Finance Your Budget Part two: How I lost everything – then bounced back

Part two: How I lost everything – then bounced back

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Read the first part of the series:

How I lost everything – then bounced back

In the final of our two-part series, The New Daily speaks to two more inspiring people who share their stories about bouncing back from adversity.

The first, South African Stan Gordon, barely had enough spare change in his pocket to buy a cup of coffee, but went on to purchase a string of ice cream and pretzel businesses.

The second, Jennifer Burrows, went from a penniless single parent to a successful author and public speaker.

From unemployed to ice cream baron

South African Stan Gordon thought he knew more than Australians about meat pies and planned to “educate” the country by bringing over his successful franchise.

“I had been told, erroneously so, [that] Australia is an easy country and Australians don’t know so much, so I was going to teach Australians about meat pies,” he says.

Gordon quickly discovered Aussies knew much more about their iconic national dish than he did – and he was forced to pull the pin on his plans.

South African entrepreneur Stan Gordon. Source: Supplied.
South African entrepreneur Stan Gordon. Source: Supplied.

“I came [here] gung-ho,” he says.

“I thought I knew better and I really didn’t and it was the most humbling experience of my life.

“From being quite a high-profile, entrepreneurial figure in a previous life, you have self-doubt. You say, ‘Where did I go wrong? What did I do?’”

Despite coming to Australia with a comfortable buffer of cash, Gordon couldn’t get a loan, had to start with a credit card limit of $200 and would count change to go and buy a cup of coffee.

I thought I knew better and I really didn’t and it was the most humbling experience of my life

His entrepreneurial background made it hard for him to find a job. As one prospective employer told him: “If I hire you, you’ll be running the business in two months.”

Changing his circumstances was a matter of changing his attitude. He decided to tackle the industry again, buying the Mr Whippy franchise in 2000 after securing a loan using his South African credentials.

Gordon went on to build his business, purchasing Pretzel World in 2005, Cold Rock Ice Creamery in 2009 and Nutshack in 2010. He set up the Franchised Food Company in 2009 to hold the interests of his various businesses. The company now holds more than 160 stores across the country and is soon to announce another acquisition.

Step by step as a successful single parent  

When Jennifer Burrows’ marriage ended, she jump-started a car and drove her children to Melbourne.

She had nothing but the clothes on her back, some family photos and her two boys.

“I don’t remember a lot about the first two years,” she says.

Jennifer Burrows. Source: Supplied.
Jennifer Burrows. Source: Supplied.

“I had to dig so deep to find the energy to do anything that everything went on auto-pilot.

“I lost a lot of weight; I had the best body I’d ever had in my life.”

Burrows found herself a job, looked after her children single-handed and enrolled in university to study commercial law.

“It still freaks me out that I did that. Everything I’d read said [that] the only way out was education. Education means people get better jobs [and] better jobs meant more money, which meant private school for the boys and being able to give them things.”

In those first years as a single parent, she had to learn how far a dollar could stretch. She and her children invented games, turned cardboard boxes into boats and entertained themselves with themed family nights where they dressed up as Power Rangers.

“The moment that stands out is when we finally got somewhere to live, this tiny little place. The light above the kitchen table blew out, so I got up on the chair and changed [the bulb]. I could see all around the house and I started crying, because there was food in the cupboard and we had enough food to eat for the week, we all had a bed and we owned all the furniture. It was cheap, it cost basically nothing, but it was ours.

“It was at that moment when I realised I had brought us this far and could take us the rest of the way.”

And all the way she went. After a successful career in financial management, Burrows is now a public speaker and author of several books, including the recently released public speaking guide Picture Them Naked.

Her career changed track after she spoke about her experience of losing everything and discovered she could inspire others with her story. This led her to write her first book, How to Live the Life.

It was at that moment when I realised I had brought us this far and could take us the rest of the way

Eighteen years on, Burrows, who has since re-married, sometimes stops in the street and thinks about how happy she now is.

“If I hadn’t made that break, I’d be doing the same thing and I’d be miserable,” she says.

“It was incredibly liberating to be free, and have at the same time the opportunity to become whatever you imagine you could possibly be.”

Five tips for getting back on track

Set goals

• Short term, achievable goals are essential in re-building your life.


• Avoiding high-interest debt is a key to getting lives back on track.

Change your attitude

• An attitude change that could kick-start your career.

Realise that things can – and will – get better

• You can only fall so far – when you reach the bottom, the only way to go is up and there’s no limit to how high you can go.

Be wary of credit

• Avoid buy-now, pay later type purchases and don’t over leverage.