Cat Tyler is the definition of a self-made woman. She has battled domestic violence and poverty, a sense of isolation, the desire to give her daughter a full life with very little.
She is now a successful Canberra businesswoman, happily married in a new relationship, with another daughter, and the strong desire to give both her girls the best she can.
The 37-year-old this month opened her first SILK Laser beauty clinic at Westfield Belconnen and another one is planned for Woden.
Only five years ago after arriving in the strange new city of Canberra, she was sleeping on the floor of her friend's home, with her young daughter after fleeing an abusive relationship with her former partner in Sydney.
It has been a long hard slog from a women's refuge in Sydney to financial independence and business success in Canberra for the German-born, UK-raised mum.
But along the way she has learnt to be not only financially savvy, but her sense of empathy has only deepened, something that held her in good stead as she worked in different cosmetic medicine clinics in Canberra over the last five years before opening her own.
"I've kept a lot of patients with me and I think the reason for that is I'm concerned about how they feel, not just how they look," she said.
After her relationship broke down in 2016, Cat was living in the women's refuge in Sydney when she got a call from a former boss, asking her if she would work in a cosmetic medicine clinic in Canberra. She happily agreed but soon found out how hard it was do anything but tread water financially.
She had no furniture so was paying $550 a week for a furnished apartment in Kingston. She was earning enough to survive but too much to access benefits other victims of domestic violence might receive.
Her car blew up and she took out four pay-day loans to fix it. She remembered once she lost her parking ticket and couldn't afford the $16 to get her car out of an underground carpark. She walked her daughter home in the rain to scrape together enough coins to go back to get the car.
Cat then decided to get serious. She studied taxes, business and negative gearing and worked with top cosmetic doctors to lay the foundation for opening her own business. She learnt how to do things herself. ("I can even do my own oil change," she said, with a laugh.)
"The biggest lesson I've learned in my journey is to value myself and my abilities," Cat said. "I've learned to work hard and never lose sight of my goals."
The love of her daughter got her through, bit by bit.
"Even though I wanted to lay down and die, I had this little person who relied on me for everything," she said. "She's entitled to an amazing life, she deserves to have wonderful opportunities."
Cat says there is a "culture of shame" around women speaking about their experience of domestic violence, a situation that only adds to their trauma. She wants to become involved with support groups and tell her story.
"I don't want what happened to me to have been for nothing and disappear into a vacuum, which I think happens to a lot of women."
She and her husband and the girls now live in a big family home in Jerrabomberra.
During those difficult early years, Cat was also studying, adding to her qualifications, which include a bachelor's degree in applied science, a masters degree in clinical nursing and postgraduate diploma in cosmetic nursing.
Education has been key.
"The one thing I emphasise to my girls is the importance of education - you can never have enough of it," she said.
The measure of how far she has come is evident in an act of kindness.
When Cat first came to Canberra and had nothing, she was freezing in the winter but had no coat. The receptionist at the clinic where she was working gave her a coat.
That same receptionist, Elle, is now working for Cat at the Belconnen clinic, finishing her nursing studies so she can be a full-time cosmetic medicine nurse.
It's a story of women supporting each other.
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