I became aware of Renata Cooper through my social media seminars with presenters and attendees mentioning Renata in a range of conversations, and all about someone making a difference. It then turned out one of my closest friends was working with Renata on a project and spoke with real warmth and admiration for the woman.
I was completely intrigued and have spent the last few months connecting and getting to know Renata. So I'm really pleased to be able to share this interview with you about Renata Cooper and her business, Forming Circles, which is all about taking responsibility for the world and the children we create.
What do you enjoy about running your own enterprise Forming Circles?
I enjoy the freedom to make my own choices and the ability to control the direction of where my business is going. It also gives me greater control over balancing work and family time.
Who inspires you?
The inspiration comes via many channels; amazing thought leaders that the world currently has or had, people within my networks, or a young student that entered our writing competition. My own children are also a great inspiration and drive.
Who makes up the Forming Circles team?
The Forming Circles team is made up of Shelly Smith, my Communications Manager and we work with a social media/web advisor and public relations team.
On the book publishing side for Written Portraits we have a wonderful collaborative partner, Caroline Webber from Green Olive Press.
Do you feel you find a good work/life balance? What works for you?
I believe it is really hard to strike the right balance in the first couple of years of the start up phase. The bigger your dream, the more energy and time is needed to execute it.
Starting your own business and finding the time for family takes real effort. But my children are the motivation for me to continue helping others.
I want to create a better world for them; a world in which people are a lot more supported on a human level. As parents, we have the responsibility to prepare the world for our children. They need to have a strong value system and understand that helping others is so important.
What works for me is usually if there is enough preparation and planning time so everything goes well and no time is wasted. Having a great team definitely helps.
What do you want to achieve through Forming Circles?
I'm passionate about changing people's lives and inspiring change in the way they do business in 21st century.
My ultimate goal is to make Forming Circles, or a related group, a profitable angel investment company that supports great Australian ideas and has its heart in the right place.
I would also like Written Portraits to become a global creative writing completion for teenagers.
You are passionate about teenage literacy and encouraging youth to get writing and sharing their stories. You've started the Written Portraits program to bring about the change you're eager to see, how does the program work?
Written Portraits is a national creative writing competition for Australian teenagers, aged 13-15 years and 16-18 years, attending school.
The program aims to showcase young Australian writing talent and provide a creative platform for expression of the inner feelings and emotions associated with being a teenager.
Written Portraits also presents the exciting opportunity for selected entrants to have their written work published in an anthology.
Students are asked to submit a story between 800 to 1,200 words. Usually each year a different theme is selected, in the first year the theme was "Portraits Written in Words", this year the theme is "Portraits at Home". Entries are then judged by a panel of experts and a winner is selected for each of three categories.
What have been the results from the first years of Written Portraits?
The results have been fantastic. In 2012, 150 entries were received from students around Australia. But more than that, the competition has given teenagers a voice during what can be an emotional and difficult time in their lives.
I wanted to honour their voices and share their stories as a way of helping everyone to understand and connect with teenagers.
Feedback from the teachers has been the competition has helped them increase their confidence. It's also encouraged them to dream big and believe they can be a published author.
In our second year the competition went national and we have over 430 entries. Our second book will be launched on 19th September 2013 in Sydney.
What do you love about having your own enterprise with Forming Circles?
I'm excited about the opportunities Forming Circles can create for others. Forming Circles seeks to understand areas of need within the community and to make a difference by funding high impact projects which can alleviate these stressors.
We are also in the process of re-structuring the company and moving toward the angel investment stage that will bring many exciting opportunities and experiences.
What has been the most challenging experience of having your own enterprise?
The biggest challenge was keeping up with the exponential growth of the company. While I had a vision of how Forming Circles should evolve, I did not anticipate the growth as soon as it occurred.
Areas of the business evolved faster than the company. For example, while establishing an angel investments portfolio was part of the vision for Forming Circles, it has already started to some degree through organic activities.
The other challenge has been coming into areas that I had no past professional experience in. The Written Portraits competition launched to support literacy on a national level received an array of great stories from youth across the nation.
To share this talent and compelling narratives with wider audiences, we embarked on publishing a book with the winning stories. In spite of not having personal experience in publishing, I realised this was an important initiative to support the competition and winners. You have to push the boundaries and try new things that help bring your passion to life.
Forming Circles has a tagline of "Creating social and ethical investment stories", what do you hope to achieve with this vision?
Forming Circles philosophy is to create a ripple effect, which is achieved by offering various activities to engage and inspire their circle of networks including small business grants.
I hope to create a knock-on effect that will create ever increasing circles of people helping one another, so one simple, generous act can indirectly produce positive changes for thousands.
I am here to inspire and provide opportunities. Whether it's for young people, mums at home trying to return to work or other start-up businesses.
What are your 5 tips for creating the change in the world you want to see?
1. Seize the moment. Don't wait.
2. Welcome the challenge and learning experience.
3. Be committed to what you are doing.
4. Believe in what you are trying to achieve.
5. Don't give up.