Finding Balance : The Bicyclette Story
Written by Sarah Sweeney, featuring Emily Manchon
Emily’s event management business came to a grinding halt in March last year due to COVID. Even though she had a toddler, was pregnant and building a new house, she still felt the urge to "work" on something… finding the space to create Bicyclette.
Bicyclette provides high school-aged girls and females beyond teenage years with a one-day health and wellbeing clinic run by experts in both mind and body. It ensures females are developing and preserving the tools which are most important for their livelihoods.
Like thousands of events across the past 18 months, Bicyclette has been postponed …three times. On the original date her first Bicyclette event was meant to happen, Emily Manchon sat down (virtually) with Register Now’s Sarah to chat about all things events, Covid and motherhood.
Our meeting was meant to be in a cafe in Brisbane, in the lead up to the Gold Coast Marathon, which both our husbands had been training for. Instead, like so many things across the past 18 months, our introduction and chat occurred via Zoom.
As we sat down at our computers, I discovered there have been some big balancing act moments in Emily’s life and career that she can attribute to the creation of the Bicyclette concept….
In 2014 Emily was onsite leading into International Women's Day Fun Run
It was event week - there were some stressful days leading into an important event, a couple of major things had gone wrong, and in the midst of sorting things out Emily hadn’t slept much, exercised, eaten properly or drank enough water.
Her brain was no longer able to function and her body reacted accordingly - blurred vision, shallow and loud breathing, hand tremors, shooting off random instructions to staff, confusion and monotone voice. Emily was experiencing a panic attack.
“I hadn't even heard of such a thing before it hit,” explained Emily. It took some googling and a psychology appointment to confirm what led to it in the days prior and looking back, the reason it happened was very simple. She had lost her balance.
“It was scary going through a high anxiety situation. I was so focused on work, I lost awareness of my own wellbeing and it was a life lesson for me of the importance of keeping a well-balanced mind and healthy body.” Avoiding burnout is a constant challenge for event managers. To heal from this life-changing incident, Emily went back to basics: prioritising her own health over work by focusing on eating well, getting enough sleep at night and exercise. Regaining her balance allowed Emily to continue working in the industry she loves, where she previously held positions at the Noosa Triathlon and Bridge to Brisbane as a Senior Project Manager with USM Events (now known as IRONMAN Asia Pacific)
In 2018, Emily became a mum to little Raphy
Motherhood changes you. It’s a whirlwind of love and gratitude, of hormones and exhaustion, of chaos and clarity. With a high-risk pregnancy, Emily was again forced to slow down. Not something that comes naturally to her.
Raphy arrived and across the initial years of motherhood, Emily learnt to reprioritise her energy and time.
Now she is a mother, her multitasking game has gone to a new level. Emily and I discussed how so many event management skills transfer across to motherhood. You wear a lot of hats, there’s a lot of pre-planning, and then surrendering when things don’t follow that plan.
“My life is way more full and full on, but I haven't experienced the same level of anxiety. Motherhood has put a lot of things into perspective for me. It’s not the end of day if XYZ is not crossed off my To Do List.”
With Emily juggling motherhood, event management and a family of four, it’s a hustle. And one she does very well. “This is the hardest part – when they hit school age things get easier, right?! Sometimes you feel like you have too much on your list – other days you are flying through the tasks. The balance is not easy to find.”
Emily, Maddie, Christophe and Raphy
In 2020 Emily was on a cycle tour in New Zealand
In March 2020, Emily was halfway through a cycling tour in New Zealand when the Covid fury hit and the Australian borders began to close. Flying home to Brisbane, 12 weeks pregnant and testing positive for COVID was a challenging time.
As the events industry came to a standstill, like so many other owners of event based businesses, Emily found herself at home with a calendar filled with cancelled commitments, and financial agreements.
Overnight, Emily’s work contracts became null and void. The role she had fulfilled with the Gold Coast Marathon for the past 11 years, managing the ASICS Sport & Leisure Expo, was cancelled. A year full of Smile for Smiddy events, were cancelled. Bike education programs within schools across Brisbane, were cancelled.
In the middle of this period of “staying home”, Emily had a chance to re-evaluate her life values and the direction her career was heading.
As the initial shock wore off, and the cancellation of work contracts settled, Emily spent time reflecting on what events mean to her and why she is so motivated to continue operating her event management business. “I love working, I love doing this job.” During this time of contemplation, the idea of Bicyclette was born.
Bicyclette is an accumulation of Emily’s passions: An all-female cycling event that teaches females of all ages and capabilities to ride with confidence, whilst also nurturing the body and mind.
Securing support from Health & Wellbeing Queensland was a huge leap forward and reiterated the purpose behind the event - to encourage women to participate in activities to improve their physical, mental and emotional health. This support has allowed the Bicyclette event to adapt across the numerous lockdowns and shutdowns in Queensland, to be postponed three times, and to remain positive about hosting this event in the future: “It means a lot to me to be self-employed and keep my company alive through this weird period of Covid and parenting.”
Emily welcomed her second child, Madeleine, in September 2020. When Queensland emerged from lockdown shortly after, it was a juggle to manage a full events calendar to catch up on lost time, with a newborn baby and a toddler. With the support of her village, an incredible planning spreadsheet and the maturity of previous life lessons to prioritise her own wellbeing, Emily was able to manage it all. The hustle was real!
2021 has brought more lockdowns, more surrendering, and more time at home. The biggest silver lining of lockdown in 2021 for Emily? “Spending extra time with my children, that I otherwise would not have had. I will be forever grateful for that time.”
Looking forward to 2022
We are excited to share that new 2022 dates have been confirmed and the planning for Bicyclette is back on its (new) track!
There have been tough moments for the Bicyclette team as they navigate launching an event during a pandemic: multiple postponements, changing participant restrictions, constantly adapting to meet new safety measures and the struggle to engage participants in a time of so much unknown. “It’s challenging to predict numbers at this time. Typically people are not going to sign up months in advance, so it’s all going to be really last minute. This provides difficulty from a planning perspective – the size of the event, the requirements, the merchandise etc.”
“It’s certainly been a challenge, I go up and down - I can get a little bit deflated, but after a run or ride I can always pick myself up again.” Emily explains.
Further motivation to keep going, to keep adapting, has come with the formation of a relationship between Bicyclette and the Rare Ovarian Cancer (ROC) Incorporated charity. Ovarian Cancer isn’t just a women's disease, it affects females of all ages. The alignment between the charity and Bicyclette is spot on, and proves that the charitable element of events is still strong: “It’s been amazing” shared Emily, “nearly everyone that has registered since the charity has come on board, has donated.”
Whenever things feel overwhelming and confusing, Emily returns to her original intention and motivation for Bicyclette: “I am promoting a healthy lifestyle, a balanced lifestyle.” This allows her to stop, reflect and regain her balance.
Emily’s intention also shines through in her upcoming women’s clinics: Breathe. Nourish. Ride. Breathe. Nourish. Ride. is an ultra-modern program designed to inspire, encourage and support teenage girls and women in a way that empowers them to create their own balance in life. The focus isn't just on cycling, but all the elements that surround a happy and healthy lifestyle. To find out more about Bicyclette and Breathe. Nourish. Ride clinics, head to the website: https://www.bicyclette.com.au
Keen to hear more from Emily? Check out her Powering Women On Wheels Blog: https://www.bicyclette.com.au/powering-women-on-wheels-blog#/
BICYCLETTE supported by Health & Wellbeing Queensland – is an all female cycling event set to take place in March 2022. Participants will ride in a groups of 50, escorted around their chosen 25km/50km loop by Qld Police. Entry includes a cycling jersey, breakfast and first aid and mechanical support. All types of bikes and fitness levels welcome! The event will also host a Women’s Health & Wellness Expo. A new event 10km kids ride with dads (while mum is out riding in the event) has also been added to the day. The 10km will follow the new bikeway along Kingsford Smith Drive and back. More info https://www.bicyclette.com.au/the-womens-cycling-event.html#/
BREATHE.NOURISH.RIDE. is all about female health and wellness with a spin on bikes. The focus isn’t just riding, it’s about eating well, taking time to practise mindfulness and learning how to keep your body injury free. We have clinics for women as well as teenage girls. Ladies will walk away from this 1-day clinic with the tools they need to maintain a balanced life now and into the future. This initiative is supported by the Queensland Government through the Sport & Recreation Department. More info https://www.bicyclette.com.au/womens-clinics.html