As a young mother of four, Christina Andrews’ husband left her with no money, no house and no job.
Yet she built up a number of technology based businesses, raised four high achieving kids and even started an online university to help single parents. She inspires other women to overcome challenges.
Meet Christina Andrews
A Modern Greek Triumph over Tragedy
Paralysis, Pins and Needles
I was born in Greece and lived my life like most other normal children, until the age of five when I became paralyzed. I simply woke up one morning and couldn’t walk.
I spent the next few months in hospital undergoing a battery of tests; no-one knew what the cause of my paralysis was. I was given hundreds of injections.
When not being pricked like a human pin cushion, I encouraged the other sick kids to get better so that we could all play together. The nurses saw me as a ‘tonic’ for the other kids and would wheel me all over the children’s wards spreading good humour and encouragement with my natural ebullience.
I was eventually allowed to go home and had a nurse that would visit me daily to give me injections and check up on me.
I eventually started to walk again and ran around a lot; I had a lot of time to make up!
I started school and loved it. I was an “A” student who would do everything right. I was a “goody-goody”.
Filthy Rich Australia
When I was 8 years old, my dad’s cousin who lived in Australia, told him that he was ‘filthy’ rich and that he should be in Australia not in Greece. Dad had also heard that you could find money everywhere; so we packed up everything and came to Australia.
Once we arrived, needless to say, life wasn’t quite what they expected; money wasn’t everywhere. We were forced to rent one bedroom in a house where we all lived and slept together. We shared the kitchen, the lounge, the bathroom and the yard with the owners.
Mum went from being a happy housewife in our Greek village to working long hours in an assembly line factory. Dad went from having a good government office job to also working in a soulless factory.
Understandably, this was a shock to their system and it took a long time to recover.
In the first two years we kept moving houses and schools. There was no stability and we all pined for our ‘good, simple life’ back in Greece.
Finally we moved to a house in Prahran and to a new school, the first where we stayed for more than three months! None of us could speak any English and so needed to attend special classes. There was a stigma being a ‘Wog’ – a ‘new’ Australian, with our funny accents and strange food.
In spite of all this I adapted well and thrived at school, becoming house captain in grade six – a huge achievement, given my inauspicious start to Australia. However hardship was never far away.
In my fourth grade year, my father had an accident at the factory and was unable to work and earn an income. We lived on my mother’s salary – a paltry $28 a week. The years passed and through scrimping and saving we were able to buy a small house close to the beach in Melbourne. By now I am in my teens and an early maturing, attractive Greek girl and a worry for my overly protective Greek father.
Marriage at 18
I joined various clubs including a dancing club, where I met my future husband at the age of 15. I married Paul at 18 so that I could move out of home as my father was very strict. I really wanted to go clubbing like my other friends did.
It was expected of me to marry at a young age so that I didn’t remain ‘on the shelf’.
I went to University as a married woman and in my final year of my teaching degree I fell pregnant with my first child. I was also teaching and working on weekends at the same time. Like many migrant families we were keen to start a business and make some real money.
In December 1983, we bought our first business, a video library. I worked seven days a week and always took Peita, my baby, to work.
I hired a school girl for a couple of hours a day to take Peita for a walk and to give me a break.
My husband, who worked as an engineer, would relieve me from the shop at seven at night so I could go home and put our baby to bed.
I did this for six months and decided to ask my mum to stop her work so she could look after the baby. It was a full life, but we were building a business and were becoming very good at it.
Over the next few years we opened another five stores and had two more children.
Things were great at that time. Both my husband and I where running the businesses and the money was rolling in. Unfortunately we didn’t have the training nor the wisdom to make our money work for us, though we thought it would never run out.
In fact things were going so well that we sold our business to an overseas company and my husband became the managing director of that subsidiary company.
Now the ‘real’ money would roll in, or so we thought. A rude shock awaited that would change my life forever.
In the early 1990’s we had the economic ‘crash’. One of the banking organizations in Perth, Australia went under, and took down the American company we had sold our video stores to.
Although we had ‘sold’ our business for millions of dollars, we hadn’t received all our money, so we tried to take our stores back but to no avail; the authorities went after my husband as the director of this new company – the other director was in the United States and unreachable.
We lost absolutely everything; we went from being multi-millionaires to having nothing to our name overnight. In fact the sheriff and I became best friends at the time, that’s how often he visited my house looking for assets to reclaim.
During this stressful time I became pregnant (on the pill) to our fourth child.
This was exciting and painful at the same time as we didn’t have enough food nor money to survive, let alone support another child.
But then Dean arrived, the only boy among three girls. We have always been eternally grateful.
By now though we were desperate for income to support our family of six. I went back to teaching and my husband tried a couple of failed attempts at other businesses, because by this time my husband felt like a failure and wasn’t able to get things working as he used to. It also didn’t help that our so called ‘friends’ deserted us.
From Good to Bad to Worse
When we had money in abundance – the mansion, fast cars and so on, our house was like a railway station at peak hour; people were in and out constantly; we were always very generous entertainers. When we lost everything there were only a couple of people who encouraged and supported us. It was enough to cause a nervous breakdown, which I had. There seemed no way out.
But, with the grace of God I found the strength to be able to get up and continue with life.
A Ray of Light and my Strengths Shine Through
I started work in the telecommunications industry and quickly realized there was huge potential for developing a business. I was proved correct and the business which I started then remains highly successful today.
During this time I recognized that I had potential but that it was untapped, so I embarked on a steep personal development trajectory, attending any course I felt would improve me. I was determined to change my life, no matter what it took.
I also met a business associate who took me under his wing and believed in me and my ability and drove me towards my pasion at all times.
The message I received loud and clear was that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, what matters is how many times you got back up.
Still Challenges despite Success
Life was still not easy. We had lost millions of dollars and I had the wind taken out of my sails and yet despite all odds I got back up and kept going regardless of what everyone thought. I also became confident in my abilities and became very astute at business.
My husband at this stage went to work overseas and has lived there for the majority of the time. I was left to bring up four children on my own, which I did and ran two businesses on my own. My husband and I eventually separated, though he remains in their life.
My life has since been balancing family and business. It’s been tough, but rewarding.
The setbacks have made me more resilient.
What is your excuse? Who knocked the wind out of your sails? Have you had the guts to get up and go one more time? Or are you allowing your circumstances to keep you where you are? What are you afraid of? Failure? But what if you succeed? How will you ever know?
It’s a Risk. Take it!
Did I have to take risks? You bet! I risked my children growing up and being ‘drop outs’ in society. I risked loosing the money I didn’t have. I could have kept going with teaching and receiving a salary, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I’ve always believed that my children and I deserve the best that life has to offer. I didn’t want to live a mediocre life. I didn’t want to just get through week to week or month to month. I took a chance. I have the most beautiful and well balanced children you could ever meet. I have extremely successful businesses and I am always adding new adventures and businesses to my bow.
Goal Driven & Passionate
Through my many challenges I learnt some very valuable skills. One of them is to write down my goals and date them. To this day at the beginning of every year I write down my goals and get great enjoyment through out the year going back and ticking off each one that I have achieved, even though at the time I wrote them, they seemed impossible.
I still have goals, dreams and aspirations of what I want to do next and what I want to achieve. I am still planning and taking risks on a daily basis, but I would rather be alive and feel the passion and the adrenalin of what I love to do than wallow in my circumstances and become complacent.
My children and I have a great life. We travel together, explore different places and cultures, spend as much time as we can together as a family but at the same time we are all individuals each one of us pursuing our own dreams and aspirations.
What better gift can you give your children than to teach them by example to follow their dreams and not allow circumstances get in the way?
My suggestion to you is that you find some one who you can look up to, hold on to their coat tails and go for it. If you have a burning desire and a passion to do something in your life don’t let anybody steal your dream. Definitely do not allow your circumstances keep you stuck where you are at the moment. “Get off your butt and do something”. Make something of your life! Let the fire burn in your eyes and let your passion drive you.
To create wealth all you need is a WHY. The reason cannot be money; it has to be what money will get for you.
So, find a purpose, a passion and drive and you will have a winning formula. Never ever forget to keep getting up if you get knocked down.
Enjoy the journey!