Mum, entrepreneur, ex-basketballer and all around girl-boss Stevee-Rose has some advice about haters – use them. For her, embracing people’s doubt meant finding herself turning 30 and resigned to chillin on a beach, on a Tuesday, jobless but still paid.
Stevee says the best part about her decision to quit her job and focus full-time on her business, is being able to be with her daughter more. “I just really value my time” she says.
Making candles and planters was something she started during lockdown, just for her. Then, orders started coming in to the point where she said it no longer made sense to keep her day job. “Almost everyday, I’d make more money from my side business than my day job. At six figures, I was like nah, ‘Why am I here’”?
It took a little bit of a push, “But I was like, no, I need to just take the leap and do it,” she said.
In this interview she shares her mind-set, of how to become the only Māori woman working at an IT company, earning over six figures a year. Then, how to walk away from that, because you’ve levelled up to never having to work for someone else again.
Now she does what she wants, making moulds of Dennis Rodman’s face for soy wax candles or Nike Air Jordan cement planters.
We hope her story can inspire others to believe in themselves and go for it ALL in 2021.
Stevee: A few of my friends have quit their jobs this year as well and they are working as full-time creatives too. I try my best to support them as much as possible.
Serum: 2020 has been crazy. It’s like there has been a creative awakening…
S: I’ve almost been in Brisbane for two years, I came here with no job and stayed with my nephew to start. Then in one week, I got a job, house and a car. It was crazy just coming here with nothing, but I work in IT, so I was quite sure I would find something because it’s a pretty booming field. When I did start working, I just had no flexibility with my daughter and I was playing basketball as well ..It was nuts. I would get home at like 10pm and I’d be racing around all day, driving all over the city, and it felt like, ‘this isn’t living’. I felt burnt out and I’ve always just wanted to have some more freedom, that’s always been what I want.
S: When did you quit your job?
S: I started doing this in July and I quit my job in September, it was a few months of doing two jobs but then in September it went full-time because I was making more money from my side business than my day job.
S: In your IT job, as a woman earning over six figures you would have been a minority, no?
S: I felt like being a young Māori woman, that was big, because IT is a white-male dominated field and it was cool. My family arent in the corporate game, I grew up in state housing in Northcote and I’ve just been around shitty kids that would make me feel less for where I lived or because my dad drives Harleys, so he’s ‘a gangsta’ and I was always just like, ‘Fuck you, I’ll show you and that drove me for a while, but now I don’t feel like I need to think like that anymore. It’s not good [to permanently think like that].
S: Like you, showing other women there’s no one way of doing anything…
S: I remember when I started in IT. I wasn’t qualified for the job but it was another Māori guy who was like, ‘You know what, I wanna give a young wahine a chance so I’m going to take you on’. That was out of like 100 applicants – I know for some people that might seem racist or discriminatory but it basically kicked my career off.
S: That’s how it works aye, that one guy who decided you know what, I wanna give you a chance..
S: Yip and he stayed my mentor for many years. He is highly successful and stays connected to his roots so he is a great person in my life. Whenever we talk we try to talk in Māori which is cool.
S: What are your candle/planter design staples?
S: My candles and my planters are my main now, it was so scary because as a single mum in Australia, you get no government assistance or anything and I knew that if I failed, it would be a thing. I was honestly forced to do it full-time, unexpectedly, because some days I would just get so many orders that I was earning more than my day job. I kinda had no choice but to decide between the two.
S: So how did that go for you?
S: I don’t make wholesale orders anymore because it’s not enjoyable and I wanted to stop mass producing and keep my stuff just a bit more exclusive and ethically sourced. There are a few other businesses who started at the same time as me, and they are fully pumping; doing wholesale in factories, with employees making body candles, there’s nothing wrong with that but it just felt like that wasnt me. There’s always a new design that I’m doing and it’s not about worrying about money at this stage, it’s just like I’m sure if I like it, then it’ll be all good.
Stevee incorporates her personality into her candles and her passion for basketball. She also makes PlayStation controller designs and recently added a Nike Air Jordan 1 into her collection.
S: I’ve played basketball since I was five, it’s kind of been my life. My dad’s been my coach. He would wake me up almost every morning at 6am so we could shoot and he would rebound. I hated it at the time but it’s taught me valuable life skills. I coach my daughter over here, and I used to play here.
S:There’s no rules in creative lanes anymore, like you can be making candles shaped like a PlayStation controller, because the internet..
S: I’m just experimenting with different materials now, paints, spray paints soy wax and it’s just real cool. I’ve connected with heaps of people and made new creative friends too, a mate lives in Burleigh and we just go and do projects together – we just made a Jordan shoe out of flowers. I don’t want to make things with a focus to make money, I wanna make things because I like it. I found that is the best way to be, just yourself because opportunities will arise and people sense an authenticity in you.
Stevee says 2021 will be about her. She is focused on the gym at the moment and getting her body looking how she wants to and therefore feeling how she wants to.
S: Society has always told me to get a job, buy a house, be in a relationship and that was really cool. Then I worked up to being a project manager earning six figures in Auckland city. But I came to a point where I realised I highly value my time.
Now, it’s about focusing on the small things, everyday I will drop my daughter off to school and feel good I don’t have to take her to before school care, then I’ll get to the gym at 9am and come home and start working until it’s time to do school pick ups, the flexibility is great. I am thinking about getting a part-time job at a smoothie shop or a florist just to break up my time and have a little structure and learn new things. I think that will be fun.
I can work or meet up with friends and I feel like this is living, not me reaching all these goals that I’m ‘supposed’ to reach, so my 30’s is about stepping out of that.
S: I think there needs to be more stories of this shared for those left in the suburbs to look at your story and be like, yes, you can follow your dreams.
S: Polynesians and Māori are so talented at sport, art, everything, and I just feel like we have culture ingrained into our existence. It’s a natural thing that we come with and we’re so blessed. I honestly see so many kids with potential who just need a bit of help, the plan is to give back to the youth and do whatever I want. Being Māori is so important to me. If anything I can show people just to follow your passion in whatever that is.