Interview: Grace Clapham on being present and taking motherhood one step at a time

Image credits: Grace Clapham

In Mumpreneur Series, we speak to mum entrepreneurs to find out the trials and tribulations of juggling family while running a business.

Agency owner, entrepreneur, mentor, mother – Grace Clapham wears many hats. As a self-described change agent and co-founder of The Change School, she helps people navigate pivotal moments in their life and career. As a new mum to a 10-month-old daughter, she lets her instincts guide her through her motherhood journey. The Australian-Indonesian, who’s called Asia home for 20 years, tells us about the need for more support for women entrepreneurs, splitting parenting duties with her husband and striving to be more present with her daughter.

How long have you been in Singapore?
I’ve been here on and off for 20 years. I moved here when I was five, going on six, and the last time I moved back was in 2009.

What do you do at The Change School?
The Change School is a lifestyle and learning brand for individuals who want a career or life change. We have tools for change and experiences for change. The tools for change are things like our physical change planner that we sell on Amazon. Our experiences for change range from retreats to online courses. We run a six-week online course on how to confidently make your bold career move. Our experiences also encompass programmes or retreats for people who are at a career or life crossroad.

You also run a boutique marketing and business agency called Agent Grace, co-organise Creative Mornings and mentor start-ups at Hub Singapore. How do you make time for yourself?
I wasn’t so good at making time for myself so it’s something that I’ve learnt to do. I learn things with other individuals so I’m not doing everything by myself. And I’m also better at setting boundaries, so I’m able to say, “These are the times I need for me”. So no calls [and] not as many meetings. I just really set a specific schedule and people just sort of have to work around that.

What’s a typical day like?
My day varies since I’ve had the little one, but at 6.30am or 7am, we’ll wake up, go for a walk, grab a coffee, come back and I’ll get ready to head into Trehaus. From there, I’ll have meetings or phone calls with the team or other partners or individuals I work with.

It sounds like a busy schedule, so what keeps you going?
Definitely my own internal drive and motivator; just wanting to do and create things and experiences for people that help them transform and have some sort of impact. The other is the people that I work and collaborate with. Not only those who come to us at The Change School or the women that I work with, but also my collaborators and my partners. But also just in general, seeing the transformation of someone who’s at a life and career crossroad, and we’re able to work with them through one of our experiences and tools. It’s life-changing for us too, so I think that’s what I get joy out of. And of course my family, but definitely on the work front, I love creating.

What does winning the Inspirational Leadership Award at the Global Talent Unleashed Awards in 2014 mean to you?
It’s a huge award to have won, especially coming from such amazing, recognised individuals like Sir Richard Branson and Steve Wozniak. I think it was recognition that I was doing things right, and it was also recognition because it was for communities as opposed to a profit-driven business. Seeing that and the impact that we were able to make on those communities was huge. It changed everything because of the work that I did and it continues to have impact on my day-to-day life, so I am very honoured to have won that award.

You also attended Sir Richard Branson’s entrepreneurship centre in Johannesburg. What was the experience like?
I’d never been to South Africa so it was a huge eye-opener for me. We were able to share and be on the ground with other entrepreneurs, learn from each other and share our knowledge with them, see the community and what they’re doing, and look at the progress they’ve achieved in a short period of time. It’s something I’ll remember for a long time.

Grace Clapham with her husband and daughter

While Singapore is one of the best places to be a female entrepreneur, there are still few women leaders. What do you think needs to be done to change this?
I think education, mentorship and guidance with other people. I think we need to have mentorship with both men and women. There’s a lot of women’s communities here already and instead of having more community-building initiatives, there needs to be more action-oriented, sustainable and tangible products and courses that can help level up and grow women leadership. There are amazing women’s communities here and I think they just need more support from each other.

How does the entrepreneurial culture in Singapore differ from say, Jakarta or Hong Kong?
There’s probably a little more grit in Indonesia because there is a lot more poverty there, so sometimes the entrepreneurial circles there are solving problems that we may not have in Singapore. I feel that in general, a lot of the places in this part of the world are at the same point in the ecosystem. Creativity-wise, there are a lot of copycats which is not a bad thing; it’s just what happens when you’re at the early stage of a start-up or entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Who are your role models?
Sir Richard Branson, definitely; I think he has done some amazing things, and also his lifestyle. For me, it’s about “How can you encompass your life by design?” I want to build a business I can continue for as long as I can – it’s my legacy and not something that I sell. Alain de Botton for the work that he does in inspiring my way of thought. I have so many different role models it’s hard to say… Brene Brown [for instance]. It really ranges across a variety of people.

What’s your parenting style like?
I’m probably more relaxed than most people. I’m still learning a lot of things. I’m reading up on respectful parenting, conscious parenting, but I’m trying not to take in too much information. I’m taking it step-by-step one day at a time and trying to go with my gut feeling as much as I can.

How do you divide parenting duties with your husband?
Right now we’re really lucky because my husband’s still in transition. We have a lot more time to divide the parenting duties. My husband always does bath time unless he’s got an event in the evenings. Sundays he takes her swimming and I have a bit of a morning session there myself. Saturdays we’re starting to implement another session where he can take her for a few hours. He was there for diaper duties for the first three months. He’s a pretty hands-on dad, probably one of the most hands-on dads I’ve seen.

What have you learnt since becoming a parent?
I’ve learnt how to be patient. That’s my biggest lesson. I am not patient at all. I think I’ve also learnt to be more present. One of my goals for 2018 is to be more present when I’m with my daughter, at least for a couple of times a day, versus being on my phone or on my computer.

What advice do you have for fellow mum entrepreneurs?
Getting a community. It takes a village to raise a child, and here in Singapore we’re lucky to have helpers, for those that do have helpers. There’s so much other support we need; mental, emotional… there’s so many different levels of support. How do you make that village for yourself as you build your business and then also raise your child? How is it a village that is able to respect what you want to do with your life, because sometimes society can put pressure on you and make you feel guilty for working instead of taking care of your child.

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