Tina Tower: a life less ordinary

At Leaders in Heels, we love nothing more than interviewing inspiring women who are willing to share their passion, knowledge and expertise with our readers. With two businesses, a degree, a national franchise network and two children under her belt by the age of 30, we can all agree that Tina Tower has plenty to share!

Tina credits her achievements to a massive desire to achieve and live a life less ordinary. After seeing her father sick with cancer at a young age, Tina is acutely aware that life is short, and strongly urges everyone to make it count and do something great with their life.

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After working a few jobs to pay her way through Uni, Tina opened her first business, Reach Education Centre in November 2004 when she was 24 years old. She admits wondering: how hard can it be?! Two years later, Tina graduated and threw herself into the business. Tina admits that the business was big, laborious and badly leveraged!

With her trademark grit and determination, Tina preserved with the business – selling toys, tutoring and running birthday parties and arts and craft sessions. It wasn’t until a large toyshop opened down the street that everything turned sour. The owner of the toyshop called Tina prior to opening, telling her to close her doors now, before they put her out of business. Reach lasted two years after this before closing down.

Luckily for Tina, bigger and better things were in store. At the Centre, she had developed Begin Bright, a program to help build children’s reading ability and confidence. She had the idea to do school readiness courses, something that hadn’t previously been done in Australia. Soon the course licensed at 50 locations across Australia.

Like many businesses, growth presented a range of challenges for Tina. Under the license, Tina wasn’t able to give business advice – which was a challenge with her experience in the tutoring industry. Licensees also couldn’t use the Begin Bright name.

We looked at either accepting that people would do what they want, and we would have to bite our tongues… or we would have to franchise.

Tina admits that franchising is tough! But with her goal to have thousands of students around Australia completing the program, it was the only way to build the business properly.

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I was really close to walking away. I was doing everything by myself for the first two years; it is only in the last 18 months where I started to get help.

Thinking of franchising? Tina recommends:

  • Filling the gaps in your own knowledge with a board of advisers: Whilst Tina likes to think that what she lacks in experience she makes up for in general enthusiasm, she strongly recommends building a board of trusted advisers. Tina’s board members have all been in franchising for around 20 years and she admits: there is no replacement for knowledge that comes over time!
  • Using a business planner to help break down your goals. Begin Bright has five-year plans, right down to weekly action items. “It is not so much a pie in the sky dream these days – we are taking tangible action steps which will actually get us to where we want to be.”
  • Surrounding yourself with the right people. Starting a business can be lonely; people always see the glamorous parts but often miss the hard work and challenges. Make sure you have people around you to build you back up.

What about Tina’s advice for other women who are starting a family and a business?

Tina admits that she has never known any other way, having only ever been self-employed! After having her two boys, Tina strapped them in the sling and took them back to work!

When it is your own business, you are in the drivers seat. You are in charge of your own life. Gone are the days where you have to choose family or work; I have my dog next to me at the office, my kids have a desk at the office for their important work, whenever there is a school assembly or play I’m there. I know you can’t always do this in a conventional job, but with your own business you are building something for your family.

Tina’s final piece of advice? “Go and do it!”