Yeah. How much work had you done prior to that? How long had you been trying to get a customer, I suppose before that time, and what had you been doing? Like in terms of marketing? 

Naomi 

Not long. I hadn’t been trying for long.

Adam 

Right? 

Naomi 

Hadn’t been trying for long. And what had I been doing? 

Adam 

Yeah, like in terms of marketing?

Naomi 

At that point, very little.

Adam 

Right.

Naomi 

At that point, very, very little marketing. So I feel like it was kind of a universal intervention that gave me that kind of confidence, that reassurance, that sign that youre heading in the right direction, and just keep going. Yeah, because right then at that point in time, it wasn’t really a business at all yet- No. 

Adam

… because no one had given you money.  Yeah. Okay. So what… How did that conversation go? Like on the phone? Can you take us there? I want to tell that story.

Naomi 

There was lots of like foot banging, you know, in the car, going “Someone called!” Then there was an external dialogue and there was an internal dialogue without doubt. So the internal dialogue was like, “What do I say What do I say? What do I say? What am I meant to say?” and there was internal dialogue at that time, to be honest of, “This isn’t me, I’m not this. I can’t do this” because I had been in the one profession, doing the one thing since I left school. That’s a really long time. The external dialogue went, “I need a hand with my property. I saw your services on the internet.” and I was like, “Great, you know, what sort of assistance do you need? Tell me more about the job.” They’re like, “Look, we’ve looked at your packages. We think this one’s a good one for us.” I’m like, “Fantastic. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Fantastic. When would you like me to visit site?”

Adam 

Okay, and so then it was just a case of you know-

Naomi

It just rolled.

Adam

… yeah, you still… You just keep working at Uni your-

Naomi

I keep working late at night. I work on weekends. 

Adam

… yeah.

Naomi

Absolutely. 

Adam

And people, the calls are just coming in through phone or through email for people finding you on-

Naomi

They were just coming in through email, generally, so I’d get home at night or have an afternoon, and I’d clock on to my other self. So I’d take my lecturer hat off and I’d put my designer hat on and I clock on and off, I’d go.

Adam

After four years of balancing her old career and her new one, Naomi was finally in a position to commit to her new life full time. She has remained committed to her new direction ever since, though her career trajectory has been anything but a straight line, with lots of twists and turns and pivots and new projects along the way. 

Naomi

… Mum struggles now. People say to Mom, “What’s Naomi doing now?” and she’ll go, “I don’t really know. You know, I don’t really know.”

Adam

When people come to you, or people ask you at a party, like what do you do? What do you, how do you answer them?

Naomi

It’s so interesting, because it’s a bit like my mum. At times I’ve struggled, and that’s because what… I am a designer and I am a stylist. I am a renovator and I, you know, speak I present, I teach I train. I do lots of things and from 10 years ago to now, my business has had so many pivots and so, so many changes. In the same space, but pivoting and changing, and pivoting and changing, based on market needs, based on market climate, based on what I thought I wanted, and then I achieved and went, “Oh, no, that’s not what I want, I want to pivot again.” I find my business journey, it is definitely a trajectory. But in the middle of it, there’s like, multiple, multiple, like dozens of tiny pivots, like brand new little startups inside, a new direction, a new twist. So if someone asked me right now, what do you do? I create amazing spaces. I help others do so, I inspire others to do so, and I teach others to do so. That’s what I do. 

Adam

One of Naomi’s many ventures is a digital video series, Renovie, in which viewers can catch a behind the scenes glimpse of Naomi and her team working on all kinds of renovation projects. 

Naomi

The motivation behind Renovie was that I truly believe as you know, that we can all renovate our life. Like we can renovate life by renovating the spaces around us. There’s so much that I do as part of my everyday world that can help teach and inspire others to do so. Whether it’s dyeing your tea towels for a new season, whether it’s creating a garden wall, whether it’s knocking down the back, like we’re going to be at this office. Whatever it is, it’s a level of renovating life… We’ve been doing it for quite a few years now.

Adam

Has been really good for the business? Has it been helping bring… What is the goal of it, it’s to bring in new customers right?

Naomi

Well, the goal of it is brand awareness. For me everything’s about know, like and trust. 

Naomi

… And some clients will come to me because they would have heard me speak or they would have watched one of my videos where I mention the impact of space, or they might see one of the rooms that I’ve renovated and feel that. They feel that impact, like it’s a tangible feeling that you get as a physical, physiological change in your body that you feel. It’s like when you drive up to the beach and you see the waves crash, you get a surge, and when you create truly amazing spaces that your audience or your clients can connect to, they get that surge, you know…

Adam

What are the plans? Do you feel good with where you’re at today, or are your ambitions much much, much grander?

Naomi

They’re much, much, much grander. 

Adam

Good answer.

Naomi

Without doubt. Like they’re big. Scary big sometimes.

Adam

Do you  want to talk about it?

Naomi

Do I want to talk about it? Well, I once had a really wise man tell me that when you share your visions, it’s a level of accountability. My visions for my business are big and exciting. I made a commitment 12 months ago to only do what I love in business. So it really has twisted and pivoted my trajectory. 12 months ago, I went regardless of whether I mean income or not I will only do things I love. I spent 12 months doing that and loved it, and the energy and vibe I had for business after that eight year mark (where you can get a bit itchy feet-y) was amazing. So my focus now is like, “Right, how am I going to monetize that? How am I going to create a business that will let me continue to do that for another decade, just what I love?” So I have, yeah, I have huge plans, I am going to continue to grow and develop the Weathered to Wonderful and Farms to Fortune brand, which is all about helping people look at what they already have, and how to bring life and love and happiness to that, as well as helping our regional communities take a lot of their buildings and outhouses and old halls through looking at it with the right lens from what might be derelict to income generating. So that’s one big goal. The other big goal is to take my textiles and homewares range to hotels all through Asia.

Adam

You’ve got a lot of different… There’s lots of projects.

Naomi

Yeah, I love a project and I love projects that make people feel good.

Adam 

Is there anything that you want to talk about that’s important that we haven’t touched on? We probably haven’t touched on a lot because there’s a lot going on.

Naomi 

Because I talk a lot? 

Adam 

No, no, no. You’ve got a lot going on in your business, and as much as I’d love to cover it, it would a little bit, take about six hours probably.

Naomi

Yeah, look, I think in work, in life, in home, in workplace, in properties you own, be brave enough to believe you deserve and can have a beautiful environment that is perfectly imperfect for you. I think that’s my big thing. It’s not about Instagram perfection. It is about what is perfectly imperfect for you. And when you have that space around you, when you surround yourself in that environment that fills your cup, that empties your stress cup when you need it, that increases your creativity and your productivity. That is when you are supporting yourself to be as in flow as possible. And if you can’t do it, there are people all around the country that can help you.

Adam

A huge thank you to Naomi Findlay for taking the time to speak with me. 

You can see the full, enormous list of all of Naomi’s projects on her website, Naomi Findlay dot com.

This episode was produced by me, Adam Spencer, and edited by Andy Jones.

Music by Lee Rosevere, full attribution on the welcome to day one website.

If you’d like to support this show, please consider leaving us a review or supporting us on Patreon.

A big thank you to some of our existing patrons Brian Hill, Murray Hurps and Pat O’Flaherty, your support really helps to make these stories possible. Thank you.

I’m Adam Spencer, thanks for listening.

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Credits

A big thank you to Naomi Findlay for taking the time to sit down with Welcome to Day One to tell her story.