Last Friday was quite a special day. I had been selected as a finalist in the Illawarra Women In Business awards and Friday was the luncheon for the awards.

Now please let me clarify. I am an introvert and as such, I usually avoid entering any type of competition. And on this occasion, I had made up my mind to gently and quietly let the notices about entering the awards slip by. Hopefully without anyone noticing.

Well, I thought I don’t need any awards to tell me that I am doing a good job. I am happy going along in my own little bubble with my lovely tribe of like-minded people around me in my classes and in the galleries where I sell my work. Very safe.

That was until the day before entries closed. I thought "Great, I think I have gotten away with sitting under the radar for another year". Then a message appeared in my inbox asking "Where is YOUR submission?" Oh drat! I had been noticed.

I was half way through writing a reply with a dozen reasons why I wouldn’t be entering the awards this year when that little voice in my head said, “Go for it, what are you afraid of?”

Afraid? Who me? Ok well, that is like waving a red rag to a bison. So I bit the bullet and pulled out all the stops to get the many questions of the submission answered and emailed off just in time.

I thought that should be an end to it and at least I gave it a go. But surprise! About a week later I got an email letting me know that not only was I a finalist in one category but I had somehow managed to become a finalist in two - Best Home Based business and Customer Focus.

The upshot is that in the end I was awarded Highly Commended for Best Home Based business. I was stunned, but I gratefully made the long walk to the stage to be awarded my certificate.

It has taken a few days for all of this to sink in and I needed to process this before writing about it. Of course, I am so immensely proud of myself and of my achievements, especially over the past four years. The hard work is paying off.

It is no mean feat for an introverted self-taught artist to 1) be successful in business and 2) to be recognised by some of the most successful women and men in the Illawarra.

It has been interesting to see the reaction of some, but on the other hand, heart warming to receive genuine congratulations from women who I really admire.

So what have I learned and gained from this experience? A realisation of true friendship. And a confirmed focus on what I do as an individual, running a business and doing what I am absolutely passionate about and wanting others to see and feel the same passion.

It is a statement that the visual arts are important to our society and that those that contribute are valuable, whether formally trained or not.

It is being an example of someone who does not give up in trying to make a living out of art and for the sake of art. And a realisation that one isn’t washed up when one turns 60. In fact, it has given me the courage and purpose to continue, god willing, for the next 20 years.
I hope to be an inspiration to young women in business that hard work and above all being in love with what you do brings great rewards, hopefully before you turn 60!

But more, much more than all of this, I hope to be an inspiration to my seven-year-old granddaughter and five-year-old grandson to know that anything can be achieved when you put the doubt and fear aside to be who you really are, your authentic self.

I am not sure if I will be entering the awards again, however, I am truly grateful for the recognition by the judges and for the opportunity to show the true me.

Thank you to Glenda Papac from Illawarra Women in Business and to everyone who sent me good wishes and congratulations.

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