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 inspired the creation of Global Sisters?
Mandy Richards: Global Sisters was founded by Mandy Richards, a serial entrepreneur who, after travelling overseas and working with social enterprises, saw that many women had brilliant ideas but neither the resources nor support to build them into businesses. Mandy wanted to create a solution that supported women and allowed them to become financially independent.
Question: How does Global Sisters aim to change the current statistics: 14% of women live below the poverty line and 1.5 million experience financial exclusion?
Mandy Richards: Global Sisters works by providing a genuine alternative to women who aren't able to participate in mainstream employment by providing the support and infrastructure to build their own business. As a woman becomes financially independent, she is free to make her own choices, stand tall and positively affect those around her including her family and community.
Question: Can you talk about your work with women in breaking down the critical barriers faced when trying to start a business?
Mandy Richards: We provide support to Sisters through tools, networks and resources that will help them build their business – the support is broken down into four facets: business know-how, marketing and sales, microfinance and technology.
We offer microloans, have a business coaching program and an online retail store for Sisters to feature their product and services. By providing these resources, we're breaking down the barriers that would otherwise prevent a sister from market exposure, or the knowledge and understanding that is essential for growing a business.
Question: What countries does Global Sisters work in?
Mandy Richards: We're currently working in Australia only, with Sisters in New South Wales, Canberra and Victoria. We're about to expand into Queensland with the goal to scale nationally, then internationally.
Question: Can you talk us through the education program Global Sisters provides?
Mandy Richards: We offer many education opportunities through Global Sisters, including a significant program, which is the Sisters School. The Sister School works to help Sisters on the initial step of getting their business off the ground. It is a practical business education program that offers Sisters input, education and support to better understand their own business and its place in the wider market.
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.
IINVEST DON'T DONATE: Contribute $ towards Global Sisters' operational costs while we work on becoming self-sustainable!
JOIN THE #SISTERTRIBE: Get social and help promote our Sisters' businesses on social media
Question: What message would you like to spread this Women's Entrepreneurship Day?
Mandy Richards: All women are sisters – not bound by our bloodline, but by our shared resilience, determination and compassion. Women's Entrepreneurship Day is more than just celebrating women in business, but celebrating, empowering and supporting every women who is working to make a difference, personally or professionally.
Question: What are your goals for Global Sisters in 2017?
Mandy Richards: We want to continue to scale impact around Australia, refining our programs and meeting new Sisters. This will create a ripple effect of positive change to families and communities.
Interview by Brooke Hunter