Global Sisters, a not for profit organisation, has launched with a unique approach that encourages and supports financially excluded women to become financially independent through self-employment. Through use of technology and business coaching, Global Sisters is offering end-to-end support to develop successful women's micro business.
In Australia, 14 percent of women are living below the poverty line, and 1.5million experience financial exclusion. Global Sisters believes that every woman should have the opportunity to be financially independent. Global Sisters provides genuine alternatives for women facing social or economic vulnerabilities, or who aren't able to participate in traditional mainstream employment. By removing the economic participation barriers they commonly face, Sisters can work flexibly to build their own successful businesses while positively impacting not just their own lives, but also those of their families and their community.
Through partnerships with major businesses including Citi and Myer, and a host of business coaches from sectors ranging from food production to fashion, Global Sisters is breaking down some of the critical barriers faced by women when trying to start a business. These barriers include technology, sales channels, knowledge and education, and access to business finance. Equally as important, Global Sisters provides a support network of other women for those in the program to turn to. Referred to as the Sister Tribe this support is something that, for an isolated individual, is impossible to place a value on. With a focus on women who are refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, Indigenous Australians, and at-risk youth, Global Sisters aims to provide a path to entrepreneurship that would not otherwise be available through:
Sister School: a practical business education program provides business coaching and expert support to help Sisters get a business off the ground.
Marketing & Sales: in addition to the online store, Global Sisters provides access to a business directory, marketing tools, and sales channels and opportunities including corporate and home selling events.
Microfinance: provision of affordable, accessible and safe micro business loans, and also on the agenda is provision of micro insurance to protect businesses.
Technology: the Global Sisters technology platform is key in reaching women far and wide, efficiently and economically.
Founder and CEO of Global Sisters, Mandy Richards, is a serial entrepreneur who in 2009 won reality TV show Dragon's Den. Turning her attention to social entrepreneurship, she founded Global Sisters in 2013 and says, 'Global Sisters allows women who find themselves trapped by their circumstances to start to dream and act for a different future. Both big and small business has the power to create significant social change globally, and investing in the future of our Sisters translates to stronger families, stronger communities, and a stronger economy. I fully believe that our goal of creating a world in which no woman is financially or economically excluded is an achievable one."
The innovative Global Sisters program is considered a world first, and coinciding with the official launch of the program is the launch of the Global Sisters retail website - a central place for Sisters with product based businesses to showcase and sell their products. With a focus on investment, not donation, the Global Sisters online store provides a tangible outcome for many of those in the program, as well as a place where those who want to support the initiative can do so by conscience and community-led shopping. The Head of Retail, Elizabeth Henegan, says, 'We wanted to offer consumers access to beautiful homewares and giftware, with a life-changing story behind it. Our retail is all about curation with a conscience, where there is a 360-degree impact in the supply chain, from the creation of the product to the packaging to the fulfilment. We sell beautiful things for real change".
Operating on the belief in a ripple effect, Global Sisters recognises that by empowering women to become financially independent through small business and entrepreneurial opportunities rather than charity, the benefits go beyond the immediate recipient. A small home based or mobile business can remove a woman's dependence on government welfare, and create a revenue stream that enables her to support her family and herself, whilst also benefiting the economy in which she is working. Businesswomen not only become active economic participants, but also role models and community leaders.
Shop at https://globalsisters.org/shop/
Question: What is Global Sisters?
Mandy Richards: Global Sisters believes that every woman should have the opportunity to be financially independent. We provide genuine alternatives for women who aren't able to participate in traditional mainstream jobs. By removing common barriers, Sisters can work flexibly from home to build their own businesses, while also positively impacting their families and their community.
Question: Where did the idea for Global Sisters, originate?
Mandy Richards: I launched Global Sisters in 2014 – I'd been living, travelling and working overseas as well as with social enterprises in Australia, and throughout it all saw so many women that had brilliant business ideas. However there were significant barriers in their way, so we needed a solution that overcame them and allowed them to successfully start sustainable small businesses.
Question: What inspired your passion for supporting financially excluded women?
Mandy Richards: The reality of 1.5 million women living with financial exclusion in Australia, and the ability to change their future with a flexible means of generating income is what inspired me to found Global Sisters.
Question: What is your goal for Global Sisters, over the next six months?
Mandy Richards: Our goal in the next six months is to refine our programs which have now all launched, to continue supporting our Sisters already involved with Global Sisters and to welcome new Sisters on board. Over the next couple of years we will continue to scale impact across Australia and create a ripple effect of positive change to families and communities.
Question: Can you tell us about Sister School?
Mandy Richards: Sister School is our business education program, designed specifically for the business requirements of our Sisters. It's a practical, blended digital program that enables women to get a real life business up and running and is open to a variety of women.
The School is poised to expand across Australia after working so successfully in Sydney and Melbourne. We find it works as a great entry point for women to Global Sisters as they gain the practical knowledge, skills and attitude to set up or expand a business. After completing Sister School, our Sisters can access ongoing support and access to microfinance, business coaching and retail channels. We are thrilled that Citi Foundation is continuing its support, enabling more than 160 young women access to Sister School this year.
Question: What businesses have Global Sisters partnered with?
Mandy Richards: We're so proud to partner with some great organisations including; Citi Bank's Citi Foundation, MYER Stores Community Fund, Department of Social Services, The Snow Foundation, Weir Anderson Foundation, MinterEllison , DDI, Mahlab Media – and plenty more!
Question: Do you have a Global Sisters success story to share with us?
Mandy Richards: Pakao is a courageous and determined Mon woman who fled from Burma in her early 20's. As a child she was only able to attend school for six years. Pakao's mother sold vegetables in a small shop and while growing up she spent most of her time either helping her mother or working at home. In the oppressive Burmese regime it was not safe for females to leave their homes.
After escaping Burma, she lived for three years in a Malaysian refugee camp. Driven by the hope of supporting other Mon women to have a better life and helping her family, she worked long hours every day in a social enterprise for Mon women called Kaoprise. She made soap and massage oil and was recognised as a community leader for her hard work. During this time the Mon Women Refugee Organisation (MWRO) taught her how to sew and make soft toys.
Pakao arrived in Australia in 2012 and established her business Red Owl with the support of Global Sisters and is embracing every opportunity given to her. She wanted to use her sewing skills to become a businesswoman and named her business after the owls in her Burmese village that she loved seeing and hearing at night " and which inspired her trademark Red Owl toy design.
Pakao says 'Global Sisters helped me with marketing, quality control and fulfilling legal requirements for Red Owl Handicrafts. I won a scholarship which helped me buy my sewing machines. I buy traditional Mon fabric to use in my craft. I want my customers to appreciate the traditional woven fabric of the Mon people. The money I earn is spent buying fabric and other supplies in Canberra, Sydney and Burma. If I am successful as a businesswoman, I can help other women who have a skill and want to earn money".
Global Sisters matched Pakao with an expert business coach, Samorn Sanixay, a designer and social entrepreneur operating the successful Eastern Weft Homewares business. After working on design and product quality her business is going from strength to strength, selling well at markets and corporate pop up events. Red Owl products are being stocked in boutiques and a national online design store, as well as the Global Sisters shop. Pakao is also now about to me matched with a business coach to support her around the operational aspects of her business.
Question: How can Australians support Global Sisters?
Mandy Richards: Shop: Buy stunning gifts and home wares from our Sisters at www.globalsisters.org.
Host A Sister Circle: Meet Sisters and learn the story behind the product at Sister Circles for corporates and individuals.
Become A Business Coach: If you're a successful entrepreneur we'd love to talk to you about getting involved in our coaching program.
Invest Don't Donate: Contribute $ towards Global Sisters' operational costs while we work on become self-sustainable!
Join The #Sistertribe: Get social and help promote our Sisters' businesses on social media.
Interview by Brooke Hunter