Category Archives: Business Chicks

Book Chapter Teaser! Meet Emma Isaacs!

Just one of the amazing people I’ve interviewed for my new book, Financial Secrets Revealed is the lovely Emma Isaacs, mother extraordinaire and global CEO of the fabulous Business Chicks network.

Amazing Emma shares the stories from her early life that impacted her financial abilities and the role her grandfather played in her financial education.

Her entrepreneurial journey started very early and while her friends were out partying, she was the one working.

Emma discusses her personal financial setbacks candidly along with the best financial advice she’s ever been given and just how she and her husband tackle the family finances.  With five kids and a hectic travel schedule, you’d have to be on top of that!

With a lot of ugly stigma around money, being open and honest with each other works for the Isaacs.

I also love her top financial tip – “it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have, it’s about building a discipline and building your confidence around money and investing.”

If you’d love to learn more about Emma’s financial journey, her favourite form of investment and the advice she’d like her beautiful kids to learn about money, just stay tuned.

Financial Secrets Revealed will be able to be ordered in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to share Emma’s story and so many more with you!

 

A visit to Champiti

Our travels today took us to an Epicentre of The Hunger Project (THP) called Champiti, which has been awarded the status of self-reliance, a huge effort by the local community!

Our bus trip took a couple of hours to head North-West of Blantyre and we passed much barren territory, a lasting effect of the past three years of El Nino which has devastated the country.

Our first stop was the home and shop of the inspirational Sarah Dzenza and the local women greeted us with song, dance and some serious ululating (which we later practiced in the bus!)  Sarah embraced the philosophy of The Hunger Project early and has had 6 loans from the rural bank to expand and grow her businesses (selling supplies and sarongs) and improve her home, now a burnt brick dwelling with rendered walls and an iron roof – quite an achievement!

It was a little overwhelming for me to walk up to her home with memories flooding back of my previous visit to Uganda, being surrounded by children whose folks are doing everything they can to give them a better life, the incredible heat and noise and sunlight that is Africa.

We then headed to briefly meet the first chairman of the Epicentre, Mr Hiwa and his lovely wife of 50 years who explained what life was like for the villages prior to THP and how their lives and that of the community has improved.  Next stop the Epicentre!!

Another amazing traditional dance from both the men and women greeted us on arrival and it felt like we were walking into a National Geographic spread.  We were proudly shown around the maize mill, food bank, medical facilities and rural bank with the local team on hand to answer questions about how they’d managed to achieve the status of self-reliance.

A deeper dive into the various works that committees arrange, such as Women’s Empowerment, Nutrition, Health, HIV & AIDS, Water & Sanitation, Food Security, Micro-finance, Education and Literacy were all covered.  No handouts here, just education across all that’s necessary and massive mindset changes required to move past the resignation and into a place of hope.

Spending time with Everton, the young bank manager and learning about his family and job was lovely.  He tells me women are educated before taking out the loans and strict warnings are given not to pass on the funds to their husbands as they are still responsible for the loan and any associated interest (around 2%) even if their husband’s spend the money!  A warning that women the world over would be wise to follow!

Sex Ed was also fascinating with the mindset changes required for communities to embrace male and female condoms and HIV testing and increasing health and sanitation practices.

After hours of learning and inspiration from the local Malawians we were all invited to join in final songs and dance.  We all need so much more spontaneous song and dance in our lives!  An uplifting and beautiful way to finish our visit.  Then time for selfies, hugs, goodbyes with the kids, more pictures and long waves…

On the way home, a brilliant sunset occurred to our west, as the supermoon rose from the east in epic African skies.  A fitting end to a fabulous day of learning and laughter.

 

Time to be Transformational!

It’s so lovely to take time out in our busy lives to reflect, and on the first day of the Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion program to Malawi with The Hunger Project, we got to do just that.

To start our day, we reflected on all those things in our lives that we were so grateful for which was very special.  Families featured strongly, along with hot running water and electricity and the gift of being born in a country like Australia.   Now at the conclusion of our fundraising journey and before we head out to visit our Village Partners, we visited what we’re most proud of and the leadership lessons we’ve learned so far.

It’s so great to just stop and think about everything we’ve achieved to be here.  Often when congratulations are offered or people praise us for the work we’ve done, we’re quick to wave them aside and move on… but it has been an epic journey to raise $10,000 for a cause that means something to us and step outside of our usual operating space and into where the magic happens.

Many realised how we’re capable of so much more than we thought possible, others thrived on the importance of collaboration and some shared that Fear was their greatest teacher.  Also, it’s ok to prioritise ourselves and that receiving help can be empowering. So many learnings!  My notebook is bursting already!

We learned how to be more present to take in comprehensively what we’re about to encounter in the villages, and that in being uncomfortable or challenged means we’re ready for growth.

A lesson learnt in Uganda last year was highlighted – that we need to “stop being so transactional and start being transformational” – definitely words from the wise. (Thank you Joel!)

Next was taking on the true understanding of chronic persistent hunger and how the symptoms we’ll see are merely the visual from deep rooted social and mental structures.

“It’s hard to create a vision when you don’t even believe that you’re worthy of having one.”  We identified and confronted our own fears for the coming days and weeks and those we’d face on our return home.

It was then time to learn how The Hunger Project tackles the huge issues of poverty and hunger with 5 seemingly basic steps:

  1. Change in Mindset
  2. Good Leadership
  3. Vision
  4. Commitment
  5. Action

Sounds so simple right?  Yet the mindset training alone takes up to two years!  It also makes us challenge what holds us back?  What are beliefs we have that keep us back from achieving all that we want?  Some deep diving to be done here!

The fabulous country director of The Hunger Project Malawi, Rolands Koatcha then spent a couple of hours explaining his own background in the villages, personally facing poverty and hunger with his eight siblings and how education has transformed his life, and of his passion and purpose in changing the lives of his fellow Malawian brothers.

All in all, a very long, epic day full of sharing, love, laughter and tears and preparation for us to head out into the field tomorrow to see one centre firsthand already at the stage of self-reliance and meet the people whose lives are being changed every day.

Arrival into Malawi

So after around 32 hours of travel door to door from Australia to Africa, and with my calves and ankles now merged into their usual long puffy sausages, we finally arrived at our hotel in Malawi and over the next few hours, all the lovely women I’ll be spending the next 10 to 14 days with, arrived to take part in their coming immersion into the work of The Hunger Project (THP.)

As always, that first shower was spectacularly satisfying… and the massage to follow was pretty great too.  A couple of drinks, introductions, a dinner and an early night were next on the cards.  (I can’t help but think back to my visit to Uganda last year when it was all still so unknown, and also as another group are touring from there simultaneously with our Malawi trip.)

It’s now 4.30 am and with the body clock still out of whack, we’ll soon start our first day of the Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion Program.

It’s so fabulous to meet a bunch of ladies who you know for the past few months have gone above and beyond to be here; going so far out of their way to each raise $10,000 for this great cause and hear of their trials and tribulations on the way.

Yet, the stories carry the same interesting themes.  Surprise at those who were so supportive of their efforts… and also at those close to them who weren’t.  And gratitude for the lessons along the way.  The incredible personal achievement of having ‘made it’ and to finally arrive in Blantyre after the culmination of months of plotting and planning.  Most have never done anything like this before, but are approaching their coming adventure with open minds, and just a little trepidation.

Over the next nine days we’ll be visiting various Epicentres and learning lessons in leadership from those who’ve stood up and made a difference in their own lives, in those of their extended families and their communities, and who also happen to be amongst the poorest people on earth.

If you’d like to follow our journey over the coming days, I’ll be sharing more about the work of The Hunger Project, their efforts in Malawi and thoughts on what we’ve seen and experienced on our visit.

For those who are unfamiliar with the work of THP, they start with Three Pillars:

  1.  Start with Women – studies show when women are supported and empowered, all society benefits.  This is why THP focus on building the capacity of women;
  2. Mobilise Everyone – building knowledge, skills and leadership so the locals can take action to improve their own communities;
  3. Engage Government – empowering people to communicate their needs to local government ensures they too are effective and accountable

You can read more about their work at THP Australia or follow along and enjoy my adventures!  I look forward to sharing more with you.

Now it’s time for that early cup of tea…

2015 Women in Focus Conference

I was incredibly excited and honoured recently to be invited to the sixth annual CBA Women in Focus conference held in the beautiful Sheraton Resort in Hastings Street, Noosa.  To whomever was unable to make the event, and prompt the lovely Katie Mihell to include me in the guest list – I am eternally grateful to!

Due to prior commitments, I was unable to make the opening dinner, and so I hit the road at 4.30 am on the Thursday, arriving in time to quickly check-in and kick off with the first sessions at 8.15 am – and we didn’t stop for two full days.  I’d also lost my voice by this stage, thanks to the kindness of my daughter sharing her winter lurgies with me and this isn’t a good place to be with 180 amazing women cranking the decibel level at every opportunity.

The opening session kicked us off with Dr Fiona Kerr followed by Doc Jordy Nguyen and my brain was fried from inception.  Hearing about artificial intelligence, mind controlled wheelchairs and the hope of robotics for the future for those with disabilities hit close to home for me with an intellectually impaired and autistic nephew.  Cracking into his little brain and being able to communicate with this non-verbal little man now sounds like something that may just be possible in this lifetime rather than a pipe dream.

The breaks were a brilliant opportunity to meet up with some old friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen since our trip to Uganda with The Hunger Project in May and connect with some new and amazing ladies.

Panel discussions allowed various agricultural businesses to showcase their stories and their wares and I’m now a passionate convert to the Myrtleford Butter Factory.  I’ve devoured books by Cathy Burke, CEO of the Hunger Project and the fabulous Anita Heiss, a prolific indigenous author and all round great gal.

It was a blessing to watch new friendships and business relationships being forged and hear from inspirational women such as the passionate Rosie Batty, Australian of The Year and tired (not tireless) campaigner against Domestic Violence.  The story of the Allanah and Madeline Foundation was told and bra-burning passionate women such as Wendy McCarthy who has been paving the way for women everywhere since the 70’s were featured.

It was hard not to be overwhelmed with every presenter as brilliant and passionate as the last and all with a fabulous story to tell.  It didn’t just feel like I was among greatness, I actually was!

Andy Lark shared his fantastic adventures with Xero, another shared her ups and downs in building a billion dollar business Christina Re dazzled us with her spectacularly beautiful home-ware lines.  Mandy Gunsberger of Babyology told us all about her journey and her future adventures as she heads off to join the next Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion Program in Mexico.  I managed to score Beauty From the Inside Out by Doctor Libby Weaver and didn’t cease absorbing my entire two days.

An evening of country glamour had us up dancing at Yandina Station, and we boogied the night away to finish the conference in a fabulous marquee in the Noosa National Park.

The hashtag #disruption15 trended Australia wide as we cheered on our speakers and supported each other in the virtual and physical world.

It was an honour and privilege to be a part of this event.  I hope I take a long time to come down from Cloud 9 after this and will enjoy reviewing my notes for some time to come.

A Magical Trip to Uluru

Like most Aussies, I had the amazing Uluru (once known as Ayres Rock) as a place on my bucket list.  But realise too, that few have had the opportunity to visit.  And it is in the middle of our really big country, that’s sometimes a bit tricky, expensive and time consuming to navigate.

When the opportunity arose for me to attend a conference in the amazing spiritual heart of Australia (and hosted by the amazing Business Chicks) I jumped at the chance to go.  For I knew both the content and the location could only be brilliant.

Our first glimpse of both Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru was granted on the plane ride in to Uluru airport, and it’s pretty special.  I’m not sure the size was ever really quite abundantly clear to me, until I saw it rising up from vast flat lands dotted with mulga.  And it’s actually the Olgas site that holds a deeper spiritual significance for the traditional owners, the Anangu people.

For some idea of scale, it’s twice the height of the Eiffel Tower and three times that of the Statue of Liberty – that’s 348 metres high!.  It’s 9.6 kilometres around to walk the base.  Yes, it is a really big rock!

My stay was at the Accor run, Sails in the Desert resort and it’s not far to any of the viewing areas available for sunrise and sunset picture opportunities.  The resort is great for singles, couples or families and has a pool onsite, along with a restaurant, bar and conference facilities.

Some said they felt Uluru to be a truly spiritual area and being there affected them deeply.  I was awed by these majestic mounds of sandstone that make up both landmarks, oxidising before our eyes.  Incredibly, both extend for kilometres further underground.

It’s hard to tear your eyes away, and long after we swapped our cameras for champagne glasses, we were dragging them out again as the light and colours constantly changed before our eyes.

A few of us treated ourselves to a sunrise tour with Ayres Rock Helicopters, and it was worth every cent.  Our wonderful Venetian pilot Julio was a fabulous tour guide and took us on a 36 minute extended tour for fabulous photo opportunities and filled us in on fun facts throughout the flight.

Funnily enough, Aboriginal art also made a whole lot more sense from above.  I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of the traditional dots and stripes style of art, but from above, it’s clear that this is exactly what you see.  The dunes of a former inland sea snaked across the landscape and shrubs and bushes literally dotted the remaining space.

On our return from our flight, we headed to the watering hole area at the base of the rock that is a holding pond for water that pours down the sides of the rock during the rains and gathers at its base.  Depending on the heat and the seasons, it can quickly dry out.  Further up exists another collection hole that we couldn’t see, but is said to be up to 10 metres deep.

There’s a painting cave to visit, and a few signs along the clearly marked paths around the base of this amazing landmark.  Getting up close and personal was a fabulous experience that will leave a lasting memory.  It was only when standing at its base and staring up that it’s sheer amazing height and presence was truly felt.

If you ever get the chance to head out please do, or if not, make the opportunity happen.  It shouldn’t be left to just the hordes of European and Asian tourists to make the effort to visit this amazing natural treasure and take home the pics.  You owe it to yourself to see first hand just how spectacular this place really is.

A Visit to a Child Bride in Mbarara

The Mbarara Epicentre was our next stop on our tour with The Hunger Project (THP.)

Set in lush green hills flanked by towering mountains, it’s a spectacular backdrop for the centre.

Daisy, the Country Director of THP told us that this was where God sat when he made the rest of the earth. I’m inclined to agree.

After a winding walk through magnificent country not far from the Epicentre, we found the home of Rosette (now 34) and her husband Christoph (41.)

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Rosette was 15 when she was married to the handsome businessman, then 21. She is a strikingly attractive woman, dressed in a matching blue top and skirt and was obviously quite house proud and not shy to share her story with us. A dowry of 750, 000 shillings changed hands (about USD$250, or the value of a cow.). Her first child Edith, was born when she was 16 followed the next year by Victor.  Asked if she was afraid of marriage so young, she said that she wasn’t really as she viewed it as the end of her childhood and the start of life as a married woman.

The legal age for marriage in Uganda is 18, but child marriages are still common, especially in rural areas.

They now have 6 children, having added Darius, Owen, Jonan and another to the family. Edith is now 16 in P7. She likes maths and wants to be an accountant. Victor wants to be a Doctor.

When asked if she’d like Edith to be married young, she replied that no, she wants her to wait til she’s finished her schooling at 28!

Happily for Rosette, things have turned out well. Christoph sells coffee beans to a factory and can provide a basic lifestyle for his large family. They have a modest but clean home and raise poultry amongst the banana and coffee plantations lining the hills. When asked if Christoph loves his wife, he replied ‘too much’ leaving us to all awwww at his admission.

Another woman seated in the crowd there to welcome our arrival was Caroline. She too was a child bride, married at 14 and is now 24. Her husband is four years older than her. Her first child was born when she was 15 and she was nursing baby Henry, her 4th child, while we spoke. Like Rosette, she too was excited to be a married woman.

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These concepts that seem so foreign to us are ‘just another day’ stories here.

Thankfully THP is in the area now, and providing Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) classes, a health centre, food bank and Microfinance for those also looking to improve their lot. Rosette and Christoph are thinking of joining soon.