The time has come for me to share the last interview with our Wellington participants for 14/15 Live the Dream Programme. It has been such a pleasure for me each week, getting to speak with our amazing Dreamers about their ventures, their lives and their hopes for the world.
As the teams all work towards getting their pitches perfect before our Final Showcase in only 1 days, there are mixed feelings flying in the air; anxiety, hopefulness, enthusiasm and then the sad realization that this is the last week, the last few days of Live the Dream we’ll be experiencing together. The journey is coming to an end, but not before I got to sit down with the incredible founders of Inkling,Abbie Thomson and Helena-Grace Treadwell:
So tell us about your venture…
Helena-Grace: Inkling is a mentoring network facilitated through an online platform, with three different levels of participation; those who are aspiring change makers in need of mentorship, those who are actively making a change through social enterprise who are in need of advisors, but also wish to be mentors, and then those with specific skills and experience who want to share the impact they are having through becoming mentors/advisors.
You’ve had quite a transition throughout LTD, and your venture has changed more than any other down here in Wellington. Are you willing to share your story with us?
HG: We started with this idea to create a website similar to the big idea website, but create it for the sustainably-focused job sector. It was basically motivated by a personal desire to see this exist. The biggest thing that coming through LTD has made us realise is whatever we’re going to be making, needs to have a tangible outcome. Otherwise it could be in danger of just being yet another website people look at, but that doesn’t have any sort of impact.
Abbie: Once we began to clarify what we were doing, it quickly became obvious that there are not enough (sustainably focused) jobs out there to have a job-finding website, so we started to think up other ways we could support people in this area. We looked at internships, into events and teaching networking skills. From quite early on, we threw around the idea of mentorships, and both really liked the idea, and could see how it could have a positive impact, and how we could potentially make some sort of business model out of it.
How did you hear about Live the Dream, and what drove you to apply?
HG: I quit my job in August last year, and was wondering what to do, I had come to the end of doing meaningless jobs and wanted to be involved in something with meaning. My Dad said “Write a list of all the cool projects ideas you’ve had”, so I wrote the list and the sustainability big idea was on it and I just jumped on it. I started doing some general research about what was available and that is how I stumbled across Live the Dream. I applied as it was relevant to what I wanted to be doing, and in my interview with Kate, she spoke about the importance of team and suggested I tried getting someone else to come on board and through a strange set of circumstances I thought of Abbie!
You two went to School together right?
A: A long time ago, we went to primary school together. But we haven’t been in regular contact since we were 10! Then Helena contacted me and invited me to be a part of the team and here I am!
Mentoring is a big part of Live the Dream, so how have you found this process, and how have you been connecting with your mentors?
A: I think it’s been really positive, because when you’re in LTD you’re with the same people everyday and they know your venture really well. You are constantly being exposed to their perspectives, which is really great. But it’s so nice being able to go out and speak to someone who doesn’t see you everyday and just catch them up on where you’ve been, and getting an external perspective. Also, it can help make you feel like you’ve made progress, as if you’re just seeing them once a week, you can talk over the changes you have made (to your venture).
Has the process of having a personal mentor helped you to stare inkling in that direction?
HG: Yes, I definitely think so. Before we started (Live the Dream), I kind of had this idea that some people had mentors, but I didn’t realize what that meant. Even hearing someone like Kate (Beecroft, Live the Dream programme facilitator) saying that she was talking to her mentor, its made me realise having a mentor was actually quite a normal thing, and through having mentors in LTD, it’s a first-hand experience of how powerful mentoring actually is.
And Abbie, how did you find joining the programme 3 weeks in?
A: It was great to finally be here, as for those first 3 weeks Helena kept me up to date over skype but it was challenging to feel apart of the programme. So yeah, finally being here and be able to experience it for myself was awesome, and it meant that HG didn’t have to try and explain the sessions we were having. That first week (I was here) was tiring though, just getting my head into the social enterprise space.
HG: It was good to have someone to bounce off, and download on sometimes, and once she got here, it made it easier to be proactive, get things done and to encourage each other.
So we are in our last week. What do you think has been the most challenging aspect of the programme for you both, personally?
A: For me, particularly at the start, it was learning how to work with so much unknown, and being able to be certain when so much of what you were doing was up in the air. It was hard for me to go from a job where everything is so structured, to a space where you don’t know what’s happening and it changes every day.
HG: I have two things; the first is being confronted with WHY; asking WHY am I here, WHY am I doing this particular project. The only real answer I have is that it was the idea I happened to have 4 months ago and the one I applied with, so yeah asking ‘why’ has been an interestingly challenging part of the programme. The second this is getting over my feelings around business; I never thought I would be interested in business, so it has been a learning curve, learning all about business models and tools, and seeing that they can be quite helpful if you want to use them.
And what has been the Highlight for you both?
HG: There isn’t a specific moment, but realizing there are all of these cool people out there and then getting to meet them. Derek Handly, the creator of the shoulder tap, has had a big impact on me. He has had a lot of start-up success, and to have someone like that take an interest in your project was awesome, especially getting to skype with him!
A: I think that it is very hard to define a highlight for me, we’ve learnt so much, each week we get inspired from all these people doing incredible things.
What is the change that you want to see in the world?
HG: I want to see more people being proactive. I want people to feel like they can make the world better, particularity in the environmental and community areas.
A: Mine is similar. I want people to feel like they can create their own direction, and think about it in terms of more than just money and success, with a broader vision of the world. Ideally, my vision is that things like sustainability and social enterprise programmes isn’t even something that has to take place separately. It could be an integral part of the way society works.
And what will be your take-away from the programme?
A: I think that take-away for me has been realizing that people are willing to help, that they’ll help you to find things or share their knowledge with you.
HG: I feel like I’ll go through all my three notebooks, recap and being to categorized everything. All of the things that we’ve learnt are going to influence what I do in my life. My big take-away is realizing that I can’t go back to working a normal job, I’ve tried to tell myself that for the last few years, and Live the Dream has given me inner strength and also the tools I need to not have to do that.
There is less than one week to go until Final Showcase and it is definitely crunch time! Teams have been rushing around, there is no time to stop and reflect and it is no wonder we look forward to getting some shut eye over the weekend. It is starting to set in that in less than a week this will all be over. Of course this is only the beginning for the ventures and their projects, but to leave a space where we have all gotten to be so close is going to be a sad thing. Farewells are never easy, but we are already brainstorming coffee dates, weekends away and venture related events.
We have built a family here. A family of crazily innovative and inspiring people, some of the most energetic and passionate people I know. They are daring and resilient and there is no way that they will back down. We don’t have a lot of time to sit and reflect on the journey that we have had, hopefully there is time to do that next week; but until then we will troop on and make the most of the programme.
This week to save time we tried to keep the interview short and sweet, but still just as great. Melody Guo from Future E treated us to some words about the importance of intercultural relationships and making the most of your experiences with other cultures…
Tell me about your venture…
Future E is an e-learning platform for New Zealand school students learning Mandarin. It pairs them with a pen-pal in China and will increase engagement, creating an interesting way of learning. The purpose is to enable cultural connections and to make friends while learning Mandarin.
I want to utilise basic technologies and e-learning platforms to maximise usage. It is going to be very interactive in the form of video, audio, free writing and scribbling. I really want the students to take control of their learning so they get to decide what they want to teach within the structure of each lesson.
What sparked this idea within you? Was their any one moment that you knew that this is what you wanted to do?
I was catching up with a friend over the weekend and she’s known me for more than 10 years. The first thing she said to me after she heard what I was doing was “well you haven’t changed much at all, you’ve been trying to do this ever since I’ve known you!”
I’ve always been torn apart and have had that identity crisis. Am I a New Zealander or am I Chinese? I thought that the easiest way to decide that was through the Olympic Games. When the two countries are competing with each other, who did I want to win? But even that’s hard because I have no idea, one minute you want China to win and then New Zealand the next. You feel really torn.
I grew up here, I’ve been through the school system and I also have a bit of understanding about what Chinese kids are going through. I feel like after all they are just kids, and they are our kids, so it would be great if they knew a bit more about their culture. That will have a prolonged effect in their lives and with that cultural knowledge comes great advantage.
My vision is that both parties will value their friendships within New Zealand and China, so if they need help they will be able to reach out. That kind of partnership, that strong foundation; no other countries can ever compete. That means we’re doing things for the sake of trust and understanding of each other, rather than trying to make a profit.
I guess my experiences growing up in both countries you realise that if you really want to become that global citizen, you need that kind of advantage. This will give Kiwi kids that extra option. If they don’t want to choose it that’s fine, but I don’t want them to give up just because it is too hard or because no one is teaching it so they don’t have that resource to learn. I want it to be an option and a choice to go down that path.
Who has been your favourite speaker during Live the Dream?
A lot of the speakers are really great! Courtney Jarrett’s (Kea) session on social media was great because I really felt like I learnt some practical skills. I was always afraid to be in the social media space because I see that it is a lot of work, but she made it seem simpler.
I also enjoyed one of the Akina sessions on storyline and storytelling. We had to draw, and I never draw, so it forced me to think about using pictures. I normally use words to learn. So to shift that around and to see it from the angle of someone who likes pictures, it gives you a different perspective.
Elliot Costello’s (YGAP) story was inspirational and there was a point that I clicked when he said that you really need to make that personal connection. He retold such a great story, a story that will forever stick with me and now I understand why he chose to share that with others.
There have just been so many good ones… I knew that we were going to have all of these speakers coming in but I didn’t expect them to be this great, or that I would learn so much. It has been beyond my expectations.
What has been the most challenging aspect of the programme and your venture?
I’ve had a few challenges! The timing was difficult because I wasn’t there for the beginning of the programme so I was feeling really nervous because I had so much to catch up on. But at the same time it is good to have these two months of my life to just do what I want to do and to have all of these people supporting me and encouraging me. It’s definitely a dream.
You always have excuses for not beginning your startup. For me; I grew up in an environment that wasn’t as supportive. Teachers and parents were supportive of academic and sporting achievements, but not the kind of innovative ideas that someone would resign for! I guess thinking that way is challenging because I want to prove myself and prove that this is the right thing to do. I almost believe that I cannot fail and for that you have to constantly push yourself. That push is great because you’d be amazed about how much you can get done in a day once you seize the opportunity.
What is your vision for this world?
Definitely peace. I’ve always liked to look ahead and search for trends based on knowledge and resources in that field. When I was at uni, I noticed that all of my Chinese friends had Kiwi boyfriends. They’re all really smart and very driven young women, they’re either doctors or lawyers. At that time we would joke that one day it is going to be a global phenomenon, that everybody is going to have inheritance from this place or that. I see that happening and continuing to happen.
But at the same time we all have that inherent fight or flight response. When you see someone of a different race or colour you automatically want to get away from it out of survival. But this same trait leads to stereotypes, racism and so on.
It’s through cultural understanding and cultural interaction that you overcome that and that is why it is so important. I’ve been an exchange student in Italy, worked in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and before that I went to primary school in Australia. My friends are quite global citizens as well and we all hold the understanding that once you leave your own culture and go to the other, everyone understands the difficulties of being in a foreign culture or country. I think that is the trait that people have adopted; that adaptivity, the flexibility to fit yourself into this foreign culture.
This is all linked to the idea of peace that I mentioned at the beginning. The solution is to understand cultures and once you do that you can then have a peaceful place. Peace is just as important as other issues because if you are not at peace with yourself, there is impossible to think for yourself let alone others. I really feel like peace is the most important thing, then comes empathy for others, standing up for other cultures and so on. It’s all interrelated, you can’t have one without the other. It’s when you get yourself immersed in that other culture that you really understand it and it’s that depth that I’m looking for.
Shout out to all of our participants for their amazing work over the last few weeks, ya’ll are legends!
It surely is! There are literally 7 days to go until Final Showcase. Final versions of pitches are due to be completed this week, and as the programme begins to slowly wrap up, there isn’t much, or any, time to reflect over the past 9 weeks, the journey we’ve all been on together. The Wellington LTD Dreamers have become like family, it is insane that we’re able to say that ‘work’ looks like this; a room filled with possibilities, ideas, support and incredible people. Every single day sees new experiences and possibilities explored, be it through a keynote speaker or contributor, an external meeting, or else just a positive reaction whilst out validating, each one molds us and helps the Dreamers grow their ventures.
Our participants have been challenged with pitching 50 times before next Thursday night, that means 50 opportunities to fail, so that by the time they deliver their 51st at 7pm in the 19th of February down at the Macs Function Centre, they’ll be poised and polished, ready to go.
Nedra Fu spoke to me this week about her Venture, Tao:
Tell us what Tao is?
Tao is an eight week programme which empowers office workings, and gives them the skills to take better care of their health through some basic principles and practices of traditional Chinese Medicine, such as acupuncture massage that people can easily do on themselves. This will help to relieve common ailments such as headaches, back pain and stress.
Where did this idea come from?
I discovered this series of books a few years ago (which are) based on the ideas of Chinese Medicine, and they changed my life; I felt that they were so usable. It was like getting a user model of my own body, and they worked, and I wanted to be able to spread this knowledge to more people.
And how has Live the Dream been helping you to develop Tao?
It has exposed me to many different ways of thinking, different people from different companies who have a wide range of expertise. It has really challenged my thinking.
And what have you personally gotten out of the programme?
I’ve meet a bunch of really great people, been inspired, discovered new inspirations, and also learned a whole load of skills which I know will be very transferable in the future.
What drew you to Live the Dream this summer?
I talked to guy at TedX Wellington last year, and he encouraged me to apply for LTD, and yeah, so here I am. There are going to more and more socially conscious businesses in the future.
What’s stuck out for you so far?
I’ve really enjoyed the social change theories, and seeking to understand more about the problem, rather that just assuming the solution. Also learning the practicalities of how to run a business, the time and the investment required.
And how did you find the validation process?
It has been very useful, and has also helped me get to know my friends and colleagues more so than before, by asking them questions that I probably normally wouldn’t ask. It’s interesting seeing how different people view the world, and what their priorities are. There were some friends I’ve known for years (who I spoke to) and I had no idea that they thought certain ways about health, or what is important to them.
What’s been the reaction of your friends and colleagues to Tao?
Obviously different people have different reactions. Some are quite receptive and would love to try it, where others don’t really understand it. It seems that a lot of people associate chinese medicine with needles, not many know you can actually get the same results through acupuncture massage as well. There are all these points in the body you can trigger to restore balance.
So is that what Tao is going to be about right? Educating people?
Yes, teaching them things that they can do, teaching them that they can improve their health, literally with just their fingertips.
How is Tao going to work?
It’s an 8 week programme delivered in the office. They learn different topics each week, some will be about nutrition, some about stress…and so on.
And how do you personally practice Chinese Medicine?
I listen to my body, and kind of stimulate the point where I feel a lack of energy in that area. I have a philosophy of maintenance over cure; this means when I’m feeling under the weather, I’ll rest up, as opposed to pushing myself and taking drugs -like nurofen. Personally I try to avoid them.
What has been the most challenging aspect of LTD?
Learning to juggle my time between being here at Live the Dream, my job, and all my hobbies.
What are these hobbies?
I sing, I play the Japanese Taiko drums, and I also play Badminton!
What is the change you want to see in the world?
Just generally happier, healthier people who are doing jobs that they like. I want to see people reaching their potential.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Keep up the good work Rachael! (Thats me 🙂 ).