The Leap Stories #16: Sharon Clark

One of the biggest leaps you might make in your lifetime is becoming a parent. It turns your world upside down, forces you to confront yourself, makes you question your values and adds new dimensions to your identity.

The transition is often bumpy. And a choice some women make is to opt out of the paid workforce to be the primary family carer. Or simply through the nature of their work find it difficult to straddle the worlds of work and motherhood. Rachel Power in her book Motherhood and Creativity explores how many creative women feel the pull between their artful work and motherhood. But a discussion Rachel and I had a few years ago also lead to exploring how this time in a women’s life can actually open up to new forms of expression and entrepreneurism. And this week’s leaper is a fine example of just that.

Sharon Clark is a Melbourne tech entrepreneur, who after seven years out of the workforce and two kids later, has launched a killer comparison shopping app, Clinch. As is often the case with breakthrough technologies, Sharon solved her own problem in order to provide a solution for the rest of the world. While renovating her house, she needed to source products, organise options, compare prices and share them with her husband. She couldn’t find a simple way to do it and so she birthed Clinch.

You’ll read that Sharon’s favourite words to live by are ‘give it a crack’ – a philosophy I wholeheartedly share. Enjoy. x

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SharonClark

Sharon Clark, co-founder of the wonderful Clinch App.

What did you want to be when you grew up and why?

I wanted to be a Veterinarian, I am extremely empathetic towards animals.

What did/do you study?

I have studied Retail Training, Fashion Design and started Animal Studies, quickly realising that Clinch was what I wanted to pursue.

What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?

The most scary and courageous leap for me was overcoming self-doubt, and learning to back myself again after being out of the workforce for 7 years.

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What were you doing before you made your leap?

I had left my career to start a family, was living remotely in a small town of 786 people, Tallarook, renovating my home and raising my children Odin, now 7 and Layla, 3.

It was during this time, while renovating my bathroom, that I discovered I had a problem researching and browsing online: ‘How do I compare across multiple websites of my choice or quickly reference something that I wanted to revisit?’

3 years later and Clinch was born.

browser

The gorgeous interface of Clinch App – an online shopping app designed to make the process of online shopping simple, organised and fun

Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?

My Father: Barry Clark, he is a master of all trades, serial entrepreneur and the smartest person I know. He has had Motor Neuron Disease for the past 15 years and is still the one I go to when I need advice, the only change now is that he uses a ‘computer speech translator’ to communicate with me.

My Mother: Frances Clark. Problem solver extraordinaire! She was raised on a farm. 1 of 4 sisters and was raised to do anything a man could do. Go Pop! Mum is the reason I always wanted to find answers to problems, why I love puzzles of all kinds and why I strive to be the best I can be, at everything that I do.

My husband: Charles Young; in 2001 I met my soul mate and now husband. He recognised entrepreneurial traits in me and saw my potential better than I did. He challenged and encouraged me to seek new opportunities and make my own way.

Marie Laure Pons: While working for L’Oréal, Marie-Laure Pons was my General Manager; she would be surprised to know just how much she influenced me. Passionate, fiercely intelligent, approachable, and charismatic; she believed in me and what we were doing, she made me laugh out loud every day, taught me to not be so serious, and what is life without chocolate?

What did you have in place before you made the leap?

Before my leap I was lucky enough to have the support and assistance of my husband Charles Young. It was his belief in me and knowing that I had found a problem I wanted to solve, that paved the way.

We quickly partnered with our co-founders and a very talented team of mobile web developers that believed in what we believe.

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What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?

After having my second child in 2012, like many women, I had lost my confidence. This was a difficult time for me, I felt like each day was déjà vu. I knew that I needed more than the status quo to be fulfilled, but after 7 years, doubted my ability!

How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?

I had not worked for 7 years, lost my confidence, had no experience in technology and no idea what was involved.

How was I going to head a tech startup????

I felt unconsciously incompetent! I experienced a constant underlying sense of unease, I felt overwhelmed and panicked. In the beginning it was debilitating. This self-doubt nearly stopped me taking the leap.

I remember the moment when that all changed. I was asking myself; why was this bothering me? Why was I feeling so uneasy inside? I realised that, if I didn’t really want it, I wouldn’t care so much, that these feelings stemmed from the desire to do something truly great, but was scared by what I didn’t know.

Growing involves being taken out of your comfort zone and being vulnerable. ‘If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done’ – Thomas Jefferson

If I didn’t face my fears and give it a crack, how would I feel? I knew that I would look back with regret. So I challenged myself to feel uncomfortable, to back myself again and to take the leap. . .

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What other leaps have you made in the past?

Leaving my career, the city and comfort of a close network to move to the country, settle down and start a family. This didn’t come easily to me!

Naturally competitive and ambitious, I missed the feeling that I was achieving a goal, even though there can’t be any greater achievement in life than guiding a new little person through this world.

What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?

I wouldn’t say that anything I have done didn’t work out, I have always played the best hand with the cards I had been dealt. Everything that I have done in my life has rewarded me with valuable lessons, and each of those has brought me to where I am today.

The move to the middle of Victoria I have questioned many times. But without that move, I wouldn’t have discovered the problem that Clinch solves. So I guess you just have to be open to the opportunities that those times present.

canvas event lineup

Sharon’s clever app lets you create canvases and collections of products and themes to help you plan an event and more.

What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?

Being an introvert, I find small talk with people that I don’t know, really confronting. I am comfortable to speak about things that really matter but I struggle to know what to say when making the first move.

It feels like I’ll be found out in some way, that I’m a fraud, I don’t know why I feel this way. I guess it’s that self-doubt, the inner monologue that tells you that you can’t do something.

I just remind myself that we all bring something different to this table of life and that I don’t need to be all things to all people.

How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
(1 being sad, 10 being rad.)

It depends on the day. I would say most days I am ecstatic, proud of myself, of what I have achieved, and what I have overcome. Those days are 10 for sure.

There are days that I feel overwhelmed, question everything and wonder if I can do it. Those days are probably more a 1 but there are not as many of them and it’s those days that I learn the valuable lessons anyway.

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What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

Pride, self-belief, the feeling of accomplishment, learning new skills, learning new lessons, being an inspiration to other women and my children.

What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?

Letting go of the control I once had and trading it for chaos and the great unknown. Being open to anything but prepared for nothing and learning to just hang on and enjoy the ride.

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What might be your next leap?

Swapping our tree change for a sea change as I prepare my family for a new life on the Peninsula.

Acquiring seed investment to put fuel on this fire I have started. This is going to be a huge leap for me. I will be challenged at every step and calling on all of those lessons I have learned to get through it. And I welcome the opportunity!

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What are your favourite words to live by?

My new mantra is ‘give it a crack, what’s the worst that can happen?’

Who do you admire who also made the leap?

Antonia Hayes. Author of ‘Relativity’. Someone I met briefly but follow closely. Antonia has taken a real life disaster that happened to her and her son over a decade ago and used it as the most heartfelt inspiration to leap into a career as a writer. She is incredible!

A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?

My advice would be; If you dream it, and you can see it, don’t over think it, just do it.

Right now I’m: On the investor trail. Running a startup. Preparing to move to Mount Martha.
Hearing: Ed Sheeran
Eating: I am Pescatarian
Drinking: Green tea
Reading: Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
Loving: My family, Odin 7, Layla 3 and the infinite support from my husband Charles Young.

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Thanks Sharon for having a crack and inspiring us to do the same!

Kylie x


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  1. So much of what you say resonates with me! 11 years ago we left the comforts of a large inner-city home when my husband lost his job the week before Christmas and we discovered that our teen-aged daughter had been mercilessly bullied for years! We grabbed our toddler daughter and pre-schooler son and retreated to the Surfcoast of Victoria.
    I did NOT want to move but it has forced so much change and growth and my husband and I are now building our dream travel business.
    I agree that it is sooo hard to re-build your confidence after a career break but children can not only sap your energy, they can also spark your creativity.
    When you need to create a life for yourself outside the economic boom of a big city, it forces you to be creative.
    Similarly when you can no longer work 12 hour days for a boss, it forces you to create your own role.
    Not all of us can be entrepreneurs, so I want to acknowledge those ‘unremarkable’ women out there living ‘remarkable’ lives caring for others and contributing to the community in a multitude of ways on school committees, in tuckshops and all over the shop ensuring that our communities remain vibrant and strong.

    Reply

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