Kerry Sisely’s success as an entrepreneur is both modest and representative of hard working, rural Australians. Working with the land and animals as a farmer, and in offices as a businesswoman, Kerry’s retirement was unarguably earned. Now that there’s a little free time in her schedule I ask Kerry about her life, her motivations, and the challenges of raising a family and fulfilling her dream to be a success.
I have learnt, through Kerry’s story, that my generation doesn’t really understand the true sense of hard work. Our predominately online world exists in a terribly fast-paced culture and teaches us to want it all and to want it all now.
Where in Australia did you grow up and what was your family life like as a young female?
I grew up on a dairy farm near Sale, Victoria. I had a loving mother and father, both of whom worked on the farm, and two older sisters. My mother did most of the parenting; she lost her father early in life so I think it was a natural thing for her to do. She was brought up to provide a good home for her husband and children. Parenting in those times was not like today; children had to be seen and not heard a lot. Money was tight, although looking back we had all the essentials. But it was always brought to our attention that there was nothing spare for luxuries. My second sister and I were only 18 months apart and we were good friends so we had heaps of fun together playing on the farm.
How do you remember about life on the farm?
From the time I can remember I had an inbuilt love of all animals, especially horses. So, as a youngster, much to my mother’s dismay, I wanted a horse – desperately. My mum had other ideas of how her daughters should be, you know the type who dress in dresses and never get our hands dirty. But we had news for her!
What was your dream growing up in rural Victoria?
I thought I may be a teacher after I left school, tried it, but it was not for me. I was a real home person and having to leave and further my education was just too hard. So home I came.
What was the first business you owned and how did it come about?
I was extremely lucky to find my life partner early and that is what I wanted most. Having no real idea of a career I stumbled into office/computer work and found it very enjoyable. Not enjoyable enough though so I began my first business: a retail outlet, following my passion in the equine industry. This lasted a few years until I sold it for a tidy profit.
What drew you to continue in business?
We lived on several farms changing every now and then to bigger and better properties. We were more in debt but that’s how farmers live and with two incomes we did it easier than most. Life was really good until my husband’s job in the oil industry stopped suddenly and we found ourselves just farmers. So we looked around for a challenge. That came in the form of a bankrupt supermarket in town, so we sold up and moved into town (temporarily only) and became supermarket owners.
What was life like raising children, running a farm and coordinating businesses?
Even though my partner was a ‘townie’ I quickly converted him to the joys of farming with some help and tuition from my father. We acquired our first farm after our two children were born. As money was tight and two incomes were required I found myself on the farm with two kids under two and a part-time partner who was now working in the oil industry and away most of the time. There were some tough times and sleepless nights but all good fun.
Why were you driven to be successful?
We weren’t afraid to take a risk. Trusting our own abilities has helped to make things more successful, and, of course, so has being prepared to work hard, although I don’t think we have missed out on anything along the way.
How do you spend your days now that you are retired?
Retirement has seen a slight slowing down in our pace, no super early starts, plenty of time to be involved in our grand-children’s lives and maybe a sleep after lunch! No stopping though, there’s plenty of farm work with the recent purchase of the farm next door and, of course, horses to ride.
What advice do you have for my generation and the females who want to have a family and be successful?
I don’t really have advice for others; just do what makes you happy. If you want to be successful it will happen because you want it bad enough and are willing to work for it.
In reflection, would you do anything differently if you had your time over?
I would not change a minute of my life. Things have been good and we hopefully have more to come.
Madison Manning, the creative writer, the literature scholar, the photographer. With an innate ability to record her feelings and surroundings, Madison views living her life as her creative motivation. “When something affects me, I write it down. Or save it for a later project. Nothing escapes me, which is why I need to be alone for large portions of time.”