Janelle Cavanagh Withers and Co Blog

Stumbling Upon This Industry


My path into the business world did not follow the traditional track. I didn’t want to tally up a big student loan and time studying on something I wasn’t sure I was passionate about, so as everyone does these days, I did some googling. I convinced my parents to let their 17yr old daughter do a gap year through Lattitude Global Volunteering at an outdoor activity centre in The Lakes District, England. The year away was genius. I may not have earnt any money – 100 dollars for 40 hour weeks to be exact haha but I learnt so much about myself and I got to jump across into Europe often. Travelling really opened my eyes and was definitely a highlight to the year. I got home, still unsure of what I was doing with my life, thankfully saw Matt had an office junior role advertised and 5 years later with some experience under my belt I find myself helping start Withers & Co.

5 Years ago I knew nothing about promotional products. I knew nothing about business really. But I knew how to show up and get my hands dirty with tasks given to me. As an office junior you always get given the shit jobs, the running around jobs, but I was keen to learn & I am a huge believer in working your way up the ladder because as you grow you have a better appreciation of those below you.

Matt’s pretty big on presentation and after my first client meeting he made a comment about how I don’t often wear heels (very subtle). As someone who has always been taller than her friends they weren’t really a staple item in my wardrobe but as times gone on heels have become a daily accessory and presentation has been something I have really had to think about. As a young female professional meeting with multinational CEO’s and attending corporate events you really do need to look the part. The struggle can be real some days, I am not saying heels are necessary (but they do help how your feel), the best advice that I have been given is "you shouldn’t see down it, up it or through it!".

I think my boldest move whilst still learning the ins and outs was when all the important decision makers in the office were on a business trip in Hong Kong. It was a Friday and everyone knows Fridays are not good when jobs go wrong. The University’s bags had been delayed on the water and they had students coming in over the weekend to pack them for their Monday event. I couldn’t get a hold of the team in HK due to the time difference so I made a $5000 cost decision, rang up a brander in Auckland, got them to print 3000 totes bag that day and send them down to me on the first flight Saturday morning. This miraculously went to plan and I am not saying I saved the day but I learnt these are the extents you have to go to sometimes to keep client relationships strong.

I actually really liked the thrill of the problem solving and I think this is a big reason to why I like being in this industry. It is very fast paced. Every client is different. Every job is different. And you have due dates that are non-negotiable to work to whilst juggling 100 things on your to-do list. I am yet to miss a due date but I don’t have it all 100% down pat. I am not overly confident with face to face meetings. Don’t get me wrong I love meeting clients and people that know me know I talk a lot, but in business meetings I can get nervous and I struggle to get my words or point out in the right sequence. I don't back myself when I should. I blush too which isn’t ideal haha but everyone’s got work ons right?

In a recent trip to China I came across a pen. A pen that had something I had never seen before and I instantly became very excited about this find. I couldn’t wait to get it home and developed to show clients. Seriously though, who gets excited over a pen? Haha. I think it was the thrill of knowing this was a generic product that everyone uses daily but my clients could gain a point of difference with one that wasn’t in the market here. This was another nice little reminder to myself that this is a passion and I am in the right industry.


Subscribe here