How willpower is making jobless Elisabeth’s new COVID business boom

By Brittany Lazarus |

Making It

Mortality and personal finance are hot topics in the current climate. As a result, recently unemployed 27-year-old Elisabeth Woodward’s business is booming.

Her story starts like so many others: a young part time worker, made redundant from her childcare job in the most unstable jobs market since the Great Depression.

However, Elisabeth had other skills to draw on.  She realised that this dark time might make people think about the future, and what might happen to their money.

And as a lawyer, she was able to devise a unique online will service at a starting price of just $99. Then, she aimed at a market not usually associated with dark thoughts of what happens after death:  millennials.

“Let your will be done” is the pledge at willpro.com.au. And it worked.

WillPro is one of the “fabulous success stories” that Matt Comyn, CEO of Commonwealth Bank predicted would come out of business adapting to new circumstances. It is one of the 18% of small businesses the Australian Bureau of  Statistics found has made improvements in web, social media and e-commerce to generate revenue and stay afloat.

Owning a small business was never on Ms Woodward’s radar, but neither was unemployment. She was working part-time in child care whilst finishing her second degree in psychology when she received the news in late March that she no longer had a job.

“The first few days I certainly was applying like mad for other jobs” she said.

When she realised her search was futile, Ms Woodward decided to put her all into a business idea that came to her last September. With the help of her husband Zac and younger brother Michael, WillPro was launched in April 2020.

Data from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) suggests Ms Woodward is not alone, as the number for new business registrations are up 34 per cent compared to July 2019.

ASIC data shows 253,529 new business names registered between January and July this year, compared with 222,516 over the same period last year.

Years of experience as a lawyer, legal secretary and paralegal led her to the idea. “I think what I liked most about wills & estate matters was learning people’s stories and what was important to them, whether it was preparing their will or assisting families who had lost a loved one,” she said.

“Perseverance demands success” her grandfather would always tell her. It was a saying that stuck with Ms Woodward through all her work.

Ms Woodward persevered each day from her Brisbane home office with her two labradoodles, Zuzu and Cookie and then she made her first sale.

“There’s a quote out there that says ‘whenever you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance.’ I definitely did a happy dance when the first order came in and still do to this day,” she said.

A background in law meant that she had seen first-hand emotional and financial toll that dying without a Will can have on a person’s loved ones. She said: “It made me realise how important a Will is, not just for us and our wishes being carried out, but for the loved ones we leave behind.”

According to WillPro, If you die without a will, you are considered at law to have died ‘intestate’. In these circumstances, your assets will be distributed in accordance with intestacy laws, the specifics of which differ across each State/Territory. This could result in your estate not being distributed in the way you would want it to, your loved ones having to make difficult decisions on your behalf without knowing your wishes and your estate taking longer and costing more to be finalised.

In a normal world, thinking about your own mortality is not something generally done day to day, even Ms Woodward acknowledged the irony of her avoiding writing her own will.

“I can empathise with people who don’t have a will yet, especially younger generations. There are so many individual factors that come into play here: cost, the uncertainty, traditional ideas of ‘when’ to do your Will, not having the time to seek out a lawyer. And it’s not really the most fun topic to think about at the end of the day. I wanted to make Wills more accessible and affordable, and overall make it as simple as possible for people,” she said.

Whilst at the moment WillPro is a full time job for Ms Woodward, she has said: “I’ve always wanted to blend my background in Law with Psychology so I’m hoping to maybe find part-time or volunteer Psychology work in future so I can do both”.

 

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