As women, mothers, carers, entrepreneurs, and career women we wear many hats each day. The mental and emotional drain this places on us is huge! Which is why it’s so important that we have our tribe and communities for support and love.

Recently, I connected with the amazing Hollie from ZZ Totz. Hollie went from career woman to new mother to a mental health ward for severe anxiety, before taking hold of her life, choosing her family over anxiety, and creating her own business. In this tribe talk, Hollie shares her journey and the lessons she has learned along the way!

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m founder of ZZ Totz. I design and manufacture make-it-yourself Paper Puppet Kits for kids. My tribe is made up of my hubby Matty and two kids, Zoe (10) & Zac (8) – the ZZ of ZZ Totz.

I’m a middle kid, creative soul, and empath – a curious creature who loves learning and creating new things, meeting new people and hearing their stories. I love seeing people doing what they love and love helping them achieve this in any way I can. This is the main reason I started ZZ Totz, to give kids (big & little) an avenue to get creative, use their imagination and play (without a screen in sight) and give parents/ carers an avenue to play and connect with their kids. I want kids to experience the excitement creation can bring.

Creativity to me is more than the end product. I believe it’s also about connection and self-expression and I want to share this experience with as many people as I can.

What was the moment that made you decide to stop living life the way you were and start chasing your dreams?

It would have to be sitting in the Western Mother Baby mental health ward in 2010 where I’d been for a few weeks, suffering severe anxiety. I had to make a decision if I was ready to leave or not. So, I made a pros and cons list for staying or going. On it, I listed all the things that were special to me and made me get up every day:  my husband, my kids, my family and exploring my creativity.

I had started creating puppets in the hospital ward to play with my daughter when she visited. I wanted her to “tune out” to the fact that we were in a hospital, and have an activity we could connect over. As a gift, my brother had put together a blog/website for the puppets and it was the curiosity of what this could turn into that re-lit my creative spark.
In October 2008 I had lost my job in sales and marketing when the GFC hit. I was pregnant with my second child so saw it as a blessing – I could go home, put my trackies on and have morning sickness on the couch instead of in peak hour traffic. When my son arrived, I didn’t want to put my two kids in daycare before sun up and picking them up at sundown. I really didn’t know what I was going to do so got on with being a stay at home mum.

I love my children, but not having a creative outlet my light slowly faded and led to admission to the ward. Nothing like a mental breakdown to remind you of what happens when you don’t listen to what sets your soul on fire. This is the reason I do what I do. To provide an avenue for play and connection other parents/carers may be looking for.

How would you describe your typical day? How does it differ from how life used to be?

There’s no real typical day. Usually, work kicks off for me around 10 am. The mornings are reserved for being a mum – school run, housework etc. I have breaky and a cuppa in peace after drop off then head to my studio (at the front of my house). I spend the day designing, connecting with people & playing with new characters. In no time it’s time to leave and pick up the kids.

After school time is for the kids – playing, homework, dinner etc. Then I’m back into the studio around 8 pm. This is the time I feel in flow and love. I can work away for hours – something about the still of night sparks my creativity. I get distracted during the day. I’m not good with the whole 9-5 thing. So this breakup of the day is what I love about working for myself and being on my own schedule.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I’ve got two:
Do you – do it your way! Don’t worry about if it looks different to everyone else’s – it should if you’ve done it your way. My brother Troy is a great reminder to me of this. I have a little saying, I must ‘Hollify it’. When I’m getting stuck with something, it’s usually because I’m playing around with how it should look in others eyes instead of how I really want it.

Done is better than perfect – this has become my mantra. I can edit things and play the ‘what if’ game until the cows come home, procrastinate and not finish things. This is printed out and stuck on my screen as a reminder that perfection is an endless game.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far on your journey?

Stand strong with your vision – for personal and business life – if you are being pulled in all directions by other opinions or listen to all the ‘shoulds’ being thrown at you you’ll never achieve what is setting your heart on fire.

Follow your gut – only you can truly see the picture you’re trying to paint so hold tight and stay strong. For me, this is my family and my business. I absolutely love being a mum, it’s hard work. But seeing my babies grow, learn and do things that ignite them is truly the best thing ever.

My business allows me to follow my passions and curiosities. I love the continual learning of business life. I want to show my kids that you can follow your dreams. I’m very aware they are watching me and this spurs me on. My day and business look totally different to others but I love it!

Have you always had a tribe? If not, what made you change from going it solo to connecting with your tribe?

I’m lucky to say I have a few different ones for personal and business as community ignites me. I love chatting with others with similar passions and sharing stories. Hearing ‘me too’ fixes everything sometimes.

And lastly, what’s important for you in your tribe?

True connection – honesty, sharing, support, and respect.

To find out more…

If you or someone you know is dealing with mental health issues and needs support or guidance you can contact Beyond Blue in Australia.

PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia also supports women, men, and families across Australia to recover from post and antenatal depression. Please know that you are not alone in your journey.

Thank you to Hollie for sharing her very personal and relatable experience of life with anxiety. To find out more about the ZZTotz puppets you can find also find ZZTotz on Facebook or Instagram.

Share This