We’ve all had some kind of ‘rock bottom’ moment, whether we’re talking about life, business or perhaps both. There’s no doubt that with the rise of entrepreneurship, running a business has been glorified in recent times. I’m not sure about you but I’m tired of reading about ‘overnight success stories’ – I find it refreshing when someone opens up and tells it how it is.
Meet Gordana Skarzynski.
She’s the co-founder of AV Lounge, a boutique audio visual systems integration company. Their expertise lies in designing, constructing, engineering, installing and maintaining 24-hour service within the audio visual and new technology industries, which are both booming. What you can’t know until you dig a little deeper into Gordana’s story, are the business challenges she and her family have faced on their journey.
AV Lounge began when Gordana and her husband, Richard Skarzynski, found themselves at rock bottom. They were living in a relative’s three bedroom cottage in Croydon, New South Wales and had just lost everything they’d known and worked hard for over a 30 year period.
To understand just how remarkable Gordana’s success and resiliences levels are, we need to take you back to 2003.
As the mother of 2 healthy kids slowly making her way back into the workforce, life was going according to plan for Gordana and her family.
“At the time, I was consulting to a number of small businesses to help them get their businesses off the ground. My experience working alongside Finance Directors, Functions Managers and Product Managers for various companies earlier in my career, meant I was well suited to helping businesses on their journey towards success,” says Gordana.
She soon began looking to get involved elsewhere, volunteering at the Oasis Youth Support Network (aka the Salvos) and running sessions for the Pathway to Employment programme for underprivileged youth.
“In 2005, I decided to go back and study a Bachelor of Psychology on a part-time basis. I never could have known what was ahead when Richard’s business of 30 years went into Receivership. To say it was a huge shock to me and our family is an understatement.”
While Gordana knew the business was in the process of being sold, she had no idea about the financial pressure the company and its Directors were under. One day, they were a family living comfortably and the next, they were struggling and back at square one.
“This was a very surreal time in my life. Our world had been turned upside down and I was really worried about Richard and his health. He had grown this business for over 30 years and just like that, our security and lifeline disappeared. Our bank accounts, cars, phones and all of our assets had ceased.”
Something Gordana had done in the past was about to come back to haunt her.
“I still remember the afternoon Richard came home, asking me to guarantee some leases his company had entered into. I refused point blank. I reminded him that the reason our home was in my name was so that it and we, were protected should anything happen to the business. It would ensure we had the safety net of our home always. He pleaded with me and said that if I didn’t sign the papers that I would jeopardise the sale of the business. So I signed it!”
This meant that when the family sold their home, all of the money went towards financing the company that months earlier, Gordana had guaranteed leases for. As a result, the family moved into a relative’s house until they got back on their feet. They had one room where they could focus on kickstarting AV Lounge. Where many would crumble under the pressure and disappointment of losing everything they had worked their entire lives for, Gordana focused her energies on creating a new life and business.
“There was no time to sit and mope. We both had work to do so we just got on with it. It would take us a good seven years to work through the “carnage” of Richard’s business closure, but we got there in the end. We borrowed $10k from one of my best friends and slowly, we climbed back up what felt like a very steep hill.”
AV Lounge has carved out a successful niche for itself in the audio visual space but as you’ve read here, success hasn’t come without its fair share of heartache and speed bumps. How many of us would have been able to push through such challenging times? Reality is, business is full of challenges and its people like Gordana, who are armed with determination and resilience that make it through. We’ll let this incredible woman have the last say…
“I feel blessed to have my family together. Our children are happy and healthy, our business is kind to us and we still have each other. Working on our business is rewarding but I find our true success in our family,” reflects Gordana.