From six-figure salary to 75 cents
GEMMA Lloyd was living the dream with a six-figure salary, a nice apartment and a BMW convertible before she gave it all up to start her own business.
At one point, she had just 75 cents in the bank - but she insists quitting her job at the age of 27 and starting her own company was the best thing she's ever done.
"I rented out my apartment in Brisbane and moved into a share house in Melbourne. It was tough - I remember one time I had 75 cents in my bank account and only a few tins of tuna in my cupboard so I thought, how am I going to live?" she said.
"I was someone who had a big six-figure salary and I could buy clothes all the time and drink whatever I wanted on the weekend. Suddenly I was catching public transport instead of driving around in my convertible. It was a big shock to the system, and sometimes I struggled.
"I never felt I'd made a huge mistake but I did feel fearful and scared. There was a lot of risk and even though my apartment was being rented out, I had fears I could lose it, the only asset I had that I'd worked all those years to build up."
Ms Lloyd had spent a decade battling the tech industry's boys' club before coming up with the idea behind her now-thriving business, DCC Jobs.
The company connects female employees with female-friendly workplaces, and participating companies are thoroughly screened on initiatives such as flexible working, pay equity, women in leadership and more as part of Ms Lloyd's mission to change "archaic workplace cultures".
The Melbourne-based entrepreneur said the process of starting her own business took a physical and emotional toll as well as a financial one.
"I started the company while I was still working full-time purely because I was so frustrated and passionate and I had the drive to be able to do that amount of work. I had three hours of sleep a night for five or six months while I was getting the business up and running," she said.
"I was always tired - I did nothing but work. It was all I could physically get myself to do, and when I wasn't working I was asleep. I remember one time I was working in the office and my head fell forward on my desk I was so tired. It was by far the hardest thing I've ever done, physically and emotionally, but it's also the best thing I've ever done.
"I haven't had a relationship until very recently because I wouldn't have been able to accommodate one, but I was willing to give that up."
Over time, Ms Lloyd and co-founder Valeria Ignatieva gradually added staff to the team and were able to give themselves "little pay rises" as the business grew.
"We now have 10 staff and I'm pleased to say I can afford to live," Ms Lloyd joked.
She urged other would-be entrepreneurs to take care of their health, find trustworthy advisers and to ask for help when needed during the early stages of building a business.