After 46 years in rural NSW, Helen Shallick now operates her award-winning day spa and calls the coast home.
> Full Name: Helen Cecilia Shallick.
> Time spent living in Greater Port Macquarie? Seven years.
> Current Profession? Owner of Port Macquarie Day Spa – beauty therapist, remedial massage therapist and laser operator.
> My previous career was … a farmer on a 2,000 acre property.
I was 7 months pregnant with a 7 and 3 year old when my first husband died from his second heart attack. My dad had been a farmer, but I grew up in the era where the girls got married, had kids and looked after the house, family and garden.
I was fortunate to have lived in a small village called Caragabal in Central NSW most of my life, so I had a strong support network of family and friends.
By the time I sold the property in 2001, I could tell you the seed and super rate for every paddock over the years. Out of necessity, I learned to shoot and still retain a gun, boat and rigid truck licence. I’ve gone through the hardships of floods and droughts and even had the experience of having to shoot animals that were too far gone from lambing and calving to save them.
> What I loved most about this was …
There were many aspects of farming that I came to love. The continued improvements of the property, e.g. new fences, grain storage and stock diversification.
The smell of grass growing after drought breaking rain. The feeling of satisfaction when I was producing prime lambs during a period of drought when most of the farmers around me were shooting their sheep and burying them.
Coming runner up in the crop competition in the West Wyalong district. Being the first person in my late husband’s family and in my family to grow Canola successfully.
A sense of pride seeing the vealers I had produced go under the hammer for an excellent price in the saleyards in Forbes, and a real feeling of connection with the land and the community.
> I changed career paths because …
My dad got cancer, and I wanted to do something to help improve his quality of life. Unfortunately, by the time I got my qualifications as a remedial massage therapist, Dad had passed away, but I continued to work in Grenfell helping alleviate discomfort for a diverse variety of people, from truck drivers, nurses, teachers and retirees.
In 2001 I sold the farm, after much deliberation. (Thankfully I did, as there was a 7 year drought after that). Looking for a suitable business to purchase took many months, but I eventually settled on Port Macquarie Day Spa. During this time, I attended a Cancer and Massage Course, did Day Spa Courses at the Nature Care College in Sydney and did Reiki Level 1 and 2.
I was also attracted to the area because of its proximity to Sydney, as my son and daughter were at boarding schools there, and because of the climate.
> What I enjoy most about my new life is …
It was always my dream to live by the ocean, and now I do. I love the environment, as it is always so green here and the ocean is very healing. I have great neighbours and friends.
The opportunities for education are fabulous, from the schools right through to the TAFE and university. The community offers so much sporting and cultural diversity as well, without having to travel 2 to 6 hours to be part of it!
> Highlights and lowlights of the job are …
Highlights of the job are the beautiful, loyal clientele I have met and become friends with over the years. The opportunity to get my qualifications in beauty therapy. The rapport and respect I receive from my peers and members of the various groups I belong to, e.g. Rotary Sunrise, HBWN, Greater Port Macquarie Tourism Association.
The ability to use top notch products and equipment to help people to look and feel better about themselves and to create a visible difference. It has been an honour to be acknowledged and receive awards from local and regional organisations for the business and the contributions made through it.
Lowlights are the paperwork involved in running a small business can be overwhelming at times, so sometimes it feels like I’m “knocking off work to carry bricks”. Staffing is always a challenge in any business, but I have been fortunate to have awesome staff who are passionate about their work and their guests. Getting balance in my life is also a challenge.
> I wouldn’t change anything because …
The move to Port Macquarie has been the best thing I could have done for my children and I. As I said, if I had stayed I would have faced 7 years of drought. Most of the families that the children knew have moved away. It would have been a pretty lonely place for them. I believe we are all better individuals because of the decision to move here, even though we have faced many challenges over the years.
> In the future I want to …
Do more training. We now have the medical profession encroaching on the beauty industry, and we need to keep up with the times if this industry is going to survive. That’s why I got into lasers and skin rejuvenation 5 years ago. Even the products we use at the Spa are so technologically advanced that some creams actually ‘read’ your skin and deliver what is lacking into it!
I want to be a leader in my profession and also create the balance in my life that I came here for.
> Thank you Helen.