About me

About me

I’m Julia, mum to three amazing sons and Children’s Guide is my “other baby” – my once passion project which has now become my job.

We have also had children of various family friends, sometimes up to 3 at a time, live with us at different stages for durations from 8 months to 5 ½ years as these kids moved from teens to early adulthood. We are that house that everyone drops in to and other parent friends regularly ask for child-minding or sleepover favours. 

Like all families, life can get busy and chaotic, but we have a pretty good routine – I am a neat-freak, I love being organised, I love lists and everyone helps. We are an open dialogue family and we’re prepared to pick our battles and let some things slide. But above all, we have fun! 

Mr Guide, whilst incredibly supportive, has very little to do with Children’s Guide and is busy with his own work plus being a completely hands-on dad. With two dogs, a library in our home (we love books), a once large and well used craft cupboard now downsized to make way for teen interests, experimental foodie-family kitchen and simple living to save every spare cent for travel (pre-covid, and hopefully again before too long), we have an eclectic and happy home in Sydney. We have a love and appreciation for our local community, as well as the communities and small towns we grew up in.

My corporate background ranges across government, private, environmental, media, charity and arts sectors, and I’ve served on a Board, In setting up Children’s Guide, I am certainly drawing from my past career as well as my love of lists, our busy-organised-happy family, and travel experiences to develop Children’s Guide into a comprehensive resource.

But I couldn’t do it without the incredible support of so many businesses and organisations wanting to get involved, and I especially coudn’t do it without the best team in the world to work with. Watch this space as I’ll be introducing you to CJ, Hally, Jaz, Lynne, Louie, Victoria and others shortly….

Creating Children’s Guide

Creating Children’s Guide

The original idea for Children’s Guide was inspired by a job I was doing for a client (actually, my local council) some years ago. Having worked on council projects in the past, my events & communications company at the time, was contracted to help develop a Residents’ Guide and Go Local Directory which was printed and 50,000 copies distributed for free to the whole community. It was a great guide to the various services provided by council and other local community organisations, sports facilities, health services, retailers, tradesmen and so on.

I did think, however, that it would be fantastic to have a similar publication directed at families.

As a parent I regularly collected dozens of flyers and brochures which ended in cluttered, collapsing piles, visited difficult to navigate websites, and tried to decode directory and search engine terms, just wishing I could have everything accessible in one place.

My council wasn’t in a position to publish another book so soon, so between my two kids and running my business I wrote a proposal and approached other organisations. With no interest and no takers I suggested to Mr Guide that I write the book myself. I think the insane look in my eyes was infectious because he completely supported me and away I went.

Looking further out of just our local area to the whole of Sydney’s inner west, I turned my proposal into a project plan, received advice and familiarised myself with copyright, publishing and advertising laws, got printing quotes and prepared a budget, and designed info packs and registration forms for local businesses. I displayed it all beautifully in folders which I put in the bottom of my 2 year old son’s pram and started pushing. We walked up and down the streets of Ashfield, Balmain, Leichhardt, Rhodes and more, saying hi to businesses and telling them of my grand idea. Like Mr Guide, some of them were infected by my insanity and signed up.

I found an amazing graphic designer and photographer and ran an art competition amongst local schools in search of a cover picture, pulled it all together, sent the book to print and Children’s Guide was born.

We were also expecting another birth as I was pregnant with my 3rd child. The largest and most uncomfortable pregnancy of all my 3 kids, I suffered morning-noon-night sickness and woke up with a headache every single day for 8 and a half months. This was during the time that I was pushing the pram, phoning businesses, doing a lot of data entry and setting up a basic website, mostly laying on my side on the sofa with the laptop because I just felt so blah and yuck!

Children’s Guide was launched at the Sydney Pregnancy Babies & Children’s Expo. 3,000 copies of the book were delivered to our home along with posters, flyers and a newsletter. With the help of some of my designer’s friends, at 7 months pregnant I stood around the PBC Expo for 3 days with serious heart-burn and a lot of pride. I’d written a book! It really was the worst time not to be able to drink champagne.

Books were distributed to newsagencies throughout the inner west and I spoke and presented at various parent group and a few weeks later I got a phone call from the City of Canada Bay Council saying that I’d been nominated for the most child friendly business category in their annual Sustainability Awards. Mr Guide and I took our 2 week old son to the ceremony and I won! I never found out who nominated me but a massive thank you, I am eternally grateful!

Armed with an award and a book I had considered either preparing similar books for other areas or developing a website and started on a project plan. However, I was still running my business, had three kids and over the past ten years I’ve spent eight and a half volunteering for a charity, four years on a Board and had several personal and family issues which took priority. So Children’s Guide was just this cool thing I once did.

But a lot happens in 10 years. Kids grow and become more independent, numerous experiences are had, work, volunteering, health and priorities all change. Family still comes first, but I remember how much I loved working on my little book so over 2019 I wound down all my previous work and commitments and spent half the year writing a business plan and preparing to focus solely on Children’s Guide, build up a team and work on it full time.

Communications, media and the internet and how we access them have also changed very significantly in the past 10 years, but what hasn’t changed is the struggle so many parents still have finding details and options amongst every other parenting decision. For any families who thought they’d figured out “normal”, along came 2020 bringing the challenges of fires, floods and COVID-19.

Despite the challenges and delays, the business plan I wrote last year remains. I am applying my book’s original themes of Community, Safe, Healthy, Nurtured and Happy and developing a comprehensive resource for families. I want to establish Children’s Guide as a trusted resource which is up to date, relevant, informed and independent. Our team is growing to work on continually building the website with news, stories and practical information, publishing a digital Min-e-Mag and print magazine in 2021, and over time introducing new products .

I firmly believe that a community resource should be community driven, so I request and invite feedback and suggestions – tell me what you want to see, read about, or if you know of a great business or resource to add.

I’ve received fantastic feedback from other parents and businesses about what what they would like to see in Children’s Guide. There is a lot to work on, but baby steps for now.

I sincerely hope this little venture does well, because I’ve wound down everything else and rented office space – this is it. My little team and I have to work hard to make Children’s Guide work or we’ll be looking for other jobs soon so we can feed our kids.

Julia Marshall
Founder, Publisher