Let’s head to the Southern Hemisphere. It would not be exaggerated to say that Sydney-based Paris Cutler has already lived a number of lives in her richly eventful lifetime so far. Yet, as the experienced and highly successful entrepreneur and business coach herself puts it, she is “only getting started”!
Paris’ early years were spent near Nairobi, Kenya, as her father was involved in the coffee business. When it was time to start her education, she moved to the homogenous western suburbs of Sydney, Australia. Think stereotypical long hot Aussie summers, freckly-faced kids, sunburns and, according to Paris, an overall lack of stimulation. Paris describes her upbringing as “very average”. She didn’t have high aspirations and refers to herself as having neither talent nor hobbies back then. The whole atmosphere in which she was growing up was suffocating for her. She strongly resented that. Having said that, Paris did know very early on that she wanted to be an entrepreneur. Her life took off in the early 90s. As the world was coming out of a deep recession, Paris began working for a prestigious stock broking firm as a trader. She wanted to meet entrepreneurs – and that she did! Between her frequent travels to London and New York, she kept trying to come up with an invention. Inspired by Richard Branson and his “massive brand”, Paris wanted to create one too. But she needed a concept. For lack of a concept and, in reality, fear of taking the leap to become an entrepreneur, Paris went on to study law. Fast forward to the day she got married. Their wedding cake was a total disaster, but Paris thought, “This is great!” And that was the sign. In 2003, the couple bought a tiny cake shop, which launched Paris’ 14-year extraordinary entrepreneurial journey called “Planet Cake”. Paris took her company to multi-seven figures completely organically. With no capital investment, no social media, no advertising, but a very clear strategy from year one, Paris was fanatical about every single customer touch-point. Within four to five years, thanks to extraordinary referrals, the business took off exponentially, serving celebrity clients such as Nicole Kidman, Céline Dion and Rihanna. On top of that, Paris had her own television cooking show that aired in several countries and the largest hobbyist school in the Southern Hemisphere. She is also a five-times author. Paradoxically, when Paris was at the height of her success with “Planet Cake”, her emotional level was at the lowest. She felt empty and admits that she was “in it for success’ sake” and that “it was all egoic”. This realisation, coupled with a number of simultaneous painful events – which include public humiliation as a result of a huge cyber-bullying campaign – prompted Paris to decide to close her business. This extremely difficult time triggered a massive paradigm shift for Paris on so many levels. When she was at her lowest and crying on the floor, a voice in her head told her, “Now you’re free!” As Paris was rebuilding herself on an emotional and physical level, many people were approaching her organically asking her to help them with their business strategy. And that is precisely what sparked Paris, in 2018, to become a Blue Ocean business strategy coach. This means that she focuses on finding a gap in the market where there are no competitors. She loves putting her own past entrepreneurial expertise to great use by helping people thrive in their businesses – whilst giving back to their communities. Today, Paris is totally on purpose and absolutely loves what she does!
Emerald Jaaz is honoured to interview Paris Cutler, a kind, optimistic, health-conscious yogi and environmentalist, for whom her three- and 16-year old daughters are what she is most grateful for in her life. Paris shares with us lessons learned in her impressive entrepreneurial journey, the importance of finding our true calling and the supreme liberation we attain when we learn to put our ego aside.
“I love working with entrepreneurs and watching their faces and their speechlessness when I transform their business. I live for that! It gives me an absolute high to watch them realise what their business could be.”
– Paris Cutler
Emerald Jaaz: Paris, what do you enjoy the most about your current lifestyle?
Paris Cutler: I love working with entrepreneurs and watching their faces and their speechlessness when I transform their business. I live for that! It gives me an absolute high to watch them realise what their business could be. Those first 30 seconds when they see that, it is beyond their wildest dreams! My clients and I are in this together and we create another place in the future. I am so appreciative that, unlike my past “Planet Cake” endeavour, with my current coaching business I do not need to have an armour on. I am fully myself. That is priceless.
Emerald Jaaz: What does your current professional activity consist of?
Paris Cutler: I am a Blue Ocean business strategist, coach and consultant. Blue Ocean strategy refers to creating a leap in value for a business by unlocking new demand and making competition irrelevant by capturing unexplored new market areas. In other words, it means pivoting your business to a space where there are no competitors. A well-known example of the Blue Ocean strategy is Netflix. Therefore, I provide companies and individuals all over the world with strategies to identify and attract new customers and audiences in crowded marketplaces. I give them the tools and resources to increase sales and influence exponentially. My service is end-to-end, private and confidential. When my clients approach me, they are often stressed and plateaued. We spend two days purely on strategy by looking at a totally different market. Which type of consumers are underserved or ignored? For instance, when it comes to clothing, cosmetics and services, women over 50 are terribly underserved since they generally require different products than what exists in the mainstream. We find a target audience in that sense and then we work back. With every client, we make a point of helping communities by donating parts of their profits to a cause, such as to help increase literacy. I don’t work with a single business which does not give back in one way or another. I am grateful to work with amazing entrepreneurs in as diverse countries as Australia, Morocco, the United States or Ireland – be they, for instance, fashion designers or restaurant owners. In parallel to my business coaching, I am currently writing my sixth book about my entrepreneurial journey called “Entrepreneur Wisdom from Someone Who Baked and Fried”. Stay tuned!
Emerald Jaaz: What made you choose to live the life you do today?
Paris Cutler: Five years ago, I decided to close my former business, “Planet Cake”. This was at a time when we could say that I was at the height of my success with, in addition, my television show airing in 30 different countries. A lot had occurred in a very short time – to an extent that it made me feel completely alienated with myself. So much so that I was even disgusted with my own products! What happened? First of all, I had become so obsessed by my business, building everything up from scratch organically, that I had lost myself and my purpose. I absolutely wanted to be number one – which I did achieve – but it was success for success’ sake. This cost me my marriage and, at the time, I was going through a divorce. Secondly, while my television show was being aired, I had become the victim of a massive cyber-bullying campaign in Australia that was designed to terrorise me. I was publicly humiliated and my ego took an enormous blow. Why the bullying? I made the mistake of not controlling my personal brand. From the media and public image perspective, I had become the “cake queen”. The reality was that, for me, the cake business could have been any other type of product. At heart and above all, I was and am an entrepreneur. When it was publicly “revealed” that I was a clever entrepreneur and not only a “woman in an apron”; implying that I was “a woman behaving like a man”, the public lashed out on me. In Australia we have what is called the “tall poppy syndrome”, which could be defined as a tendency to discredit those who have achieved notable wealth or prominence in public life. Australia is still a very horizontal, equalitarian society. Generally, people have a problem with others being successful and making money. As a result of the bullying, I could actually feel the hatred. It was a depressing, visceral type of feeling. I felt a high level of danger. I was in so much pain and my ego took an enormous blow. Thirdly, a very good friend of mine, another entrepreneur, suddenly passed away a year later. This was at a time when I was in discussions to expand internationally. It all hit me during his funeral. “What is this all about?” was the question that I kept asking myself. I came to the sad conclusion that I wasn’t on purpose. When I closed the business, I felt such emptiness. At the same time, I knew that this was what I had to do to save myself. It wasn’t easy. My ego was already at a low. I thought that it couldn’t get any lower, but it did! Just after closing “Planet Cake” I gained 30kg – which meant that I had also lost my physical identity. I was at ground zero. “Who am I?” “Who is this person?” I decided that I firstly needed to rebuild myself physically by radically changing my diet to vegetarian, doing lots of yoga and spending as much time as I could in nature. Once my physical body stabilised, I focused on my mind by reading spiritual texts and literature that had nothing to do with business. I was also strongly focusing on my own personal growth. I experienced a paradigm shift. To my surprise, I saw that it wasn’t just me who was going through a massive awakening. Many other entrepreneurs were questioning the way that they were operating. I saw that generation X, in particular, was suffering. An overall change in the way business was being done was inevitable. One of the many positive outcomes form this painful episode was that I totally put aside my ego and freed myself from the need to be number one. That is truly transformative. It changes everything! Now, as a business strategist and coach, I feel immense joy when I tap into my experience to help others on their journeys.
Emerald Jaaz: What are your main interests and passions; and what causes are close to your heart?
Paris Cutler: I am a passionate environmentalist and yogi, following the Sivananda tradition. The most important for me is to stay true to that.
Emerald Jaaz: What do you like most about Sydney, the city you currently live in?
Paris Cutler: The wonderful thing about Sydney is the physical environment that we are in. It is simply very beautiful. Even in a big city, we can connect with nature all year round. I love having a horizon, looking to the ocean and being exposed to sea breeze.
Emerald Jaaz: What is the source of your inspiration and motivation?
Paris Cutler: The mass awakening that is currently occurring in business and leadership gives me hope, inspiration and motivation. Since about 2014-2015 I have been seeing that social enterprise, kindness and authenticity are becoming mainstream in business. This new collective consciousness is driving me forward to do more and to help more people. It is liberating to know that we don’t have to hide behind masks anymore when we do business.
Emerald Jaaz: Please give us an example of one of your typical days.
Paris Cutler: My days are very structured. I get up at 4 a.m. to do yoga and meditate. At 6 a.m., because of the time differences with Australia, I get onto Skype calls with my overseas clients. I then attend to my children and general daily life of taking care of our household. During the day I focus on my Australian clients. I have a break in the afternoon to spend more time with my children. At night time, after dinner, I interact with my overseas clients again. In addition to my classical paying clients, I always have three pro-bono clients per cycle. Most of them are refugees whom I help with their start-ups. I also look out for other business owners who are going through a challenging time, such as a depression, a divorce or who are simply starting out and would welcome an open, constructive chat. I have two to three calls like that a day.
Emerald Jaaz: Please give us an example of one of your ideal weekends.
Paris Cutler: Weekends are a precious time I spend with my two daughters. I am a total “mother earth” with my kids! We go on bush walks, walk on the beach or the grass without shoes, I make organic porridge, we enjoy doing crafts together… It is also a time for me to ground myself. I turn the phone off, consciously put aside my ego and do mindful activities!
Emerald Jaaz: Among the places you have visited, which one moved you the most?
Paris Cutler: I was very moved by the beautiful forests in Germany. The forests there are exactly as they are described in fairy tales: exceptionally beautiful, small, covered with moss and with deers running around – just like in Bambi! Here in Australia our environment is harsh and I don’t consider it to be as romantic. Forests aside, I have to say that German people have had a very profound impact on me with their high standard manufacturing tradition and, generally, the way they run their society.
Emerald Jaaz: Which place do you like to return to regularly and why?
Paris Cutler: I always spend part of my year somewhere in Asia. Whether it’s Malaysia, Thailand, Bali… I love the weather, the people, their intense culture and spirituality. As soon as I get off the plane, the humidity, “the mess”, and the general atmosphere is music to my ears!
Emerald Jaaz: Which place would you like to visit that you haven’t yet visited?
Paris Cutler: I’d love to visit an ashram in India and spend time doing yoga there.
Emerald Jaaz: Please share with us a couple of your favourite places to hang out, to eat, to mingle, to reflect or simply to watch the world go by.
Paris Cutler: I’m such a health-conscious person that I’m quite “boring” socially! I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I’m vegetarian… So for my meetings with friends or clients, I like to go to culturally stimulating places like the restaurant of the New South Wales Art Gallery, local national libraries or other galleries. I also enjoy high tea at five-star hotel lobbies or fine dining at Michelin-star restaurants.
Emerald Jaaz: Any recent cultural tips?
Paris Cutler: I have recently been dealing with the new generation of Indian entrepreneurs and I just have to say: India is going to take the world by storm! The Indian millennial middle class are travelling the world, they are diverse, enthusiastic, sophisticated and they harmoniously mix Indian and western influences. For instance, India now has one of the largest cake expositions in the world. Don’t overlook India!
Emerald Jaaz: What motivates you to achieve your goals and to get out of bed in the morning?
Paris Cutler: Discipline is associated with love. If you love what you do, you get disciplined. I have a profound love for yoga and for my business coaching activity. Therefore, for me it is easy to be disciplined for those areas.
Emerald Jaaz: What are you most grateful for?
Paris Cutler: I am most grateful for my children. I have two daughters.
Emerald Jaaz: What values are key to you?
Paris Cutler: Kindness, collaboration, education and optimism.
Emerald Jaaz: Please share with us an important lesson you learnt in life.
Paris Cutler: My big lesson comes from the experience of being cyber-bullied. I came to understand that most people don’t focus on their purpose and are very much preoccupied by what others think of them. Having gone through painful bullying myself, at the end you realise that it doesn’t matter! It will never be as bad as you perceive it to be. Others’ opinions should not stop you. Life is too short!
A huge heartfelt thank you, Paris, for this generously inspiring interview!