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Tell us about how you and your family ended up in Wollongong?
In late 2015, my husband and I had spent three years in San Francisco and I had just given birth to our eldest daughter. Originally from Sydney, we were eager to raise our family back home in Australia.
An opportunity to repatriate came when Dave partnered with a fellow Aussie to start a software company, Easy Agile. Wollongong was picked as the location for the start-up, due to its quality university graduates and proximity to Sydney for potential business meetings.
Having been expats for three years, we were already uprooted, and ready for another international move — with a 6 weeks old baby in tow! I wasn’t fazed by the move but rather excited. We were starting a whole new life as a family.
There was of course worry that we had taken on too much. A new baby, a new business AND moving overseas to a place I had never set foot in before.
“We were all keen to start a new life outside of the Sydney “rat race””.
What misconceptions did you have about Wollongong. How has Wollongong exceeded expectations?
As a Sydney northern beaches girl, I had not once been to Wollongong, let alone most of the suburbs south of Sydney! I can’t believe I never visited Wollongong and the South Coast in all the years I called Sydney home.
Before our move, I had assumed Wollongong to be a small, industrial town. I had imagined quaint suburbs with small stores. It was encouraging to see all the familiar chain stores in Wollongong CBD and the shiny new buildings of the UOW Innovation Campus.
“To this day, I am still in awe of the beautiful beaches of Wollongong.”
How have you been able to benefit from the supportive business environment in Wollongong?
I’ve made wonderful friends thanks to the supportive business environment here. It took me a little while to find people who own online businesses, instead of traditional brick-and-mortar stores, but there’s certainly a growing community of tech entrepreneurs in Wollongong.
Being a solopreneur can get lonely, but through networking, I’m meeting more and more like-minded locals. It’s been great to have the opportunity to work with Illawarra based photographers, fabric stores and business mentors.
Most of all, I enjoy learning from other business owners, especially women who are trying to juggle motherhood and entrepreneurship.
“These women are absolute champions and there’s a camaraderie amongst us as we share both our wins and fails.”
What are some of the things you personally love about life in Wollongong?
You can’t go past the natural beauty of Wollongong. From the beaches to the escarpment, we are so lucky to enjoy such a diverse landscape. Our house is on the cycleway, so I get to enjoy the stunning bike ride on my way to work.
I seriously think it’s the most beautiful commute in the world. I also love the proximity to everything from our home.
Within 10 minutes, I can get to the supermarket, beach, train station, free shuttle, work and the girls’ daycare. It’s so easy to make time to enjoy your life when you’re not sitting in traffic everyday.
Born in Tokyo, I’m a city girl at heart. It’s been very exciting to see the investment going into Wollongong CBD with more bars, restaurants and big name stores opening here.
What kinds of local activities do you and your family enjoy doing recreationally?
We live right near the beach because we love it so much. Our family is always there; to swim in summer and make sandcastles in winter. There are also lots of parks to choose from along the beachside cycleway. My two daughters are spoilt for choice.
On weekends, we often go out for breakfast at Kiama or Berry. These tourist destinations are all so close from Wollongong.
On our rare nights off from parental duty, my husband and I love trying the new small bars and restaurants in Wollongong CBD.
What do you feel is unique about Wollongong?
The quality of life in Wollongong makes it a very special place. You can enjoy the laid-back coastal lifestyle but at the same time, easily make a day trip into the hustle and bustle of Sydney CBD.
We often visit family and friends in northern Sydney, or take a train into Wynyard for a work meeting. I don’t feel isolated at all having moved to a regional city.
“I think you get the best of both worlds when you live in Wollongong.”
How does living in Wollongong differ from other countries or cities you have lived in?
I have lived in Japan, Singapore, San Francisco, Brisbane, Cairns and Sydney. Of all the places I have called home, I think Wollongong could be the most underrated. Its image as an unrefined or unsophisticated city is no longer valid.
Whenever we have visitors from Sydney or beyond, they are surprised by the beauty of Wollongong as well as the cosmopolitan lifestyle it has to offer.
“Wollongong is a refreshingly vibrant and inclusive city with a rapidly changing demographic.”
How would you describe the people of Wollongong?
I’ve found there’s an infectious love for Wollongong amongst the locals. Especially those who have left Wollongong to live in big cities, only to be drawn back to its natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle. People I meet here feel genuinely lucky to call Wollongong home, which truly is a testament to this city.
Also, it’s been a pleasant surprise to find tech workers, entrepreneurs and a very creative community in Wollongong. In general, people are welcoming and unpretentious; happy to welcome newcomers into their community and the city they love so much.
What Wollongong resources and services have been valuable in settling into your new life?
As a new mother, various playgroups organised by local organisations such as Big Fat Smile and Playgroups NSW were invaluable for me to make new friends.
In my professional life, the ZigZag Hub has been a wonderful place to work as well as to meet like-minded business owners. The meetups hosted by Siligong Valley is the best way to become part of the growing tech community in Wollongong.
I now co-host the marketing arm of the Siligong Valley meet-ups. We have 50+ attendees at each event with word spreading rapidly.