IT WAS tragedy that first gave Central Coast mother Julieanne Bramman the vision to start a business helping families who are caring for seriously ill children.
Fifteen years ago Julieanne's 10-year-old son Keegan died after a two-and-a-half year battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
"As a mother, I know the hardships of advocating for a seriously ill child can bring, emotionally, psychologically, physically and financially. Trying to be all those things to those around you is damn near impossible," said Julieanne, now 54.
"You could lose your mind, but you won't, because your child needs you and you need to look into those eyes everyday and say that it will all be ok, even when it's not."
Throughout Keegan's illness, and after he died, Julieanne saw the barriers many families faced in simply running a household when a child is seriously ill.
"I had a dream to highlight these gaps to keep the every day life manageable," she said. "There are great charities and organisations that want to help, and do. But where do we know where to go and what questions to ask? That's where I knew I needed to start the conversation, confront these issues."
To this end Julieanne, whose marriage had broken down following her son's passing, decided to start a business called Supporting Seriously Ill Kids (SSIK), linking families with small businesses and organisations to help when their child is very ill.
But while Julieanne had experience working in child protection she had little experience running her own business.
Then she heard about Global Sisters - a not-for-profit business development organisation which provides financially-excluded women the practical skills and training they need to become self-employed and gain financial independence.
"I had this dream and a vision in my head for 10 years but I was overwhelmed," said Julieanne, who didn't know where to start.
"I was working full-time and looking after my other son who has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum while also trying to work and get my business up. I lacked the confidence and was worried about failure."
She signed up to the Sister School's free,10-week business education program that provides the practical knowledge and support needed to start or grow a business and said she hasn't looked back. There are schools in Sydney, the Central Coast and ACT as well as Victoria and now all courses are available online.
"After two weeks of starting the business I thought holy crap, what have I done? But I rang my mentor and she helped break it down into bite-sized steps," said Julieanne.
She said while setting up her own business has been challenging, Global Sisters helped her find the passion and drive to overcome these issues. "Global Sisters has been Heaven sent. They're all business women who've been where I am now."
Since it's conception, Global Sisters has worked with over 3324 women, many of whom have gone on the launch businesses even in the face of COVID-19.
Global Sisters Central Coast ambassador, Kristy Fox said a large cohort of these women are aged 50 and over.
"Even when employment is booming women in this age bracket face enormous challenges trying to find employment. The average length of time spent job seeking for those unemployed over 55 is 68 weeks, largely due to age discrimination and a false set of beliefs that this age group is 'out of touch' or unskilled.
"This is why we are seeing so many women aged over 50 creating their own businesses.Women in this age bracket have so much to offer. Their age is advantage, not a setback when in comes to business".
Currently, 15 Central Coast women are enrolled in Global Sisters' Sister School. Term 4 will take place every Friday at Berkeley Vale Community Centre.
To join register your details click HERE and complete the free recorded 2.5 hour 'My Big Idea' Workshop, designed to help women find the 'big idea' that they want to turn into a business.
For more information go to globalsisters.org