Founder of a wealth management firm, president of the Southside Chamber of Commerce, the Brisbanite speaks of how she made it all happen
Kathleen Lewis remembers 2012 like it were yesterday. It was the year she felt she was at the right place at the right time, the year she started her own business—ARK Financial Planning. She knew it was a daunting move to step outside of being an employee her entire life to starting out on her own. But sometimes, says Kathleen, “It just takes a cup of courage with a spoonful of hope, and a dash of fear to take that next step.”
Facing a challenge head-on is something Kathleen knows a thing or two or more about. The Brisbane-born mother of two young adult daughters divorced her husband in 2002, when her children were two and four, then went on to be a sole parent on a part pension, working part-time in the Commonwealth Bank.
Then came the next blow. “In 2006, I received a redundancy from the Bank,” says Kathleen. But adds that she grew her “fledgling wings out into the world”.
“Having commenced studying financial planning, I was able to get a full-time job doing the client service work—you could say this was starting at the bottom,” says Kathleen.
After a stint with Modoras, and with the guidance of Paramjit Singh Sarai, whom she considers a mentor, Kathleen felt she was things were turning around. “In 2009, after the GFC, I went to work for another financial adviser, again learning more. I learned was that the more I worked the more I learned, and that to grow in life, you need to grow and believe in yourself,” she says.
Three years later, she took the plunge. And Ark has been riding high ever since. “My employees are my students, passing on the knowledge that I have gained. Giving them their growth is truly important to me,” says Kathleen, who in 2016 became the president of the Southside Chamber of Commerce, which she calls an “enormous transition”. The position, she believes, has helped her “confidently speak with Federal politicians, advocating for those who are marginalised and hoping to build a more collaborative approach to all within the business community”.
She says that becoming president of the South side chamber of commerce was also the best thing that happened to her in terms of personal growth. “I can now see that Government has many wonderful projects that they have put in place—but there is a void in getting these projects accepted by mainstream business / individuals, and the Chamber can facilitate that for its members,” she says.
It has also opened her eyes to the fact that there is a missing link in achieving the integration between all business communities, and that is “communication”. “I find that many business owners spend all of their time in their business—they forget they need to also work on their business. They need time to look outside the square, and see how they can collaborate with like-minded business owners for a greater outcome.”
Through her business and her role at the Chamber of Commerce, Kathleen says she hopes to educate as many people as she can in relation to their financial situation. “But to be honest, I am the one who learns the most. It never ceases to amaze me the journeys of my clients and those I meet. I have lived in Brisbane my entire life. To meet and learn how someone can travel to the other side of their world, packing up their family, and heading to a foreign land just astounds me. On getting here, the many hurdles they face—the language, the culture, the tax system, meeting new friends—and being comfortable to stay within the Indian community, and fearful of stepping out and meeting new cultures is just as daunting,” she says.
But as Kathleen says—and knows—there isn’t a challenge too daunting to overcome.
◼ Be proud of your heritage
Queenslanders / Brisbanites are a strong bunch. We face adversity on a regular basis—with Mother Nature always tapping us on our shoulder. To the Indian community in Brisbane, I want to say, take that step out of your comfort zone and help us to understand your rich culture. You have so much we can learn. Our English history in Australia dates just over 200 years, your culture dates back thousands of years. Be proud. Join with us in our community—you belong here!
◼ It’s a wonderful life
I love Brisbane, I love its diversity, I am always astounded at the friendliness within—and I am wanting to activate our business community. To be in business means working on the business as well as in the business. Collaboration, friendship, education mixed with fun is a wonderful way to live life.
◼ …But has its challenges
Brisbane has always been welcoming in accepting of many cultures. However, I do see a difficulty in the process of ‘fitting in’. This stems from many facets including but not limited to understanding and comprehension of Australia’s banking system; regulation and registration of businesses; not knowing who to ask for help—and having the courage to step outside of familiar territory; not knowing that there is even the ability to ask for assistance.