So far, 2023 has been a transformative year for me in many ways. I feel confident that I’m shaping the life that I want for myself and have surrounded myself with people who are lifting me up and challenging me to step outside my comfort zone in all the best ways. I harnessed my inner courage and shared my story publicly for the first time in the new book, Women Leading the Way. I feel humbled to have been named a finalist in five categories in the 2023 Ausmumpreneur Awards. It has given me cause to stop and reflect on how my past is continuing to influence who I am: a woman supporting other women through my lived experience. 

Learn from the past, but don’t let it define you

The true story of my early and formative years is one of dysfunction, toxic control and trauma, from which I have emerged as a stronger and more compassionate woman. For me, sharing the story of my past was an opportunity to be a source of inspiration and hope for other women. 

The road has not always been easy, however. I’ve risen above that adversity, guided by my personal values and my instincts to build my business, ActivOT – a business that is thriving and creating a utopia for occupational therapists all over the country. Over the last 11 years, more than 55 allied health professionals (and counting!) have gone from being employees to successful business owners under the ActivOT franchise model.

Define your goals and what you need to achieve them

ActivOT is not a franchise business in the traditional sense. It was born out of my vision to create a community where occupational therapists are supported to be the best versions of themselves in work and in life. I want ActivOT to be the best provider of occupational therapy services in Australia and to do that we need to bring like-minded therapists onto the team. Therapists who put the client at the centre of everything they do and who are passionate about helping people. 

Each of my franchisees has their own business, works their own hours and follows their areas of passion within occupational therapy. I see ActivOT less as a franchise and more as a pooling of resources, allowing the OTs to lean into each other’s strengths and providing them with the opportunity to broaden their knowledge.

Get real about what flexibility actually means

We’ve seen so much change to the way people work, particularly over the past few years, with flexibility becoming more and more important, particularly to women in the workforce. Mothers returning to work face many struggles, feeling pressured to return to the workforce before they are ready and the cost and availability of childcare at war with one another. An inflexible workplace, only adds to the burden many women carry of the mental load of daily admin, schedules and housework.

As a woman and a mother, I have personally faced challenges and have experienced the burnout that comes from (unsuccessfully) trying to juggle everything. I have also experienced the difference that flexibility makes from my time in private practice, and have wholeheartedly grasped the opportunity to provide real work/life balance to my franchisees and support staff.

Pay it forward for future generations

It’s so rewarding to be able to see women pursuing their passions outside of their professional life, to enable mothers to spend more time with their children and foster a culture of support within the ActivOT team.

The older I get, the more I’m truly grateful for the women who have gone before us to make some changes. I feel I have a responsibility to apply my learnings to help others along their way. I need to help make a change for that next generation – the women in their 30s, the women in their 20s – if we keep paying it forward to the next generations, the world will become a better place.


Author: Helen Whait