This month we are putting the spotlight on Ilona Busby, mother of two and entrepreneur, who took a big risk 7 years ago by leaving an 11-year long career with an established company in Malta to pursue her own innovative business venture.
Ilona is one of those people whose personality stands out from miles away. She is friendly, bubbly and strong-minded all at the same time. Her ‘joie de vivre’ and readiness to assist people has helped her build many long-standing relationships along the years both on a professional and on a personal level.
Since, as she admits she has not had time for herself in a very long time, we thought why not take this opportunity to combine the photo-shoot and interview with a day out on a luxury boat? So, with hair and make-up by the lovely Bianca Caruana Curran and Francesca Rizzo at Alfie’s Hair and Beauty Salon, photography by the talented Noella Agius and clothes and accessories from Monsoon and Accessorize off we sailed on our little BuzyMummy adventure.
What drove you to take the decision to start your own company in the first place?
“It was a tough decision because I was happy where I was. I had been working for the same company for over ten years and thanks to my colleagues and mentors, Joe and Belinda I had got to where I was. However at a point I felt I had fulfilled my maximum potential within that firm and that the only way forward would be to open up my own business.”
How did you come up with your business idea?
“I thought of a concept which had not yet landed itself in Malta but was gaining ground overseas: The main aim is to assist individuals and business with a wide variety of tasks without the long-term cost and commitment. YPA’s ultimate objective is that of making clients’ lives easier by giving them peace of mind that the task at hand is being handled in a professional and efficient manner. It was perfect for me because I love organizing anything and everything. I also enjoy connecting people on both a personal and professional level.”
“I was organising a full-blown conference just one month after giving birth to my first-born via C-section”
When did you launch your business?
How did becoming a mother affect your career?
“Well, in the beginning it was naturally more challenging, especially when you consider that when one is self-employed, one does not benefit from maternity leave; in fact I was organising a full-blown conference just one month after giving birth to my first-born via C-section. However on the other hand I started doing more, in less time and thanks to the support and help from my husband and mother, I managed to continue to build my business even when the second baby came along. It took some sacrifices from my end too in terms of my social life and the fact that time to myself was mostly spent working, however I consider myself lucky enough to say that my job is also my hobby so it all worked out. I have also become more selective in the jobs and clients I service, as I want to make sure they get the best personal service that I can offer.”
“Since I am such an independent person, needing to rely on other people to help me get something done without the kids, drove me up the wall.”
What surprised you most about becoming a mother?
She thinks for a moment. “I think what surprised me the most was how, no matter how organised you are, when you have kids, unexpected things happen. You need to go with the flow and being the control freak that I am, I had trouble getting used to this. The truth is, when you become a mother, whether you are a working mother or not, your kids take over your life and you need to work around their schedules, needs, wants and desires.”
What has been the best moment you experienced as a mother?
She gives me a big smile. “When I held both kids in my arms for the first time.”
The Busby family.
What is the most challenging aspect about motherhood?
“In the beginning, I found the fact that I had to depend on people really difficult to accept. Since I am such an independent person, needing to rely on other people to help me get something done without the kids, drove me up the wall. But I am slowly learning to accept it and my advice to other mums is not to resist help. Take it. Take as much as you can, because we all need it. One of the lowest points was when my daughter broke her collar-bone in a silly accident when she fell of a chair, my son developed a fever at the same time which wouldn’t go away and my mother was away for over two weeks. I was very grateful for the support my husband and some friends gave me during that time.” She adds, “I have full respect for single mothers and foreigners with no help in Malta, parenting is a full-on, intense job and doing it alone is extremely hard.”
Has becoming parents affected your relationship in any way?
“Of course it has. On the one hand it made us closer; we created something beautiful together that only we could have done. On the other hand, due to limited help, work commitments and having two small children, we do not have enough time for each other. I wish I could say we go on a date, just me and him, once a week. But the truth is we don’t. We use our babysitting opportunities for work and our idea of spending time together is cuddling up whilst the kids are in bed, and watching an episode from our favourite series. I feel lucky because I have a strong relationship. The toll having kids takes on a relationship should not be underestimated and even if one has a solid rapport with his or her partner before having kids, they undoubtedly add pressure to any relationship.”
“Some companies have the misconception that employees will take advantage (of a flexible working arrangement) but the truth is that good people will repay you with their loyalty and performance”.
What is the best thing you ever bought as a mother?
“I think the angelcare sensor and monitor was one of the best things I bought as a mother. It helped put my mind at rest so that when my new-born was asleep I could relax and sleep too. You hear of so many stories especially these days with the internet, that you can get very paranoid as a new mother so anything that helps you worry less is a God-send.”
What advice would you give to new mothers?
“Take all the help you can get and if you have to work, like most of us do nowadays, try your best to separate work from family life. I myself am still trying to perfect this. It gets better every day as I make a conscious effort to separate my work from time with my kids.”
How do you feel about the term ‘work-life balance’ and what do you think can be done locally to improve parents’ situation when it comes to their careers via-a-via their family life?
“Well I have first-hand experience of how giving employees more freedom and flexibility makes them feel empowered and motivated. When I worked at Loqus, my boss had a very strong ‘work-life balance’ philosophy and this cascaded to all staff, not only to mothers. If more companies take this approach, I believe it is truly a win-win situation. Some companies have the misconception that employees will take advantage of the situation but the truth is that good people will repay you with their loyalty and performance”.
What are your future plans for YPA?
“I believe in giving a reliable, consistent, personal service to my esteemed clients. In terms of services I offer I am mostly focused on personal assistance, recruitment, event management and organising small intimate weddings in Malta for both local and foreign couples. Some of my clients are also busy mummies like me and I love the feeling that I am helping them in some way to keep up with it all.”
You are also the founder of the Facebook group “Malta Charity Central”. What do you wish to achieve with this project?
“The main objective of this group is to connect charities with individuals or companies in Malta. In a small community like ours, I believe that with our input, we can make a big difference. This group is intended to be used as a notice board for charities or individuals involved in any kind of voluntary work to highlight any particular requirements and needs they may have. It can also be used to announce and promote fund-raising events organised by charity organizations.”
We move on to some more light-hearted questions over a refreshing glass of wine:
Special thanks to:
Thanks also to Adrian Muscat for giving us the opportunity to sail on this magnificent 60 foot princess which is also available for charters. Contact Matthew Muscat on 99052060 for more information.
Interview by Davinia Mallia Pulé. For more articles, news and tips, like the BuzyMummy Facebook page.