Women inspire women to succeed together
New mentoring and support programmes aim to grow good ideas
Christian women who lead start-ups in the mercy and justice arena will coach female Christian entrepreneurs and connect them with their peers.
Jessica Smith of Common Grace, Helen King from Hope For Sydney, and Jen Barker (who created the website Fixing Her Eyes) participated in the pilot Hub programme.
Smith says she enjoyed the Hub programme, run by Anglican Deaconess Ministries, but found the biggest blessing was being in a community of women who were doing similar things. This offered them the opportunity to reflect with them on the challenges of helping an organisation grow, as well as being a Christian woman in the workplace.
“We did a great Regent College 10 week course on work and faith and that was really stimulating,” she says.
It’s a chance to catch up and pray for each other but also networking opportunities.
“The content was all really good and helpful but it was the gathering of people and having good content to talk through that was really exciting.
“We’ve morphed into a monthly reading group, so we’re choosing a book each month to read. It’s a chance to catch up and pray for each other but also networking opportunities. Three of us are doing work together, as part of our organisations, partnering on something.”
CEO of ADM Kate Harrison-Brennan was inspired to start the Hub by her personal experience while launching technology start-up Global & Smart. This digital storytelling platform and agency seeks to promote “the story behind the good” products made responsibly and sustainably.
“Although church was incredibly supportive, I needed to find a peer group of Christians who could be part of that work group and help me debate theologically about the business I was starting,” she says.
It made me think we need a community that women can come into that can be supportive of them while they focus on what they’re creating.
“When you’re involved in a start-up, you just don’t have time to be intentional about doing that; and there wasn’t a community I could slip into.
“I had wonderful mentors who took me to events and had conversations with me. It made me think we need a community that women can come into that can be supportive of them while they focus on what they’re creating.”
Kate offered the space and facilities of ADM to the core group of women in the Hub’s pilot programme. All three are leading initiatives which seek to use their God-given gifts for the good of the world.
Seed sprouts to grow faithful ideas
The Hub has now been expanded under the banner of Seed, an organisation set up by the former national director of Micah Challenge, John Beckett, as a way of helping Christians to align their work-a-day world with God’s purposes.
Beckett sees Seed as a way for Christians to develop ideas and initiatives that embody their faith in non-traditional areas – not just education, health and justice, but fashion, finance, property or architecture.
Last year he ran pilot “incubator” programmes with actuaries, financial planners, dentists and business people.
One participant was Tim Surgeoner, who heads up Datamotivate, a business process outsourcing company that employs and trains people who have come out of situations of violence and abuse in the Philippines.
Surgeoner works with World Vision and International Justice Mission to rescue people from slavery, especially in the sex industry, and then to train them and give them employment in data centres and offices.
Seed will be holding two more incubators for entrepreneurs and small business people in January.
Kara Martin has taken charge of delivering the expanded Hub programme for Seed.
She says a new group of three women started the 12-month programme in July and there will be a second intake in October.
“They have intensives and weekly mentoring and a programme that covers everything to do with setting up a new business or ministry,” says Martin.
“We also invite in entrepreneurs to share their experiences, as a great example for women, to be inspired by other women.”
“Our hope is that we are at the start of something that will become a much bigger network
The course covers four stages: discovering the purpose of the idea and refining it; imagining what the organisation would look like as it develops; designing the best possible product with help from experts; and creating the service or activity.
The current participants are: Lisa Bateup, director of Culture Connect, which connects cross-cultural missionaries who have returned home with churches to help them reach out to those cultural communities in their neighbourhood; Mel Fung, whose Jesus Club brings together adults with an intellectual disability and develops appropriate resources for them; and ,Mel Hanger, founder of The Hope Generation Factory, which seeks to bring together different groups working with youth to create resources to deal with common issues.
“Our hope is that we are at the start of something that will become a much bigger network,” says Martin.
“We hope to keep expanding this network. We have women with great ideas, energy and passion but some lack ideas of the next step. One of the great benefits has been putting them in touch with each other, so that they can continue to keep that passion for change alive.”
Online offering to come
Kate Harrison Brennan says ADM is expanding its office working space to create “a wonderful space for women to meet one another and have informal meetings so they don’t have to meet in coffee shops for extended periods. We’re looking forward to expanding our library collection as well,” she says.
“Once we have that in place, we’ll be opening up our programme digitally to ensure women across Australia and the region have access to it as well.”
ADM is holding a Pitch Event on 29 September, an annual funding event where women can pitch an idea, ministry programme, initiative or project in one of four areas: arts, business, ministry and mission, and justice and mercy.
Funding is available for each area and there is a first prize of a grant for $25,000, to enable people’s ideas to be turned into reality.