It’s one of those days in Cairns, those stifling, humid, summer days where thunderstorms are imminent and off street car parks are rare, where although the mind moves quickly, rushing anywhere is a feat of extreme athleticism. Despite all this, turning up to meet publisher, author, entrepreneur and entertainer Bree James is a breeze.
The truth is, what you see of Bree reflected in her work as Editor-In-Chief of North Queensland’s longest standing, continuous print magazine PakMag, or on her podcasts, Breakfast Over Business and the PakMag Parenting Podcast or on her various blogs, is exactly what you get in person. Bree James is just as warm, engaging and entertaining as she is passionate about inspiring excellence – the very topic that brings us here today.
Before publishing magazines and books, Bree James was (and worth noting, still is) an entertainer. Very much at home on various stages during her formative years around NSW Northern Rivers with her musician father, Bree says entertaining was always in her blood. “I sang and played instruments from a very young age, and grew up in and around the pubs and clubs scene. I always joke I’ve slept in every green room in the Northern Rivers.
“When I was old enough, I went out on my own with a focus on entertaining children. I moved around and eventually made the move to Cairns. In no time, I landed plenty of gigs and a university spot studying teaching. These, of course, were the days before Facebook or websites; I found people were saying they wanted to come to my gigs, but I had no way of getting the word out. Traditional media was almost always retrospective. My initial goal was to create a What’s On guide for local families, then my teaching brain got the better of me – they could also know about health, recipes, products… within six weeks I had launched the first PakMag magazine.
“People loved the magazine from day one, but I never really thought about what owning a magazine would be like as a life – constant deadlines and management. I never had a business plan, I’d never worked in print, I’d never sold advertising, I hadn’t written anything since high school and the best bit was that I wasn’t even a parent, but thought I’d start a parenting magazine. I did have a child 18 months in though. Technically he should be tax deductable.”
Even before becoming a parent, Bree had an understanding of how hard it was to be a parent, to engage with children. “I grew up in a single parent family. My Mum raised us full time and did it quite tough. Money was tight, so anything that was free in the community she used to support. Part of the ethos of PakMag was engaging and supporting community – if I can make someone’s life just that little bit easier telling them about free things, paid things, fun things, connecting them to their community then I’ve done my job. Happy parents have happy children which create a happy community. That’s my passion.”
And now moving through to her next stage of life’s passions, Bree has released a very personal project, one that she hopes will help people find clarity in all aspects of life. Born from the idea of vision boards and mind setting, My Vision Book is a self-improvement tool ‘for growth minded people who want to create the best vision for their life and the best version of themselves.’
“Every year, I try to have a break to set intentions and vision for the year. About five years ago, I thought doing a vision book would be great – I can have it with me at all times, refresh and review when I want, but much more in depth than a vision board. I want to be able to go deeper in all aspects of my life – my personal life, my assets, my dreams. I started off with a scrap book, and the bones of that took me somewhere pretty special. A friend of mine saw it, an encouraged me to turn it into a book saying that she wanted one! I left it for the best part of a year, and then I got this urge to really put pen to paper, so to speak.
“It’s the power of visualisation. We actually know what relationships we want, what houses we want, what we want our lives to look like, but it’s all in our head. When you get it out of your head a number of things happen. Firstly, there’s a clarity of it finally being out and on paper. And secondly, you start to question the things you thought you wanted or needed and decide if you actually want them or if you’re having a visceral response to marketing. It’s an extraordinary process. Last year, I realised that I had everything I needed, so had to really question why I was still in my strive-and-drive mode when I didn’t need anything else.
“The human existence is a lifelong journey of self-discovery. We all need to continually work on ourselves. There are so many broken leaders out there who are leading with damaged ways of doing things. Whilst it might feel or seem selfish to continually work on yourself, I believe that if you’re not working on yourself it’s really hard to help other people and make a positive impact. Start with self. Strive for your own excellence. It’s not easy, but so worthwhile.”