Pashom | Inspirational journey with business owner Fiona Chadwick

October 27, 2015
Pashom | Inspirational journey with business owner Fiona Chadwick

"Invest in yourself…believe in yourself…trust yourself…love yourself", Fiona Chadwick, Pashom

We spoke with a remarkable business women Fiona Chadwick from Pashom, manufacturer and designer of quality felt toys and accessories made in Nepal and supporting fair trade.

Fiona takes us through her inspirational business journey, one she literally just feel into when she was teaching in Nepal 12 years ago. Fiona always had a love for art which was quickly reignited when she discovered the bright textiles in the Nepal markets.

For personal reasons Fiona had to make the decision to put everything into the business and help it grow. She has since built a strong foundation for her business and beautiful relationships with the artisans in Nepal. Read more as Fiona's takes us through her inspirational business and motherhood journey.

Pashom African Safari Set

Tell us about your business, how it started and why?

I started my business in 2002 after I spent 6 months living and working as a volunteer teacher in Nepal. I had always had a love for textiles and design and an interest in importing, and fell in love with the colour and quality of the handmade textiles in Nepal. I was desperate to escape the corporate jungle, so during the 6 months that I was in Nepal I started to connect with different producers and placing orders to take back with me to Australia. In the beginning I mainly focused on pashmina products and hand woven cotton bags, then a couple of years in I started designing my own products, focusing primarily on hand felted children’s toys and accessories. When I first started the business we sold our products only at local markets stalls and festivals throughout Sydney, then when I starting designing I took the plunge and exhibited at a retail Trade Show in Sydney, followed by another in Melbourne and that’s when things really took off! 8 years later we continue to exhibit twice a year through Life in Style Gift Fairs and now have over 100 retail stockists across Australia and NZ. In February 2016 we will be taking Pashom to the US market and exhibiting at a retail Gift Fair in New York City!!

What is your definition of success?

In relation to work, I believe success is finding your authentic soul purpose and doing your work with passion and commitment. It is having the courage to follow your dreams, do what you love, and in the process inspire others to do the same and also contributing to the wellbeing of others and the planet. On a personal level I think success is being authentically happy and living life in the spirit of love and gratitude every day.

What is your ‘why’?

I remember when I made the decision to live and work in Nepal for 6 months, a family member asked me why on earth I would want to live in a third world country surrounded by poverty and struggle. My answer was…"because who am I to bury my head in the sand, and who am I not to know what life is like for so many others in the world" I’m not sure where it comes from, but I feel an inherent responsibility and duty to help others less fortunate than myself and to do work that contributes to the wellbeing and abundance of others. I feel good about the work I do and I see first hand the difference it makes to others. I also get to be creative on a daily basis, and this is a wonderful gift.

Can you share a defining moment in your business journey?

Just over 3 years ago I faced a very difficult situation which nearly cost me my business and was a real defining moment for me that tested all of the values I had built my business upon. It came to my attention that the owner of the felt workshop I had been working with for 7 years had been unwisely investing money in the property market and had not been able to meet the repayments to the banks and was also not paying wages to the staff or money owed to wool suppliers and dyers. I was in Nepal on my annual trip to design for the upcoming Trade Show when I got wind of all this. After meeting with her she assured me that things would be OK and that she had sold some land and would be paying all her debts and wages within a couple of weeks. As I had enjoyed a close working relationship with her for so many years I felt compelled to give her the benefit of the doubt and trust her to repair the damage and do the right thing by her staff. We had a Trade Show in 4 weeks time and no samples, so I went back to Australia very anxious about the situation and worried about my artisans. Within a couple of weeks I was informed by someone internally that the situation had not improved, wages had still not been paid, and that the owner had fled the country to escape the debt collectors and authorities. Weeks away from a Trade Show I still had no samples and it looked like I was going to lose my producers, which without them, I didn’t have a business. So I booked myself a flight to Nepal the following day and headed back over to save my business and my artisans. I met with a wonderful woman named Anita, who had once been the assistant of the owner of the workshop. Anita had recently set up a small felting workshop and knew me and my business very well. She agreed to take on our business and worked with me day and night to complete the samples for the Trade Show. Three weeks later, now back in Australia, I got word that the banks had closed the doors on the previous workshop and seized everything inside, leaving all of our artisans out of work. Fortunately due to my actions weeks before I was able to take majority of them with me to the new workshop and we all still have a job! My artisans are the most beautiful, courageous, hard working and inspiring women I have ever met, and the level of commitment, love and loyalty we have for each other after this experience has gone to a whole other level! They are family to me now, and me to them, and I am so blessed to work with such amazing women who inspire me every day.

me and ladies

The moment I decided to go for it was?

Living and working in a third world country really changes your perception of reality and helped make it very clear to me what is really important in life. It helped me to see that I had no desire to live a conventional lifestyle, to work and strive for monetary and material gain and to feel like I needed to “achieve” in order to feel good about myself. I believe that if we really want something, we have to be prepared to take a risk and back ourselves. What’s the worst that can happen….we fail? So what… there’s wisdom in failure and there’s always a Plan B, so don’t let fear hold you back… just go for it!

What do you love most about your business?

As an artist, more than anything I love to see my ideas come to life. It is such a wonderful feeling to see the finished product and both myself and my artisans take great pleasure in this process. I also love after a successful Trade show, to be able to send big orders to my ladies and to hear their excitement and delight in knowing that they have 2-3 months of consistent work ahead of them. My work takes me back to Nepal every year which I love, and the freedom and flexibility of running my own business has allowed me to be a present mum to my 8 year old twins. I have never missed an important moment with them, and I love that they have been witness to my business growing and evolving over the years, and for them to have been exposed from such a young age, to the positive effects we can have on others lives. They are very conscious and aware of how fortunate they are, and how not everyone has the same opportunities in life.

Can you share some words of wisdom?

My all time favourite words of wisdom are from English poet Adam Lindsay Gordon who migrated to Australia in the early 1800’s…”Life is mostly froth and bubble, two things stand like stone. Kindness in another’s trouble, courage in your own”

When I am not working, my favourite thing to do is…

Get out in nature. I love the sun, the beach, open spaces and wildlife. I love mountains, the sea, adventure and exploration. If I didn’t need to work I would be more than happy to spend my life traversing the globe and immersing myself in the extraordinary beauty of nature.

Can you share a behind the scenes look at your workspace?

I have been working from home for the past 10 years, and although this has been wonderful and has allowed me to raise my children and work when I can, it has also meant I have been very isolated and often unproductive as I can easily get distracted. I have recently moved into an amazing shared work space inside a contemporary art gallery in the beachside suburb of Manly. I am so excited to be working alongside other artists and conscious entrepreneurs and am feeling so inspired and excited about the future of my business. I wish I had done it years ago!

Tell us about your family?

I am blessed with beautiful twin daughters Malie and Shanti and we live in a bright and breezy home by the beach in Sydney, with our much loved Golden Retriever Chewbacca.

What is your mantra for juggling family and work?

Breathe!!!!...and white wine!!! I am slowly learning to focus on one thing at a time, and understanding that women were not designed to multi task! Both things are very important, but my children need and deserve my total attention at times, so making quality time for them is paramount.

Pashom Fiona Chadwick

Best thing about being a mum is…

I get so much joy and pleasure from raising strong, courageous, spirited and conscious little humans! My girls are self assured, confident, kind and passionate and I love talking with them, discovering who they are and watching their beautiful hearts and minds evolve. Such a gift!

What has motherhood taught you?

That I still have much to learn! Just when you think you’ve got your “stuff” sorted…kids come along and show you EXACTLY where you’re at! They certainly are our greatest teachers.

How has life changed for you since becoming a mother?

It has changed everything. Suddenly you are no longer the most important person in your life, and this isn’t always an easy adjustment to make. The responsibility is enormous and there are challenges at every stage of the game. There are times I want to run away and jump on a plane and go explore a new country, or spend 3 months in India practicing yoga and meditation. I don’t have the freedom to be so spontaneous nowadays, but the joy of motherhood is the greatest gift and blessing in my life and the love I feel for them is beyond any I’ve ever known. My children are amazing and their uniqueness and beauty just blows my mind!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Up at 5am followed by a morning practice of yoga and meditation for 1 hour (I wish I could say every day, but I’m working on it!) The girls are up around 6.30-7 and it’s a bit of a boot camp getting everyone fed, dressed, homework done, lunches made and out the door by 9am. There is usually at least 1 tantrum or meltdown over something most days so it’s not an easy task! I then head off to work for 5-6 hours, and back to pick them up from school at 3.15pm. If we don’t have afternoon sport or activities organized we will generally head down to the beach or park for a play, then home to start on the evening routine. After the girls go to bed I will finish up any work required then read, or catch up with friends and family on the phone.

What is your best advice for keeping a work/life balance?

Focus. There is time for everything if you focus your full attention on the job at hand. We get so distracted and overwhelmed when we try to multitask and as a result never feel like we complete things or do things to the best of our ability. When you’re at work, work….and when you’re with your family, be with them! It’s that simple!

How do you achieve downtime? And what do you enjoy doing most in this time?

As I learn to be more productive with my time and focus on the task at hand, I’m finding that in my downtime I feel completely guilt free and give myself permission to do whatever I want. I love nothing more than a morning yoga class, followed by breakfast or lunch with a good friend, then the afternoon lazing at the beach, swimming and reading and dozing in the sunshine. On weekends with my children I love spending time with them in nature, or just playing at home painting, cooking and creating or cuddling on the couch together watching a movie.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself travelling the world with my daughters, continuing to expand Pashom, and also a beautiful new business that I am currently establishing, which will see me working with artisans in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is a very exciting project that will have far reaching effects for many so I am very excited about bringing it to life. It has also been a life-long dream of mine to buy land near the Byron Shire, and I see myself and my loved ones living on beautiful land beside the sea, growing our own vegetables, living sustainably and connecting with nature every day. My daughters will finally get their much desired horse and kitten!

Where do you get your inspiration?

Courage! Nothing inspires me more than people who reach beyond their limitations, do not allow themselves to be defined by their current circumstances and believe that they can achieve anything they set their mind to. We all have this potential, and it all starts with gratitude for what we do have, will to work hard for what we want and desire to be the greatest versions of ourselves.

What are your favourite instagram pages?

I have to admit that I’m not up with all the newest and greatest instagram pages as to date I’ve been too busy juggling work and family and don’t have a lot of spare time to browse. I desperately want to though as I know I will find so much new inspiration, so now that I’m in a more structured work environment, this will be a major priority for me.

List your favourite things.

My gorgeous daughters, Yoga, meditation and spiritual practices that put me in my heart, the ocean, good times with friends and family, travel, sunrises and sunsets, music, a good book, art, creativity and learning.

What are your favourite pieces in your home or workspace?

My plants. My home is filled with them and I love the peace and tranquility they bring to a space and the feeling of living in nature. Plants can instantly transform a space…they are so beautiful and I couldn’t live without them in my home.

What is your favourite room in your home and why?

I love my bedroom. I have created a beautiful private sanctuary filled with beautiful things I have collected from all over the world and from nature, and I feel so relaxed and at peace in this space.

Where are your favourite places to shop?

I love eclectic stores that are filled with treasures from all over the world….a mixture of old and new and anything boho! I am also in love with artistic florists that create beautiful, uplifting and inspiring spaces with nature and natural materials.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had told you when you were younger?

Love to learn! I developed this much later in life and now have a passion for learning, but I wish I had developed this when I was younger.

If you could go back in time what piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Invest in yourself…believe in yourself…trust yourself…love yourself.

Check out the full range of Pashom toys and accessories here