WHAT IS INNOVATION AND WHO ARE THE WOMEN DRIVING INNOVATIVE IDEAS TODAY? INNOVATION DOES NOT NECESSARILY COME FROM THE BIGGEST COMPANIES IN THE WORLD OR THE GREATEST MINDS – INNOVATIONS ARE BORN EVERY DAY BY TALENTED, CREATIVE WOMEN LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS TO A MULTITUDE OF PROBLEMS. Report TIERRI ABRAHAM
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF INVESTOR, those who are in it for the short term and those, like visionary entrepreneur Renata Cooper, who reciprocate the loyalty and contribution of the people and businesses in which they invest.
Renata believes in making a long term, emotional investment. The name of her company, Forming Circles, reflects the ripple effect that inspires Renata and she wants to inspire others in return. Renata says she is building a brand known for spreading a message of good will – “purposeful giving”.
“When directly helping one person, the flow-on effect creates infinite, ever-evolving circles of people helping one another,” she says.
“I believe in investing in people,” says Renata.
Renata founded the ethical and social investment company Forming Circles, in 2011, a one of a kind organization influencing the future of business through financial collaborations with innovative Australian business people, individuals, artists and charities using social media, crowd-funding campaigns and word-of-mouth to spread the word.
Spend just an hour with this thought leader and you get the feeling she’s the kind of woman who inspires just about everybody she meets. And that’s the way she likes it.
“My background and professional expertise is in financial markets. I took time off to have children and then I wanted to get back to work. Instead of returning to my previous role, I looked to ways of making a difference in the community. I wanted to create a business model that fulfills my need to create a difference and also be sustainable,” she said.
“I wanted to set-up the business using a disruptive innovation approach so Forming Circles could create a new market and value network based on the foundation of giving to accelerate brand awareness and business growth. When we started, there weren’t many businesses of our size investing into creating stories of success in the community around them. “
Forming Circles rapidly created major ripples in the community through the power of giving. The company pioneers change in Australia through community engagement; education, mentorship and grants for small business; and as an advocate of education and literacy.
The company continuously seeks out investments within the circles it has supported or observed. To date, Forming Circles has invested around $100,000 on sponsoring projects.
Through organic growth, the business has evolved to include a national literary competition for young Australian writers, Written Portraits and published a book under the same name profiling winners of the competition; an anti-bullying animated short film featuring the voice of Cate Blanchett; the 2013 Sydney Writer’s Festival; an Australian entrepreneur in the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit and CHALK: An Australian Perspective (an upcoming documentary where Champion Pavement Artists, Jenny McCracken and Anton Pulvirenti travel to Italy to represent Australia and compete against street painters from around the globe in the most prestigious yet challenging pavement art competition in the world, Incontro Nazionale dei Madonnari).
The Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) defines responsible investing as an investment process taking environmental, social, governance (ESG) or ethical considerations into account.
Renata says for her, ethical and social investment is also very lucrative and extremely innovative way of educating others about how to build better and more socially conscious enterprises and communities while making money at the same time.
“It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. This is the new, innovative way of doing business. Giving on purpose, as one indirectly produces positive change for thousands.”
Collectively the Forming Circles network reaches millions of people, Australia-wide on a daily basis. The core target audience for Forming Circles has been youth, women and small businesses.
Renata aims to be recognised as an initiator of new ways of doing business in the 21st century by creating interesting challenges based on community growth. In 2013 she hopes to create a unique Angel Investment Platform governed by women that serves the community as a whole.
“When I started networking with women in business, I realised two things: there was a need for more awareness about education and there were many women with great ideas who weren’t being mentored, supported or had adequate funding to execute their business idea or growth to the next level,” she said.
Starting as a simple Facebook page, Forming Circles, brought together like-minded women, on a regular basis, to discuss, learn, debate, network and raise start up funding for their business by learning new skills via giveaways.
“Creating opportunities for others who are willing to invest some effort in order to learn, grow and, in turn help others, is very exciting. This is not an enterprise formed for those who will take, then walk away. This is about investing for the long term,” she says.
“While small businesses are born out of the spirit of community; engagement is an extension of what we do. Bigger corporates need to engage more with community. Young people and entrepreneurs are different thinkers. To help a nation grow, you need to engage on their level and be part of the change they are trying to create. “
“The biggest ripples are created through acts of purposeful giving and inspiring others to financial success is my aim. This is an infinite chain of people linked together by the same ideals – a collective consciousness – turning great ideas into reality,” she says.
There many different ways to go about ethical and social investing says Renata. However she wants to be known as an agent for those talented Australians who have the potential to become global leaders.
“There is enormous potential in building a reputation for innovation into the brand. A good investment opportunity is someone who is motivated and passionate,” she says.
If a company performs poorly, you will be unlikely to reinvest. I’ve worked for twenty years as a financial controller for big business – my specialty is cash flow management and strategy. I love to help people but I like to make money too,” she says.
“Socially responsible investment translates into long-term growth and profits. As someone responsible for a rapidly expanding portfolio of innovative clients dealing in everything from to literacy to big business, it is very exciting to see the way these socially responsible investments are making a big impact on the investment marketplace.”
Renata’s advice for starting an innovative enterprise
See the big picture. Some people get so caught up in the tasks that they lose sight of the vision.
Work hard. There are no steps or secrets to success – it is combination of long-term vision and hard work.
Be disruptive. Research and explore new territories. Go outside the norm and your comfort zone.
Don’t be afraid to step away from the path you chose if you see a better opportunity. Passion is wonderful, but you need to see if the business model works for you.
Keep growing. Keep looking for ways you can evolve and innovate.
Get start up funding. I would have never achieved Forming Circles current growth without the start up funding.
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