The crowdfunding for Flow Hive went crazy: $17 million in eight weeks. Our money worries were over, but suddenly we had to deliver 24,500 pieces. I had never experienced stress or worked in an office; I had just gone to a place where the wind was blowing: giving paragliding and the occasional Greenpeace performance. Under pressure, I took advantage of a valuable life skill Stu had taught me: just figure out how things work and how to fix them. For example, we have set up the production process and delivered the units on time.
I told Stu from the beginning that if our success ever came between us, I would give up everything. Our daily life has changed, but not our relationship. Where we once had the time and space to dream, we now have a calendar full of appointments and yet we still find time to work in the shed. I enjoy those days. Our brains are so wired together that we seem to bounce on each other in ways neither of us can do alone.
My partner Kylie and I are trying to instill that same freedom of thought in our children [son Jarli, 7, and daughter Mella, 4]. When Jarli asked for a quad recently, I bought a broken one so we could fix it together.
I certainly don’t feel like a millionaire – and neither does Stu. He bought an electric car in 2019 after his old one caught fire, but I still drive my HiLux on chippie vegetable oil. Family holidays are local, often just camping with Stu and [his second wife] michelle. Fraser Island is still about as far as we get.
Stuart: “Bubby” was almost six weeks old before we found the right name for him. We called him Cedar because his blond hair reminded us of red cedar trees. Every morning I walked with him and his brothers to their community learning center. The journey usually took about 20 minutes, but if I let Cedar set the pace, it would take hours. For him, like a dreamy child, the journey was as interesting as school itself. One of his favorite things to do at school was “pulling apart,” for example, taking apart a washing machine to figure out how it worked. I encouraged my children to build things.
My parenting style made sure that the consequences of the boys’ decisions reflected on them as much as possible. With Cedar, I could get angry about the burn holes in the carpet from the soldering iron he often left out, the dirty dishes, or not being ready for school. But I would think about the bigger picture and ask myself, “What’s important right now?” I preferred to focus on ways to nurture his extraordinaryness.
“I would think about the bigger picture and ask myself, ‘What’s important right now?’ I preferred to focus on ways to nurture his extraordinaryness.”
Flow Hive exploded in beekeeping. Some beekeepers reacted with suspicion, even though they didn’t even see it. They thought we made a skilled craft look easy. But beekeeping, like any other animal husbandry, is a skill you can learn. At first, Cedar felt overwhelmed by the negative commentary, but to his credit he decided not to take on the sullenness of a bunch of grumpy old beekeepers. His attitude became, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it.” We never said our invention was for everyone.
Obsessed with our crowdfunding success, journalists asked us which homes, cars and lifestyles we would choose. I didn’t want to change anything: I was, and still am, very happy to live a simple life.
As CEO of Flow Hive, Cedar has less time to work in the shed and when he does there are usually interruptions. On the other hand, turning our invention into a business means we can now afford the tools we need to keep innovating. And we are more confident in our ability to invent and come up with new ideas. We are currently working on new inventions in beekeeping and ways to restore the bee habitat.
I enjoy working on design issues with Cedar. He has infinite perseverance and eye for detail, while I tend to say, “That’s good enough.” Our understanding is extraordinary. When we work on a problem together, it often only takes a word or a few pencil strokes to get an idea across. We are so tuned that our minds somehow get stuck; it feels, oddly enough, like I can go into his brain. When we play Pictionary as a team, we just beat the competition!
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