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Briony Mackenzie

CITY: MELBOURNE/NYC

Business: Global Women's Project
What? A non-profit getting practical skills and resources into the hands of women in developing communities all around the world.

Business description

Our world is one where every woman, without exception, has choice, independence and power to create change. Since 2013, we have been getting practical information, skills, resources and networks into the hands of women in developing communities to make sure every woman has access to the tools they need to thrive. 

Through our partnerships with grassroots women's organisations, we've cultivated Women's Hubs in rural Nepal, resource centres with close to 700 members, where women can come together to share ideas, access business loans, skills, financial management training, legal support, counselling and community. We've opened a computer and English lab in Cambodia to prepare women for university and to find jobs in the growing tourist market. We've even run electrical wiring training for women in Nepal. We're also proud to be our grassroots partners' Right Hand Woman, which for us means providing them with holistic support wherever they need it - on program design, impact measurement, communications, marketing, analytics - you name it. 

This year we're looking to launch a 6-month Women's Business Incubator Program in Cambodia, helping women who own small businesses to take their businesses beyond micro-size. We also want to launch a Business Rehabilitation Program to jump start the businesses of women in three communities in Nepal that were devastated by the South Asian floods last year. 

We're thrilled to have supported over 1000 women so far, and over the next 5 years we want to reach 60,000 more. It's a massive goal, but we really believe wholeheartedly in our impact model and are committed to getting women set up to thrive. This is going to take a lot of support - so if you like what we're about, please visit our website to see how you can get support our work! 

How did the idea for your business first come about?
I actually met my co-founder, Kate, online. She reached out to me on a blog I'd been writing while I was working on a project in Morocco, and when we finally met in person it just happened to turn out to be the best date either of us had ever been on! Perhaps it was Bimbos' $4 pizza, perhaps it was the beer, but we talked for four hours non-stop about how we felt called to part of and drive the movement towards women's equal rights, about our disillusionment with the way we'd seen community development work being practiced around the world, about the cultural forces threatening women's empowerment and this sense of urgency both of us felt about not getting complacent about our role in creating change. Kate had come across our two current partner organisations through her work in years prior, and suggested we start a fundraising initiative to support them and women's education and financial independence more broadly. We found another couple of incredible women who became founding members, The Global Women's Project was borne and it soon became a passion project that totally took over our lives! 

When do you have a fuck it moment and decide you want to go all in?
The moment we chose to back our impact model, because we could see it working. We had developed such beautiful relationships with our partner organisations in Nepal and Cambodia, we had started seeing the change that women were creating in their communities because of the opportunities to learn new skills, access information and business loans. Women who'd grown successful businesses from nothing and who were now mentoring other women in their communities to set up their own businesses. That sense of community and the will to share knowledge that seems so unique to women was a bit of a catalyst too. I ended up moving to Nepal in 2014 and haven't looked back.

What were some of the major challenges starting out and how did you overcome them?
Oh my gosh, it's always funding. Funding is just so hard to come across for non-profits. You also can't pay anyone to work for you, so you're completely reliant on volunteers with no ability to compensate them - except in warm and fuzzies - for the work they do. We've always been pretty under-resourced. We're proudly independent, which we deemed important so that we weren't tied to funding requirements of donors, so we completely rely on donations to continue our work. It's only been in the last year we've been able to pay a very modest part-time salary for me to keep everything going. We really need our community to get behind the work we do so that we can keep going!

What has been your biggest pinch-me moment?
When I actually pause to reflect on the impact we're having. You can get lost in the sheer magnitude of trying to start any business or organisation, but those times I've remembered to take a moment to reflect it's a pretty great feeling to know I've played a small part in the journeys of over 1000 women.

Starting a business can be gruelling. What keeps you going?
The gorgeous women (and men!) I work with. I know I've probably come late to the party on this but I've had a recent realisation that everything, *everything* comes down to your people. I've known it intellectually, but I guess it's only recently sunk in. For a long time I was trying to do everything myself. I put so much pressure on myself to have all the answers, and then one day I realised - uh, no one has all the answers. No one expects you to either. Our work, our lives, are so much richer when we take this pressure off ourselves and start truly collaborating. Your people, your customers, your donors help you get to the answers. Stay open, stay curious and treat your people like gold.

How do you create a work-life balance?
Sorry, what's that? Of course, I joke. Taking time out every day for self-care. Ritual is a big thing for me. It doesn't have to be time-intensive either, it's just about forming little practices that you can incorporate throughout your day that give you a moment to be intentional about you. A little bit of space for yourself can make all the difference.

 

Website

www.theglobalwomensproject.com.au

Facebook

www.facebook.com/theglobalwomensproject

Insta

www.instagram.com/globalwomensproject

Twitter

www.twitter.com/gwomensproject

 

Current campaign:

www.theglobalwomensproject.com.au/give-up-the-stuff