I met Alli Grant at a quiet café in the Brisbane suburbs. A working mother who juggles family life with her own business, Alli & Co., she apologised for being late because she’d just come from a Mother’s Day event at her son’s school. Upon first glance, she seems like one of those women straight out of a magazine, who has it all together.

But as I would soon discover, she’s been through a lot of struggles to get where she is today, and freely admits that she still struggles daily. “I’m not okay, you’re not okay–and that’s okay” is the message she wants to get out there, and that’s the basis of both The Swagger Project and their Feeling Fearless event (with The Collective’s Lisa Messenger in August).

She’s been around the block, starting off in a large Australasian PR agency doing consulting work with big consumer brands. But she burned out in her late twenties – her life was falling apart – so she packed up and moved to the Sunshine Coast (“As you do!” she says, laughing over her drink), where she worked for APN News and Media until she found the courage to strike out on her own.

What were your first steps after deciding to go it yourself?

…it made me realise how much we struggle with our vulnerabilitiesI did what I knew, which was mainly PR. Then I was asked by Profile Magazine to be their editor, where I worked for 5 years (and launched a second magazine in North Queensland). At Profile Magazine I did a lot of real, raw and honest features on women, and it made me realise how much we struggle with our vulnerabilities.

So my friend and business partner, Genine Howard, and I launched Alli and Genine, a business that was all about helping women with their issues. We published a book called Issues? What Issues? and marketed ourselves as “Chicks with Issues”. We produced magazines, wrote blogs, did a lot of public speaking, had a Queensland-wide radio show, and there was even talk of a national radio show.

I notice that your company is now called Alli & Co.

Last August, Genine felt that she had to change directions and turn her focus elsewhere. And I understand—she absolutely had to do what was right for her and her family. But it was a really hard time for me. We’d been working on this for 18 months, then it was all gone! I had to rebuild, yet again.

That must have been hard.

I wanted it to be about the movement towards cutting the bullshit, and admitting we’re all struggling.It was! I cried a lot (laughs). But it helped to have a very supportive husband, amazing women around me, and a supportive family as well. In the end it came down to a lot of self reflection and appreciating that I’d come so far. Believing it was worth it, and that the fight was worth it. So I had to pick myself up, dust myself off, and rebuild. It’s so important to me to now share my whole journey, both the highs and lows, and be the trailblazer.

After Genine left, I realised I didn’t want to do it alone. I also realised that I’d formed many amazing alliances and relationships along the way, with women who were experts in different areas—mindset, money, social media, and so on. I decided that I wanted Alli & Co. to be about the company I keep, than about me. I wanted it to be about the movement towards cutting the bullshit, and admitting we’re all struggling.

As women, we judge each other so harshly. I think it’s because we judge ourselves so harshly. The world we’re creating with The Swagger Project is one where you can share your issues – especially in business. We should be real, raw and honest and support each other—and realise that life is bloody hard.

So how did the Swagger Project come about?

You have to acknowledge that mindset and business are both intertwined.The idea of creating The Swagger Project was not to compete with anything out there, but to fill what I saw as a gap. So many women in small and micro-businesses either don’t know where to turn, or need guidance but don’t have the money for it. Most programs start in the thousands of dollars. So I asked myself, how do I bring all this knowledge down to the core level so women can afford it at $40 a week?

It was also important that the program’s content wasn’t just about business. You have to acknowledge that mindset and business are both intertwined. We not only focus on the mindset and life balance, but also technical skills. The goal is to build these women up to a level where they can afford the more expensive programs.

How did you form the team? What qualities were you looking for?

They had to be women who I already knew quite well through business, or women who had a really strong reputation. I looked at areas that needed to be covered and realised I already knew women who were experts in each of them. But what it came down to was my gut feeling. We started off with a coffee together, and now they’re all inseparable.

Feeling Fearless is The Swagger Project’s next big event—what’s it about?

There’s this thing I call “bullshit dominos”There’s this thing I call “bullshit dominos”. I’m dropping off my kid at school when I bump into another mother who asks how I am. Because she seems to have the perfect life, I bullshit about how I’m fine. She might be struggling, but she also says she has it together, because I did. And on it goes. As soon as one of us drops the façade, it makes it so much easier for everyone else to also share. That’s what the whole Alli and Co. world is about for us, and that’s what we want to start with Feeling Fearless.

I have very much seen the power of women dropping the façade in a safe environment. I saw Lisa Messenger (from The Collective Magazine) at an event in Brisbane —her talk wasn’t just about her successes, but a raw and brutally honest story about her challenges. It made me think we needed to do an event like that in Brisbane, but just for small and micro business women.

We have Lisa as our keynote speaker, and four of our awesome Swagger Expert Chicks will be speaking as well. If you come for the day (August 22nd), not only will you leave inspired, but with a lot of useful information you can put to use in your business or career to help you move forward.

Do you see these events becoming a regular thing?

I want to make them feel inspired, make them feel worthy. Eventually, I want to get a whole ton of women together a few times a year. I want to make them feel inspired, make them feel worthy. Alli and Co. isn’t an events or a networking company. We want to bring together all these women who are growing small and micro-businesses in their lounge rooms or studies, and remind them they’re not alone in their struggles. It’s about connecting online and in the real world, being inspired, learning some cool stuff, but most importantly feeling like you’re not alone – and you’re perfectly normal in your “issues”.

Finally, can you give all our readers two good reasons to come along to Feeling Fearless?

  1. Inspiration. Being in a room with like-minded women who are equally as scared, flawed, imperfect and terrified as each other – but not afraid to admit to that.
  2. Education. It’s not just all fluffy mindset stuff. You’ll leave with things you can get back to your own business, or even your career, and know that you can implement these things that will help you push through those fears and move forward in your business.

Feeling Fearless will be held in Brisbane on August 22nd, with the venue to be confirmed closer to the date. You can read more about The Swagger Project here, and pick up your tickets to Feeling Fearless here (you know you want to!)