When Queensland café owner and mum of two, Kylie Rhodes, was contacted by the Wynnum Herald for an interview on her success she didn't expect what happened next and took to Facebook to express her outrage.
Rhodes' posted an update on the Whisky Business Facebook page on Thursday that was very different from her usual posts on macaron styles; it was directed towards Judith Maizey, news editor from Wynnum Herald who had met Rhodes earlier in the day for the interview.
When it came time for Rhodes to be photographed for the story things quickly unravelled. With the successful business owner claiming that Maizey asked her to apply more make-up or let her photograph a younger staff member in her place.
"Don't take offence, but you aren't the look we are going for, unless you can go and pop some make up on and a bit of lippy, otherwise we'd prefer to use the young lady who you have over there in your photos," were the words spoken by Maizey and posted by Rhodes on her Facebook page.
Rhodes did take offence and the post unleased a social media storm, attracting over 1,000 comments, 6,800 likes and shared over 1,800 times on Facebook in the following 48 hours.
Surprised at the outpouring of support from strangers and friends online and in person, Rhodes clarified that the post was directed only at Maizey in an attempt to make her understand how hurtful her remarks had been and why she had reacted the way she had.
"Judith's remarks undermined every one of my achievements that I've worked so hard for while building my business. The hurtful judgements brought back my own insecurities and image issues I struggled with in school."
"It's amazing how just one hurtful comment can reduce one's self esteem," says Rhodes. "By working hard in my business I want to set a good example for my children. Not having my picture alongside my business story because of how I look is the opposite of what I'm trying to achieve."
Did Judith Maizey realise her error and try and make amends?
"Judith apologised but she clearly had no clue as to why I was upset," confirmed Rhodes.
"I wanted her to know why her comments had upset me so much. I wanted her to know how hard I've worked to get my business to its current point, including the sacrifices my family and I have made. I found her comments to be extremely superficial and her manner rude and overbearing. Not everyone fits into the glamorous businesswoman model and that doesn't make our achievements any less significant".
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, home-based businesses are now the fastest growing small business sector in the country, often run by mums just like Kylie Rhodes. But it seems they are not immune to the image issues that dog the rest of the female population. Many juggle small children with their businesses and home duties. Most struggle to find "me time" while trying to balance a business with family. Rhodes points this out in the Facebook update on her business page:
'I work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. I start in this kitchen at 2:30 every morning; I finish at 2:30 in the afternoon and pick my daughter up from school, my son from daycare. I don't sleep more than 5 hours a night, and it's usually with the two kids in bed with me.
'I stress constantly about the business making enough money every week to pay my bills and staff. I am always trying to achieve the best quality of service and products as well. So, I'm sorry Judith but I don't have time in my day to give two s****, let alone one about whether I have lipstick on," she writes.
The post prompted backlash against Judith Maizey and Wynnum Herald, leading her to post her own version of events on the newspaper's Facebook page. She admitted that she had suggested Kylie put on some lippy and makeup for the photographs. 'It was not done with any malice or to offend – I just wanted her to look her best for a photo and story promoting her business," the post explains.
Her post also acknowledged that it was a mistake - one that she apologised for immediately.
'A mistake I continued to apologise for several times during the course of my visit to try and resolve the issue and pursue writing a positive story about what I could see was an amazing business.'
'When it was clear the situation was unresolvable, I left the store,' she writes. 'Having been a working mother myself and one who has owned a small business, I have the utmost respect and understanding for women who have to juggle the challenges of work and family life.'
Maizey ended the post with a refusal to be intimidated by the bullying unfolding in the comments and requested anyone seeking comment on the issue to call her directly on the number listed.
Similar comments expressing remorse were made by staff at Wynnum Herald who also came under fire from commentators.
When contacted directly for comment, the newspaper declined to say more on this issue and asked the writer to use the posts and comments they'd posted on Facebook to describe their version of the event and apology.
Rhodes says there has been no direct apology made to her by Maizey or the staff at Wynnum Herald.