As a courageous, connected and passionate entrepreneur, Kathy also keeps learning by conversing with hundreds of social entrepreneurs around the world and sharing their stories through her media channel Crazy Dreamers TV (Also on Facebook: Crazy Dreamers TV).
Ogunte: You have had an entrepreneurial life, tell us about your transition story, and your return from "retirement".
Kathy Wong: I have had a great life. I studied as a graphic designer and not long after graduating from my degree I started my design branding business at 23.
Working with large corporate and governmental organisations, the business thrived with my only purpose being to generate profit at that time. After nineteen years of running my design business I retired at 42 with no intention of ever working again. I then lived that life that many people aspire to. I travelled the world, took up all those hobbies I had never had time before, bought a rural country estate and for ten years happily lived my life of retirement.
Then one day in February 2014, I had my aha moment that would change the course of my life and have me sitting here writing this story. It sounds corny but my moment was made up of a very strong message with three words. These words were in Bold Helvetica, almost neon type, so bright they almost burned out my retinas. The words were MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
I really thought this was just a dream but soon realised this would become my crazy dream, that developed into a social enterprise called Moeloco, as I set off to help impact children in poverty.
When I discovered that there are over 300 hundred million children in the world living without shoes and they could not attend school for fear of them spreading diseases they might be carrying through their feet, I just knew I had to help and this became Moeloco’s cause.
We manufacture a rubber flip flop that leaves positive messages in the sand such as I am grateful, live love, be free. For every pair sold, we donate a pair of school shoes to an Indian child living in poverty. We are also supporting people with disabilities by paying for their services to despatch our shoes from our e-commerce store.
To date we have impacted just over 8,000 children, which I am very proud of and grateful to the community who support us.
Moeloco are now working on other revenue streams to create further impact. One of these new areas of business are mentoring and collaborating with teenagers to build a youth movement of teens keen to support social enterprises, with some of these already social entrepreneurs. I am exploring if we start our own teenage social enterprise program as I now have a much larger vision then when I first began my social entrepreneurship journey. I want to see a world where very product, service we purchase has a positive impact on humanity and that world will be lead but the youth changemakers.
The other project I just launched, is Crazy Dreamers TV where I am traveling for 6 months through Europe visiting 12 different countries to share stories of other social entrepreneurs. There is a real lack of awareness and understanding about social enterprise, so I want to educate the public of our existence. For the world I want to see we need consumers to be part of this movement.
Ogunte: You are really focused on creating “community connections and collaboration”, this seems to be very close to your heart, how do you pragmatically do that? (There is something about tracking cultural differences, being very thorough around this).
Kathy Wong:When I started my journey with Moeloco it was also born out of observing a global suffering around disconnection during the time I was retired. We are living in a digital age with so many ways to connect to one another, but I believe we are more disconnected both from ourselves and then that has a knock-on effect of being disconnected from each other.
This disconnection has led to all the societal issues that social entrepreneurs are working to solve so that is why I am so passionate about connection. It is at the core of all we are doing and indeed humanity.
I have built connections all over the world through firstly social media and offline activities that have included immersing myself in as many community, entrepreneurial events as possible. I regularly give my time to as a speaker at schools and university groups.
Recently I started a monthly meetup called Ripple Effect in Sydney with two other change makers and we have done our first Ripple in London last July.
Ogunte: What top 3 words define you most, Kathy and why?
Ogunte: How do you measure any impact achieved?
Kathy Wong: At the moment it’s about the number of shoes given but we are also gaining feedback from the teachers and children to understand the impact on their being too. We know that many of the children’s self-worth has known a major improvement there.
Ogunte: You told me business skills were not necessarily what young people needed to move forward in life, can you break down this thought?
Kathy Wong: We have very conscious youth now, many of who are very concerned, some quite disillusioned about the state of the world. They do not want to follow the same career paths their parents took which meant studying to get good university marks, so you can get into university. They feel the age-old education system is failing them. They want to discover their purpose, follow their dreams instead of being forced to attend higher education and find themselves later in life questioning why did they take this option, often in debt and unable to get a job in the area they studied for.
For these reasons and what I know in my own self development, business skills can easily be obtained but what is critical to lead a fulfilled life is understanding who we are and being allowed to use our unique gifts in the world freely.
A holistic approach to a child’s development that enables these gifts to be explored and developed is the key to an individual’s happiness.
Ogunte: You've travelled around the world, saw great ventures and others less great, what’s the problem with social enterprise these days? How can we help people understand that the model is necessary? And how can we help people to get to do stuff (as opposed to just claiming they want to change the world and leave it at that…)
Kathy Wong: There is not one international standard definition when it comes to social enterprise, so people’s interpretations are extremely varied too.
People understand charity and NGO models however they confuse social enterprises with these regularly. Social enterprises use trade to create a sustainable business model that makes profit to help their causes. How that profit is distributed is dependent upon the legal structure that has been set up but a social enterprise exists to solve a social, community or environmental problem in the world.
Ogunte: We know "Perfect doesn’t exist”. How can we move away from our tendencies to want to control everything? How do you trust yourself enough to peel the onion and make progress around that?
Kathy Wong: The trusting you are referring to where often it requires some really deep internal digging is something for me, that took 20 years of personal development by way of life coaches, courses, self-help books, and lots of questioning of myself.
Ogunte: Finally, who are 3 fabulous women in social enterprises you would recommend our network to watch?
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