PEOPLE: Balancing a full-time job and leading the Story Symphony

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Adrian Yeung? 

The Story Symphony is yet another passion project of mine, on top of other creative pursuits (not to mention working full-time and trying to have a social life too). But fortunately it’s a tonne of fun, which makes it absolutely not a chore even if I’m working on it until all hours of the night!

As an independent producer, I essentially wear all the hats: script writing and editing, audio recording and production, marketing and promotion, and of course all of the admin. The tasks that this involves are endless, and each one different to the last – reading over the writer’s scripts, scheduling time to record with actors, sourcing sound effects, graphic design work, promoting The Story Symphony… the list goes on and on!

As has been the case for pretty much everyone around the world, the pandemic has added an extremely difficult layer of complexity to getting stuff done. With Melbourne being in and out of lockdown for the past two years, it’s been a challenge trying to produce a collaborative fiction podcast entirely remotely. But with passion, patience and a multitude of Zoom calls, nothing is impossible.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

While diversity and inclusion aren’t explicitly themes of The Story Symphony, the nature of having a story that’s created by multiple people makes it an inherent part of The Story Symphony’s DNA. The writers that came together to create the story are incredibly talented people that I’ve connected with across my professional, academic and social lives. They all have very different writing styles, which is made very obvious with all of the unpredictable twists and turns throughout the story.

While diversity and inclusion in terms of who’s creating art still has a long way to go in Australia, I think it’s really important to recognise how far we’ve come. There are now noticeably more writers, actors, celebrities and public figures in Australia from culturally diverse backgrounds than in the past, who are helping to shine a light on issues that may otherwise go unnoticed by the mainstream – such as the lack of diversity in the media.

I fully identify as an Asian Australian writer, yet there is little about The Story Symphony to suggest that it’s an Asian Australian production – it’s just something that happens to be produced by an Asian Australian. I think having more representation in Australian media will ultimately normalise the idea of anybody being able to create art that is popular and universally embraced, no matter what their heritage may be. 

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I’ve always tried my best not to let my cultural heritage dictate my approach to creativity, or wanting to achieve the things that I want to achieve. Having said that, there’s no escaping the fact that it is a fundamental part of who I am, and growing up Asian in Australia certainly presents a unique set of circumstances to when it comes to forging a presence in the creative scene.

When it comes to those from diverse cultural backgrounds trying to break into the creative arts, I think one of the greatest challenges is having few role models to compare to. But with enough courage, that also just presents more opportunities to break through barriers and do something truly unique – and to show others in the community that if you can do it, anyone can.


Building your networks is the most important factor of success. Whether you’re talking to someone doing something similar to you or in a completely different field, you never know what you might learn from hearing about their experiences and how they overcame challenges in their lives to get to where they are now.

Want to follow and support ADRIAN ?




Twitter: connect with me personally, you can find me on LinkedIn at:

About the diversity champion:

Meet Adrian, producer of The Story Symphony – the fiction podcast with each chapter written by an entirely different author. The listeners don’t have any idea what to expect – and neither do the writers!

Eight writers and six actors worked tirelessly to create season one, which launched on May 2020 and has since attracted over 24,000 listens. And season two is just around the corner…

Image description: Adrian is smiling at the camera wearing a suit


PEOPLE: Artistic Engineer sharing the art of Storytelling, Public Speaking and Social skills

Arman Chowdhury is an artistic engineer storytelling his experiences with public speaking, social skills, EQ, creativity & level up mentality. Armani Chowdhury is a Twitter legend, sharing regular lessons and wisdom on leveling up and creating a firm lifestyle. Here is the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Arman Chowdhury?

A normal day for me is broken down into a 4-step framework. The framework is: Consume, create, market, meditate. Let me share what each of these 4 means.

  • Consume is inputting information. This is when I spend time learning. I may read a book, consume some of my old content to see how I can improve, or watch a documentary.
  • Creating is when I output information. Since the ArmaniTalks company focuses on creating short stories, I aim to spend each day creating something. It can be a blog, tweet, YouTube video etc.
  • Marketing is when I put my content out in the public domain. Content is not beneficial if it is not published. So, I follow a strict publishing schedule on all my media channels.
  • Meditating is when I turn of all technology & stimulants to center my mind on a particular target. This allows me to stay sharp, focused, and creative without feeling overwhelmed.

These 4 are my daily tasks.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

Diversity & inclusion play a large role in the work that I do. Most of my readers & viewers are from around the world. This allows me to interact & engage with different members who are looking to improve their soft skills. 

Also, I often work with freelancers from over the world on tasks like graphic design, audio cleanup, and web development services. The talent of these services come from Morocco, Russia, India and other countries.

I believe diversity plays a big role in running a sustainable business. This also requires adaptive communication skills. The ability to talk to different groups of people is a skill & is important to learn because cultures communicate in different ways. 

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

Great question. Yes, I have faced challenges because of my identity. In the ArmaniTalks business, I often public speak for events. It used to be difficult to speak at events because I was viewed to be too young by the other speakers. The public speaking field is a knowledge-based field. 

Therefore, someone who is older is given more priority to take the stage over a young person. Young adults can often face ageism depending on the industry they operate in. 

The way that I overcame this was by emceeing events instead. The emcee is the person who introduces the speakers, entertains the audience & keeps the event flowing at a gentle pace. 

Where the speakers give an in-depth talk, the emcee serves as the glue guy.

As I built more emceeing experience, I made connections with other speakers and event planners. These connections allowed me to host events myself & speak more often on stage. 


My advice for young people who are aiming to achieve their goals but feel afraid because they are a minority is to focus on what is within your grasp. When others see you progressing, it will be difficult to ignore you. 

Whatever that skillset may be: 

Speaking, coding, writing skills etc. 

By focusing on your craft & aiming to get better every day, you create a body of work. Having a portfolio allows you to have leverage no matter which field you are in. 

Also, showing that you can overcome challenges despite being a minority does wonders for your confidence! It instills a victor mindset and allows you to thrive under pressure.

Once you see the results for yourself, that’s when you’ll want to keep moving towards your goals. Good people try to improve 10% at a time, great people try to improve 1% at a time. The small 1% changes add up, build consistency & will create momentum for you in no time.

Want to follow and support ?

Great interview! To stay updated with my work, be sure to check out Within this website, you’ll see a collection of my books, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, social media, and much more! I routinely discuss topics on public speaking, storytelling, emotional resilience, creativity, social skills & mindset. You will learn how to articulate your ideas with clarity & confidence. Thank you very much!

About the diversity champion:

(he/him) My name is Arman Chowdhury, the founder of ArmaniTalks. I am a Toastmaster, Engineer & Storyteller. The purpose of this company is to help shy entrepreneurs & professionals build confidence thru communication skills. This brand provides short stories to help you become more articulate in expressing your ideas. During my journey, I have served as the External Vice President of Toastmasters, Communications Chair in BNI & became the Author of the Level Up Mentality. June 2018, ArmaniTalks Media was born. Since then, the brand has helped millions of people around the world level up their mindset & communication skills.

Image description: Arman is speaking at an event with a microphone whilst wearing a black suit


Local indigenous business-woman, Julie Okely, of Dilkara, is set to face 30 of Australia’s top CEOs and business leaders, at the 2021 Global Sister Pitch.

Not-for-profit organisation, Global Sisters, will host the third national Sister Pitch. The online event will see local businesswoman, Julie Okely, a proud Kamilaroi woman, face a panel of high profile CEOs, founders, and senior executives to pitch her Indigenous range of hair products, Dilkara Essence of Australia. Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Julie Okley? 

I love my “normal” days because they offer so many opportunities to my businesses along with connections with family and friends. A usual day starts at 8.00am (which to some seems a little late but I am a self-confessed night owl) with a black coffee and time with my two Pomeranian puppies. It then leads into getting ready for the day ahead. I am usually in my office at 9.00 checking emails and compiling the to-do list for the day. By 9.30 I am starting to see my Dilkara Hair clients, as I have a salon built into my house. 

I have had this business for over 20 years now, and many of my clients are long time customers and I have seen many new babies grow to graduate high school, even University. I am lucky enough to have my office in close proximity to the salon, so I am able to work in the office whilst my clients are having colours and we chat and enjoy the quiet time!

It is not unusual for me to work in the salon for at least a 10-12 hour day. I tend to prepare meals during the processing times and I am an amazing multitasker that can also do the odd household chore or prepping the many online orders that need to be shipped out via our courier company for the next day, whilst I am making a cappuccino at the same time!

At the end of the day, I have usually had online meetings with my web design team, graphic designers and our social media guru Dish, who works remotely for Dilkara. It isn’t unusual for me to place several orders with manufacturers to maintain a consistent level of Dilkara hair, skin and hygiene products – that are made here in Australia. My pet hate is when the stock sells out and I need to have a slight delay for new orders coming in.

I often have phone conversations with my business team in Melbourne to see where Dilkara can be seen next, and focus on the growth of the business.

At other times, I can be found in conversations about my new book being made into a TV Series, with my co-author Simone Hamilton or our TV Production company based in Sydney.

An important part of my day is organising all of my paperwork and financials for my bookkeeper. This helps me see the financial health of my business and assists me in understanding where things need to be changed or added.

I usually end the day with a nice relax and a mental breakdown of the day, and where it went well.I love what I do, but I do find it easy to switch off when I need to, and even though I tend to have a lot of energy, I give every day it’s all (unless it’s my day off and I love Netflix time!)

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

I have been in the Hairdressing industry for over 30 years of my life and I think when we talk of hairdressing, diversity and inclusion immediately comes to mind.

I find this topic comes with a sense of normality in this industry, as we love anything that its outside the norm, and we want, and need diversity and inclusion in our industry.

Creativity conjures up thoughts of diversity and feelings of expression. We showcase our ability to show our true personalities through fashion, design and colour! Just look at the kaleidoscope of colours available to utilise on any colour chart. Last week I did two amazing expressive colours that brought out the wonderful personalities of my clients using orange, black, purple and pink.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

A challenge that I faced in my professional career because of my identity…? That is a tough question. I think identity hasn’t really been an issue for me because I identify as a proud Aboriginal woman and I own that. It is part of who I am, so to me, it’s not a debateable topic. But on my personality…? Sure, I can sometimes come across as open and driven, sometimes to the point of being too blunt at times. I don’t apologise for that, as I honestly feel where I am coming from is a place of concern and compassion, I just don’t offer it with fluffy fairy floss.

Maybe that is the strength I derive from my heritage. There has been so many challenges for the Indigenous peoples in this country, I believe it’s a story that needs to be told and we need to remind Australians we are all in it together and we all deserve a voice. 

I don’t think it is wrong to believe in yourself and aim to do the best you can, by your own standards.


Feel special. You are unique because where you have been placed in this world. One voice has a powerful impact and I think if your voice is one for positivity, you should stand tall and focus on the positive things you bring to your community. 

Everyone is an individual and no one person is more important than another, but how you share that message can come from a place of good. Create a movement of positive change, don’t sit with conformity and hope you see amazing things comes from a lack of involvement. No one ever won watching the game.

Be kind, be true and be focused. Write up your goals and your dreams for the future and aim for them, no matter how long it takes to get there. Life is a journey and it is never a straight line with instant success. Our knowledge stems from all of the things we learn not to do – just like many entrepreneurs in our history. Find your favourite one and use their story to inspire you to achieve your dream for your own life. As they say, find someone that does it well and follow their footprint, you too will leave yours.

Oh, and never base your success story on the pigment of your skin colour. Remember a cup of tea is still a cup of tea, with or without milk.

Want to follow and support ?

Instagram: Dilkara_Australia

Facebook: Dilkara Australia

About the diversity champion:

(she/her) Julie Okely is the award-winning founder and creator of Dilkara products. She has won the 2016 NAIDOC Business Woman of the Year, Supply Nation Indigenous Businesswoman of 2017 and Winner of The best new business 2016 Canberra Women in Business Awards. In 2015, Her Canberra named her as one of the 15 Women to Watch in 2015

Image description:

PEOPLE: Finding your ‘WHY’ to achieve your goals

Yemi Penn is a fearless businesswoman and thought leader on creating your own memo, meaning ‘she’ gets to write the script of her life and she encourages others to do the same.

We speak to Yemi about what her day-to-day looks like and how she found her ‘why’ in achieving all her accolades and the many hats she continues to wear.

Here’s the story!

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Yemi Penn? 

Ha! This feels like a trick question but pre-covid and covid days vary a lot. In the spirit of manifestation, this is what my day should look like.

My alarm goes off at 4.45am, I make my 5.30am F45 class, there is an 80% chance I beast mode in that class and then I’m set up for the day. I would then head home, meditate, although I get distracted with the gram so this needs further work. I then share the contents of my day with my partner to see if we have any gaps we could fill. I get my daughter (and son) ready for school.

My day is filled with variety, the mornings are about high impact deliverables as this is where my brain is on fire. So I am either building presentations, keynotes, programs or a campaign around my next documentary. By around 1pm, I need a nap….true story, I have a nap or at least get horizontal to trick the mind and body that I’m giving it rest. I have a mini second wind around 3pm which is where I make phone calls or focus on applications and/or emails.

I do eat somewhere in between but I rarely cook. I then go for a walk before dark and figure out what my daughter will eat as she is a fussy eater, and I don’t cook so it’s ‘hit and miss’

I will watch some crap tv if I’m a little wired or I get into house renovation/building programs with my partner as we plan the build of a mini retreat for our family and extended community.

During COVID? Remove all the freedoms and no F45…..ouch

How important is diversity and inclusion to you and in the work that you do?

So important, I no longer subscribe to lip service or shallow allyship. We can no longer survive, let alone thrive in a ‘sameness’ environment. D&I is a buzz word but it is necessary, the planet is sustained by a biodiverse community. Humanity needs to wake up and understand the importance of a diverse and inclusive world. I appreciate I tick a few diversity boxes and so when I work with clients, it is important I let them know why it matters that they invited me to the table but best believe I also build my own tables because according to research and data it will take decades for equality to be a thing and that is purely on a male/female gender basis, so this doesn’t take into account culture, neuro-ability, physical ability, non-gender. The work needed is deep.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I can’t say anyone has said something specifically to me based on the labels society give but the ‘jokes’ and ‘offensive’ (unconscious bias) comments cuts deep. I didn’t have the vocabulary or confidence back then to correct people, especially in a compassionate yet clear boundaries way. This is a skill we need to work on especially with kids who are still figuring out their identity as a human being, let alone the labels they were given.


Firstly, get clear on your goal. Noting a goal is a dream with a deadline so I invite you to dream big and often. Then put together an action plan and either find a mentor you share this with or an accountability partner, so you stay on track. It is important you think and write down ‘why’ you want to achieve these goals. This ‘why’ ideally will be so strong and rooted in your identity that you won’t ever let that dream go or worse, let your world given identity make you shrink. I personally find that when I am the ‘minority’ in a room, I imagine this superhero cape on my back and make sure I represent all marginalised groups in society even if I represent purely with my presence #blackgirlmagic

Want to follow and support yEMI?

I would love your support by following and engaging with me on my Instagram page, link below

Yemi Penn (@yemi.penn) • Instagram photos and videos

But what would really really help me and my ‘why’ is contributing towards my next documentary. $5 goes a long way as I take that as your energy and vibration to want to make the project succeed. You can learn more about the project and donate via the this link. Do We Choose the Experience Our Trauma Teaches Us? | Documentary Australia Foundation

About the diversity champion:

(she/her) Yemi Penn is a serial entrepreneur with a common thread of transformation, whether it be transforming Sydney’s rail network as an engineer, transforming physical health in her F45 gym or shifting the perspective of our minds as she supports people in creating a life that they not only want and deserve. More recently Yemi has added documentary producer to her repertoire as she shifts her core life’s purpose to raising the vibration of acknowledging and healing our individual and therefore collective trauma.

Image description: Yemi is looking at the camera wearing a yellow top

VIEW: The Rise and Importance of Ethical Fashion

The below is a guest post from Niccii Kugler, founder of ethical and sustainable online marketplace Nash + Banks.

In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Over 1000 were killed in the destruction, even though workers had been voicing their concerns over the building’s safety for weeks. 

In the years following the Rana Plaza disaster, conditions did improve with the introduction of The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Despite these changes, however, inequality remains rife, with the European Parliament using the term “slave labour” to describe the current working conditions of garment workers in Asia. 

How the fashion industry is interfering with human rights

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is a problematic one. And, although there have been many positive changes throughout the years, environmental issues and human rights abuses are still prevalent. The fact is that the majority of fashion retailers don’t own their manufacturing facilities. Subcontracting is incredibly common, making fashion supply chains a murky and complex labyrinth. Every twist and turn takes these brands further from accountability, and human rights violations are easily hidden from the public’s sight. Did you know:

  • The International Labour Organisation states that of the 260 million children in employment worldwide, 170 million are engaged in child labour, and at least 6 million are in forced labour.
  • In India and Bangladesh, the Fair Wear Foundation reports that at least 60% of garment factory workers experience harassment at work. However, this figure is likely to be underreported because of fear of retaliation.
  • An estimated 27 million people working in the fashion industry suffer work-related diseases or illnesses each year.

The rise of ethical fashion

The advent of COVID-19 forced many of us to reconsider our priorities and think about what mattered most to us, and investing in ethical and sustainable fashion is something that many consumers are embracing.

However, the fact is that the operating practices of clothing manufacturers are shrouded in mystery. If consumers want to find out where their clothing comes from, how it’s made, and the social and environmental impacts of production, we need to spend hours digging into reports and data, poring through statistics and lengthy essays. 

Luckily, there are resources that have done all the hard work for us – researching supply chains and certifications.  With easy access to a plethora of information on the environmental and social implications of fashion, we’re seeing a global cultural shift when it comes to purchasing decisions as millennials and Gen Zs grow their stake of spending power. Ethical, sustainable, minimal waste and slow fashion are gaining momentum, and brands are starting to take note. 

Riding the wave of change

These changes are starting to spill over into the mainstream with The Ethical Trading Initiative’s “Corporate Leadership on Modern Slavery” Report (which polled 61 global sourcing executives with a combined buying power of $100 billion) finding that 82% of companies believe that addressing human rights within their core business model is the most significant strategic indicator of corporate leadership on modern slavery. Meanwhile,  93% of companies highlighted that they have a responsibility not only to do everything in their power to address it but also to ensure that workers most affected are protected from further harm and compensated appropriately.

The fashion and textiles industry has, thus far, been slow to adapt and make the necessary changes to the status quo. But this all changed with the pandemic, which accelerated and magnified problems that already existed in the supply chain. With the advent of COVID-19, supply and demand levels were radically altered, while temporary trade restrictions and shortages highlighted weaknesses in production strategies. Multiple national lockdowns slowed and temporarily halted the flow of raw materials and finished goods. And, of course, numerous organisations suffered staff shortages and losses, which further impacted their operability. 

As global supply chains abruptly and drastically changed in 2020, this mass disruption has accelerated the need for a genuinely systemic transformation towards a more sustainable model. Intentional or not, our existing reality has changed, and it’s paved the path for a new way of doing things. 

About the expert

After the birth of her second child, Niccii Kugler found her awareness of the increasing cost  of overconsumption became really heightened. Frustrated by a sense of helplessness, she  started searching for brands that offered alternatives and discovered an inspiring community  of change-makers, innovators and artisans all dedicated to rewriting our future.  

However, the process of researching and vetting products and brands is time-consuming and when Niccii couldn’t find one  lifestyle platform that offered her what she was looking for she decided to build it herself. 

Curated online marketplace Nash + Banks was officially launched in 2018, providing conscious consumers with an easy way to discover and shop for brands and products that are committed to having a positive impact on people and the planet.

Image description: Niccii Kugler, founder of ethical and sustainable online marketplace Nash + Banks at home in Avalon Beach. Niccii is sitting on a wooden chair at her desk in front of a laptop. She is turning around and looking to the side. She has short, blonde hair and is wearing a sleeveless black outfit. There are photos and framed images on her walls, and a pot plant and guitar on either side of her desk.

PEOPLE: I felt like if I didn’t succeed at sport, I simply wouldn’t succeed at all – Morgan Coleman

The below is a guest post from Morgan Coleman, CEO and founder of Vets On Call.

It was an easy choice for me, an unlucky number for some but for myself it felt like it was one tiny step closer to my dream, one step closer to becoming like my hero Michael Long. My first ever junior football jersey with the number thirteen emblazoned on the back made me feel like I was inching toward attaining the success of the Indigenous sporting icons I admired so much.

I wanted to be a professional sportsman, I wanted to be like them, most of all I wanted to be successful. The reality was that for an Indigenous male growing up in regional Victoria in the nineties, sport seemed like the only way I’d ever accomplish such success.

I was a teenager when I realised I wasn’t going to play AFL. Decades later that moment is yet to be forgotten. I just found out that other boys my age were already being scouted by AFL clubs and I hadn’t even made a representative side yet, the truth was inescapable but given my lack of success on the football field I’m embarrassed that I didn’t figure it out sooner.

What’s stuck with me all these years isn’t the disappointment, it’s how scared I was. I felt like the one vehicle I had to a better life had just evaporated in the split of a second. It seems crazy to me now given my optimistic outlook on the world but I don’t blame my younger self for feeling like that. It’s not that there weren’t Indigenous Australians doing amazing things, it was that you just didn’t see them and the message sent by so much of our society is that we really don’t expect much for our Indigenous Australians. So, when I tried to think about what I wanted in my life it was impossible for me to imagine obtaining it without the avenue of sport. At the time I felt like if I didn’t succeed at sport, I simply wouldn’t succeed at all.

There is a big difference between knowing what you want and believing you can attain it. One thing that has never wavered throughout my entire life is my desire to succeed, the burning ambition to build a better life for myself and my family and my aspiration to build the kind of influence that would enable me to help improve the lives of those in my community.

After a few years in a large corporate I realised that it, too, would not bring about the kind of disruptive change I needed in my world. I felt disempowered there, I felt like change took too long, that there was too many politics and I felt like I was only ever going to be a passenger on someone else’s ship, not the captain of my own. I wanted rapid change, I wanted to feel empowered and I wanted there to be no ceiling to the things I could accomplish. I knew I had to start my own business.

When I set my goals, I aim high and I wanted to create a business that could scale rapidly, become a household name and ultimately stand as a shining example, a legacy, of what Indigenous Australians are truly capable of. After a chance encounter at a veterinary clinic I created Vets on Call – a technological disruptor to the $4b Australian Veterinary industry. At Vets on Call we’re redefining the way veterinary services are acquired and delivered and, in the process, I hope to help redefine the expectations Australians have for their Indigenous peoples.

These low expectations are not only rife amongst the average Australian, but are deeply imbedded in the institutions that claim to exist to help us achieve. The little capital that is allocated to Indigenous businesses predominantly goes to micro businesses with little scale up potential and the accelerator programs funded to assist Indigenous entrepreneurs to grow their businesses focus on teaching what an ABN is or how to write a mission statement. For those of us at the helm of fast growth, rapidly scaling businesses with huge upside potential the attitude of our collective society simply isn’t ready for it.

Vets on Call has become my life. I live and breathe it. I love this business with every fibre of my being. I love it not only because of how enjoyable I find the challenge of disrupting a $4b industry that has operated the same way for decades, nor because of how exciting I find my vision for its future. I love it because the disruption it is causing goes well and truly beyond the industry, it filters into my personal life and into the psyche of those who witness it shining. It’s disrupting a cycle of struggle and allowing me an avenue to create a better life for my family and I. Better still, it challenges the low expectations Australians place on its Indigenous Australians by publicly demonstrating the capabilities of our First Nations people.

When I reflect on the disappointment and hopelessness I felt as a teenager and at times through my corporate career I realise that it’s easy to allow yourself to believe in the low expectations that our society has for Indigenous Australians. It’s easy and at times comforting to believe you are powerless. However, with business and Vets on Call I’ve never even been tempted to allow myself to be comforted by that. Regardless of how hard it is, the gut-wrenching disappointment you can feel and the weariness that sets in with a prolonged, constant grind, I have never for one moment felt anything but truly empowered.

We’re still young at Vets on Call and we’ve a long way to go to accomplish the lofty goals we have for the business, but it has already changed my life. When I left my job and started my own business I was seeking self-empowerment. Business has given me that. Where once I felt like a passenger going with the flow, business has made me the captain of my own ship. It’s allowed me to determine my destination and to set my course and it reminds me daily that regardless of the obstacles I face, if I am to succeed it is entirely up to me. In my opinion that’s exactly how it should be.

About the expert

Morgan Coleman is a 31 year old Torres Strait Islander who was a finalist in the 7News Young Achiever Award (2020) and the Ernst & Young Indigenous Entrepreneur Achiever Of The Year Award (2019). No stranger to entrepreneurialism and hard work, Morgan was offered a place at Melbourne University but faced significant financial barriers to get there.  An Indigenous scholarship from Trinity College allowed him to afford accomodation to study at university and gave him access to some of the finest business minds in Australia. 

Today Vets On Call is one of the most innovative businesses to disrupt the $4 billion dollar veterinary industry and it’s traditional business model and offer quality veterinary services that are more affordable, convenient and stress free for pets and their owners.

Image description: Morgan is leaning over a table, standing next to a woman. They are both looking at a piece of paper on the table and Morgan is writing something, holding a pen in his right hand.

PEOPLE: How Zara reacted after uncovering flaws across almost every aspect of the healthcare system

Zara Lord founded uPaged after experiencing first-hand and discovering from further research the depth and breadth of flaws in the Australian healthcare system, including over-working nurses and inefficient management of hospital budgets, leading to poorer patient experiences.

In this interview, she outlines how she is addressing these problems with technology and her goals for uPaged despite the disruptions of the pandemic.

  • What sparked the idea for uPaged? 

In 2016, I’d been working as an 8th year Registered Nurse (RN) in one of Sydney’s largest and busiest Intensive Care Units. I’d also just completed a Graduate Certificate in Critical Care Nursing, and was undecided as to what was next in my career. 

With a love of travel, and while living in one of Australia’s most expensive cities, I had been supplementing my income doing as many as three agency nursing shifts a week. I first started as an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) while I was an undergraduate. Even when I was full-time and in charge of the ward, I picked up the odd agency shift when work had no overtime. 

The agency nursing experience always left me with a feeling of unease about the disconnect. With experience on both sides of the fence – as the agency nurse and the nurse in charge – both roles highlighted several points of abrasion between agency nurse, agency, permanent hospital staff, hospital booking manager and patient.

This led to nine months of research into how I could make the agency nursing experience better for the nurse, hospital and patient.

What I uncovered through that research revealed flaws across nearly every aspect of the system.

Hospitals were paying for nurses whom they knew very little about, and had no choice over whom they were given – in effect, a recruiter was making the decision about what staff were sent to look after patients, so hospitals couldn’t effectively utilise the unique skills and experience of their agency nurses.

Nurses I spoke to repeatedly complained of frequent agency cancellations, a lack of respect for their skills, no trust from peers and allocations to patients they had no experience with.

I also discovered that the Australian healthcare system spent at least $1.2 billion dollars on contingency workforce fees in 2018 alone. In NSW Health, this figure is conservatively reported at $15 million, a figure that increased by more than a million dollars from the year before. That got me really fired up – here I was working two jobs to get by comfortably – and that money that was not going on nurses’ wages – it was just on recruitment agency fees.

The cost to Australian hospitals for agency nurses cripples hospital budgets. It’s a vicious cycle. When budgets dry up, hospital beds get closed, contingency workforce is slashed, more pressure is put onto permanent nursing staff who burn out, and patients lose out. I knew I had to do something, and so that’s how uPaged came about.

  • What are your key goals? How will you know if you’re making a difference? 

My goal is for uPaged to be available to every hospital in Australia, and for every nurse that works additional shifts in other healthcare facilities, to have a profile on the platform, so that clinicians can make the decisions about who cares for their patients. 

I  want the technology to deliver so much efficiency that hospitals find uPaged 10 times easier than their current incumbent manual processes. We’ve just saved one of our hospitals $85K in the past year, with quite conservative usage (2,475 hours). Furthermore, in a time when agency nurses are hard to come by, uPaged has had a reliable and consistent supply of nurses for their intensive care, wards, day surgery and outpatient clinics. I’d love to be able to do this for at least another dozen hospitals.  

For nurses, my key goal is for higher rates of pay across all uPaged shifts, while giving nurses more control and choice over where and when they work.

I also want to save the Australian healthcare system a billion dollars over the next decade, and that’s doable if more hospitals start using the platform.

My final goal is for better patient outcomes. And uPaged positively impacts shift fills rates so that they are well above industry standard, patient care – and outcomes – are improved. 

Oh, and investment – we’d love to get investment so we can supercharge our growth.

A key element of the uPaged platform is its 2-way ratings and feedback loop between hospital and nurse. It would be a dream to be able capture patient feedback one day, but in the meantime, I’ll settle for knowing that I’m making a difference by saving hospitals tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and by improving the career paths of nurses by putting control and choice back in their hands and by making sure they get better rates of pay. We can already track most of this in the platform and we know we’re getting some great results already.

  • What have been the biggest challenges to date? How have you overcome them?

Since day one, our biggest challenge has been identifying and getting in front of the decision makers in hospitals. There are so many stakeholders, and hospitals have tended to be slow to adopt change, but COVID has shown just how quickly they can move if they need to, so we want to capitalise on that. 

uPaged is disrupting an outdated, 30-year-old model that has worked in the past, but just isn’t appropriate any more, and its long term impact is only being realised now through the awareness that uPaged is creating. Change is difficult for large organisations, so we’re working hard to bring uPaged to every hospital nationwide but it requires stealth, grit, determination and feet on the ground to do that, so that’s what we’re doing. 

  • How has the pandemic impacted the way you run the business? 

We can’t ignore COVID’s impact on healthcare, small businesses and startups.

uPaged has undertaken immense diversification during the pandemic, and we acted at lightning speed to innovate and adapt to the challenges presented. This included pivoting our business model, as well as our user and customer base on both sides of our marketplace. 

We took an approach to ‘build the plane while flying it’, to do whatever it took to meet our clients’ changing requirements and make the experience as high touch and service-focused as possible. We also secured new revenue streams by tapping areas we’d previously not engaged with. 

When hospital operating theatres shut down, our workflow in the acute private sector dwindled and business development opportunities halted as hospitals averted their attention to their own pandemic response. The nurses who usually served these areas were left without work as local health districts redeployed their permanent staff, and then filled their gaps with staff from the hospitality and tourism sectors. 

Our swift response, our agility and openness to change meant that nurses gained and retained employment opportunities that they would have otherwise been unable to. 

It means we’ve created partnerships in sectors we once steered away from, and we’ve achieved breadth and depth serving clients that were not previously part of our business strategy. 

While already a very lean, bootstrapped operation, we implemented cost cutting measures immediately, so I’ve been working without pay for 7 months, and the Development Team of 3 worked on significantly reduced hours for 3 months.

  • How has this impacted your business plans for 2021?

We’ve been able to get really laser-focused about where we want to be for 2021. We’re opening up to serve healthcare organisations requiring term contracts, as well as facilitating permanent placements, in addition to serving healthcare providers and facilities nationwide.

In true marketplace style, we are also delivering our service as a technology solution so that hospitals and our nursing agencies can fully integrate our technology into their businesses so that their own staff can be better utilised within their own organisation, the talent pool can be improved, as well as across their multiple facilities, putting an end to under-employment of existing staff.

At this point in time, 2021 is looking very promising.

About the expert

The founder of uPaged, Zara Lord is an 8th year registered nurse, specialised in Intensive Care. Having experienced the current model of agency nursing from both the nurse and institutional side, she knew there had to be a better way. Having harnessed technology, her deep industry knowledge/experience and her network she has single handedly built a nursing digital marketplace which is the first of its kind in Australia.

Image description: Zara is smiling and wearing a blue shirt with ‘uPAGED’ print on the right. She has blonde hair, which is tied up. She is in front of a green and leafy hedge.

PEOPLE: How Natasha Price is empowering people with disabilities

Natasha Price, elite wheelchair athlete and entrepreneur, saw an immediate need for services that helped empower people with disabilities and also equipped businesses with the tools and knowledge needed to build inclusive workplaces. In this interview, she outlines why she launched InvincAble and what makes their approach to diversity and inclusion effective.

  • Why did you start InvincAble?

InvincAble was born out of a need for those with lived experience of disability to empower others living with disability or long term health conditions and make a tangible and meaningful impact on their day to day lives. We do this via offering a unique business model that includes numerous services such as diversity and inclusion training, accessibility consulting, disability education, advocacy, workshops, motivational speaking, product development and disability awareness programs.

At InvincAble we use our distinctive brand of humour and decades of life experience to appeal to the hearts and minds of the wider community so that they feel inclusion and accessibility is an absolute necessity for society as a whole. We encourage adaptability whilst pursuing equity for all, and strive to demonstrate this to both the abled bodied and disabled community.

  • What was missing from the market that gave you confidence your organisation was needed?

We felt that many organisations put inclusion and accessibility into the “too hard” basket or are scared off by the huge task ahead of them in an area they often do not have personal experience in. Often, organisations have rules, regulations and high costs militantly spouted at them, without being given the opportunity to empathise and connect with the people that these issues affect most.

At InvincAble we believe in tackling these problems head on but in a positive manner, whilst tackling the small steps that can be taken to make people more inclusive and accessible in their thinking. We hope that by showing the highs and lows of living with disability, we can make everybody realise the benefits of being more aware of the needs of those living with one.

  • Diversity and inclusion training has recently been getting mixed responses from experts and professionals regarding its effectiveness. What’s your view on this?

We believe that it entirely depends on the approach of the organisation providing the training. If the training is sterile, not interactive, does not truly demonstrate the realities of living with disability and the ramifications of not becoming more inclusive of all abilities, then it is unlikely to be impactful.

If somebody has never been touched by disability it is extremely hard for them to visualise and understand how important inclusion and accessibility is. More often than not, this is not due to a person’s unwillingness to embrace these concepts, and often they may feel they already do, but more due to deep seated unconscious biases or a lack of awareness, plus a belief that following the rules and regulations will be enough; sadly it generally is not.

In our experience, if you capture people’s hearts and minds, they become more invested in your cause, and are more willing to make tangible change.

  • Through your accessibility consulting work, what is the biggest challenge you’re seeing organisations facing? What do you believe are the root causes of this challenge?

When it comes down to it, the major challenge faced by organisations is awareness. Often organisations are unaware that they even need to make changes, and may feel that they are built to code, so they have sufficiently made provisions to provide access. Sadly, code provides basic means, however, still is not gold standard and does not provide access to many in the community.

There is also often a lack of awareness of the funding that is available in order to make business accessible which could seem daunting, especially to a small business owner.

Also, by making premises more accessible, this would open up any organisation to a large new number customer base/audience (4.3 million people in Australia alone live with a disability).

Finally, many organisations are unaware how to even just get started with providing better access, this is often due to government’s lack of prioritising and promoting access and inclusion to the business community.

About the expert

Natasha Price is an elite wheelchair athlete, entrepreneur, speaker, blogger, published author, Queensland State Champion, international marathon winner and Gold Coast Women of the Year finalist from the Gold Coast, Australia. She is the founder of InvincAble, a products based business that exists to empower those living with disability and long term health conditions to live fun, fulfilling and active lives.

Image description: On the left, a man is sitting in a wheelchair looking to the woman (Natasha) to his side. He wears a grey polo shirt and is smiling. On the right, Natasha is sitting in a wheelchair in a white polo shirt and grey pants. In the background is a pond surrounded by greenery and trees.

PEOPLE: How migrapreneur, Jane Qiu, is connecting professionals, business leaders, and expert consultants

After years of teaching MBA students at UNSW and undertaking her own PhD in strategy, Jane Qiu recognised a clear market demand – coffee. This wasn’t regarding the physical product itself, but rather everything that happens around a coffee.

That includes the people having the coffee, their topic of discussion, the time and place they meet, and the expectations and outcome of that meeting. Jane was inundated with requests from students and alumnus for introductions to have coffee meet-ups with academics, business leaders, strategists and more.

Jane shared her observations with James Behzadi, her husband who was a Data scientist at Qantas. He saw the opportunity to digitise this “coffee” idea and founded Kintell in May 2018. After supporting James financially with her full-time job for a year, Jane also decided to leave her academic role and became a Co-Founder of

Recognising a market need for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing

“Our ultimate goal is to make wisdom and knowledge accessible to everyone, regardless of their background and income,” explains Qiu.

The Kintell business has now expanded to NZ, with more international expansion plans ahead. As well as seeing demand among her MBA students, Qiu empathised with these requests from her own experiences after moving to Australia from China.

“As migrapreneurs – migrant entrepreneurs – we both experienced how keen we were to learn from people around us,” says Qiu. “People don’t have the spare time to give advice. But lots of people are willing to make time for a small fee.”

While the original business idea was to build an app that arranges coffee catch-ups, the ultimate goal was to go global. Consequently, the couple landed on a video-based solution that is globally scalable.

Taking a strategic approach to hiring

Qiu’s background in strategy, business and management, has enabled her to use these skills when she works with the team to design, build and scale the Kintell platform.

Qiu says, “The internet is getting mature, so customers have high expectations of the quality of the product. They will immediately expect high standards of a video platform, so we couldn’t just build something quickly and launch it. It makes sense in theory, but not in practice.”

As Kintell scales and continues to expand, Qiu explains from her experience that start-ups should take a measured approach to assessing whether they should source the knowledge from platforms like Kintell, outsource the work to a freelancer, or hire a full-time staff member.

Qiu leverages strategy frameworks from her own teachings to build skills matrices and maps.” For know-how you don’t need every day, consulting advisors on Kintell is the way to go,” Qiu explains. “You need a map of the importance of the skills and how frequently you need them.”

Qiu also said the Kintell co-founders don’t look at formal qualifications when searching for talent. Instead, they focus more on personal values, skillset and capability.

About the expert

Jane Qiu is the co-founder of, and her focus is on community development, team building and strategy. Jane is also an award-winning MBA educator who has been teaching International Business and Innovation at AGSM (UNSW) for near a decade. Before her startup journey, Jane was a faculty member at UNSW Business School with a research focus on workplace mindfulness and international strategy, and have published numerous studies in international journals. Before migrating to Australia, Jane had worked in China as a business consultant and foreign direct investment specialist.

Image description: Headshot of a woman from the waist up. She has long dark brown hair behind her shoulders and is looking at the camera. She wears a black top with Kintell written in white.

VIEW: Having multiple skills strengthens adaptability

Following a teenage crush on Mulder in the X-Files, Jo started acting at 15 years old. While building this career and acting alongside the likes of Heath Ledger, Jo undertook a degree in education and became a primary school teacher.

As well as juggling these two career streams, Jo has become a social media influencer, mummy blogger, and of course also manages her most important job of all – being a mum. In this interview, Jo shares how she multitasks and manages her various skills, and her view on what you really can have it all.

  • As someone with multiple professions and skill sets, what is your approach to being flexible in your career?

My approach is to continually train and upskill regardless of the job, career, or industry I am in. I think covid-19 has really shown us that just having one set of skills can limit our adaptability and ability to thrive when things go south. If one area of work becomes unattainable for some time, or even permanently, we need to have a metaphorical bag of skills that we can reach into so we can branch into other areas.  

  • What are some examples of where you’ve had to change your skill set or career path, and how did you approach these challenges? 

Luckily, I have never been in the position to be forced to change my skill set, but I have adapted my skills such as in education, social media, performing arts to capitalise on growth and wealth opportunities. For example, using my knowledge and contacts from my performing arts world to create a thriving blog and social media accounts that support my role as an Australian family influencer through The Magical Oz Family. 

  • Throughout your career, how have you prioritised your various passions, professional opportunities and family needs?

Family will always come first. There’s no ifs, buts or maybes. But, in saying that, it can be difficult to juggle teaching and my role as a Mummy blogger and influencer with my most important role as Mum to my son, Beau. However, as he has been on-screen and on stage since he was three months old, he loves creating his own unboxing videos and doing is own promotions for Nerf, Alcatel etc that we get to spend fun quality time together while filming content for our blog. I am also lucky that my role as a teacher allows for time off on school holidays and weekends so I can pursue my other passions.

  • Do you believe the saying ‘you can have it all’? Why or why not?

To be honest, this saying always confused me I have so much in my life to be thankful for, I pinch myself everyday I wake up. I have a beautiful son, the most amazing family and friends, an amazing career in teaching at one of the most supportive schools in Brisbane and my mental and physical health. In my eyes…that might not be what others think the saying “You can have it all” means, but to me I have it all…..and so much more. 

About the expert

Jo Christiaans is an Australian actress, primary school teacher, mum, social media  influencer and creator of the parenting website The Magical Oz Family.

She is best known for her role as Selena McMillen in Spielberg’s epic television series, Terra Nova and has worked with screen greats such as Heath Ledger, The Rock and Tom Hiddlestone. She lives life to the max juggling successful careers as a primary school teacher, actress and social media influencer. Check out her blog at and on Instagram @TheMagicalOzFamily 

Image description: Jo and her son are smiling next to each other, with their hands cupping their faces. Jo has long blonde hair and wears a pink sweater, and her son wears a white t-shirt, has brown hair and is resting his head on Jo’s shoulder.

VIEW: Learning on the job is more valuable than formal education in fast-paced industries

Nikki Hamilton started her own marketing consultancy, Seedling Digital, under a year ago with no formal qualifications yet is succeeding beyond all her expectations. With a baby just over one, a commitment to constant learning, and a dedication to building beautiful brands with meaning, Nikki is a driven leader and passionate about helping businesses grow and thrive.

In this interview, Nikki shares the ups and downs of starting a business, the challenges she’s faced along the way and her advice to other small business owners and entrepreneurs.

  • What made you decide to go out on your own and start your own business? 

This one was a bit of a journey, with a few bumps in the road for me! I’ll try to keep it snappy!

I started my career as a teacher after completing a degree. After teaching in New Zealand for a year, I decided to move to Canada to chase snow, where I met my now husband. We stayed in a little town called Fernie for three years and I laid the foundations for my first business, making natural, vegan, skincare products.

We moved back to Sydney together, and I went all-in on the business, but after a while realized it wasn’t for me. I loved the marketing side, but the day to day management and production was just not my jam. However, I learnt a tonne, and had great success with marketing the product and building a great social media following in a short space of time.

So, I sold the business, but took that springboard and everything I’d learned and got a job in the corporate world as a Marketing Coordinator for a financial services company.

Throughout my time there I thrived, receiving a number of promotions and becoming more and more specialized in the area of digital marketing. I was constantly upskilling with short courses and development in the evenings and weekends. I primarily worked in the areas of website design / development / management, social media marketing, and email direct marketing. I loved my time in this role and am extremely grateful for the experience in a corporate space. I feel it really allowed me to develop a voice, gain exposure to all areas of marketing, build confidence, learn to work with stakeholders, take criticism constructively and develop a polish you don’t get elsewhere.

After over two and a half years with this company, I learnt I was pregnant. I was in discussions to have my contract extended again and decided to do ‘the right thing’ and let them know about the unexpected tiny human brewing in my belly. Unfortunately, I was told shortly after this that my contract wouldn’t be renewed. I was absolutely devastated to say the least. I remember ugly sobbing through a wad of tissues with the phone on mute to HR. It was one of the hardest times of my life, personally, professionally and financially. I decided to end my contract early, as I didn’t want to stay with a company who could let a woman go at 7 months pregnant! This would have left me ineligible for any government maternity support, and I didn’t fancy my chances of finding another job that close to my due date.

I got another job to tide me over, and took a big step back in terms of pay, responsibility and job satisfaction, and dropping my hours down to around half. It was one of the hardest times of my life. I was also battling with HG (hyperemesis gravidarum) which meant vomiting up to 50 times a day, which was less than ideal!

Throughout the second half of my pregnancy, I decided to refocus my energy, and put this into something positive. I spent a lot of time working on my mindset, setting goals, manifesting and trying to build something that would suit me better than a corporate role.

I wanted to build something where I wasn’t reliant on anyone else, something where I could utilise my skills and hustle as the basis for success. Something where I loved my work, I loved my clients, and I was able to make a difference in the success of other businesses. I wanted to make more money than I made in my corporate role, and have flexibility in my hours to work around my new baby.

By the way, I’ve succeeded in everything I wanted!

  • Were there any areas or skill-sets where you didn’t feel confident? How did you go about filling those gaps? 

Absolutely – a lot! As a woman in tech, I at times feel overwhelmed and over my head! It’s such a male-dominated industry, but I just keep on going and keep on growing. Google is my best friend – there’s nothing you can’t learn from Google with the right search term and a bit of time!

However, I’m a big fan of getting the distilled version, from experts in their field where possible. I’ve spent a lot of money on ecourses this year. My favourite thing is learning, and I’m a big believer that investment in my education, even through non-traditional routes will pay me back in dividends. I also love that as a business owner, I can direct where that money is spent, and I love supporting other women in business offering up their knowledge.

  • What’s your view on the role of formal education and training in the current world of work, particularly in your field? 

My view on this is likely contentious, but I’m of the opinion that it’s not necessary! Particularly in my field. I’ve actively encouraged other women to not invest in formal education, and instead to put their time into learning on the job, completing short courses or finding a mentor.

The nature of my work is so fast-paced, technologies are constantly changing. I feel like traditional education fields can’t pivot that quickly, there is a lot of process and time involved with adding new, more relevant material. Additionally, when tutors are out of the field, not ‘doing the work’, I can see how it would be easy to fall out of touch. 

  • What has been the most challenging aspect of starting your own business?

The most challenging aspect of starting Seedling Digital has been the time factor, as I’m sure most business owners can attest! But as a mum to a busy, co-sleeping baby boy, I think I have a few more demands on my time than many!

In my line of work, creativity is so important, and it takes time to get in that flow. I need uninterrupted space and time to get going, and it’s something I just don’t have while my baby is at home with me. We’ve put him in daycare a few days a week, and having that space has been vital over the last couple of months to really build my business.

I’ve also become a master at spending my time more intentionally. So when I’m working, I’m working. When I’m with him, I’m with him! But within that, I complete tasks within the appropriate pockets. So for example when I’m on ‘mum time’ I can complete errands, like putting a load of washing on, picking up groceries or sending a package. Learning to make the most of time, and almost bend it to suit you is vital to success. 

  • For others considering starting their own business in 2020, what’s your advice and what’s the biggest watch-out they need to be aware of?

My biggest advice is to learn to back yourself. We come inbuilt with intuition, and over the span of our lifetime we learn to tune this out and rely more on our logical, thinking brain. As a business owner it’s important to turn that side back on and learn to work with your gut.

In most cases, you already know the answer, so it’s important to just take action! Watch out for people who take advantage of your skills and knowledge, especially as women we need to stand up and speak out, and demand to be paid appropriately for our time.

About the expert

Nikki Hamilton is an easily entertained, 90’s hip hop obsessed, exclamation point loving, perfectionist. She is a mother, a wife, a passionate creative based on the sunny Gold Coast of Australia.

Originally from New Zealand, she found myself in Sydney after a three-year stint chasing snow (and a certain handsome Australian guy) through the Rocky Mountains of Fernie, Canada.

Her diverse background includes working in the corporate marketing sphere, as a degree qualified teacher, and as an owner of a product-based business. This experience allows her to apply technical, design, strategic, marketing and coaching lenses to every project she works on.

Image description: A black-and-white landscape headshot from the waist up of a women with shoulder-length curly hair, a floral embroidered top and blazer in front of large rock formations.

VIEW: Check your ego at the door

While many startups and entrepreneurs are tackling changed market conditions due to COVID-19, startup leadership is being tested. In this interview, serial entrepreneur, Stacey Fisher, shares how she is managing the market downturn while pivoting her business and forging ahead with international expansion plans.

  • As a 3 x Founder, what are your biggest watch-outs for other entrepreneurs jumping into the startup world for the first time, particularly during uncertain times like the current pandemic? 

At any time, the two most important success factors when building a start-up are your financial literacy and your mindset. This is truer now than ever.

Firstly, you need to know your numbers intimately. It’s not enough just to know your way around a balance sheet, cashflow forecast and profit and loss statement. You need to fully appreciate all the inputs into them at a visceral level. Start-ups live or die by to the commercial acumen of their founders.

Secondly, you need to check your ego at the door. Nothing is more humbling than the start-up journey.

When you first start to think about starting your own business, you’ll read a lot about the importance of being comfortable with failure. Back in my corporate days I thought that I was. However, I soon learned that there is a big difference between failing as part of a group, even if the buck ultimately stops with you and failing when you’re on your own.

When I founded the digital marketing agency that I eventually went on to sell in 2018, I was the sole founder. There was nobody to bounce ideas off or sense check things with. There was no one to tap in when I was exhausted and struggling. It’s no surprise that when both businesses grew and became unwieldy, it was Minnow Designs, the business with a (pretty great) co-founder, that I chose.

The other reason that you need to check your ego is that chances are that you’re going to be in the weeds for longer than you initially think. Anyone entering the start-up world thinking that they are too important to do their own bookkeeping, pack their own orders or answer their own phones is in for an almighty shock. Ditto anyone who, like I was, is under the illusion tha that their corporate experience will be all that relevant

Start any new business thinking that you know even 50% of the answers and the blow to your ego might be too great to recover from.

  • You’ve said “Every marketer worth their salt should also be an entrepreneur.” Why? 

There is nothing like the consumer insights you gather yourself, in real time or the sales you personally make using nothing but your wits and your own dollars. There is also no greater commercial teacher than the mistakes you make with your own money.

Not only that, the rewards are so much greater when it’s your own business. If you’re good at what you do, don’t spend too long working for somebody else, building somebody else’s asset. Not only do you get to choose your own conditions, you have the ability to build a saleable asset worth well in excess of whatever salary you’ve collected in the years it took to build.

  • Have you ever had to pivot or change your business model, including during COVID-19? If so, what were the learnings from those experiences? 

Absolutely. We’ve just recently gone through the double whammy of bushfires and then Covid.

Our product does best in coastal boutiques and pharmacies and in resorts. So we are heavily reliant on tourism. 25% of our stores closed their doors completely this last summer. We expect another 25% will close their doors after Covid truly starts to make its way through the economy.

We had already moved to expand into the United States in order to balance out the seasonality of our summer product, and we’d been actively reducing the costs in our eCommerce supply chain as the balance of our sales gradually shifted online.

The contraction in the Australian retail market has accelerated those efforts and increased our focus on overseas retailers doing well in their local markets in North America and the Middle East. It forced us to very quickly reduce our wholesaling costs for Australia.

It was a literal overnight pivot that we’re still catching our breath from.

  • What has been your decision-making process when deciding whether to bootstrap, partner, capital raise or otherwise financially support your startup? 

When we launched, we knew nothing about capital raising and wouldn’t have attempted it even if we did. It’s not the traditional path of product-based businesses.

We initially invested in a small production run of just 1,000 pairs to see if the product resonated with the market. Once we’d established product to market fit and sold out of that stock, we invested the profits we’d made, plus a bit extra we managed to scrape together by consulting, into a bigger production run.

We formally launched to market in August 2016 and each production run got bigger after that. We grew to a point where we could no longer keep pace with the jumps in production run size so we appointed an advisory board and took on a round of investment in July 2019.

  • Does being an ‘entrepreneur’ get easier with time? Why or why not?

Some bits get harder and some bits get easier.

You get good at trying things and moving on if they don’t work. My imposter syndrome has eased and I don’t get in my own way so much. I’ve retrained my brain to be comfortable with uncertainty and I have a productivity system that works. My business partner and I work really well and we are clear on our core strategies.

Other things are harder. We are now at the bit where we have to hire, train, satisfy and occasionally fire staff. We have a greater sense of responsibility now that investors have trusted us with their money. The decisions we are making are for greater sums of money and we have a lot more to lose if the business falls in a heap.

Overall though I wouldn’t change a thing. The journey has taught me things about money, commerce, people and myself that I’d never have learned if I’d stayed in corporate. I get to work with my co-founder every day and there are days when I step back and look objectively at the business, or I see a child I don’t know in Minnows and I think ‘We built that from nothing’. It’s a pretty magical feeling.

About the expert

Stacey is a serial founder, brand strategist, digital marketer and writer negotiating the winding, terrifying and exhilarating entrepreneurial journey. After a decade spent in FMCG marketing building some of Australia’s biggest and best loved brands, Stacey left the corporate world to establish and then sell several businesses. Co-founder of Minnow Designs, Stacey now spends her day creating products that make a day of outdoor play easier for parents and more fun for kids.   

PEOPLE: Turning a hobby into a full-scale charity

Brittany Bloomer’s entrepreneurial journey started from seeing a problem – one that impacted the lives of thousands of animals – and a relentless dedication to solving it. Her charity, Pound Paws, helps to re-home pets in pounds and rescue centres. It operates an online search engine which fast tracks the adoption process, by allowing users to search by breed, age, size, and more.

After learning about how many pets were being euthanized each year and the lack of awareness among potential adopters, Brittany focused on raising awareness for these animals by taking photographs and sharing them on an online blog and to social media. This later evolved into a charity, and social media has become one of their strongest weapons in raising awareness of pets needing new homes.

  • What made you want to start Pound Paws? How have your ambitions with the organisation changed over time?

Pound Paws is something that began as a hobby as a teen, after immersing myself in the Animal Welfare space, volunteering in shelters. I was shocked to discover the devastating statistics back in 2009, of over 250,000 healthy and happy pets getting euthanized in Australian shelters each year.

  • What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting and growing Pound Paws?

The biggest challenge for me was selecting key members for the charity board, as they are your backbone and support! I am really grateful for my board members who all contribute amazing skills to help drive Pound Paws.

  • What have been your most difficult learnings from this experience? How have you changed the way you work and operate because of them?

I am constantly learning new things, as well as being challenged through Pound Paws. As any Founder is aware, you are required to take on lots of different job roles. As a way to continue raising awareness for the charity, I took a risk at hosting an event, with no event management experience. Luckily, it turned out super successful and we are now hosting these events monthly around Australia! I learnt through that experience, that on the opposite side of fear, is bliss!

  • What have you found to be a common misconception of working in or for a charity?

It is not like any other job where you can just switch off. You are emotionally invested in it, which means it is something that you are always working on, thinking about or emotionally attached to.

  • Would you recommend others to consider starting their own charity? Why or why not?

Yes of course, if your passion is strong enough to drive the mission then go for it! Otherwise, there are a lot of amazing charities that are always looking for volunteers, this is just as fulfilling and helpful. Pound Paws is something that originally began as a hobby and because of that strong passion, it has lasted to date and continued to be so successful in re-homing and raising awareness for rescue pets.

About the expert

Brittany Bloomer is the Founder of Pound Paws, an Australian based charity on a mission to raise awareness for pets in Australian pounds and rescue centres. The charity operates an online search engine, which live streams pets available for adoption, whilst also hosting monthly dog adoption events around Australia. 

ADVICE: How to build, sustain and grow a blog from scratch

Blogging has become a part of everyday life for many around the world, with 409 million people viewing more than 20 billion pages, and 70 million WordPress articles posted every month. While blogging is a highly effective way of telling others about your story, product, or advice, it’s far from simple to build and consistently maintain a high-quality blog.

In this interview, Chloe Tear, an award-winning disability blogger, shares why she first got into blogging, how she keeps up a routine of blogging personally and writing professionally, and her advice to other novice bloggers starting out.

  • What do you love most and least about blogging?

Blogging has become such a passion due to the way I am able to express myself and share my experiences. It is incredibly powerful to have someone say, “I can relate to that, you’ve made me not feel alone”. Also, exploring different aspects of my life have enabled me to view things differently as well as challenge stereotypes.

I dislike the perceived pressure to constantly write amazing posts and imposter syndrome about not being good enough. Yes I am an established writer, yet I still can hesitate to hit that publish button. There is no pressure to do anything – you do you!

  • How do you come up with the content calendar for your blog? Is it a strict schedule?

I’ve never had a strict schedule when blogging. This mainly is due to always blogging alongside education or working full-time. Also, blogging started as a hobby for myself. When I truly fell in love with content creation and blogging, I wanted to post once a month. On the whole I was successful, but missing the odd one due to assignments or exams wasn’t a major concern.

Currently, I aim to produce two pieces a month for my own blog, with other content often written for a freelance publication or website. I’m not going to lie, it’s a challenge at times. Similarly, I’m a strong believer in not posting for the sake of it. If you have no ideas or time to produce content then don’t force it!

In terms of the things I write about, this can be really varied and has no structure as such. I have a list of blog ideas which I add to whenever something comes to mind. Quite often something will happen that triggers an idea or I’m reacting to the current situation. As a result, I rarely have content sitting in my drafts for very long. Yet I do have a rough idea of topics, which tend to be a few months in advance.

  • What’s your advice to others considering starting their own blog? How do they start with a blank screen?

When starting a blog, be clear about your aims. What are you wanting to achieve? Who is your audience and what topics will you write about?

I would advise building up a few pieces of writing before you publish and promote your site. This will mean that readers have a few things to look at and are more likely to stick around and know what your topic areas are.

Start with your site. Using WordPress or Blogger is the best for blogs, but a lot of websites allow you to have blog elements. Research what is out there. The main pages you might see are home (your blog), about me and contact. However, it’s all about trial and error. Don’t worry about getting things perfect – it’s your content you want to focus on. It can take so long for your layout to be exactly as you want it. I migrated my blog a year ago when I rebranded and I still have things I want to change!

Finding a starting point can be hard. My advice would be to get stuck in and see what happens. Write and write, even if it’s not posted or you hate it. Words on a page can spark ideas. If you know a topic you want to write about, break it down in the main components or even a list. These can later become your subheadings which makes things easier for your readers.

If I’m staring at half a paragraph and have no idea how to end it I move on. Leave a gap and start a new paragraph. I often have a lot of half finished posts which I tend to not look at for at least a few days. When I go back, I normally find it easier to then make it flow better as a piece.

  • Lots of people start a blog, but struggle to keep it going long-term. What’s your approach to this?

Write for yourself. If you aren’t doing it for yourself then what’s the point? It’s hard to be motivated when you don’t have the passion and desire to write. Is that goal to share your life? You might want to educate others?

Don’t have strict guidelines but do make time, even if it’s once a week, to think about ideas or make plans. You will start to come up with ideas in the shower or at 3am when you’re laid in bed. Having a place to capture these can really help you going long-term. I simply have a note on my phone full of random titles or paragraphs.

If you need a break from writing, take a break. It’s not going anywhere and forced content or work can only diminish your passion and will be felt by readers. My blog is my biggest achievement and something I am immensely proud of. All it took was a small idea that I worked on. Keep pressing publish and who knows where you’ll end up!

About the expert

Chloe Tear is an award-winning disability blogger and freelance writer. She has been writing for 7 years and is particularly interested in challenging negative attitudes and assumptions around disability. She works for Scope on their online community and within content creation. 

ADVICE: How to successfully expand your business to the USA

Many entrepreneurs and startups have international business expansion on their list of dreams and goals, but not many are able to make the leap successfully. One of the most renowned Australian stories of boom and bust when expanding to the US is of Shoes of Prey, which was reportedly preparing to become worth $100 million in revenue, and then suddenly ceased trading, much to the surprise of the retail and corporate industries.

Trena Blair, CEO of FD Global Connections, specialises in consulting Australian businesses on expanding into North America. In this interview, she shares the common misconceptions, watch-outs, and hurdles of expanding into this competitive market, and how entrepreneurs can succeed.

  • As an expert in helping Australian startups and businesses expand into the US, what are some of the most common misconceptions you work with business leaders to overcome during this process?

There are 3 misconceptions (and the response):

1. Launching in the USA is easy!  

The complexity of the USA market is not well understood; every State is different in terms of tax, legislation, culture, language (written and spoken) and business protocols.

2. Business leaders can launch without expert advice

Those businesses which are successful in the USA have had expert advisors working with them. The best analogy is sailing – you can’t sail from A-B without an experienced navigator and it’s the same with expanding globally. You shouldn’t launch into any global market without having an expert navigator advising you of the steps you need to take to achieve your result.

3. Winning contracts is easy! 

Often businesses feel excited by the positive reception they receive at early sales meetings in the USA. Statements such as prospects are “ready to sign” are common! Businesses struggle when they return to Australia with follow-up emails and phone calls not being returned.

However, what businesses experienced during their trips was the positive, encouraging culture for innovation which exists in the USA. Australian businesses don’t appreciate this is the reception which every business receives when they pitch to USA!

What USA prospects are looking for is a local representative for the business – not somebody who plans to return in 4-6 weeks. So, winning contracts takes time, effort, budget and an existing network – it isn’t that easy!

  • What is the hardest part of expanding into the US, and how do you navigate these challenges with business leaders?

For the majority of Australian business leaders, and especially those who have not lived and worked in the USA, the hardest part is building the required network. Businesses initially “fly-in-fly-out”, which will work for approximately 6 months, but then networks and sales pipelines start to dwindle.

What business leaders require is an expert who has an existing network and who can act as their navigator and local representative. This is one of the reasons FD Global Connections now offers “Growth Runway”, where we virtually connect our clients to our USA based growth business partners who have a local network and resources to represent Australian businesses.

  • International expansion typically involves some kind of business plan. Even for business plans that allow for a certain level of potential changes or market disruption, many businesses are completely throwing those plans out the window in the current times of complete uncertainty. How do you recommend entrepreneurs and business leaders approach ‘planning’ in 2020?

I’ve recently held a webinar on this very topic!

In this webinar, I talk about Managing Business Risk across 5 key areas – Strategic Risk, Financial Risk, Operational Risk, Employee Risk, and Reputational Risk.

Whilst traditional business plans have been completely disrupted, those businesses which review their businesses across each of these 5 areas and have plans attached to each of these are more likely to be successful through 2020. Using this framework also gives business leaders a sense that they are taking back some control – something which we have all felt has been lost given the chaos surrounding each aspect of our lives with COVID-19.

  • What’s a process you recommend entrepreneurs follow when assessing how to scale their business internationally? 

FD Global Connections has spent many years fine-tuning a unique methodology to assess whether businesses are ready to scale globally. Our 10 step framework is rigorous – and always highlights areas for businesses to focus, as well as areas of strength.

When we are asked to conduct the assessment, we find that there are often areas that businesses don’t consider, but which are vitally important such as supplier capacity or inventory management systems. Simple areas such as website domain or local currency pricing are also typical areas businesses fail to have ready.  

  • What has been one of your biggest mistakes when launching a business into the US, what did you learn from that and how has it shaped the way you do business today?

A mistake I made when I first started my business in 2014, was relying on a local professional service firm to advise me on an important USA regulatory issue. At the time, my budget was limited so I didn’t think I could afford to engage a USA based professional service firm, but the result was it cost me significantly more than it should have. The advice I give all of my clients is to spend the extra amount to get the right advice from USA qualified experts the first time!

About the expert

Ms.Trena Blair is an expert in expanding business from Australia into the USA, with New York as their market entry point.” (Forbes, 2018). Ms. Blair is a highly accomplished presenter, global businesswoman and professional speaker who effortlessly transverses Corporate and Entrepreneurial communities Transcontinental. A global citizen, Ms. Blair has lived and worked in Australia and the USA during her 20+ year corporate executive career.

In 2014, Ms. Blair founded and is CEO of FD Global Connections, working with Businesses, Government and Universities to create and deliver unique programs to access the USA. FD Global specialises in developing International Go-to-Market strategies to positively influence the high failure rate of global expansion. FD Global also offers a digital service (“Growth Runway”) to access Interim Professionals in USA, Singapore/S.E.Asia and UK/EMEA allowing Australian businesses to have in-market Sales/Business Development representation. Ms Blair has been featured on Television and across Media for her innovative initiatives to showcase Australian innovation.

As well as CEO, Ms. Blair is a qualified Non-Executive Director, serving on the Boards of Bartier Perry and Trade Advisory Boards of AMCHAM and Minnow Designs. She has previously served as Non-Executive Director for Ability Options (not-for-profit) and the Australian Federation of Travel Agents.