Lou Wilson worked as a pharmacist for 20 years, before taking a break and volunteering at a not-for-profit organisation that sponsored indigenous children’s education.
Low now runs a business which imports olive oil from the Peloponnese in Greece, Olea of Monemvasia.
Lou Wilson tells Greg Dimopoulos her interest in investment began at a young age, when her grandfather gifted her a share portfolio, which has since had a significant impact on her life.
Lou, thanks so much for joining us today. Can you just give us a little bit of background info about yourself, your career and what really sparked your interest in investing?
Hi, Greg. I studied Pharmacy at uni and then I practised as a pharmacist for 20 years. Then, I had a couple of years off, because I was recovering, I was sick and had to have a bit of time recovering. During that time, I did some volunteering for a not-for-profit that sponsored indigenous children’s education. I did a bit of work volunteering with them and then, when I needed to go back to work, I was offered by them, that I was volunteering for. I did that for a number of years and then I moved into their business development, doing their fundraising, organising their fundraising dinners nationally. It was amazing, it was very different from pharmacy, but It was a wonderful experience, to feel that I was doing my small part for something much bigger.
I worked for them for about 10 years and finished middle of this year and end of last year, set up a company that imports olive oil from the Peloponnese in Greece. I’m starting to give that a little bit more time now. Yes, looking for another job, but not really sure what I want to do. I’ve done a yoga instructor’s course, but I’m not sure if I want to do that. I’m just looking out and seeing what’s happening.
Then, my interest in investing was, back when I was at university, I was about 17 years-old and my grandfather gave his eight grandchildren a portfolio of shares, which was pretty wonderful for us. He was a self-made man who owned a coal and shipping company in Newcastle and then he moved into stockbroking. He gave us all a portfolio, but the stipulation was, he did a spreadsheet for all of us and he wrote all the shares down and all the dates of all the Saturdays, for the next six or 12 months or whatever and we had to sit down every Saturday and look up, in the newspaper, the price of the shares and so we had to write them down and keep a track and he would ask us how we thought things were going.
Would he test all eight of you on a Saturday morning to see who was winning?
He would make sure that we were actually doing them and whenever we visited, because we lived in Toowoomba and he lived in Newcastle, whenever we’d visit him, or he came to visit us, we had to show him our sheets, how we filled them in. That was amazing. The majority of the shares were in a company called Industrial Equity that he was on the board of, which was at the time, run by a guy called Ron Brierley, who was a bit of a well-known corporate raider at the time. The reason grandad, who was incredibly conservative, was on his board was that Industrial Equity took over New Redhead, which grandad was on the board of New Redhead. He was the only person on the board that Ron Brierley invited onto the Industrial Equity board. Yeah, so that’s where my interest in shares began.
How did that little share portfolio that your grandfather passed onto you all those years ago change your life? Has it had quite a large impact?
It certainly did. It really was enough money, at the time, for most of us to buy our first home. Well, certainly, it contributed significantly, to buying our first home, which is a pretty amazing gift from your grandfather.
Now, you’re married to a stockbroker, do you ever have any disagreements on which investments are best or that kind of thing?
Well, we’re no longer married. When we were married, I left it all to him but, since we’re no longer married, I’m really learning so much myself and I wished that I’d learnt more in that time because I’m sure I would be far more knowledgeable than I am now. It’s been a bit of a steep learning curve for me, but because it’s always been a bit of an interest, I really enjoy it.
Now, you have three young children. What influence do they have on your buying decisions when it comes to purchasing certain investments?
They’re not so young now, they’re 27, 25 and 23, but my youngest son is quite interested in shares and investing. He’s got a couple of shares himself. He also gives me a fair bit of advice about what shares I should buy in companies that he thinks in the future, are going to do very well. So, one of those Is Tesla and the other, Amazon, which I have shares in both of those. Amazon, I haven’t had for very long, but Tesla, certainly, I’ve had for a while and they’ve done very well. I’m pretty happy with him about that. But he’s set up a company that processes hemp seeds, they grow the hemp in Tasmania and then they process the seeds and they’re just starting to retail them now that they can. He’s very interested in anything to do with hemp and especially in medicinal marijuana.
Because of my pharmacy background, I’m quite interested in that as well. I’ve got shares in a couple of medicinal marijuana companies and I’m just watching them. I think it’s a really interesting area.
In your opinion, do you think that they’ll begin to take off? I know when I’ve been to America a few times, all those shops seem to be all the rage there and of course, all those companies in the States, where it is of course, legal. Do you think that Australia will also go down that path in the future?
For medicinal marijuana?
I think we have to, you know? I think there’s just been so much research done. A lot of it, I think, in Israel, into the health benefits. Not only for the pain and epilepsy, but just the CBD oil, which is one of the cannabinoids that are in the plant, just for your overall wellbeing. You can have it every day, it doesn’t have the THC in it, which is the bit that makes you high. It is really, really good for your overall wellbeing. Yeah, I think there’s so much research, it has to happen here, eventually but it’s just a matter of when.
Now, you mentioned earlier that you founded and now run a business that does involve olives. Are you able to give me more of a thorough run through of how that came about and how the business all works?
Well, it was a little bit by default because I certainly wasn’t intending setting up a business, but I have a friend in the Peloponnese and he’s been sending me his olive oil from there, for a few years. I’ve been giving it to my friends and family and everyone just loves it. I kept getting more and more, and I thought this is crazy, he hasn’t got enough to supply everyone. He helped me and we looked into a company where I could import from his area, which is Laconia, in the Peloponnese and found a factory that has a co-op of growers and so I import it directly from the factory. It’s a big thrill, because this year, the olive oil that I import won gold medals in New York and London in the International Olive Oil Competitions.
Yeah. One of the really amazing things about it is that it’s very high in phenolic compounds, which is not the case in a lot of extra-virgin olive oils, it’s just certain olives that produce it. The way that they, when they harvest it and how well they treat the olives, it all comes into it. One of the awards, the award in London was actually for the health content, which is the high phenolic compound, which it’s just starting to be a new thing that’s coming out about…
Yeah, what does the phenolic content in the oil do? What benefits does it have to one’s health?
Well, it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, but there’s a whole lot of research recently, into the health benefits for lots of health conditions, to prevent things like diabetes, cancer. But, it’s been shown to significantly improve your cardiac function, just 20mls a day, within two weeks. A whole lot of research recently into the fact it protects your brain against Alzheimer’s and dementia. It also dissolves the plaques that form in the brain during dementia.
Yeah, it’s all new research, but it’s a medicine, but it’s not a medicine. It’s a food, it’s nice that you can have something that tastes beautiful and put it on your food and know that it’s actually having lots of added benefits as well.
What lessons have you learnt so far about running a business yourself?
That I don’t know very much. My daughter is a graphic designer and graphic artist, so without her, I couldn’t have done my website or my marketing materials. I could have done it, but it would have been a lot harder.
Just to finish off, over all these years, what’s a key piece of advice you’d pass on to say, new investors now, that you believe will help them, quite significantly on their journey? Something that you wish you’d known, when you began in the investment game?
I think probably to put your trust in people that know a lot more than you know. So most of my shares are in Blue Sky Alternative Investments, which is an alternative asset company that my brother was one of the founders of. I totally trust him and so that was an easy purchase because I knew that I could trust him and they’ve done incredibly well, incredibly well. But, all of my other purchases are because I’ve read from people like Alan Kohler. I’ve been following him for a long time and I really trust his advice.
Also Roger Montgomery, I’ve read his book. I guess I try to read as much from the people that I think do know a lot more than I do about investing. Then read about it a little bit myself, but yeah, I usually take a view, a lot, on what someone else, who knows more than me, tells me.
Well Lou, thanks so much for joining us today on the Curious Investor. I’m sure you’ve made everyone else curious now about that olive oil. So congratulations on that and thank once again for speaking with me today.
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