Kylie Pussell

Kylie Pussell, CEO & CoFounder, Miracle Babies Foundation, is a country girl at heart, growing up in regional Tamworth with my parents and older sister. She moved to Sydney at age 15 years and has been there ever since, however loves visits back home and renewing her energy in the country.  She is a Mum to 3 amazing young adults, her surviving children are the joy of her life. She has had many challenging years with fertility, prematurity and bereavement. Her husband, family, friends and a strong resilient nature from her upbringing held her up when many times she didn’t think she could pick herself up from heartache and trauma.  

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

Growing up in a regional city was special.   Our family was always very community focused, so we were always involved in something and helping out.  We grew up around horses and the trotting community.  I have played netball for as long as I can remember, representing Tamworth Netball Association during my teenage years in rep teams and coached and umpired.   I never enjoyed school and left as soon as I could, finishing in year 10, signing up to a TAFE course and then starting working in the City in Sydney with a legal firm.  I absolutely loved it!  I worked in legal firms, mostly as a para legal in litigation for most of the next decade and then had time at home with my children.  I loved the early years of just being ‘mum’ and feel so privileged I was able to have this time with them at home full time.  

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it. 

I can’t say I had one turning point that changed my life direction, more like several. Newly married, I had my first miscarriage at the age of 22 years at 10 weeks.  We were devasted.  I was then diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and told I would need to have fertility treatment to have children.  So we went down the IVF road for several years, it slowly beats you down, emotionally, physically and at times financially.   We were thrilled when we fell pregnant with twins, sadly this turned to heartbreak with PROM (premature rupture of membranes) and delivery at 16 weeks.   We fell pregnant again, which was wonderful news, until 22 weeks gestation when I was then diagnosed with Cervical Incompetence and close to being in labour I had emergency surgery to insert a cervical suture.  I then spent 8 weeks in hospital on strict bed rest before PROM and delivering Madeline at 30 weeks gestation (10 weeks early).   She spent 6 weeks in the NICU/SCN.  

I underwent more surgery for my Cervical Incompetence and had a 5 week miscarriage.  I was then pregnant, again with twins when at 22 weeks gestation once more, my cervical incompetence caused havoc.  I was in hospital again on strict bed rest, however at 25 weeks I had PROM and with 2 days of medications to try and stop labour, I was taken for an emergency c-section.  Both my babies were resuscitated at birth, Scarlet, weighing 645grams and Marcus weighing 780grams.  The following days, weeks and months were heartbreaking, traumatic and at many times I was broken.  Marcus lost his fight for life at 2 days of age and Scarlet spent 4 months in the NICU/SCN, overcoming many challenges to finally come home.  NICU is a tough place, add in bereavement, stress and a 2 year old toddler and life was tough.  With both girls at home and doing well, 3 years later I had more surgery for my Cervical Incompetence through a Trans-Abdominal Cerclage and delivered our son Liam at 38 weeks via a planned c-section.  

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea that made you start this brand? How did such a unique idea strike you, and what motivated you to “YES, go for it?”

In 2005 I received a call that some parents were meeting to look at helping in the NICU and supporting other parents with a premature or sick baby.  I attended that first meeting with 8 other interested parents. Together these amazing 8 women, all bonded by their own personal experience with a premature or sick baby, formed Miracle Babies Foundation. 17 years on Miracle Babies Foundation is Australia’s leading not for profit organization with a vision of ‘better, healthier outcomes for newborns and their families challenged by prematurity or sickness.’

Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?

In 2017 I was appointed as CEO by the Board of Directors.  We knew the Foundation was making a positive impact on many, but it was always a struggle to find the time, people and resources to reach more families.  There was always so much more to do, and still is!  With over 48,000 newborn babies in Australia requiring specialized medical care every year, Miracle Babies runs parent support services and delivers resources to families through different stages of the journey.  Our information hub is an Australian first and our impact is positive for many families and health professionals across Australia.  With a challenge to make the Foundation more financial and sustainable so that more families could be supported and to allow our impact to expand and increase.  In my time as CEO we have achieved many of these goals, and we are delivering more vision and impact than ever before, with more families engaged and supported. We have a fantastic team of staff and volunteers across Australia.  Our new service and resource initiatives have provided opportunities for more families to be supported and more avenues to help us achieve our vision of ‘better, healthier outcomes for newborns and their families challenged by prematurity or sickness.’

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

I am proud to be a female leader and CEO in the not for profit sector, working toward a purpose and vision makes our work so rewarding. Having good communication with your Board is vital and care and compassion for your team.  Having a good strategic plan to deliver vision and maintain the expectations of donors, organizational structure and a great leadership team are also must haves.  There will always be challenges, some small and some big, maintaining your professionalism and integrity with a kind heart helps get through the challenges.  

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level? 

The global pandemic caused many heartbreak for families with separation and lockdowns.  Miracle Babies remains strong in our stand for Zero Separation and keeping families together.  We worked on being innovative during the pandemic, delivering more online services, supplying more resources to families with hospitals with a supply increase of over 70% in 2021 compared with 2020.  Our new website was launched in late 2020 and our Australian first information hub focusing on longer term challenges included an evidence, education and empowerment structure for families through the life stages of primary school, high school and adulthood.  

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention? 

As a Finalist in the 2022 NSW Women of the Year Awards in the Women of Excellence was definitely a highlight, along with other awards such as Western Sydney Women, Community Woman 2020.  These Awards acknowledge the hard work of all our team and the impact we are making for families.  Personally, the increased reach of families that the Foundation now supports is where I am most proud, that through our own personal experiences, even trauma and bereavement we can find a way to help others.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

In our field working with premature and sick babies and their families, Zero Separation and keeping families together is paramount for all those working in women’s, children’s and family health.

The change I would love to see in the world is more tolerance and compassion.  Everyone has a story and being kind can make such a difference.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life? 

My personal motto is ‘be happy’.  We all have a story and we all have heartache and happiness, we need to help each other.  Life can be very tough and very wonderful.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

Women in leadership can be tough, you are judged and people’s expectations will always differ.  Remain professional and keep your boundaries in place, be compassionate and available when the team needs you. 

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Believe in yourself and your dreams, remain positive and try not to be overwhelmed with the challenges.  There will always be challenges, be you, be fair and be kind!