In her element

Developer Chiou See Anderson knows a thing or two about fighting for what you believe in. In 2003, the 41-year-old sold her home and set out to raise sufficient capital to buy an 3.68ha site at Springwood formerly owned by John Paul College for $1.2 million.

This month work starts on her grand vision – the $60 million pre-retirement community, Elements Third Age Living @ You have successfully tapped into a market where demand is set to soar given Australia’s rapidly ageing population.

With demographic playing such a vital role, what’s the point of difference with this project?
For the most part, Australians tend to be a bit suspicious about retirement living and view it as stuffy, institutionalised and just a short step to the pearly gates. I want to revolutionise aged living and offer a community that focuses on socialising, independent living, self discovery and life-long learning.

Rather than building just a village, I wanted to create an environment that fosters meaningful relationships and values the importance of a healthy mind, body and spirit.

In order to complement the natural environment, including an adjoining koala sanctuary, the homes will be fitted with a range of sustainable features including water tanks and solar powered heating.

Elements Third Age Living @ Springwood is based on the philosophy of successful ageing, which allows each resident to enhance their third age – or the period after our families have left home and full-time careers take a back seat.

The process involved a battle with local council for DA that went all the way to the Planning and Environment Court. Were you confident of a result?
The reasons for council’s refusal grew and grew and in turn I had to defend each of the issues raised with nine expert witnesses, 10 lay witnesses, one Queen’s Counsel, one junior barrister and a team of solicitors.

You have a background in mining accounting. How did that help to prepare you?
I got into this when I was 35 and I knew that if I lost it all, I could still bounce back. I approached former clients that I did work for as an accountant to become partners in 2003. Last year we turned that debt into equity via a private equity partner. My vision got better as I got older. When it came to put the deal together, I knew how to do it. Also, being humble enough to know that you do not know everything and to take on advice was important.

In 2006, you were awarded a doctoral scholarship at Bond University and given a position on a national research team exploring senior living alternatives in Australia. You are now doing a PhD. How important is it to be constantly learning in your space?
Doing a PhD at Bond University sets me apart from other entrepreneurs in the marketplace. It’s part of always believing that you cannot possibly know everything. I enjoy learning and I also have a bachelor of business and an MBA.

What keeps you grounded?
Three teenage children keep me grounded and keep me focused. If I didn’t have children, I’d be lazy. I need to be driven in a landscape that is dominated by men. In a lot of aspects women allow themselves to be discounted, but that’s not me.

Is there a business mantra that you adhere to?
I have always been very decisive, you need that in business. Just do it. Trust your gut instinct because the people who give you advice don’t have capital risk. I put it all on the line and sold my house to raise the capital.Springwood.

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