"I went back to university at the age of 45 with the aim of finishing my degree part-time before I turn 50 – and I’m well on my way to achieving that. At the time, I had no clear career goals and thought I’d end up going down the path of the not-for-profit sector, as this is what I’d done in a previous life. But things changed along the way, and my university journey has changed along with it.
"The idea for Bagsablaze occurred on an unexpected trip to South Africa in 2014. My father fell on his way to visit us in Australia, and ended up in hospital in Singapore. I had to hop on a flight with two hours’ notice and ended up away from home in Singapore and then South Africa for close to five weeks. I was halfway through the session and had registered for three subjects, so my husband couriered my laptop and 11kg of books to Singapore and I carried on my studies from my father’s hospital room, and then from his home while I nursed and rehabilitated him in South Africa. The studying actually helped to keep me focused and occupied whilst away from home for so long. The online lectures happened in the middle of the night, which wasn’t great, but I managed three distinctions that session. Because I was an online student, it was easy to log in and keep up with the work while all of the drama was going on around me.
"On my last night in South Africa I went out with friends, but at the end of the evening found myself hunting for car keys at the bottom of my bag in a very dark and deserted car park. The next day I remembered thinking that a handbag light would be great, so I searched online for one, but came up empty-handed. On the flight home I spent some time developing my idea... Bagsablaze!
"And so the journey began, designing the product, patenting it, working out its viability and all of the thousands of other considerations. Through all of this I kept studying and slowly my degree developed into something that was more around managing my own business and the manufacture process than the not-for-profit sector. The electives in the course allowed me a great amount of flexibility in being able to pick and choose what interested me and what I thought would come in useful for my journey.
"I launched an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, which was a huge learning curve, and again allowed me to put into practice some of what I’ve learned. I’m now doing things I would not have considered a few years ago, such as public speaking engagements, radio interviews and general spruiking of my product.
"I also have a part-time job working for a small marketing company. They’re all about strategy, and are happy with me applying ideas from what I’ve studied to their business. A great win-win situation!
"When I’m not working or ‘Bagsablazing’, I’m taking care of a husband, two teenage daughters and two dogs. And I like to keep active so it’s exercise six days a week training for triathlons and adventure races.
"I’m four subjects away from finishing my degree! I do wonder what I’m going to do with the extra time when my degree is over. A Masters, possibly?"