If there is one thing I love about the invention of the internet, it’s that I can interview someone on the other side of the world and write a story about them without even leaving my own house. Heck, I don’t even have to talk to them on the phone, I simply do what I do best and write to them, and they write back. How amazing is that? I love that it’s so easy to connect with new people, people that I wouldn’t otherwise ever have a chance to meet or get to know.
Through the stories that I’ve been privileged to write in the last several months, I’ve met some amazing women, women who are pushing past the obstacles and setbacks that life inevitably throws their way and chasing those elusive dreams that so many people talk about but so little achieve. These women have inspired me and I hope inspired you also.
One such lady who’s positive attitude to life caught my attention on Instagram (@lifeofcassy2019) is Cassandra Sojka.
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Immigration of Cassy
This months ‘Mum Life Success Story’ Mum, comes all the way from The Gambia (otherwise known as ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’). Cassandra Sojka, originally from Stockholm Sweden, moved to The Gambia in 2013 where she now owns and runs a successful Cafe/Restaurant (Cassy’s Cafe) with her Husband Ladislav. They have two children, Aiden (5) and Mio (3).
If you’re asking the question ‘where the heck is The Gambia?’ your not alone. Cassy admitted to me that she needed to check a map before going on a family holiday there in 2011 because she had no idea where this country was. I myself had to google it and discovered that it’s actually the smallest country within mainland Africa. It occupies a small sliver of land around the Gambia River and is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal with the exception of its western coastline along the Atlantic Ocean (Wikipedia 2019). It’s best known for it’s subtropical climate, pristine beaches, and abundant birdlife, drawing tourists all-year-round.
So why the Gambia?
Cassandra says “Ever since I was young I wanted to move from Sweden to another county. I didn’t know where to, when or how but it was just always my dream.” It was during her family holiday in 2011 that she fell in love with the country and didn’t want to go home when the two weeks were up. “My sister and I booked a single ticket back to the Gambia only a few days after we got home. During our 1, 5-month stay we met a lot of new people and my sister got a job offer. I convinced her to stay as she could just return home to Sweden if she didn’t like it.” It was obviously some good advice as she still lives in the Gambia now.“
Cassy travelled back and forth, as much as she could, at times working 6 jobs in Sweden in order to save for the trips. “My sister was there and also the man that would become my husband. We were not in a relationship yet but we loved spending time together. In 2013 we decided to give our relationship a real try and I decided to move down to the Gambia permanently.”
They got engaged and Cassy got pregnant just 6 months after they decided. 3 years and 2 kids later they started thinking about how they could make an income without leaving the kids for long hours and making next to nothing because in the Gambia, salaries are bad and working hours are long. “The only thing that made sense with two young kids, was to open something of our own. We went back and forth on what we could do, what would work in this small, developing, beautiful country. A café and a restaurant were closing down in a complex and we decided to jump on the opportunity. We believed it was something the Gambia was missing. We had to act quick, so within two months after we decided, we were open.”
Cassandra says she still doesn’t know how they did it, without savings and so fast, but it just goes to show that it’s possible to do so much more than you think. “Both my husband and I are very spontaneous people. I’m also very positive so thinking that we would fail or that it wouldn’t work is nothing I remember even having in my mind.”
That’s not to say that there were no obstacles. Every huge life decision, especially when you have a family, comes with a certain amount of hurdles that need to be cleared before the race can be won. The 10 foot hurdles some people may see however, can seem more like 10mm if approached with a positive attitude and a determination to overcome.
“There were two obstacles when we were about to open the café. The first one was to leave the kids with a babysitter. To find someone to trust and to spend more time away from them. We just had to get used to the idea like anyone else that is going back to work. I brought the kids with the babysitter to the café a lot in the beginning.”
The second issue was money. For a while, they weren’t sure how they would be able to pay for everything they needed to open a café. “We asked a friend to help a bit and the rest just worked out” and they did make it work “after two months we expanded and after only a few months open we climbed up to number 1 on TripAdvisor and still remain there.”
After 2 years in operation, Cassy’s Cafè is a thriving business “it’s a hangout spot for a lot of different people, from local celebrities to teenagers and families. Coming to work makes me happy.”
That elusive question of “how do you find balance?” is always my favourite, probably because I struggle in this area and I’m always interested to hear how successful Mums manage it. “How do I balance life, kids, and business? Do I get tired? For sure! Is it worth it? Yes! I make sure to spend a lot of quality time with the kids both at home and out, I make sure we do a lot of fun things together.” Cassy admits that her energy isn’t always enough for the beach after work but it makes her happy. Seeing the kids happy, makes her happy.
I believe that scheduling quality time for relationships is an important aspect of finding balance between work and life. Cassy says “We have a babysitter two times a week so that my husband and I can have dinner and spend time together, even if it’s at work. What also works for me is to not have too many routines or too many plans. I like being spontaneous. I like being able to pick up the kids from school and together decide where we should go and how we should spend the afternoon. It’s the small things that make life good. Too many plans tend to stress me.”
When asked where she could see herself in 5 years, she replied “I hope the café is still as popular as today, if not more. I hope that we continue to grow and have one or two more businesses. I know it sounds like a lot but I believe it’s possible! I believe positive thinking really helps with whatever you want in life.”
Her advice to anyone thinking of starting their own business is to “Have a good partner. Especially if there are kids in the picture. It has to be someone you trust, that has the same goals as you. Someone that’s willing to work hard. For me, that’s my husband and that’s the biggest reason I manage the life I do and managed to stay happy. If it weren’t for him, I would have wanted to quit many times. We can believe that we can do it all on our own, but it’s also ok to admit we can’t!”
Whilst it’s not always possible to find that loving supportive partner, I agree that it’s a great idea to surround ourselves with positive people who are on board with our vision. Having someone there to lift us up when we stumble can sometimes be the difference between persevering and giving up.
What’s your dream for the future? Do you believe it’s possible? If not, why not? Drop a comment in the comment section below 🙂
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