The Leap Stories #34: Daniella Lo Presti

A few weeks ago I spent an ‘intimate’ evening with Oprah in Melbourne (along with 10,000 other friendly souls). On stage, in the flesh she was still the wise, rousing and insightful woman I had grown ‘adult’ with via TV. She’d kept me company when I was on maternity leave and had no one else to talk to during the day. She’d connected me with the original idea of living my best life – not someone else’s.

She’d also introduced me to the idea of listening to what your life is speaking to you. And surrendering to it. Huh. And she spoke about this on the Rod Laver Arena stage. Oprah believes that your life is always whispering to you, and it’s your job to listen. Because when you don’t, the whisper gets louder and louder, until it knocks you sideways into the direction it was trying to steer you towards all along. And I’ve seen this happen in my own life and those of my loved ones.

For this week’s leaper Daniella Lo Presti founder of For Me By Dee, a forced redundancy from her full time job, finally gave her the nudge and courage she needed to take the step she’d be too hesitant to take on her own. The universe directed her to her next path.

So over the coming weeks I’m pondering what is the deep knowing in my soul that I need to listen to, to gain clarity around my next leap. Oprah believes if you don’t know which direction you need to take next, you need to get really still until you do. There’s an opportunity to find space in the next few weeks between festivities and commitments to just be. I plan to take it by the hand, lead it to the sea and look to the horizon for a while and see what may come. I invite you to do the same. x

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Gorgeous Dee, Founder of For Me By Dee photographed by Jessica Totino of Loneography.

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

I always wanted to own my own creative business but never knew just what it was. When I was little it was to own my own florist/café. That concept was really unique in the 80s! I was always plucking flowers from our garden at home and arranging them in what I thought to be pretty spectacular bouquets. Owning a florist would fulfill my creative passion and the café would satisfy my desire to interact with people!

What did/do you study?

I finished VCE and studied a Bachelor in Communication Design at RMIT. The course was predominantly computer based which I found challenging. I always preferred to create with my hands and most of my briefs were fulfilled using illustration.

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

The decision to work for myself full time was by far the most courageous leap I have taken.

I have always really trusted my gut with decisions and whenever I thought about running my business full time I experience a rush of butterflies! This was enough for me to know that I had to give it a go.

What were you doing before you made your leap?

I was working full time in corporate advertising as a graphic designer. I had been working in the same position for nearly four years and was in what I call a career fog. I was so unhappy in my job that it was evident to all those around me. It was clear I needed to change what I was doing but I just didn’t know how. I was stuck. I felt depleted; I had no drive, passion or energy. Days blended into weeks and the most exciting thing was the weekend. I needed help and I was lucky enough to get it. I was referred to a life coach by my cousin Clare, who is now an inspiring life coach herself at Top Five Movement. I had 6 sessions over a 6 month period with the wonderful Julie Parker and I could not be more grateful for the change that occurred.

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

Julie Parker (Life Coach)

My coaching sessions with Julie Parker completely changed the course of my career. I remember thinking before my first session how on earth can someone help me if I can’t even help myself! I am so glad I was proved wrong! Julie set me up with the tools I needed to create the career I wanted. She enabled me to realise my dreams and, in turn, make them a reality.

My parents and grandparents.

I was born into a family of entrepreneurs. Both my grandfathers owned their own business, along with my dad and now younger brother.

Being exposed to running a business from a young age helped prepare me with what to expect. The hard work, long hours, commitment and passion required.

My work ethic has been shaped by the lessons learnt by my hardworking dad and grandfathers and the knowledge and business acumen they have passed down to me. Their loyal, genuine and honest personalities were key to their success as individuals and businessmen. My aim has been to harness these traits and apply them to everything I do.

My mum has always been creative. As a child I would watch her crafting, painting, sewing, felting the works. She did it all. I saw how much joy it brought her and the satisfaction it gave her when she gifted one of her creations to a loving home. I guess from a young age I had this in me, it just took a few years to come out! Mum also taught me the art of patience and organization. (Although I would say this is ongoing learning).

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Dee at work on one of her beautiful pieces photographed by Jessica Totino of Loneography.

Adrian (Hubby)

My hubby Adrian’s unwavering support has given me much of the confidence needed to take my leap. He patiently saw me through a time where my motivation levels were low and creativity non-existent.

His belief in me was strong and he constantly reminded me that I could change my path, something that seemed so impossible to me at the time. Although he couldn’t provide all the answers, he gave me the time and space I needed to figure it out for myself. His calm and patient nature has been such a positive influence on me during, and after, my leap.

Having someone on my team who is not emotionally invested in the business has been so beneficial. In situations where I have struggled to make decisions without letting my emotion get in the way, Adrian has been able to provide clarity and unbiased advice. His presence settles my nerves at big markets and, being the perfectionist that I am, he is a constant reminder that the world will not come crumbling down if my market stall is not perfectly symmetrical.

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

I was living in a share house in St Kilda and was inspired daily by my surroundings. My bedroom was my creative hub. It was my studio, storeroom and packing station. It’s amazing what you can create in such a small space.

Business plans scared me so instead I had my vision board near my bed so I saw it every morning. I had a rough plan but a strong belief that it was all possible.

I had created a logo to represent my brand and basic social media platform.

From the outset I had a strong belief that my business should support other small local business. Keeping this in mind I began researching and gathered together a network of local suppliers and printers.

I had been painting and creating before taking the leap and had produced my first small range of cards and prints. An opportunity arose to take part in a local market and I jumped at the chance. This sparked the creation of my market stand with the help of my cabinetmaker dad.

With the experience of one market behind me, a growing interest from retail outlets through social media, and the support of my family and friends, I had the confidence to move forward when the chance to leap presented itself.

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

I had been working up the courage to leave my full time job but couldn’t seem to make the final call. In the end the decision was made for me and our entire department was made redundant.

They gave us 6 months notice. I used this time to build my business. I looked at the redundancy as a good kick up the bum and a welcomed blessing in disguise.

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

There is no denying that taking a leap comes with fear. There is a personal fear and then there is a certain element of fear that comes from those around you.

Throughout my ‘leap journey’ I have learnt that change can be embraced but can also be met with uncertainty from those closest to you. I found this to be most true when the change involved personal growth. People have become familiar and comfortable with a ‘certain type of you’ so when things start changing it ignites a fear within them that you may be leaving them behind.

I found myself stuck in the mix of having to justify my decision and, when I couldn’t answer the questions being asked, my self-doubt grew and my fear was amplified. I learnt to deal with this over a period of time through the practice of meditation and reiki.

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I allowed myself time and listened to my gut. I recognised that the fear associated with not allowing my dream the opportunity to become a reality outweighed my fear of failure and suddenly it was all very clear to me. The confidence that arose after my realisation was strong and I no longer felt the need to justify anything.

Once I had taken my leap and my business began to gather momentum and find its place in the market I experienced what I now understand to be ‘The Imposter Syndrome’. I went through a period of feeling undeserving, downplaying my achievements and continually attributing my success to luck. It didn’t seem to matter how many compliments I received or how many people were buying my work I just had this sinking feeling that one day my artistic talent would disappear and people would discover that I was a fraud!

It was only after I heard a fellow creative speak out about confronting the same issues that I recognised it wasn’t just me feeling this way. I made it my next challenge to work through this and embraced the notion that luck is the combination of hard work and right timing.

Although the fear never entirely leaves I have learnt to control it. I focus on the present rather than the distant future and stay true to my own vision and core values.

How did you fund your leap?

The redundancy helped as well as savings. It was comfortable knowing that my husband had a stable full time job and he was supportive in backing my decision.

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What other leaps have you made in the past?

Travelling solo! I love to travel and it is something I have done quite a lot but never alone. I was studying Italian at the time and the opportunity to study abroad arose. I needed a challenge and so without thinking too much I took the leap. This is a great example of a situation where I simply listened to my gut.

I booked my ticket and chose to completely immerse myself in the culture by staying with a local family in Sicily. The language barrier and the initial loneliness I felt proved challenging in the beginning. I remember walking through the house with my Italian/English dictionary trying my best to have a conversation with my host mum. Tears were shed and the desire to return home was felt but my need to accomplish what I had set out to do proved stronger.

I embraced being alone and began to enjoy my own company. Beautiful people who I truly believe had come into my life for a reason surrounded me. By the end I didn’t want to leave.

This leap proved to be one of the best I have taken. I returned home with a fresh outlook on life. I had a strong understanding of who I was and the things I needed to take from my journey and implement in my life at home. I was inspired, motivated and ready for the next adventure. For Me By Dee was created only a few months later.

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

I can’t recall a specific leap that hasn’t worked out. Some leaps, however, have taken longer than others and have required more time, patience and energy.

For example, leaping into the wholesale industry for me has been a slow but steady process. I find this a super scary part of my job so I leap a little at a time. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this as long as you are constantly progressing.

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

Not being able to do what I do anymore is one of my greatest fears. I deal with it by not thinking about it and focusing my energy on the here and now!

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

A big fat 10! I could not be happier about making my leap. I now look at my life in two stages, Dee before the leap and Dee after the leap! There is a distinct difference in the person I am today and happiness has a lot to do with it.

What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

Dreams have been realised!

I remember years prior to my leap, walking through some of the biggest design markets in Melbourne talking to friends about ‘my dream’ to have my own market stall! When this became a reality I had to pinch myself.

What you put in you get out. I am able to work super hard and more often than not see the direct impact of this within my business. I love the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for myself. I am able to decide the hours I work – although quite often its more than I was used to.

I have been able to create a business based on ideas that excite me, work that I am passionate about and core values I believe in. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most talented and inspiring of people.

No two days are the same, work days are no longer monotonous and I love it!

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What a gorgeous setup! Dee taking a leap with her hand painted works photographed by Jessica Totino of Loneography.

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

To a certain extent you are on your own.

I am quite a social person and really enjoy working in a team so the transition to working alone at home has been quite challenging at times. I try and compensate for this by frequently attending markets on weekends where I get my social fix and can interact with fellow creatives and supportive customers.

Managing my time has also proved challenging. No longer am I working in a team with a specific role. I am my own team and have had to teach myself all sorts of things outside my area of expertise. There are days I wish I could clone myself to get the job done!

What might be your next leap?

Once I had taken my first big leap I found small leaps naturally followed. A certain element of risk taking (leaping) is required when growing a business. Small leaps for me have included travelling interstate for markets, the introduction of new products in range and placing large orders for stock. A leap in the near future may be to hire some help and outsource some of the areas of the business that aren’t my forte (Accounts…not to mention anything in particular). I have learnt that time is precious and therefore better spent in areas where people can’t assist you.

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What are your favourite words to live by?

“This too shall pass.” I love this quote. It relates to good moments as well as not so good. It reminds me to savor the good while its around because it won’t last forever but also not to worry so much about the bad as it too will eventually pass!

Anything is possible; dreams can come true but not without vision, a positive attitude and hard work!

Who do you admire who also made the leap?

I have met so many wonderful and inspiring small business owners – woman in particular, who have taken the leap.

One friend and inspiring businesswoman in particular would be Simone Norris.

Simone runs a gorgeous, shop in Yarraville ‘Invite Me’ whilst spreading her talent and time over a million and one other things including her 3 gorgeous girls.

I admire Simone’s success in creating such an authentic brand in such a competitive industry. Her drive, passion and personality is infectious and she is a great example of someone who has stayed true to their creative vision.

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

Trust your gut! It speaks the truth. Think about going through life not having fulfilled that itch. If that thought is unbearable then you know what you need to do. Don’t think too much, just do it!

Right now I’m:

Hearing: Flight Facilities
Eating: Fish Tacos at Fonda (Yum)
Drinking: Soy Lattes from my fave local café Cobb
Reading: The Alchemist
Loving: My travel photo gallery wall. It confirms it wasn’t all a dream.

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This week sweet kin, can you find some space to hear your deep knowing speaking to you? What might it be saying? I’d love to know.

Much love, Kylie x

p.s. Here’s one of my favourite Flight Facilities songs featuring the the very cool and seriously afro-ed Reggie Watts. Hope you got a good dose of sunshine today!


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