At Leaders in Heels, we are passionate about celebrating women’s stories, and when we heard Div Pillay’s story, we knew we had to share it with you. Grab yourself a cuppa and settle in to enjoy this  article, written by Div herself.

In light of everything going on in the world today, I #ChooseToChallenge you. I challenge you to think about how you are advocating for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women.

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Rochelle Courtenay, founder of charity Share the Dignity and nicknamed Australia’s ‘Pad Lady’, is a big believer in using the power of storytelling to inspire men and women to make a difference to the lives of women often fleeing from domestic violence or homelessness. She talks to Leaders in Heels about how she started Share the Dignity and what keeps her working tirelessly for women who don’t have a voice.

How did you inspire others to join you even though you didn’t have any prior experience?

Never having done anything like this before, I made things up as I went along. When I first collected sanitary items with other women in my local community, I didn’t even know I had to be a registered charity, have a board of directors, or even pay for permits in every state!

I used to ask myself (and still do!) ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen?’ All I wanted to do was make a difference. I started surrounding myself with people who had the right knowledge and strengths in furthering the cause.

In the beginning, how did you get the word out about the work you were doing?

I started telling people true stories about women using socks and newspapers during their periods. I couldn’t imagine another woman not being empathetic when she heard this. As soon as someone heard about it, they would ask how they could help.

I would never have managed to reach as many people as I did if social media hadn’t existed. I shared raw, uncut and powerful stories that got shared and talked about. One of the most powerful stories I shared was of a woman who worked as a petrol station assistant in the Northern Territory. She recalled a woman walking in at 10.30pm one night, who looked like she couldn’t even afford basic necessities let alone pads. This woman bled all over the floor, took some pads off the counter, went to the bathroom, cleaned herself up, then came back to return the rest of the pads.

I remember the woman telling me that she had no idea what to do or how to react. That story touched something deep inside me and I shared it on social media. People needed to know what was happening and sharing the power of storytelling was the best way to connect with them, so they would care too.

What inspires you and what’s the best part of your job?

I get so much strength from our volunteers, who are all so incredibly busy, but still give their time selflessly and generously to Share the Dignity. I think we have such committed volunteers because they can see directly the results of the work they are doing. We’ve made it simple for people to volunteer with us, including setting expectations and outcomes. People love it when they can see they have made a difference.

The best part of my job is dropping the donations off to a charity, meeting the women and seeing the smiles on their faces, especially during our Christmas appeal called It’s in the bag.

What’s the toughest part of your job?

I’m always worried that the donations won’t meet the need. In a post Covid world, the need to help women is so much greater than it was before and that’s where we come in. The impact of Covid and the lockdowns on the work we do has given me many stressful and sleepless nights.

What’s your advice to other women wanting to make a difference?

Surround yourself with amazing and incredible people because it’s when we are together that we can make a real difference. I never thought for a second I could ever do so much on my own. Also learn to delegate, delegate, and delegate!

 

About Rochelle Courtenay
Rochelle Courtenay uses her power of storytelling as the Founder and Managing Director of Share the Dignity, which works to make a real, on the ground difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, or doing it tough. We distribute period products to those in need and work to end period poverty here in Australia. We assist those in need through collecting thousands of period products each year through our collection drives and campaigns and distribute them directly to charities across Australia.

 

About the author
Rashida Tayabali is a copywriter specialising in writing clear, conversational copy for women in business to help them attract their dream clients. She’s also a features writer with articles published in leading Australian publications. She also volunteers with Share the Dignity as a copywriter.


Each year, Christmas always seems to sneak up on us and we adore this time of year. We especially love it because it’s the perfect excuse to recognise the women in your life and extend your gratitude for their support and care. However, sometimes finding the perfect Christmas presents sure can be daunting.

Luckily, we’ve got you! Here’s the perfect Christmas present for your:

Colleagues

Opt for something professional, classic and functional such as a Meeting Notebook or elegant rollerball pen.

Women who work from home

If you’ve got an entrepreneurial bestie, or someone who has recently started working from home, items such as wireless headphones, a membership to an industry group or a new print for their home office would surely be appreciated! ❤️

Inspirational friends

Do you have special women in your life that truly inspire you? Help them reach their goals with these 12-month planners that are full of practical features to help them pave their own paths!

Secret Santa/Kris Kringle (these are always the toughest Christmas presents to pick!)

Looking for a gift on a budget? Go beyond the usual chocolates with our Weekly Desk Planners, Sticky Notes or To-Do Lists. They’re small, classy and the perfect stocking filler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your friend who loves to learn

A Master Class or Linked In Learning (previously Lynda.com) subscription is the perfect gift for someone who loves to learn. They’ll get to watch content on thousands of different topics that relate to their professional or personal life and interests.

Someone extra special

Anything personalised! Whether it’s a custom illustration of their favourite group photo, an engraved piece of jewellery or one of our monogrammed products, going that extra step lets them know you’ve really thought about them.

What are your go-to ideas for Christmas presents? Let us know in the comments below!


To say that launching a start-up is challenging is an understatement. Particularly when you throw a horrific Australian bushfire season and a global pandemic into the mix.

Frustration with ill-fitting swimwear, that often compromises quality and durability for fast fashion, is where Ellenny Swim began. Most women dread shopping for swimwear, and I, Megan Davis, was one of them. I noticed a gap in the market for swimwear designs that were sun-safe, supportive and sustainable. A brand that caters to the ‘average-sized’ women. 

The launch of my eco-conscious swimwear label was delayed not once but twice. Back in January, the bushfires first delayed my progress and soon after COVID-19 sent the world into a spin. Now that it’s spring and we are coming out of COVID-19 hibernation, Ellenny Swim is already growing a strong online presence. 

Here’s four lessons I’ve learnt since starting Ellenny Swim.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It is often expected you should know everything about the industry before starting your business, although this isn’t usually the case. I had little fashion experience, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted my product to be. As a graphic designer, I have an eye for design and a strong attention to detail. I knew where my strengths were. 

I knew the importance of creating a strong visual brand was essential to connect with an audience. My skillset was an ultimate strength, but I knew I had many gaps I needed to fill. Realising very quickly that I couldn’t do it on my own, I sought help from business mentors, manufacturing agents and garment designers. 

I joined a number of business groups to learn from the advice and experience of other business owners. Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media. I have collaborated with female models and influencers on Instagram that have continued to grow my strong online presence. 

Resilience is key 

Launching Ellenny Swim was a really challenging time as I had already bought all the stock but had to keep delaying the launch. I kept finding myself back at square one as disaster after disaster hit. Like most businesses this year, I had to shift and find other ways to get my brand out there.  

Despite all of the hurdles I faced launching Ellenny Swim, my passion for the brand never faltered. Maintaining a clear goal in mind for my label helped me stay motivated and on track through those tough times. The reason I created Ellenny was to fill a gap in the market. 

I wanted to create a brand that aligned with my personal ethos of being as environmentally friendly as possible. I can also empathise with women of all shapes and sizes that are often let down by brands that don’t cater to them. I’ve always been curvy and have felt frustrated with swimwear that doesn’t fit properly. I’m very proud to help women feel confident and empowered while relaxing by the pool or beach. 

Be patient – it’s a long process 

I was determined to create swimsuit designs that were sustainable and durable, instead of producing fast fashion that only creates more problems for the environment. However, I didn’t realise how complicated the process was from idea to prototype. It’s much more complicated than other clothing garments.

I had to be patient. Sourcing an eco-friendly fabric manufacturer took time. My research led me to Carvico – an Italian textile manufacturer that uses recycled old nylon products such as discarded fishing nets to create material that is perfect for swimwear. 

There were many features that I wanted to include in my designs that took time to perfect. We’ve all experienced swimwear with removable pads that scrunch and fall out, so I wanted to create a secure rashie design with a built-in-bra that didn’t move around in the water. It was also important to me that my designs provide strong support while also being sun-safe with a UPF50+ rating to block out 98% of the sun’s harmful rays.

Once I got the samples, I tested the swimsuits on myself for at least six months, to make sure they survived the harshest conditions. I tested them in chlorine, salt, 45-degree Celsius temperatures and ran them through the washing machine to ensure they were durable and didn’t fall apart.

Despite the lengthy process, I have created a product that I am incredibly proud of. A range of swimwear designs that are high quality, eco-friendly, flattering and durable. 

Support other business owners 

I couldn’t have launched Ellenny Swim without the support of other small businesses. I feel very proud to support a whole line of small businesses, particularly in Australia, who are benefiting from my business. 

Supporting women in business is also very important to me. I worked with a number of  business owners and leaders, some who are also mothers, that helped me navigate the process.

 

About the author

Perth stay-at-home mother of two, Megan Davis is a former graphic designer who created a brand aligns with her personal ethos and is environmentally friendly. Check out Ellenny Swim.


I remember the very moment as if it was yesterday. New Year’s Eve 2019, a magical moment. After two years of all-nighters full of research, legal documents and development, I was sitting on my couch in my living room. 

I just came back from putting my little daughter to bed and my husband was waiting for me with a glass of champagne to celebrate 2020. We have been planning the launch of DUŠA & KAMEN down to every detail and were very confident that 15th of February we will be going live, selling our products.

Fast forward 3 months – 1st of March 2020, me sitting on the exact same couch, crying my eyes out. What has happened? Well, the world is in the middle of the worst pandemic we have experienced since the Spanish flu. All my launch plans are scattered in pieces. 

The product couldn’t be bottled because the suppliers were only working part-time and need to bottle disinfectant with maximum priority. The legal processes came to a hold because government agencies are not processing these non-priority files now. Our packaging was waiting for us at borders within the EU because the EU customs processes and the Schengen Convention are at an absolute freeze to fight the spread of COVID-19.

I thought to myself: “This is it. We are never going to launch our products in 2020. We will be running out of money before the first product is even packaged.”

Fast forward 5 months into the future. 31st of August 2020, we have been live since July and have sold more bundles of our new skincare line than I could have imagined. Our customers are leaving top reviews every day and even during an ongoing global pandemic we were able not only to get everything done but also excel at customer service and selling luxury skincare products all over the world. 

This was no easy task and I was about to throw everything under the bus every other day. I fought the battles and I won, I made it. 

There are five key lessons that I learned launching my company in these crazy times and these will help me to grow my company and maybe will help you, too. 

Plan ahead – what is the worst-case scenario?

I know, I know, nobody could have predicted what was happening in 2020 and most businesses and startups have been hit hard by all the issues and problems that this pandemic has caused. However, one of the biggest learnings for myself was that I did not even have a worst-case scenario. I was so pumped up with positive feelings and my can-do-attitude that I made a crucial mistake. I was not looking at my plan and asking myself: “What could go wrong”. I think that most businesses and startups operate that way and that is something we must change in the future. 

My advice, we cannot predict what exactly will be happing, but I am pretty sure something will go wrong along the way – so plan for it.

Control your bottom line

This might be a no-brainer for most of you, but I have neglected it for my entire startup process, so I need to mention it. Manage your costs. It is crucial to look at your monthly expenses and write down all your overhead. And then try to reduce it. I was astonished when I found out what I was spending exactly, and I was able to reduce it by 50%. 

My advice is to check your costs monthly and eliminate everything that is not currently needed.

Be careful when adding dependencies to your production process

That is a big one, also it is hard work to do it. Before COVID-19 it was quite easy to log into some portals searching for suppliers all over the world and adding them your supply chain. Every supplier and every new country you add to your supply chain adds dependencies to your production process. 

So, my advice here is wherever you want to start your business, it is always a good idea to work with local businesses because complex supply chains and production processes can really harm you when something goes wrong – like a global pandemic.

Manage your mindset and yourself

This might have been the biggest challenge for me. When my initial plan failed I was devasted. I had a task list with a couple of hundred items and a lot of priority 1 issues. I also had to take care of my daughter because our kindergartens have been closed. 

I thought about cutting my loses multiple times this year and getting back to my old job. Some days I was not even able to write a single e-mail before 9pm because it was just a crazy situation to be in. 

To overcome this I started to work on my mindset and started to do meditation daily. I was able to control my fears and focus on the happy moments even in the worst of times. That really helped me get going again and work through that pile of issues to get everything ready for my launch in July. 

So, my advice here is that there will be issues along the way that is something that every founder will tell you but the way you cope with those issues will determine if you are successful or not. There are some tools like meditation or mentoring that will help you to work on your mindset and you should if you want to be successful even if the whole world seems to be against you.

Hana Boppre

When Hana’s friends and family started to see the change in her skin most of her friends started to ask for their own little toners and oils. Every night for more than six months she started crafting new formulas and was tweaking the existing ones multiple times until DUŠA & KAMEN was created.