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The South Pacific has been listed as one of the poorest countries on earth. Being such a close neighbour to Australia, this should not be the case.

 

There is so much at risk within this region. Just one of the major issues this region is fighting, is climate change, resulting in an increase in storms and leading to an increase in poverty. Local social and urban infrastructure is inadequate and struggles to cope with demand.

 

 

Strategically, the South Pacific is overlooked by many global business partnerships. Seeing this region as a community that is in so much need and so close to Australia, Compass Housing decided to invest and then do more.

“We felt that we could share our skills and knowledge in social and physical infrastructure development—that also builds community capacity—despite knowing the high level of risk of investing into this country.”

I’m talking with James Cameron, for the Create Business blog. James is the Executive Manager of Tenant Communications and Engagement for Compass Housing. Compass Housing Services provide secure and affordable housing for low to moderate income earning households, as well as housing products for disadvantaged people who have difficulties sourcing adequate and affordable accommodation in the private market.

James and I are yet to meet in person, yet I think it is safe to say that we have worked together on a life changing project for James. We overcame the distance (James is in New South Wales, Queensland and Vanuatu and I am based in Central Victoria), using the internet and some great content collection apps, such as Evernote.

My business is driven by my passion to share my skills and expertise, for bringing value to communities and organisations that make a difference. My aim is that after my body of work is completed, my client will have resources or assets that continue to create business. I worked closely with James to document his first engagement visit to Vanuatu. The Create Business team developed campaign content to pitch to key leaders the need and the value of investment into community infrastructure into this community.

 

 

During his time in Vanuatu, James undertook a community needs assessment to determine the most effective way for Compass Housing to make an impact in the community, and to navigate all the risks associated with working in this country. It was vital that the infrastructure was not linked to government commitments, instead owned and managed by the community, for the community.

Using a voice recorder, diary entries, video and photography, James spoke to people from all sectors of the community—from tribal leaders to people making a living from resorts and facing the challenges of raising a family with a minimal income and limited education opportunities. He developed a case for what infrastructure needed to be developed—a soccer pitch and a community hub for education, women’s health and a local market to boost the local economy.

 

Overcoming poverty and empowering people to make a difference in their community and then the world—is an ambitious proposal. James’ work practice is based upon decision-making, practices and frameworks that empower people to have choice and control—and this means for fundraising too.

 

To address the divide between a community infrastructure project in Vanuatu and their Australian tenant community, Compass Housing established T4V ‘Tenants for Vanuatu’; a Compass Housing leadership group to come up with innovative ways to fundraise and drive fundraising for Vanuatu.

“No matter how hard we think we have it,” shares James, “there are people on earth who have it worse. You don’t need to be wealthy to be a part of the global solution.”

Fundraising gives people an opportunity to discover who they can be, and it’s a new and interesting way to participate socially and globally—that is why Compass Housing put T4V and the Vanuatu mission together. “We manage housing stock. When our tenants feel good, they like where they live—they take care of where they live.”

“We are busting the myth that if you come from social housing, you are a burden to society. It simply isn’t the case. You can be valuable to society no matter where you come from. It has nothing to do with where you live.”

 

 

Compass Housing believes community capacity is built through the engagement and relationship between people making decisions and driving local fundraising campaigns for global issues. “It is about people being in a position to tell a story and influence people,” says James. “Being in a national fundraising group, you can get creative about social housing and have a say about how things are run—and also encourage their community to give to another community.”

“There are a lot of people in Australia and the South Pacific who could benefit from the programs we run. It’s about the tenants contributing to their community and revolutionising the idea of who are the leaders and givers in our society.”

 

 

“Once you create a culture of giving, you change the way people think about social housing and it becomes a cultural movement.”

James explains that this way of designing community development and fundraising isn’t new. His design references the work of David Adamson, the founder of Deep Place methodology.

“We measure the impact of our community capacity building with tenants through an annual social outcome assessment,” James explains that this is a questionnaire, with the same questions that they have been monitoring over time. “People also tell us anecdotal stories and we always have different ways for people to tell their stories.”

Compass Housing has a number of engagement programs for their tenants including, “In the House” for which they won an Australian Business Award in 2016.

 

“We know we have made the right decision to invest into community infrastructure in Vanuatu and that we have a sound model to build community capacity in the South Pacific and our existing tenant community in Australia—connecting the two geographic locations through fundraising.”

“Cultures vary, but people are the same. They want to be heard and tell their story.”

You can contribute to the Compass Housing Go Fund Me campaign for Vanuatu here, and keep up with the project’s development by following their Facebook page.

 

Sometimes, rules and regulation get in the way of creative solutions in business.

Creatively growing business often means re-thinking everything and pushing the boundaries that may be constraining your activities. Create Business is speaking with Leah Sertori, CEO of Be.Bendigo, a platform for visionary organisations to help shape the business climate and conditions of Victoria’s third largest city. We are talking about how Bendigo is going to become a Smart City.

 

Creative Solutions in business, Create Business talks with Leah Sertori

 

So what is a Smart City and why be one?

 

A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology and Internet of things technology in a secure fashion, to increase the city’s sustainability and personalise the experience of living in the city for residents. Smart city strategy generally includes a major focus on smarter asset management. These assets include local departments information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.

 

Last year, the Australian Federal Government launched the $50 million Smart Cities Plan for local governments to collaborate and apply innovative technology-based approaches to improve the liveability of cities and their suburbs, and to solve urban problems.

 

A key challenge is the need to find new sources of funding for infrastructure, as government budgets are increasingly constrained in their ability to fund projects. While government spending will remain an important part of the mix, user charges and other funding sources need to be considered to ensure that Australians continue to enjoy world-class infrastructure.

 

Over a cup of tea, Leah shares with me some of the unique and creative thinking that Bendigo is pitching to shake up Australia’s financial and energy sectors and re-think how business is done.

be.bendigo sky line view of Bendigo

Our Smart Cities proposal for Bendigo includes the idea of bond issue for major infrastructure projects. In the financial sector, a bond is a debt instrument which allows the issuer to roll together projects with both high and low rates of return. Bonds provide the borrower with external funds to finance long-term investments, and, depending on the terms of the bond, they are obligated to pay interest and repay the principle.

 

Each of our projects has a different forecast rate of return—some with low returns at 4%, some at 11%.

 

We plan to offer investment opportunities with projects grouped together, rather than individually. Low investment returns are matched with more attractive returns to make the ‘bundle’ of returns balance out to be more in the ‘middle.’ More viable for an institutional investor, such as a superannuation fund.

 

The idea of bundling projects is an important option to make social and community infrastructure projects with lower rates of return viable.  The projects we are looking to establish in Bendigo using this financial bond model include:
• Renewable energy projects
• Affordable housing
• Mixed use and purpose buildings e.g. health
• Transport
• Water treatment infrastructure

 

Bendigo is seeking to pitch for both bond projects and social impact bonds. Social impact bonds pay for an outcome that has not yet been achieved. For example, in Bendigo, lifestyle-related illnesses cost our health system $80million annually. Social investment bonds to fund preventative health measures over the medium to long term will reduce the cost of health services.

 

Fixed infrastructure leased out to a user such as a water authority, will have a predictable income stream over a period of time, and the supplier and user can put this fixed activity into their existing business model and plan accordingly. Unlike physical infrastructure, social impact bonds can be more difficult when specifying the anticipated return, due to forecasted future costs reducing.

 

What we definitely know, is that the government can’t afford to keep paying for infrastructure and social services under the current policy/business model of taxation.

 

Health services are always seeking increasing funding levels, as costs are increasing exponentially. Having the option of social impact bonds is very exciting because the incentive to create real outcomes that result in better health will influence investment. Investment decisions will be made upon the best preventative evidence for a distinct community.

 

Social impact bonds have the potential to disrupt the current funding model, which is defined by short term commitments, influenced by the political cycle. Under the current model, organisations and sectors often receive funding commitments during an electrol cycle based on the perceived value for the government of the day. If communities were required to make their own case for investment, with an evidence-based approach that preventative health care services (for example) would reduce cost further downstream…..they can attract investment in the form of a social impact bond. Such a model offers greater independence and resilience for the community. It decreases the community’s reliance on government investment in preventative health as the primary resource for such important work. Organisations, with the best evidence of outcomes for the health of a community and the best business case, are most likely to be supported under such a model.

 

Bendigo’s Smart City has seven key areas:
• Governance
• People
• Technology
• Resources
• Health
• Research & Evaluation
• Transport

 

Bendigo’s Smart City submission is currently being finalised and submitted to local, state and federal governments to form a City Deal. City Deals, an idea borrowed from the UK, are agreements between federal, state and local governments to develop collective plans for growth and commit to the actions, investments, reforms and governance needed to implement them.They can work across whole metropolitan or regional cities or areas.

 

City Deals are long-term in their nature—around 20 years. We believe Bendigo is best placed to test out our proposed City Deal model.

 

There are existing City Deals around the world in Barcelona, Glasgow and Amsterdam—each investing into a mix of smart resources, governance, investment and technology.

 

Bendigo’s Smart City pitch is unique because it focuses on an innovative financial model—including bonds and social impact bonds. Another point of difference we are drawing attention to is the fact that our region is the perfectly-sized living laboratory to test data and smart sensors, etc.

 

Rather than asking for cash, we are asking for a smaller financial investment from the government with a regulatory ring fence to allow for the creation of innovative ways to re-think financial services and other services like energy-use.

 

We are proposing to introduce peer-to-peer energy services for householders and industry. For example, a neighbour who has a large solar-energy system and is away from home most of the day will be able to sell cheap energy to a pensioner who lives next door, at a lower cost than a retailer. Our vision is to establish an energy enterprise using a similar, successful model that Bendigo Bank has established through its community-banking sector.

 

In industry, we are seeking regulatory relaxation so that industries can build their own power stations and share energy generated with their neighbours and other large manufacturing companies.

 

It really is an issue that needs to be addressed. This year, a manufacturer in East Bendigo has seen their energy costs increase by over 100% in the last 12-months. By investing into energy production, they reduce their costs over the long term and also have a secure energy supply.

 

Australia’s regulatory environment is admired the world over for delivering strong consumer and environmental protection and it is imperative that Australian and state-based regulators continue to play this vital role. However, there is also a need to review some individual rules within regulations pertaining to individual sectors, such as energy, finance and land use. For example, energy regulation does not allow a generator to pass electricity over a property title without a license as an energy retailer. To obtain a license as an energy retailer the applicant requires a surety of several million dollars. In this case, our concept of precinct level, clean energy generation for our manufacturing sector is not supported under the rules. We are asking governments at all levels to partner with us, to explore the need for regulatory relaxation and possibly reform through innovative pilot projects in Bendigo.

 

We need to think beyond business as usual, to think about innovative investment. Investment purely into infrastructure isn’t enough. Digital channels will drive our economy and manufacturing will be automated—we need to get ahead of the curve now and ensure our city is relevant for investors in the future.

 

Bendigo’s Smart City bid will be presented late June and it is expected that the outcome will be known later this year.

 

Stay in touch with Be.Bendigo and the Bendigo Smart City bid by liking the Be.Bendigo Facebook page.

I’m in an impressive, neat and modern print and design studio, housing million-dollar printing machines in Bendigo. Peter Reading is the managing director of the Bendigo Signarama franchise.

Discovering we are both green tea lovers and both grew up on dairy farms, our conversation shifted quickly away from a formal interview. We fell into a warm open discussion on entrepreneurialism and what it takes to generate the drive to keep moving a small business forwards.

I really enjoyed talking with Peter, and I never expected him to open up with some great, real advice for small businesses. I suspect this openness is at the core of his business practice. It is difficult to dig deep and have a good hard look at yourself and your business. It’s an ongoing wrestle for small business owners to not work in their business work, but on their business.

Peter responded to my question of “how creativity grows business,” away from the inspirational and into the uncomfortable. I know that it is difficult for small businesses to share with others that they are going through a hard time.

“When you need drive most—is during awful times.” I nodded in agreement with Peter. And my stomach gave a little knot of yes; I know how hard you need to dig to find the reserves to “create something to create the momentum again.”

“If you always only think about the awful times, you will always be in the awful times,” Peter shares. “You need to pull yourself up by the scruff of the neck, feel the burn and get on with it.”

 

Feel the burn

So how do you go about feeling the burn?

 

“I have other business owners I can talk to and I know that the conversation will remain between me and them. I have a very special network—my inner business network is personally and emotionally tied to my business, although they don’t have any financial connections to the business.”

 

“I have a mate and we can call each other and say, ‘I want to come and talk to you’ —we go to each other’s house and the conversation usually goes something like; ‘This is what happened at work today—how would have you handled it?’ ”

 

“I think there is so much complacency in business, and behind the scenes of a business becomes an unspoken secret. People can become so guarded and protect their profit and loss. If you can open up, then you can get some sanity in your business—and new ideas.”

There is so much complacency in business

“If all you get is a new idea when you put yourself in a new situation—then it is worth driving yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone.”

 

“Although I was a part of a franchise, I was frustrated—I wasn’t sure how my business was going—I didn’t know if we were performing well, mediocre or terrible.”

 

“I approached other Signarama business owners and asked them— ‘are you prepared and willing to do some comparisons and see how your business is travelling?’ I invited them to come to Bendigo for the weekend with their profit and loss sheet.”

 

“Funnily enough, after spending a day together, we concluded that our businesses were either going very well, mediocre or extremely poorly.”

 

“Our statistics were really close and our businesses were operating similarly. Although over time—I found as we checked in with each other—the Melbourne-based business did not grow as rapidly as ours. This was because we invested into capital and a sales person.”

 

Peter didn’t just conclude with talking to one business owner and sharing the intimate deals of his business. He approached a Signarama business in Sydney that is double the size of his in Bendigo. “I thought that the larger size business would reveal efficiencies we might be able to adopt.”

 

“The first thing we noticed in comparing our businesses, was the mix of business activity. For example, in Sydney, they have a day marked out just to update directory boards in high rise buildings—we might do this sort of signage work two or three times a year.”

 

“I was also surprised to discover efficiencies in our business and they wanted to know how we did this—it turned out this was really hard to share because it is something we just do in our day-to-day work. But I found that when I started this conversation and shared the discussion, it lead to new ideas and ways of thinking to grow our business.”

 

As Peter talked more about the way he connects with a peer group to find ways to reward his team, to train his team and grow his team with his business, I find myself growing in respect. As a small business owner, I am always on the lookout for ways to scale my business and balance working in my business with working on my business. I love his fearless creativity and drive to find answers to grow his business—because no one else is doing to do this for you.

 

fearless creativity and drive

I do have business mentors, and within a co-working space I have others around me that keep me buoyant and challenging myself—but I have never sat down and made a like-for-like comparison. My goal for 2017 is to actively take some of Peter’s advice and talk more about profit and loss—and reveal my secrets.

 

You might like to consider some of Peter’s advice about how creativity is growing his business:

 

• Business owners need to have an open mind

 

• You need to pull closely around you; peers who you can trust, and you need to be brave and courageous

 

“If you look at high flyers in business—do they do it on their own? No! They have people around them—staff, friends and mentors.”

 

Thanks so much for your time Peter, wishing you and your team much success for the rest of 2017.

Stay in touch with Peter and the Bendigo Signarama team on Facebook.

“Death has always been milling around in my practice.”

I’m in the light-filled gorgeous studio space of Hayley West. Her beautiful making and showing space are within the new Mill complex in Castlemaine. A Central Victorian township that is affectionately known as North Northcote,” brimming with creative businesses operating with and for a difference.

creative businesses operation for and making a difference

“It was when I did my Masters that I began to research the death industry in depth, and I began to realise how fraught this industry is. Becoming a Death literacy advocate has become an important part of my art practice.”

At this early stage of this interview, I wasn’t really sure at all what Hayley was talking about. My intention was to conduct a nice safe interview with Hayley to find out how creativity is building her business, but I found myself talking about death and the business of death—a subject I rarely consider!

The Departure - studio view

I came across Hayley’s work on Instagram and then her Facebook page, both called “The Departure”. I loved the look of her work and the way she was using social media to share her practice. I recently listened to an interview on Download, a show interviewing the makers behind the Glass Bedroom series. Profiling six Australian millennial artists who use Instagram to create self-portraits, it is a great documentary about how art has changed in the digital age. Little did I know, Instagram really was just the surface for the depth of Hayley’s complex and important work into death advocacy.

Hayley goes on to explain that her work as an artist and as a death literacy advocate is about death and not dying. (Me nodding, and scrambling for my brain to take in these new concepts—is there a difference between death and dying?) “My passion is getting people organised for death, and thinking about what is possible when organising a funeral.” Hearing the word “organise,” I relaxed a little, feeling like I was back in my comfort zone.

“The Departure is a curious combination of making space for advocacy, the discussion around death and also it is connected to the art world.” Hayley goes on to explain, “In the space of The Departure, I can do something I really love within my local and digital community. It is about contemporary art and challenging (Western) societal taboos around death.” Importantly to Hayley, ideas about death in this space (and on social media) can keep on growing.

Studio view of death items for sale at The Departure

“The deathie network is huge in the UK and US—in this network I am known as a deathling or a deathie. (I can’t help it—my eyebrows raise while I scribble in my notebook). “Social media is so important because you need an online community to sustain what you are doing when you are operating outside of social norms. This is a space that not many people think about and it can be very uncomfortable.”

“Especially when my advocacy focuses on affordable and natural burial and questions the established funeral industry and the practices they have in place. I strongly believe that elements of this industry need to be questioned, and people need to be aware of how they can be taken advantage of in a this very vulnerable time in their lives. There are some wonderful funeral homes, you just need to know where to find them.”

“Online, there is lots of support for natural burial and more environmentally friendly cremation options. The UK and US alternative funeral industry is moving fast, but it’s taking its time in Australia.”

Death Cafe

Hayley also co-hosts a local Death Café in Castlemaine — connected to the international Death Café movement. At a Death Café, people talk about death over tea and cake. Death Cafés happen in 40+ countries.

She kick-starts death discussion in her studio gallery space with a coffin. “I wanted to have a coffin in here so people can actually see and touch one. Generally, people don’t think about death until they have to, usually not until they are physically sitting down with a funeral director being talked into buying something conventional and expensive,” Hayley smiles. “The coffin in here really works to get a conversation going. People say, “Oh my God, this is a coffin?!”

The coffin at The Departure is biodegradable: woven from ethically farmed wicker with a non-dyed calico interior. Hayley explains, “It’s on loan from a local funeral home, and people often like to have a peek inside. They will then stay and talk about their own experiences with death Kids are the most curious, they love being in here because they love all the skulls!”

So how do death and art work together at The Departure?

Ceramic urns by Hayley Mills of The Departure

“The Departure is my studio and gallery. I show my own work, and work made by other artists with the theme of death. It is also a shop where you can purchase death-related items such as personal adornments and (non-native) animal skulls.” She also offers services such as facilitating cremation ashes to be placed into memorial glass weights.

I have an ongoing project where I’m making ceramic urns for ashes and have just received my first commission for vessels to hold the ashes of two family pets.” Hayley sources hand-built, discarded ceramic vessels from op-shops, some have also been donated. She reclaims these once loved, one-off ceramic forms and makes custom lids for them, giving them a new ‘life’. Right now, she is sourcing inspiration and icons from the “Book of the Dead.”

Ceramic skulls at The Departure studio

“I have an idea, and the material that I use to express this idea is secondary. I do play with all art forms except painting.” Hayley’s need to continue to explore the idea of death and provide opportunities for others to do the same comes from her own lived experience of death in her family.

“I wasn’t equipped to deal with my family’s deaths—the funeral, the wake and then the grieving that comes and goes. When I look back, I can now see that my experience was so hands-off. If I could, I would organise my parent’s funerals differently and manage life after their death differently.”

“I first attended a Death Café because I wanted to know what people did with all the stuff that is left behind when someone dies. I went to the café with this thought in mind but then I found I could talk about anything. I am an artist who has experienced a lot of death.”

Make this venture sustainable

“The Departure is so important to keep my ideas generating and keep conversations happening about death in this space and on social media. I’m still working out how I fit in, how to make this venture sustainable and also how I can influence.”

Follow Hayley and The Departure on:

Instagram @the.departure Facebook Web 

The answers to our problems are local, and it is all about your reputation on bHive.

It took me a little while to understand Ian McBurney’s vision to connect the people of Bendigo (a regional town in Australia of 120,000 people) to one another, and to services and products they need using an online platform cooperative.

 

My trademark blunt, black-and-white response to Ian was, “Why don’t you just use Facebook? I mean EVERYONE is on Facebook and let’s face it—there is no escape from Facebook.”

 

The answers to all our problems are local

Patiently, Ian explained to me that yes—there are models of “stuff sharing” on Facebook—but eventually it falls over—people begin to squabble over who gets what… “It’s because on Facebook,” Ian explains, “No one has a ‘reputation’ and there is no way to foster trust and belonging. And Facebook owns and sells your data.”

 

BHive is the online platform cooperative for Bendigo’s own sharing economy, pitched to the community of Bendigo last September by Ian and the bHive team. It’s a collective of innovative micro-businesses who are offering their expertise to create the online platform cooperative.

 

“When you sign up for bHive, it locates you at the centre of a neighborhood—about a 200-300m radius around your home,” Ian goes on to say. “It’s a village of people and this is where your reputation grows, as a part of a village. Using bHive Bendigo could build, operate and own our own sharing services in transport, money, skills, food, stuff, time, housing, logistics and more. We could remake our local economy and this time we benefit and for the long term.”

 

On Facebook, your profile is manicured and preened; it is for a fake life that doesn’t exist. “When you are a member of bHive, you won’t be putting up a post about a pretend life. It will be an online social network that is practical; sharing, organising and connecting people,” Ian smiles. “Your reputation on the platform will be about how well you share, organise and connect.”

 

Screen Shot of the bHIve app

Members of the bHive villages will be able to share things like babysitting and areas of common interest and have access to a sharing register of garden tools and, appliances. Then there will be services that have a cost set up at the Bendigo scale, like car sharing, skill sharing, stuff sharing and more as the platform develops.

 

A little bit crazy

Ian describes himself as a little bit crazy on the entrepreneurial journey to creating a new platform that has never existed before.

 

“At first, people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” –Frances Hodgson Burnett.

 

Ian is the father of three young children, and owner of a successful consultancy; working around Australia with business, government, in the health sector, communities and not-for-profits. “Live Ecological is about empowering people and organisations to operate with environmentally sustainable practices.”

 

“All OECD research proves that when businesses invest into sustainable practices, they will save money and they will make money. All available science says that ecological sustainability is our only available path anyway.”

 

local trade benefits local people and place

“But even when saving money, only very special businesses will prioritise ecological sustainability because, in the end, they exist only to make money.  So I’m working on the bHive because what we need is economic transformation.  The problem is our economic system- which believes that money and profit are the ultimate and only outcome.  People and place and the planet will always be sacrificed to money in the current system.  The weird thing is that we continue to worship extractive growth even when most of the money is leaving the country anyway and feeding the billionaires.  The answer is localism.  It’s BHive.  Local trade to benefit people and place.”

 

Does what Ian observe resonate with you? “Everyone is busy, time-poor and stressed and everyone’s budget has been cut.”

 

Courageously, this year Ian has placed his business on the backburner and stepped into a world of uncertainty, well out of his comfort zone, to get bHive platform off the ground. Ian is bravely offering his community a platform to re-think the economy, to re-think our use of time, resources and skills.

 

“The new economy is localism; local renewable energy, local food systems and local currencies. This concept gets me so excited and I don’t want to travel around anymore working in other organisations and communities—I want us to make this happen in my own life, for our own lives, in our own community.”

 

$80million is spent on power each year in Bendigo. “Our spending is leaving town. What would happen if our spending stayed here? We can create so much work here!” Ian proposes that thousands ?” Ian proposes that thousands of people would have opportunities for work in Bendigo if we generated our own renewable energy and exported this energy.

 

However, he is careful to back this vision up. “We don’t want to be a business brought out by a global business—for our community to thrive we need to be local for the long term. Local needs matched with local skills. This is in stark contrast to companies such as Uber and Airbnb, who identify themselves within the sharing economy—sharing labour and spaces. Ian says, “Those platforms are not sharing—they are using people and their stuff for rentals without employment benefits or paying tax.” He calls them value-extracting beasts.

“The bulk of the value they generate goes to investors and management who live far away from the worldwide communities in which they operate.”

 

“The platform cooperative, like Bhive, overcomes the problems of these well-known enterprises, because the people who use the platform, own it too. Imagine that Uber was owned and run by its’ drivers, or that Airbnb was owned and run by its’ hosts. Platform cooperatives allow local owner-operators to protect their local economy, community and their environment.”

 

You can stay in touch with Ian and the bHive movement on Facebook or sign up to their newsletter here.

Life coaching is something I had considered, but I wasn’t sure how to make it happen.

Image by Apricot Berlin

It’s something that I became aware of from listening to podcasts such as Inspirational Living, The School of Greatness and Over and On With It.

I love listening to positive stories and messages. I make use of any moment that I have to myself, such as travel time in the car. I even listen to podcasts when I am grocery shopping!

 

Running a business is something that I truly enjoy. I love a challenge. I especially love that in business, I serve all different parts of our community. I have worked in disability, in agriculture, in social enterprise, in health, and in fundraising.

Drawing By Izzy Stewart

Drawing by Lizzy Stewart

One of my strengths is my organisational ability; my project management skills and my creativity to deliver a message. I pride myself on being prepared for every situation and possibility. My foundation of consistency and discipline is my formula for making creativity happen.

 

Scarily, some of my firm beliefs started going a bit wonky in my third year of running my business. Growing a business was all time consuming and I started to feel exhausted and unsure about my next step. To my horror, I was coming up with indecisive and incomplete ideas and visions!

 

I decided to take up the opportunity of three complimentary sessions, provided by central Victorian life coach; SallyRose, of Restore and Replenish. I had worked with SallyRose on a mental-health engagement project last year. I really enjoyed working with her. I admired the way she made everyone around her feel at ease and quickly brought out the best in everyone.

 

At my first session with SallyRose, she welcomed me to a judgment-free space. I entered giving SallyRose complete permission to challenge me. I was delighted that the permission specifically was for my unconscious mind to be challenged and for my conscious mind to become aware of the unconscious. (What a mind twister!)

 

All the things I dare to do

 

Her first question was, “What would you like to call this session,” and I replied, “All the things I dare to do.”

 

Over three, one-hour sessions, SallyRose dedicated her time to listening to my ideas, thoughts, concerns, vision for my business, vision for my health, my creativity, my future and my family. Coaching is about making time for reflection and feeling safe about not getting everything right. In fact, I found a lot of what I chose to talk about surprising—shifting away from my business to my family and my core relationships.

In the second session, we talked about beliefs and language. For someone who works a great deal in engagement and connecting people, you would think I found this easy—but to be honest with you, when I stop and stilled myself, connecting with my inner beliefs was confronting.

 

SallyRose broke down this process to reflect on my values and how important they are into my life, by walking me through the “wheel” exercise. Basically, it was visually slicing a circle up into wedges that represent different aspects of life—from family, friends, career, health, spirituality, play etc.

 

It was a great opportunity to get off the treadmill of delivering to others—be it in business or at home—and connect with me. SallyRose calls this “belief coaching.” She explained to me that as you become familiar with your beliefs—the beliefs that serve you and those that don’t serve you—you naturally build the skills to change them and grow as a person.

 

power to create joy

 

In the book (referred to me by SallyRose as my homework) Feel the Fear and do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers, I really liked reading about the power within yourself to get to know your beliefs and change them—or confront a fear, be afraid, yet do it anyway! Jeffers writes about power within self as being, “Power over your perceptions of the world, power over how you react to situations in your life, power to do what is necessary for your own self-growth, power to create joy and satisfaction in your life, power to act and power to love.”

 

SallyRose is based in Castlemaine, and she is ready and able to travel in central Victoria to deliver coaching to people and also in work-places. I met with SallyRose both at my office (although I was worried I would be all tears!) and at her studio.

 

She is offering three complimentary coaching sessions to people. I really urge to you get in touch with SallyRose and try life coaching. I know my time with SallyRose has added value to my business, my family life and also my inner life.

 

As a small business owner, I deeply valued the life coaching with Restore and Replenish; to reflect with someone with the tools to help me grow my business and my creativity.

Image by Apricot Berlin

The framework of your practice determines the impact of your creativity.

I am fortunate to have met and interviewed one of my community’s amazing female leaders. I love speaking to different people from all different industries and perspectives and asking them about creativity in their work or in their practice.

Khayshie Tilak-Ramesh is 19 and in her third-year studying Law with La Trobe University. Nervously, I Facebooked her to see if we could meet and talk about how creativity informs what she does as citizen of the world.

 

She passionately believes in delivering her profession within a practice of compassion. A practice of compassion empowers people to be better at creatively addressing a problem and understanding how everyone may be impacted. This ensures outcomes that are good for everyone. In her profession, she calls this a “lawyer as healer”.

In the feed of LinkedIn, I first discovered her and the roles she holds in our community. When you read about them, I think you will know why I was a little nervous contacting her. But I am so glad I did. One of my clients imparted upon me a small but highly useful pearl of wisdom—change happens when you step out of your comfort zone and ‘smile and dial’.

 

Perhaps if I put them together into a list for you to be impressed by (remembering that this young woman is 19 years old).

Khayshie is a:

• Red Cross Young Humanitarian,

• Junior board director of Community Leadership Loddon Murray,

• Co-founder and Vice President of Young People for Refugees,

• Named in the Top 100 Future leaders of Australia,

• and is the 2017 Bendigo Young Citizen of the Year.

 

Her sister and a lecturer showed her how to be what she calls a ‘light.’

 

“Social justice is something that is intrinsically driven within me,” Khayshie shares with me. “When I see something that isn’t right, it makes me mad and I know it makes others mad—social justice is a great mover”.

 

She describes her older sister as a “crash test dummy,”—unlike her sister, Khayshie is loud and outgoing. Her sister taught her with her quiet and reserved way, the importance of being an individual, showing her right from wrong. She laughs, “My sister really has it all together—she showed me that it is OK to be in the nerdy group and not involved in the status quo”.

 

“I never did law at high school,” Khayshie grins. “It was my sister who did legal studies and raved to me about it.” Now her sister is a student of medicine. “I put down law as a joke for my sister and I got in! “Now I find myself in a place compelled to be a lawyer. I remember when I started studying, she said to me, ‘It might not feel right at the moment, but you can push through’. She believed in me, so I believed in myself.”

 

she-believed-in-me-so-i-believed-in-myself

 

It was her lecturer, Chris Casey, who introduced her to the concept of “lawyer as healer”.

 

Khayshie explains, “Instead of the traditional practice of lawyer and client interaction of ‘I know more than you,’ it is the practice of ‘I see you have a problem. I have some extra knowledge that I can help you with.’ ”

 

Her true desire is to explode the notion of a lawyer being a “gun for hire,” and that law is seen instead as a service of healing and compassion.

 

At her first placement at the family law court, her role was to interview applicants and listen to their issues and identify the legal issues. “I was exposed to the emotional side of the law very early.” She goes on to say, “It is easy for a lawyer to forget that they work with people and not cases. I am passionate to bring empathy to law.”

 

As an intern under Chris and her recent scholarship award to travel to Candia to Longueuil, Montreal in Canada. She has been chosen to be a research assistant to a professor who is studying alternative dispute resolution processes and how to move away from litigation.

 

Again, here is Khayshie’s sister’s influence. “My sister was complaining to me that she lost marks because she didn’t refer the patient to community support groups. It hit me that doctors are learning how to be compassionate and to care for vulnerable people—why aren’t lawyers?”

 

Khayshie’s scholarship is to study the benefits of empathy training from medicine, and discover how these learnings can be transferred into law. “When lawyers are empathetic, we can solve more problems and save people from further painful mental anguish.”

 

Read a recent story by ABC Radio National how lawyers have adjusted their style to manage trauma associated with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

 

“People are drawn to light.” Finding that when she started talking to friends and family about people who are refugees and the issues that they face in their life, she found there were lots of people who felt the same way. “People want to get involved and they are attracted to innovation.”

 

“Lots of people have ideas but are afraid to say them. If you give them a safe platform to speak out, they will.”

 

Wearing her PJs with a nice top, Khayshie recorded a YouTube video singing with her guitar, as a pitch to her friends to join her on ‘live below the line’. “I was so surprised when I won the pitch competition (adding an additional $500 to her fundraising campaign). I didn’t have any professional equipment—it really showed me that even when you are just one person, you can make a difference. I was inspired to do more.”

 

Just one person can make a difference

“If you create little instances of inspiration, and people grow in power to believe in themselves and then they inspire others—it is like a train of inspiration.”

 

Thank you Khayshie for all you give to our community, it was so good to speak to you.

“I don’t know how my siblings and I are all still alive!.”

Cheryl Martin is well known in my community for being co-owner of the delicious and creative bakery & cafe, ‘The Good Loaf’. In February, she is transitioning to dedicate her time to her next entrepreneurial endeavor, ‘Communicate Well Work Well’.

 

‘Communicate Well Work Well’ teaches and supports business owners, managers and employees on all levels—effective workplace communication techniques for success.

 

Create Business interviews Cheryl Martin on how creativity grows her business

 

Her surprise at still being alive, came from her reflection on where her natural state of creativity to grow her businesses comes from. “We had a lot of freedom living in a small country town.” Cheryl’s Mum and Dad ran a small engineering and second hand metal business, working from day light to dark. She describes her childhood as running free, but also as a time of emerging self-belief, resourcefulness and growing resilience.

 

“When we were hungry and looking for tea, we would often go down to the shed to find Mum and she would say, ‘There is a bit of mince in the fridge if you want to get it started’.”

 

“Although my Dad would not have admitted it at the time—Mum was a ‘’working wife’’ and in many ways the backbone of the small business—and was a strong role model for me about resilience. I absorbed a strong work ethic and a “can do attitude” alongside a knowing that happiness didn’t come from material possessions.”

 

Cheryl believes parenting now is caught up in a lot of anxiety with so many other contextual complexities. “When I ask Mum about parenting times for them, she says, ‘We always thought it would just work out’. As children, we weren’t mollycoddled, but we felt secure and loved and we were well cared for and had fun. We also had a strong moral and social compass within our family. And believe it or not we grew up without a TV!”

 

There weren’t a lot of luxuries to be found in their pink weatherboard home, “…we had good food and all the basics without the frills.” Her family home was alive with conversation, disagreement and discussions. “It was ok to talk about anything at our house and ask the hard questions.”

 

“My Dad had no formal qualifications but has a great problem solving mind— it was his belief that if you wanted to make something, you could work it out. My parents weren’t sophisticated business managers—in many ways they muddled their way through and they always embraced opportunities. In different ways both my parents were extremely creative and resourceful. They are both nearly 90 and still keen to discuss my business ventures.”

 

As a separated parent of a young man who is now 29, Cheryl shares with me stories that show her nature to be resilient and to naturally find creative solutions. “I remember when I took my son overseas, he was quite young—and some people were kind of shocked; they would ask me, ‘So, how will you know where to go and what to do when you get there?’ ”

 

“I’m an asker of questions. I’m not afraid to not have all the answers. I am a collaborator, I make and learn from mistakes, I’m open to possibilities and new ways of doing things.” I smile, and love it when Cheryl declares to me, “I have been called a ferocious fox terrier! I have lots of tenacity for my journey—I always work out new ways to get to my destination. My family sometimes sigh at my options; will we go with possibility  A…B…C and so on!”

 

“The older I get the more I realise that life is a gift and we are blessed to have our health; and to stay that way we have to prepare and sustain oneself for that journey.”

 

Create Business Interview Cheryl Martin of Communicate Well Work Well on how creativity grows business

“Life is a journey, and in life—you have to be nourished to respond to opportunities, meet new people, take yourself to new places and re-invest into yourself. Spirituality and creativity are both important to me in life and in doing business—otherwise I would be under-nourished and me and my business would under-perform. I don’t always get the balance right but as least I have an intrinsic compass that guides me back to true North.”

 

“My personal and business life journey hasn’t always been easy and smooth sailing – amidst joy and satisfaction there’s also been pain, disappointment and personal growth. I’ve had to work hard, save for special things and travel experiences, go without and embrace being resourceful. Luckily I prefer to go to the Op Shop and Recovery Yard than any Shopping Centre! I think the resourcefulness has become intergenerational as I was very proud of my son when he and his now wife travelled and budgeted their money in a series of socks! One for food, one for petrol, one for treats and so on.

Picking flowers to enjoy in her home, listening to music, bike riding and yoga, connecting with family and friends, pausing to notice things, and time without distractions such as devices, are essential to Cheryl to absorb and acknowledge life, and be creative in life and business.

 

“When we set up ‘The Good Loaf’ 8 years ago, we saw that our staff often had obstacles to being the best they could be—even when someone is a great baker or a great barista, they also need great communication skills. When you have effective communication skills it gives you so much more to draw on; you can deal with difficult customers and know when and how to be assertive with your co-workers how to negotiate and deal with issues that concern you.”

 

“Alongside the satisfaction and achievements, running a business is hard work….and it’s really hard to run a business if your team doesn’t have great communication skills. When I looked for communication training for our team, I was unable to find it locally. So, being the resourceful person that I am, I drew on my previous qualifications and experience in the Health and Community Service sector to put together training for our business. To my delight, I was able to see distinct changes and benefits for the team and overtime, striving for effective communication has become an important pillar of our workplace culture”

 

“Staff is usually the biggest asset and the biggest liability for any small business. Staff is often the biggest on-cost. It makes sense to support your team to be the best they can be, so your business can be the best it can be.”

 

“My creative response to grow our business and give to our team, has turned out to be an opportunity to start a new business—Communicate Well Work Well.”

 

“Creativity in business really comes down to being resourceful and responsive and to also enjoy seeing a little bit of yourself in the essence of the business”

Bored with himself and with his ideas, Castlemaine artist—Andrew Goodman, gave his ideas to FlimFlam.

“Artists can get caught up in being over-critical of their own work,” explains Andrew. “And as a result, they can find themselves stagnant.”

“FlimFlam came about through handing my soft sculptures to documentary photographer and film maker—Lucy Brown, to turn them into something else.”

 

FLimflam, 2016 Goodman Brown

 

FlimFlam is Andrew’s latest show, created with Lucy Brown (Kathryn McCool’s nonde plume), opening Saturday the 12th of November at the La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo.

I completely understand this feeling Andrew is describing. I struggle often in my work as an artist and also a business owner. The creeping doubts, “Am I doing this right? Will this work? Does my idea make sense? Is this the right answer?” (and so on… in frustrating, fearful, never-ending, unproductive inner-thinking).

This inner struggle of innovation versus doubt, inspired my blog series how creativity grows business. Interviewing people from all industries and walks of life; finding out how they renew, innovate and grow their business with creativity.

People have previously identified elements such as listening, playing, diversity and other processes/practices essential for creativity. For Andrew and Lucy, they let go of being precious—and let their making become FlimFlam. (deceptive nonsense)

In their exhibition statement, Goodman and Brown describe their collaboration as, “A generative game in the surrealist tradition. Combining change, contrasting intentions with a dose of malicious violence.”

 

FLimflam, 2016 Goodman Brown

Lucy has squeezed Andrew’s pink soft sculptures through a basketball, hurled them through the air and squished them with a rock or pinned them with a hammer.

Gosh—who treats other people’s ideas like that?

Do you remember Wacky Races and Road Runner? They were children’s cartoons of endless gags of indignity performed on each other.

 

 

“Lucy had the idea to respond to my work using the language of these cartoons,” Andrew shares. “When you let go of the preciousness of your work, you generate new ideas.”

Both Lucy and Andrew are interested in aspects of surrealism. Using rules of making (that Andrew calls surrealist automatism) they find the uncanny, disturbing and the humorous in their artwork and ideas.

Andrew completed PhD at Monash University in 2015 and is publishing his first book next year called “Gathering Ecologies.” For Andrew, art offers a different experience and a way to imagine something different. Sci-Fi also informs his thinking to move beyond “what is known.”

View more of Andrew’s work at his website

 

if you can imagine it you can build it

There are lots of other ways to get creative in life other than getting up early in the morning!

My last blog post on getting creative was making time for creativity by biting the bullet and getting up early.

Get creative with a creative buddy doesn’t involve the pain of rising from bed in the dark. In fact it is enhancing your work and your business just by having fun! It’s encouraging regular risk taking, exploration, discussion, play and experimentation.

all-ideas-arrive-by

So what or who is a creative buddy?

Well it is someone or a group of people who when you get together you play. It’s that person who you share your-just-forming-ideas with the statement “…does that sound crazy?”

It is someone that who inspires you, who is likely to have a bit of an understanding of the industry or market that you work within, and also you feel safe to share, to make mistakes to let all your bubbling inspirational “what-ifs” free.

The surrealists got together in cafes to play parlour games – games of chance to provide creative and playful ways to make art and unlock their unconscious mind. I like to imagine they were pushing the boundaries of what they knew and understood to be visual communication. Mixing images and objects to get closer to the meaning of things. Making sense of the horrors and devastation created by human kind during the First World War.

Creative buddies might hang out like the surrealists at cafes– I have been involved in crafting groups, a weekly drawing group in a cafe, book clubs, artistic directorates. From the artist way website they have guidelines about putting together a creative cluster and working through a series of activities to free yourself up and get ideas flowing.

Recently I read Remarkability : Be so Good So They Can’t Ignore You by Lorraine Murphy, B&T Women in Media’s Entrepreneur Of The Year. I loved her suggestion start a book club. Her book club is with her team and they read business-orientated books –they get together every second Friday at 8.30am and share notes on what they are reading. But this is the bit I like is how she describes the benefit of getting together with other people and sharing ideas “…they will frequently see an opportunity or an idea in the book that I’ll have missed, so we have more brains applied to squirrelling out those valuable insights.”

Last year I invited a friend who I think I might have met on Facebook, to tell you the truth I cant remember how we met – but I admired her creativity and boldness to display her work and dedication to creating everyday. The first time I met her she was covered in paint – whilst I was dressed in my neat lines and ironed creases of my business attire.

We agreed met at the local art studio-cafe and drew our own works and talked. Unfortunately this only happened twice, the balance of work and children and evenings over took us – but this little time together opened up to working on a local school arts residency together and we are now in discussions for applying for grants to do more projects. The freedom of play created a platform of shared values to collaborate and negotiate how to work together.

5 ways to be more creative

1. Find an activity that you enjoy doing and find the buddy to do it with you – is it playing board games, is it visiting art galleries, is it attending writers festivals? Do an activity together that evokes discussion and gets you out of your comfort zone.

2. Meet up regularly with your creative buddy to share your ideas – it might be a skype call or an email or over a cuppa – remember this time is to share the new and push stuff around – it isn’t to complain and whine about what doesn’t work!

3. Join with someone in your industry or team and together invite speakers that you admire into your work place/industry and talk about their projects, innovations – the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t work.

4. Start a book club with friends and theme it on books that you would like to read but find challenging. The aim is to encourage reading, and invigorating discussion – maybe it isn’t books it is documentaries, TED talks or video games.

5. Deliberately find a buddy or buddies who are a different age from you, or have a different cultural heritage or perspective on life and regularly get into their world and embrace the creativity that difference can stir within you.

I first meet Nick Fitz at his work place, O’Farrell Robertson McMahon Lawyers. I was working on a project about social inclusion in Bendigo, and from then on we were firm Facebook friends!

 

When I heard (on Facebook) Nick was the ambassador for International Day of People with Disability Bendigo, I was really excited.

A “guest” or ambassador on your social media is a great way to liven up content and reach new audience. A great strategy to create active and interesting engagement.

 

Be the ambassador for what you stand for

I began by asking Nick;

TM: What does it mean to be the Facebook ambassador for Bendigo’s International Day of People with a Disability?

NF: This means I have access to the International Day of People with a Disability Facebook page.

I think they approached me to be the ambassador because I have 2400 friends on Facebook—we really want as many people as possible to hear about the day.

I’m planning to put up profiles of ambassadors, and video footage with Q&A about the NDIS and different agencies.

I would really like to hear from people who have great news stories about places in Bendigo that are inclusive.

TM: The image below is how the International Day of People with a Disability Bendigo introduced Nick to their followers – really neat.

Introduce your social media ambassador to your followers in a friendly way

TM: Can you give me an example of an inclusive place or story in Bendigo?

NF: The Bendigo Library is a great example—it is because everyone can come in and relax. Everyone feels welcome, and if you are in a wheelchair it is easy to get inside and there is a charger.

TM: Why is it important for people to hear about the International Day of People with a Disability?

NF: To make people more aware of what is going on, and bring awareness to the types of disability that people have.

This is important to me because when most people think of a disability, they don’t think of every type of disability.

TM: Why is the focus on Facebook?

NF: Facebook is a great medium because so many people are on Facebook. We really want to engage people who have influence on Facebook, and get some great shares.

TM: What sort of impact are you hoping to create on Facebook?

NF: I am attempting to lead change for people with a disability, in lots of different ways.

I am working on a project called “Opening Doors.” It is about planning and installing more wheelchair charger points in Bendigo—especially at bus stops.

I recently met with Jacinta Allan to let her know about this need. People in a wheelchair need access to power 24 hours a day, so they can stay out and about longer. Having choice is essential.

I am challenging our community to look at what we have and become more inclusive.

TM: So what is happening on the day?
Friday the 2nd of December —with performances by Beam, cricket and loads of performances, people and good stuff.

Visit and like the International Day of People with Disability Bendigo Facebook page and get involved.

So what are some key take aways for engaging a Social Media Ambassador for your business or event?

  • Invite an ambassador who has a great following, who is active on social media and has an audience who is likely to be interested in what you have to offer
  • Support them to share your social media content with their followers by providing images, text and video
  • Give them lots of lead time so they can be prepared and build a relationship with your followers
  • Introduce them to your community/followers in a friendly and fun way

I hang out a lot on social media and design sites looking for inspiration; things that challenge me and ideas to steal. A habit I picked up from “Steal Like an Artist,” by Austin Kleon.

 

Bad artists copy, good artists steal, Pablo picasso

 

I am always on the lookout for design and messaging that stands out from the crowd. Louise Fisher’s Instagram page for her studio, “The Design Pond,” impacted me to keep on thinking past the social media “swipe.”

#designforgood is Louise’s number one social media tag, and her forthright dedication to her work benefiting others is what caught my attention.

 

the-design-pond-instagram-page

I wanted to know how, why and what #designforgood is for Louise, who is a successful leading designer based in Central Victoria.

 

For me, business and creativity is so interconnected. By being interconnected, I mean creativity drives business and the outcomes of creativity make business. But also, my curiosity and enthusiasm is continually renewed by the possibility of story telling. I thought perhaps a discussion with Louise might grow my understanding of story, design and the possibility of change for good.

 

Luckily, Louise and I have our businesses located in the Synergize Hub, so over a tea, I got to ask Louise, “How does design do good?”

 

“In my crazy imagination, design is a super-power that can be for good or evil,” Louise shares with me.

 

“Design can connect people and ignite them to action. They can be motivated to buy a can of coke, or to donate to charity.”

 

TM: What was the inspiration or evolution of your thinking behind #designforgood?

 

LF: When I was at Uni and we were learning about design and marketing, we watched a documentary on Maccas. It was all about getting kids to nag their parents to take them to Maccas for tea. It was then I started wondering—is design for me?

 

One of my lectures was working on an amazing project for blind children, and I realised that I didn’t have to work for a big advertising company and that designing for good in our world is what I wanted to do.

 

TM: Can you give me an example of what designing for good could mean?

 

LF: Recently, I completed a project for the disability sector. It was an infographic for people with disability to assist them to make decisions. Rather than a form full of words, I designed symbols and other graphics to communicate information.

 

This sort of design really does have an immediate empowering impact on someone’s life.

 

TM: I love your Instagram account and the inspiration and influence #designforgood may have on others. How has #designforgood crafted your career and your business, The Design Pond?

 

LF: #designforgood is the purpose that I have found behind all the work I do.

 

If I didn’t have the idea of #designforgood, I would have left this career long ago. It is the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ that drives me to do what I do, and keep on trying.

 

When I think back to when I was figuring out what I wanted to do in my life and how I could contribute, I was thinking medicine or becoming a vet.

Then I discovered I am good visually and creatively—it was during the time I was thinking about university options—and I really wanted to serve my purpose. I was worried graphic design was selfish because it fed my creativity, but when I figured out I can serve my creativity and help others, #designforgood became a perfect mix.

TM: Your business is going really well—what role has #designforgood played in this?

 

LF: I have been directing The Design Pond, for four years now. I have great clients and collaborators.

 

#designforgood really establishes an effective platform for doing business and great collaboration. It demonstrates my values of trust, loyalty and great work for great causes.

 

I am not sure if I would describe myself as successful, as “the road to success is always under construction.” But if success is being ready and energetic to get to work everyday I think I am pretty close!

 

You can stay in touch with Louise on Instagram and Facebook.

Creativity is found in the early morning hours. It is the time of day when time seems slower, quieter—and a feeling settles upon me that anything is possible.

Early morning (I’m talking before 6.00am!) is the ideal time to get creative in your life or business. Get stuck into a project that continually gets bumped down your to do list. It is a time to reflect, write, draw, research and enjoy your favourite morning cuppa.

“You can develop some very good habits that work for you and help you tame your day from the very get-go. Here is how I do it. Maybe you could do what I do, or maybe you have your own bright ideas.

Every day I wake up as early as possible. This can be any time from 5.00am to 6.30am.”

Craft for the Soul by Pip Lincolne.

I have a morning routine that sometimes happens. This ritual has a mix of green tea, writing in my gratitude journal, writing three pages of journal writing, doing meditation and yoga.

I treasure this time to think about my business, my vision for the future and collect all my thoughts about family, friends and the beautiful community that I live within. Then I exercise—yoga, walking or jogging with a friend, or doing a gym class.

I know it sounds pretty crazy, but it really is the only time of day—when I’m not running a small business or being with my family—that I get to be creative. What would you like to do with that magical time of day?

Are you still thinking I am crazy? Well thankfully I am not alone in getting up early. Check out this podcast—the 5am Miracle—and you can join their world-wide Facebook group, the 5am Miracle!

“The best morning rituals are activities that don’t have to happen, and certainly don’t have to happen at a specific hour. These are activities that require internal motivation…

…The best morning rituals are activities that, when practiced regularly result in long-term benefits…”

What The Most Successful people Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam.

Eight Ideas for Early Morning Creativity in Your Business

• Brainstorm four blogpost topics and start research
• Brain-story visual ideas for your social media, based on themes and values of your business
• Listen to a podcast while you go for a walk or run
• Look through your working week and schedule in some opportunities to let other people know what you are doing in your business; on Instagram and Snapchat stories
• Spend time reading an inspirational business book
• Reflect on your vision for your business
• Brainstorm a list of people you would like to meet
• Write a thank you letter

In my home town of Bendigo, we have a number of organisations that we proudly call our own.

The Bendigo Bank is a financial institution that has crafted a financial model about doing good in regional communities.

“On our social media, it is more important to tell the story of the good we do than telling our audience about home loans.”

Fiona Beckwith-Elmi is the Senior Manager of Social Media Communications for Bendigo Bank. I met with her last week, to find out how social media tells the story of the brand for Bendigo Bank and also to scoop some top social media tips to share with you.

I started by asking Fiona:

How does social media tell the story of your brand? Social media is essential to our business. It gives people a vehicle to come and speak with us—be it a compliment, an idea or feedback. We always make sure that we respond to any opportunity that social media offers us to talk to our customers.

When we recently launched a new banking app, feedback with our customers was essential. Working directly with users and programmers, we were able to evolve the app functionally in real time—to quickly meet our customers’ needs.

How and why do you tell story on social media?

We create conversations about banking, but not banking like “Banking.” We talk about how banking can be useful to community. We work hard to get stories from a region and profile local people who have made a difference.

When I was mentored with Visa last year, it was interesting to find out that they don’t use any faces in their social media. However, we find that the best social media posts contain imagery showing local people and telling their story. People like to come to us because we are advocates for community, and it creates a safe space to share ideas and give feedback.

What social media platforms do you use?

We use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Right now, I am working on launching all brands on LinkedIn and activating the teams to become more active on LinkedIn.

Why have you decided to invest into LinkedIn?

Facebook will always be king, but LinkedIn is the only social media that is a conversation between business to business. It is a mega-epic brand portal and it drives links through to your business.

LinkedIn is a huge opportunity to get your staff involved in conversation with clients.

We have amazing people on our team that not only know about banking, but know how to manage business that embraces community, diversity and flexibility. We want to show the qualities and skills of our team and the values of our organization.

What are your key tips for telling a brand’s story?

Be brief.

Tell succinct stories in an engaging way.

Mix up content—use film, good content from your website, blog posts and great images of real people doing real things.

Encourage people to participate and have conversations. We have a team dedicated to interacting with people online and solving any requests or questions they might have. Content isn’t always saying, “This is what we do,” — it is about people feeling like they can tell us what they need.

Social media changes so rapidly. Keep up to date with what is happening—always read to learn more, and do courses.

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