In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014 (17-23 November), Roving reporter Amanda spoke to inspirational young entrepreneur Zoe Lamont, founder of the financial literacy and support organisation 10thousandgirl.
After lending a hand doing humanitarian work in Zambia, Southern India and Fiji, Zoe Lamont came back to Australia with a fresh perspective on life, particularly with regard to the opportunities some Australians may be missing out on.
Her new outlook on the financial situation in Australia and a chat with like-minded friends at a bar in Sydney resulted in the creation of 10thousandgirl (new window), a not-for-profit organisation that starts conversations about finance with Australian women, at the same time as financially supporting women in third world countries.
"We had this meeting at this pub in Sydney, and it became really obvious that finance was a barrier to a lot of people not doing what they had in their hearts," Zoe says.
"That’s how the 10thousandgirl campaign started: thinking about creating safe, fun, comfortable environments where we can encourage people to have conversations about planning for the future."
From Concept to Implementation
Starting in March 2011, the group set out to educate and connect with 10,000 Australian women. What once seemed like a daunting figure has proven to be utterly achievable and is set to be reached by the end of 2014.
"Some days I think that’s such a tiny little drop in the ocean, but then other times I think this is a love project where we thought 10,000 was such a ginormous amount," Zoe says.
Just because their original goal has been met, it doesn’t mean the end of the campaign. With a desire to change lives, 10thousandgirl have now readjusted their target to 100,000 women – a figure that will certainly be met.
How Does It All Work?
While the idea is to educate women on financial matters, Zoe has found the best way to do this is by opening up the conversation.
"You can have really great financial conversations where you don’t have to say how much you earn or how much you’re investing. We never talk about numbers in our conversation, but you can really learn so much from your friends," she says.
Zoe has taken this concept around Australia with a regional women’s financial literacy road show. By working with local solicitors, mortgage brokers and other relevant professionals in each town, the organisation helps women build a community from whom they can seek out support in the future.
While the educational element of the group is important, the facilitation of conversations between participants is what provides real empowerment.
"When people are given the chance to have the conversation, they might find they know more than they think they do. I think it’s about confidence and engagement, rather than an actual transfer of knowledge," Zoe says.
As well as the regional tour – which they plan to undertake again in 2015 – 10thousandgirl offers a 6-step Money Makeover that women can access no matter where they live.
The idea is to form groups of 6-8 women in your community. Once you've got your group and you’ve signed up to the program you are given all the materials you need to start changing your bad financial habits.
Making it Global
These programs offer the chance to prevent future bad investments, help take control of credit card debts and work out a practical budget, while also helping people outside of Australia.
By taking part in the 6-step program you can help organisations like Good Return and Opportunity International fund new business ventures for women in India, Timor, the Philippines and Fiji.
Using micro loans, these women are able to start businesses in farming, sewing and food enterprises among other things, which can make dramatic differences to their lives and current economic situations.
The 10thousandgirl website tells the story of Ana, who – while heavily pregnant – scavenged for food scraps in a garbage dump. After receiving a micro loan, she established her own small business and is now giving back to help her community.
"Just as 10thousandgirl is helping women in Australia, we also help women around the world. I think that message shows everyone can make a difference," Zoe says.
"The girls who go through the 6-step program – whose fees go towards microfinance – get sent the stories of the women they’ve donated to. They get a real buzz, a sense of satisfaction and a really nice sense of belief and confidence in themselves again."
Zoe expresses her love for the ripple effect, whether it takes place in your local community or on a much broader scale. With thousands of women’s lives changed, 10thousandgirl has made more than just ripples when it comes to women’s finance.