Olivia Carr – Self Made: Build a Big Life from a Small Business

John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd, Australia, 2023
Cover design by Wiley

Self Made is unusual for a ‘business book’ in that its major focus is not on bottom lines but on personal happiness and wellness.

Olivia Carr talks to Barbie about Self Made: Build a Big Life from a Small Business

The author candidly shares the vicissitudes of her younger life with gusto, never shying away from her mistakes and missteps. On the contrary she uses them as lessons, exemplars that pint to a better way of both living and doing business.

From the inauspicious beginnings of teenage motherhood in an unforgiving era, Olivia Carr worked hard to support her family and went on to found her multi-million dollar  Shhh Silk business on a wing and a prayer. She attributes success in general to belief, though of course hard and consistent work is also the key.

The author’s anecdotes support her stated philosophy of working hard, making sound financial decisions, treating people well and paying mind to one’s own physical and mental health. She is a firm advocate of psychological counselling not just for tough times but as a constant training of the spiritual self.

This is a forthright book which holds the reader with its transparency and at times humour. It is written using highly accessible language and is consistently and logically constructed; it’s somewhere amidst text book, memoir and self-help manual. The personable, articulate style is a clear reflection of the author.

There is no doubt in this work that the pursuit of wealth is acceptable. It begins, however, with the premise that success of any kind is first about attitude. Olivia quotes Henry Ford’s maxim: ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right.’

There is a focus throughout on personal growth and achieving one’s potential in whatever field one may wish to pursue.

Then there is the starting point of core values. The author declares her core value as giving and she enacts this in her business plan and practice. The notion of ‘paying it forward’ is reiterated along with the constant need to revisit your purpose and to track your progress against tangible benchmarks.

I found this a refreshing text coming from the business world. It is a useful guide for anyone wishing to embark upon or improve an existing small business. It is, however, a very worthwhile read for a much wider audience, because it simply suggests that we take care of ourselves in everything we do.

Olivia Carr reminds us that physical fitness and health go hand in hand with mental and spiritual domains for human happiness, and it is up to each person to determine what success means. In turn, it is up to each person to make the life he or she wants to lead, finding ways to overcome obstacles and keeping one’s eyes on the prize.

Simple folk wisdom combines seamlessly in this book with precise information and step by step methodology for business practice. It’s cleverly conceived and well executed and never once feels like we’re being lectured. It’s an invitation not an order and includes references for those wishing to read further.

The author’s conclusion that we should give ourselves permission to enjoy the present moment is worth mentioning. She reminds us that time is finite and gratitude for the day important.

Like much of the fiction I enjoy reading, it is a carpe diem work. So – carpe diem.

Thank you to Wiley for my review copy and to Olivia for speaking frankly with me about business and about what matters in life.