Hi, Angela here.
In about 2006-2007, I created a project - A Family of Shopkeepers - letters and memories. From this tiny seed is where my story begins.
Before 2007, My Uncle on my dad's side had passed away, and I felt compelled to take action. I felt like his story was untold. He didn't get married and he didn't have any children. His memories had gone with him. But his 4 brothers and 5 sisters were still alive, as were all of my cousins. I realised his memories were also inside of them.
My grandfather died the year I was born (1980) and my grandmother died the year my sister was born (1986). When I was about 12, I began writing stories on a typewriter at first and migrated to my first computer when I was about 15. I would write about my memories of my grandmother and through the bits I knew from my aunts and uncles I tried to piece together her life.
In the weeks and days leading up to this day, I had been cultivating ideas around my project. In 2007, I received a rush of energy as I awoke. A wave of emotion had hit me because I realised this life that I have and lead is because of the courage of my grandparents to leave China for Australia.
Here I was with tears trickling down my face, recognising that their sacrifices and suffering was my honour and privilege. In that moment of emotion, I was transported back and it felt as though I knew them.
I felt deeply moved that they might never know how thankful and grateful I was for their courage at first, but then their sheer perseverance with raising 11 kids (1 was stillborn) and beyond that their persistence to live a better life.
For my grandfather it was better as he was born in Darwin and travelled back to China to find my grandmother. For my grandmother it was hard as she travelled 6 months in a boat, she arrived in the middle of the White Australia Policy, but lucky for her my grandfather had established relationships to let her in. They had two businesses (a fish and chip shop and a mixed business) while raising their children and they lived in three bedrooms above the businesses.
My journey in life from then on really shifted and changed. I was living in honour of them and to acknowledge them. Who was I not to live a big life because of and for them?
The project unfolded as a creation of letters. It took me almost four years to self-publish and its full of heartfelt memories from each of my aunts and uncles as well as my dad. Every time I received a letter, I would cry. I just felt so moved, that I would get to know not just my aunts and uncles but my grandparents and uncle who had passed as well.
One of the youngest uncles didn't write anything because he thought he had nothing to say but I realise now its because he never wants to let himself feel the emotion of all of the losses. My uncle actually gave the uncle who passed away once of his kidneys. Isnt there a saying "I'd give my left kidney"... suffice it to say I'm sure my uncle loved his brother very much and just couldn't face telling me his memories. I called this book A family of shopkeepers - letters and memories.
Last night, something similar happened again to me but I was awake and really present to it. I started expanding more of mum's online presence for her restaurant and I didn't care if it would work or wouldn't work. I just went with the flow. I trusted my intuition. I was creating and taking actions.
So this time it was about my mum. And she has not passed away and neither has my maternal grandmother. My mum has for the last 25 years been doing what my grandparents did. Reinventing themselves inside of having a family business.
I realised that we are the authority on our experience. For such a long time, mum has been trying to pinpoint her purpose when it has been sitting right under her nose the whole time. Even I had a hint of it because I was so inspired when she had a business that I would push her to get another when she didn't have one!
This morning when I woke up, a flood of ideas and a rush of energy and action arrived. I kept on creating and more and more came up and I let it. I shared it with mum.
I realised, more distinctly, we are the authority on a family of shopkeepers! What an epiphany and insight.
Beyond that, what has formed a big part of our personal success, is our willingness to take on feedback, our willingness to reinvent ourselves and over the years, we have become better at explaining why we do what we do authentically. The messaging matches exactly what we do.
I remember one year, we didnt have a business at all. I picked a name and it was random because I was searching for realestate, but from this one street name I built the branding for what would become the restaurant that mum has still to this day.
This branding is in honour of my grandmother and it moves me that I didnt wait for her to pass away to do something to honour her and be in honour of her.
When she was 14 she carried water in baskets over her shoulders up and down a mountain. That's why if you ever meet her, you will see her knees are bowlegged today.
She was a single mother with 6 children when her husband walked out on her to choose another family to be with instead. She gambled to put food on the table for her kids.
I guess that's why when I am writing this, the tears are trickling down my face again because this life is short and its precious with the future never promised. I can however, say because of her, we live a full life, a free life, a privileged life.
We do what we do to honour her and in honour of her but because we know her suffering, we never want to forget it. We know it is within our power to share authentically who we are. So here we are expanding the reach of our voices. To let people know we see you, we get you, we feel you. We know exactly what it takes to raise a family around business and for that to become part of who you are rather than just a source of income.
We empower family owned small business to find their true why and in doing so unleashing their full potential.
We are a family of shopkeepers. We share our journey with the world, right from where we are. If we were to plot on a map where our family hails from, of course, the majority are from China and Indonesia, and now Australia, however we are still discovering the facts of our heritage so much is still unknown. We were raised in Darwin, Northern Territory, and when our ancestors arrived to Darwin, unfortunately, after the tropical cyclones Darwin is renowned for, a lot of our records disappeared. This journey we share is about documenting our lives now, for our next generations and also for providing the difference we want to make right now.