Powering Forward with Dairne Burns
Adaptability and resilience are core traits for any would-be entrepreneur. Take Dairne Burns, for example, whose business Collective Upside continues to shift with the times.
Dairne (Daz) Burns, started her business in 2017 after finding her way back into fitness after having her second child.
Feeling physically and mentally unwell, she invited some friends to workout in her garage.
After a few months of exercising, the group of six women had turned into 120, with a long waiting list of others hoping to join in.
Originally called the Hey Mama Movement, today Daz’s business is named Collective Upside and operates as an online subscription service.
Key learnings for entrepreneurs who like to see an upside:
The path to running a business is rarely linear. Instead, focus on what matters most to you in order to build experience, before deploying that experience in your work.
In-person experiences are great, but working face-to-face could be limiting your potential. Online services allow more one-to-many opportunities that will also fuel growth.
Nobody else is going to do the hard work for you, so entrepreneurs need to develop a constant source of motivation and determination to keep them going, day after day.
Bringing a community together
The business is fitness-based, with participants getting together online in small groups of four or less to work out and feel good. Yet, there’s more to it than that.
“Our main premise,” says Daz, “is food for our souls and refreshing to make sure we've got enough energy in our cups to keep going and keep pushing with all the challenges we face each day.”
The community aspect of Collective Upside is critical.
“The platform enables people to feel amazing with their friends. It's about connecting. Exercise is the secondary piece to it.”
Yet while she has created an inspiring venture, Daz didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur.
A winding path to creating a venture
“I never intended to be a business owner,” Daz admits.
“Emma from MYOB said they'd done some research, and it showed that women don't often set out to be entrepreneurs.
“But we find this way of helping people, and it sets us off of this journey, which is exactly me.”
Daz notes that her parents have had a big influence on her.
“They're the most resilient and hardworking role models I could have ever asked for.”
It took Daz a little while to find her path to the fitness industry.
She says: “I was never a scholar at school. I always worked hard, and I turned up, but I just didn't have the book smarts to carry myself through it.”
Things changed when she studied sports after school, though.
“I found my absolute love. I graduated top three and started to realise I was doing something I was passionate about. Then, I had a real path.”
From there, Daz studied teaching and did that for ten years. After she had children, the “pivot point” happened for her.
“After I had my second son, I found myself in a deep hole and didn’t know why I was there or how to get myself out of it,” she says.
“But then I realised I had so much team sports background, that I needed people. So bringing everybody together was the turning point for me.”
Moving online to grow – and facing challenges along the way
When the number of exercising women in her garage snowballed after three months, Daz knew it was time to “move that online to help more people”.
The entrepreneurial path hasn’t been without its challenges, however.
Having a small budget was one of these, but Daz found workarounds.
“We’ve had to be nimble and crafty and find different lanes for us to try and promote ourselves and highlight what we're doing.”
Another challenge revolved around re-branding.
Daz ran her venture as Hey Mama Movement in person for three years, and it included women of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, not just Mothers.
Daz wanted to make the service welcoming to everyone, though, when going online, assumptions were made off the Hey Mama name that it was only a place for Mothers with children under five, which really limited their audience.
She says, “We needed to knock that barrier down, so we did a lot of research, and now we’re Collective Upside. We want everybody to know there’s a place for them with us and that there's something here for everyone.”
Key successes and lessons along the way
Daz also faced a battle that’s common to most business owners: finding time for self-care.
“One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome is making sure I sleep, eat well, and that I don’t just keep pushing everything to the side.”
Happily, Daz has had success in learning how to prioritise.
“I’ve learnt how to set intentions for myself to make sure my cup is full as well, and I don’t just give everything I have and then fall into bed at the end of the day.”
Something else Daz had to learn was resilience and getting in the right mindset.
“One of the key things helping us move forward and contributing to our success is resilience,” says Daz.
“That came from Tara Lorigan, who was my business mentor. Tara worked hard with me to get that mindset; knowing that the challenges are okay.”
Daz now looks at challenges as an opportunity and thinks about how to use them to her advantage in business.
Also, running Collective Upside has shown Daz the importance of continuing to take action.
“At the end of the day, if you don't keep taking those actions and keep driving forward, everything stops,” she says.
“No one else is going to do that for you, so it’s about making sure you push and take action, even if it's small steps.”
The impact of COVID-19
Owning a second business, a building company, with her husband meant that the global pandemic hit Daz and her family two-fold.
At the same time, Daz was in the process of getting the Collective Upside online system built.
She says, “It was that week! We were about to sign the documents, and I just got a feeling we needed to hold off.
“I'm very grateful for whatever feeling that was and we waited because we would have been in a lot of trouble if we'd signed away a lot of money to build this website then. It gave us time to pull back and reset.”
Daz and her husband had staff in their building company to think of, so that was their primary focus, along with paying their own mortgage and feeding their children.
However, Daz didn’t want to quit on the idea of taking Collective Upside online.
“I woke up about two in the morning. I was like, it's not over,” she says. “I can see those ladies. We have to find a way.”
While there were fewer funds and people to get behind the company growth than expected before COVID-19 hit, Daz could still see the positives.
“It made us think on our feet and treat COVID as an opportunity. We found lots of different lanes – solutions, solutions, solutions!”
Due to building the new platform during lockdown, Daz and her team had to find new ways to support themselves, communicate with the right people, and stay on task.
A critical factor in helping the business to survive and thrive during COVID has been word-of-mouth.
Says Daz, “Women are talking about the great effects and the great feelings they're having, and that positive ripple effect is starting to move. That has delivered us an amazing amount of value.”
The team Daz has around her has been vital, too, during the tough times. “Honestly, I couldn't give them more props if I tried,” she says.
“We pulled them together, mostly during the lockdown. We had a few staff members before that, but they have all just hit the ground, and again, been incredibly resilient humans, and worked and worked.”
Having a shared vision has helped enormously. “They see the dream, and where this can move,” says Daz.
“They’ve gotten behind it and helped us connect with people, move things, get things done, build strategies. Things that we would have taken years to do, we've gotten done very quickly because of them.”
Utilising tech tools to move forward
Technology has also been invaluable in helping Daz move forward with Collective Upside.
Daz watched talks and read posts on LinkedIn for inspiration and tips, as well as other social media platforms for news and updates.
Plus, she was part of Entrepreneurial Women with Purpose, Soda Inc and Co. of Women.
“We had these amazing figures who would be talking to us in Zooms,” says Daz, “answering questions, being personable, connecting with us afterward. I honestly couldn't have gotten where I did and where we have, so far, without it.”
Outside perspective helped Daz keep thinking five or ten years ahead, rather than getting bogged down in the day-to-day or worrying about what everyone else was doing.
She says, “We needed to come up with that next move, and know what was coming, why it was coming, and how we could contribute to it.”
Daz and her team used tech tools to run the business more efficiently, too.
She says, “We use Microsoft Azure for our platform. We use Agora, an American company, and we use Canva. With Canva, we can create these beautiful presentations and do things ourselves.”
MYOB has also helped Daz to stay on top of things.
“MYOB has been amazing and saved us a lot of time – around two hours a week that we can spend on other things,” she says.
“We can just file things away, get them done quickly, and keep moving. MYOB lets us focus on critical tasks and go to bed on time. We’ve got systems in place now.”
Daz uses MYOB’s payroll feature for her business.
She says, “It’s so easy, quick to use, and the reporting is easy to follow. It gets all the information out to our staff as quickly as possible.”
But the thing Daz appreciates most about MYOB is the support on offer.
“Emma, Katherine, and the support team have been stunning,” she acknowledges. “They made sure we know what we're doing. They ask if there's anything else we need and let us know about different features.”
Asked if there’s one big tip for other entrepreneurs that she’d like to pass on, Daz often comes back to being resilient and having a purpose to back this up.
“For us, we keep seeing the women we can help. I know it's not over when we have a cash shortage. There has to be another way because there are women we can help and lives we can change. It’s important to keep bouncing back and not give up.”
With many new opportunities coming up, including some exciting partnerships, Daz is looking to the future with hope.
“I'm feeling positive, really bright, and excited. I don't think any of us should be approaching it any other way because the world's always been unpredictable,” she says.
“For us, we’re excited to keep moving forward and see what the future brings.”
Dairne Burns is the founder of Collective Upside.