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 LH Agenda 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.


Nothing is more frustrating than sitting in endless meetings, feeling like conversations are going around in circles. However, it doesn’t have to be this way! Here are our pro tips to keep your meetings on track, without adding more hours to your day.

1. Ensure your meeting notes are well organised

Keep your meeting notes simple, a few bullet points on each topic is more than sufficient. If you try to detail too many notes you risk creating confusion and clutter when you review them later. Keep notes in one section of your page and actions on another section. Check out our Meeting Notebooks.

2. Ask open-ended questions to promote collaboration

If you keep asking your team the same questions, you’ll get the same answers! Ask your colleagues questions to get them thinking in a different mindset. This could include:

  • ‘If we were our competition, how would we beat us?’
  • ‘If we only had $10 to execute this idea what would we spend it on?’
  • ‘If we had to execute this idea in 24 hours, how would we do it?’

3. Mix up the type of meeting

Avoid stale meetings by mixing up the location. Instead, try walking meetings, quick standing meetings, meetings in an unusual place (a nearby park, museum or cafe). Plenty of local libraries let you book meeting rooms too!

4. Delegate note-taking in meetings

Gift your colleagues a Meeting Notebook and delegate a different person to take and circulate notes each meeting. This helps people stay engaged, encourages collaboration and shares the responsibility.

You can even personalise your corporate gifts with monogramming to make your colleagues feel extra special!

5. Start each meeting with something a bit different

Break the ice of your meeting and increase energy with a two-minute introduction. This could be approaching a different colleague each meeting to tell a unique story about themselves or organising a fun quiz about your companies history. Did you know you can run polls in Google hangouts?

6. Filters are your friend in video meetings

In back to back Zoom calls? Add the Snap Camera widget to your browser and utilise their humorous filters to keep your colleagues grinning.

How do you keep your meetings fresh? Let us know in the comments below!


When it comes to leadership and management style there are two categories most people fall into. Those are sledgehammer or velvet hammer leaders.

If you’re reading this post, you are likely a high-performing professional who takes pride in your work, and you’re extremely attentive to your own personal and professional development.

You are the type of woman who wants to climb the ladder and be a part of a team that works together to achieve greatness.

I’m also going to bet that many of you have likely had a boss at some point in your career who has pushed you beyond what you thought you were capable of — and the outcome was either one of two things.

1) You felt that you were likely smarter than the boss and could do a much better job of leading the team and getting the job done. OR

2) You felt your boss was the most awesome, compassionate, and highly intelligent (both emotional and academic) person in the room and you looked forward to the next interaction.

The first boss is what we call a sledgehammer leader. The second was a velvet hammer leader — and that’s the goal to shoot for in your professional development. An effective leadership style uses a velvet hammer approach to bring out the best in a team.

These experiences definitely set the tone for how we end up leading our own teams and businesses. If you missed out on having a velvet hammer leadership example, that’s okay. I’m going to give you three practical tips to develop this effective management style.

THE VELVET HAMMER LEADER VS. THE SLEDGEHAMMER LEADER

How many of you consider yourself to be a sledgehammer or a velvet hammer leader when it comes to your leadership style?

Let me break this down for you.

The sledgehammer leader tells it how it is, regardless of their audience. I’m talking about no filter – what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of style. The sledgehammer doesn’t consider what other people might be thinking or feeling, nor does this person care to hear another perspective. It’s more of a my-way-or-the-highway approach.

(Haven’t we all had a boss like that in our past lives?)

The velvet hammer leader takes into consideration the audience and actively listens to them. They think about how people may perceive a message. They ask themselves questions like: How would this person feel if I said things a certain way? What would that audience think if I approached things a certain way? The velvet hammer leader puts themselves into the mindset of their audience.

3 TIPS TO BE AN EFFECTIVE VELVET HAMMER LEADER

As the leader of your business or organization, you have three primary functions:

  1. Listen to others.

Even if you decide to stick with your original message or plan, if you sincerely listened and genuinely took into consideration a possible alternative, that’s what matters. People want to be heard.

  1. Develop a high level of self-awareness.

This is critical to your success. Your team is relying on you to understand where they’re coming from and to know their strengths and weaknesses. They want you to lean on them and solicit their input. They want to please and give you great results. But, the only way you’ll really achieve this is to have a thorough understanding of your own tendencies and leadership style.

  1. Communicate with empathy.

The most beloved leaders are those who communicate with clarity and take into consideration how a message will be perceived. I love how Brene Brown writes in Dare to Lead, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

The fact of the matter is, when you’re not clear about your expectations or requirements, you’re not leading with integrity and ultimately will not garner the results you desire. Remember, being clear doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk.

Your team takes its cues from the leader. If you come across like a sledgehammer — they will too over time. If that happens, don’t ever expect to build community and camaraderie as a sledgehammer. It’ll never happen.

The velvet hammer, on the other hand, tends to win people over, tends to build community better, and tends to retain excellent staff and clients too.

Take this opportunity to review what leadership style you have been using and make adjustments where needed to listen, be self-aware, and communicate with empathy as a velvet hammer leader.

About the author

Heather Lisle is a professional problem-solver, business coach, and entrepreneur with 20 plus years of experience helping business owners and leaders identify their biggest pain points and develop a fast track for growth and success.

Get to know her at @heatherlisleco on FB and IG and at http://www.heatherlisle.com


Major media placements can be a boon to entrepreneurs. They increase brand awareness, build credibility, and generate massive amounts of traffic and sales. To give you a competitive advantage, below is a step-by-step checklist that teaches you how to go about securing media coverage without spending tens of thousands of dollars on hiring a PR firm or onboarding a freelance publicist.

Newsworthiness

The best way to start planning for any publicity campaign is to determine what makes you and your business newsworthy. Consider whether your service or business area is trending in the news. If not, then examine what is relevant and timely in your industry or on the local news. Is there any controversy or conflict that you can credibly weigh in on? Is there an event, new product or service, book launch, new location, or even a new hire that you can pitch as a newsworthy event? Answering these questions will give you a solid start to determining what makes your business newsworthy.

Credibility

Now that you have what makes your business newsworthy, it’s time to look at what makes your business credible. In other words, what makes you and your business believable and trustworthy? Consider your academic and professional training and the types of media exposure you’ve generated for the speeches or talks you’ve given. Do you have a large audience, significant annual sales, or interesting and transformational life experiences? Any of these elements can help make you and your business more credible.

Media Bio

Since I started in the PR field more than 15 years ago, I’ve had clients ask me if they should use their website bios as their media bios, and my answer is always the same: “no”. Your website bio is generally longer and contains your story about your journey, how you started your business, and anything else that’s relevant. These bios can reach 5,000 words, whereas your media bio is short and concise. This bio is short and usually only two or three paragraphs (including what you want others to know about you and your business).

Your Perfect Media List

With your media bio now complete, you can start looking at where your story can potentially fit. To find the right media, you can Google “Editorial Calendar” + Publication Name to see the editorial calendar of what stories are in the queue. And then, you can Google outlet name + masthead to find out which editors cover specific topics and stories.

You could also go to the website of the publication you would like to pitch, and go to the “Masthead”, “About” or “Contact” pages for a list of all of the editors and their related beats. You can also go to LinkedIn or Twitter to find a media contact. Most editors are also on Twitter.

Your Subject Line

When securing media coverage your subject line is the most important part of your pitch. It should be interesting, and if possible, generate an emotional response from your reader. You can make a provocative statement or ask a question, if you wish. Just be sure to include the who, what, where, when, why, and how.

You’ll also want to start the subject line with what type of story you’re pitching – such as an interview, product review, feature story, article idea, etc. Here are two sample subject lines: one is good, and the other is not so.

  • “ABC Company Announces the Launch of XYZ Product”
  • Feature: “From Small Ghetto to Fifth Avenue: How this Entrepreneur Built a Family Empire”

The second one helped secure media coverage on Forbes.com, JustLuxe.com, HuffingtonPost.com and more.

The Pitch Itself

It doesn’t matter whether you’re pitching a footwear collection, a nightclub, or a software demo, you should consider tying your pitch to the current time of the year, or something trending in the news at that moment: the Oscars, Halloween, the latest viral video, etc. I find that tying product and service pitches to a specific time of the year gets more media interest because it’s timely.

When you pitch a journalist, you also need to make sure that your email conveys that you understand who the reader is, and what they are looking for. That’s how you gain rapport with members of the media. And although it’s a no-brainer, be sure to address your media contact specifically by their first name. Don’t start your email with a generic “Hi there” or “To whom it may concern”. Just because your email isn’t expected, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be personalized.

The body of your pitch should be between 200 and 300 words and devoted to telling a story about you and your brand. Add five to seven bullet points about your product or services that the reader can look over quickly. Remember, editors see the same generic pitches every day, so you have to make yours stand out. These five to seven bullet points should pop off the page. Without these bullets, your pitch will fall flat.

Pitch Follow Up

You’ve pitched your top media contacts, and you’re hoping for a positive response. The wait can seem like an eternity but resist any temptation to overwhelm your contact. It’s critical you are patient yet persistent.

Once you’ve pitched a media contact, only follow up three to four days later to see if they are interested in covering your story or doing an interview. If you don’t hear back right away, you can follow up one more time before pitching a new angle or product. But never call—unless you know the media contact personally.

If they don’t respond after two follow-ups, don’t be discouraged. Your company, brand, story, or product is simply not the right fit for any stories they are working on now. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in the future. You have to keep moving forward. I’ve pitched myself 10 or 15 times only to be rejected each time before finding success. If you are rejected, don’t let it get you down. It takes a thick skin to be successful.

Securing Media Coverage With A Press Releases

You can issue a press release when you’re sending a message out to the general public via a wire service company. We usually issue them when a client is releasing a book or a new product, a live event, or to make some type of announcement.

Pitching Angles

Having a fresh set of pitching angles is essential to keeping your brand media-ready. However, coming up with consistently interesting pitching angles for yourself or your business can be tiring and tough. To eliminate this from happening, here are a few exercises you can do:

  • Give Quora.com a visit to see what people are asking about in your niche.
  • Do keyword research on Google’s Keyword Planner to see what people are searching for. You can also look at UberSuggest.com.
  • Look to see what topics are trending in your niche. Try to find a story angle that relates to national news or current events.
  • Research what’s happening locally and pitch an editor or television producer in your market.
  • See how you can add a new viewpoint to an existing article.

Booking More Interviews When Securing Media Coverage

Sending traffic, getting shares on social media, and generating comments for your press mentions, articles, and interviews will help you gain more media opportunities. This is because the more traction your media coverage gets, the more likely editors, journalists, and producers will ask you for quotes or other types of commentary. Additionally, keep in mind that the larger your social media followings and your audience are, the more likely media members will be to call on you for your expertise.

Striving to secure major media coverage that’s effective and relevant shouldn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars. If you have a strategic plan with newsworthy and credible points to pitch to the media, you will be successful. Just keep in mind patience and persistence are the keys to securing coverage that will help move the needle in your business.

About the Author of 10 Steps to Securing Media Coverage for Your Startup

Kristin Marquet runs marquet-media.com, a boutique creative consultancy that designs beautiful and feminine brands in the wedding, beauty, fashion, wellness, fitness cooking, photography and interior design industries. Passionate about learning, Kristin has advanced studies in data and marketing analytics. She has attended MIT, Boston University and NYU, and holds degrees in Literature and Marketing/Public Relations. She has contributed to forbes.com, inc.com, huffingtonpost.com, entrepreneur.com and nydailynews.com.


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.


There are few steps during the hiring process that are more important than the proper training of employees. However, many businesses fail to recognise this fact, which can lead to high turnover rates and unprepared workers.

When you equip your new hires with the tools, resources, and training they need to succeed, however, you’ll lay down the groundwork for an effective first few months. This, in turn, results in higher job morale and increased productivity.

Here are some tips on how to develop an employee training program.

Identify Goals

The first step in creating an employee training program is to identify the goals that need to be met for success to be achieved. Every business is unique, and therefore the goals will be dictated by the requirements in the workplace.

For instance, when training hotel employees you may want to set goals that are related to customer service, while the goals of a firefighter training program may focus more on safety. Depending on the type of business your organisation runs, you will need to tailor the steps in the training process to fit the knowledge and skillset that will best serve your new hire and prepare them for success.

Utilise Training Resources

With the emergence of technology, training resources have been taken to a new level. Gone are the days of flipping through manuals and writing on chalkboards. Instead, there are an array of software platforms on the market that can be programmed to meet the demands of nearly any business.

By utilising these, employees will have a more interactive and dynamic training process. This also shaves numerous hours off HR personnel’s work days, allowing them to allocate dedicated time to more personalized, one-on-one training as needed.

Implement a Schedule

In order to create the most efficient training process possible, employers need to consider implementing a training schedule. There are jobs where the training programs can take weeks to complete, and accommodating the individual schedules of the employees can cause delays.

For this reason, it is wise to have a set schedule in place which can be accessed by all those going through training. Not only will this ensure that every employee is properly trained, but it will also expedite the process.

Hire a Trainer

Hiring an experienced trainer can help the process move along more smoothly and it can be an incredibly effective way of onboarding employees. While there are costs to consider when using a professional trainer, it is certainly one of the most efficient ways of teaching.

You may also want to seek out the assistance of a seasoned employee, as this can also go a long way in showing the new hires the details of the position.

Monitor Progress

Keeping track of the progress of the trainees can be crucial. After all, it can cost a significant amount of money to put employees through the hiring process, and the results can be disastrous if they are not properly trained.

Whether your business is using software for training purposes or the learning is more hands-on, you will need to develop a set of criteria to gauge the progress of those being trained.

Gaining Feedback

It is important for a company to gain feedback during and after the training process. This can help to show areas that need to be improved upon, along with pointing out the strengths of the program.

To do this, arrange one-on-one meetings with employees so that their opinion will not be skewed by that of other workers. Have them list a few of the obstacles they encountered during the process and the places where they feel they benefited the most.

Training employees in every facet of their job will significantly increase the chances that a business will succeed, and it helps to maintain employee morale. If your company is implementing a training program, be sure to identify the goals that need to be met and take advantage of the array of training resources available.

Furthermore, it is necessary to put in place a schedule so that the training of employees can be streamlined, thus reducing training-related expenses. Take note of these points and you are sure to develop an effective employee training program.