From Lockdowns to Lessons

Gem Nation /

When we thought 2020 was a real struggle, 2021 delivered its own set of challenges with multiple lockdowns in various states, some for such extended periods of time, and everyone having to adapt and stay nimble, and dare we say it, continue to pivot. We reached out to three of our Freelancing Gems Members, Annika, Codie and Jessica to ask them to share what has been the challenges, the lessons and the wins of 2021 and what the hope for their business is in 2022.

Annika Launay


Annika is a co-owner and Managing Director of PDPR marketing and creative and has over 15 years experience working with some incredible brands, businesses and people. She specialises in the areas of retail, hospitality, FMCG and tourism and have a passion and flair for helping businesses achieve (and surpass) their communication goals. Her key skills are in designing, managing and executing multi-faceted marketing and PR campaigns that really pack a punch.

What has been the most challenging obstacle in business this year?

Being separated from my business partner and co-Director of PDPR. She heads the NSW division and is still unable to cross the border.

Whilst the business has run seamlessly, the distance does take its toll and not being able to come together regularly has meant that creativity and motivation have at times been quite challenged!

What lesson/s have you learnt in 2021?

This year has been one of re-calibration and the need to continue to build our business despite current world events making it difficult to do so! I have learnt to slow down and take the time to remember what is important in life. For me, this is the balance between work, home, family and friends.

What has been an ‘aha’ moment or a win in 2021?

Having clarity around the needs and goals of the business has afforded the time to launch a new company – a platform that focuses on the Australian tween market – specifically 9-14 year old girls and promotes community, education and empowerment. In the 6-months since inception, we have created an entire media platform, collaborated with an incredible array of brands, filmed a pilot for a tv series, planned for a nation-wide research project and launched our very own podcast. It feels incredible to have a business that is making a difference and building a strong legacy for years to come.

What is your goal or vision for 2022?

To have a much needed break(!) and then start the New Year with renewed vigour. My goal is to continue to grow the two businesses, meet more incredible people, form new relationships, expand learnings and possibilities for our brands and really make a mark.

 Codie Reeves

What has been the most challenging obstacle in business this year?

There have been many challenging obstacles in business this year but at the core, they all stem back to managing mental health while running a business. It can be a taboo topic but I want to help encourage conversation around it.

The ups and downs of 2021 were real as we rode the covid-coaster. I suffer from acute anxiety which means a lot of overthinking and catastrophising… some days, I had tonnes of work to do and absolutely no motivation to do it. Some days I thought “I can’t do this anymore, the world is falling down around me” – it is so important in these periods of self-doubt to go at your own pace and lean on others for support. I constantly had to remind myself why I am doing this and who I was doing it for.

Nevertheless, I persisted (with lots of tears!) and here I am, standing proud as a boss lady and business owner.

What lesson/s have you learnt in 2021?

I’ve learnt that RELATIONSHIPS are the most important thing when it comes to business, not money.

What has been an ‘aha’ moment or a win in 2021?

A win for me has been to finally be in a financial position where I can hire another freelancer to help me in my business!

What is your goal or vision for 2022?

I have done 12 months of learning, now I want to emerge and grow my business. I’d love to have more clients and some super awesome Sidekicks working in the business this time next year. Quality over quantity though!


Jessica Bilston-Gourley


Jessica Bilston-Gourley is the Founder and Director of HR consultancy and outsourcing provider, Positive HR. Jessica has a strong understanding of what makes people tick. She works with companies holistically to ensure a strong and compliant foundation is built that fosters a positive and connected company culture.

With a focus on HR, employment law, and workplace culture and compliance, Jessica continuously seeks ways to challenge the status quo in HR and delivers a fresh and holistic approach.

Jessica is a speaker at many industry events and has been recognised for her work in HR after being ranked in the Top 5 HR Professionals on LinkedIn across Australia, Silver for Ausmumpreneur Service Business and Silver for Whitehorse Business Young Leader of the Year. Way to go Jessica, we salute you!

What has been the most challenging obstacle in business this year?

It has been a rollercoaster year, and the most challenging obstacle has been managing my own and my teams emotions. Whilst we had some amazing stories of success to re-deploy employees and find budget to manage wages, we have also had to make a total of 123 employees redundant, and stood down on unpaid leave another 268 employees across our collective clients. It is devastating to hear individual stories. The team and I spent nights not sleeping to try and find alternative options, at times we even cried together, but in the end the decisions had to be made. Yep, it’s part of our normal day to day role but not typical on that scale and with such impact to employees lives. Ensuring I am present for my team and checking in regularly with them has been extremely important.

What lesson/s have you learnt in 2021?

I’ve learnt to slow down. As you can imagine, HR has been quite high pressure, in particular with constant changes to legislation. At times it was very overwhelming. I quickly learnt to turn off my phone and emails, set auto replies, slow down, process information and then respond accordingly to clients. I’ve also learnt that community is everything! I have relied on my communication with fellow business owners to keep pushing and to grow and continually improve our service offering.

What has been an ‘aha’ moment or a win in 2021?

A huge win was being nominated by clients in our local Whitehorse Awards and receiving second place for the Young Business Owner Award. I went through over 3 hours of interviews and questions to showcase what makes Positive HR different to other HR consulting companies. Another win has been recognised for our articles being published in HRM and SmartCompany.

What is your goal or vision for 2022?

2022’s vision is to grow our community in HR Huddle, which is a do-it-together answer to wrangling workplace matters for startups and smes. We want to help take the headache out of managing Australia’s complex legislative framework and support the delivery of a positive environment for people. As you know, to win in the marketplace, you must look after your people.


Now, take a moment and reflect on what have been your challenges this year, what lessons have you learnt? Let’s think about the wins we have each had and also look forward to what we want for 2022. Take a few minutes to sit and reflect, maybe write them down for ease of reference to motivate you for 2022 and what you aim to achieve.


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