We are delighted to introduce you to one of the Women’s Business School graduates Karen Dennett, founder of Engaging Education.
When did you start your business?
2016 as a part-time education events business while teaching full-time as a high-school teacher of Business and Enterprise.
What was the inspiration behind starting this business?
I was frustrated at the lack of real world contexts in the school environment. In addition students seemed to believe that grades were everything and their worth was determined by a grade on a piece of paper. There seemed to be a lost group of students who had no idea of their direction, no sense of purpose to their learning and felt that they were useless. They had no awareness or understanding of the opportunities beyond school and that they have talents and strengths they just don’t shine in the school system based mainly on written assessments. When interacting with professionals at excursions and incursions students raise their game, and the positive words of encouragement can be a game-changer for them.
Additionally, teachers are facing increasing pressure to be everything to prepare young people for the future, but at the same time they are trained to do a specific job – teach subjects for assessment. Teachers lack networks, training and support yet are expected to build work skills and other competencies and have an awareness of what is going on in industry. Pretty hard when you are either teaching, marking , planning, or dealing with behaviour and writing reports, within a restricted environment. What little time you do have would be nice to spend with family.
What are you most excited about in your business?
I am most excited about making a difference. I love it when teachers, young people and professionals tell me they have really enjoyed an experience and learned so much. Those light bulb moments and knowing that we are creating experiences, broadening horizons, raising aspirations and creating a possibilities mindset. I love providing experiences that exceed expectations and teachers tell me how surprised by the quality and how much they enjoyed and got out of the experience. A feeling they have not been used to in relation to PD.
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?
The expectations and responsibility I feel as a mum, makes me feel like I am focusing on my business at the loss of my kids and home. Obviously, this is crazy, but when I was. working as a single parent for 10 weeks at a time and trying to balance doing everything for everyone else and creating a thriving business, my time was either working or doing stuff for the kids, I very rarely had the time to just be with my children or by myself. If i wasn’t running around for clubs, activities, school or shopping, etc, I was working. I felt a fraud and washed out at networking events where most people looked like they had their s**t together and I was doing 5 jobs to keep the income going, had just cooked tea, ran out the door and had a little one with separation anxiety who cried if I left him with his sister. Networking was very occasional and I was not quite with it.
What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?
Remember self-care is the best thing you can do for yourself and your business. Investing in yourself is key and this means:
– Time to set goals and plan
– Find a mentor and/or a group of business owners you can bounce ideas off of and celebrate your wins
– Invest in your own personal and professional development
– Be smart with your time and find ways to deliver your product or service in a way that will maximise the income from your work
– Get the right mindset for making money – the more revenue you make the greater good you can do – create jobs/work for people and give back to causes close to your heart. It is not a bad thing to make money. – Join networks and don’t be afraid to reach out for help but at the same time, be a source of help or support for others.
Why did you choose to do the Women’s Business School Programs?
I was inspired at the Ausmumpreneur Awards in Melbourne in 2019. I applied for the scholarship and received a half-scholarship and decided the investment would be worth it. I just knew I had to do it.
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the program?
Growing with an amazing group of women who I have gone on to collaborate with. My mindset and business goals have scaled with my business.
What surprised you most about the program?
How much I have changed personally and professionally. I am more confident and more in tune with my vision and goals.
Which module was the most helpful and why?
This is hard because they were all very helpful in different ways. I would have to say the financial module was a surprise and for the first time I realised like an epiphany that my survival skills to manage on the bare minimum was not really something to be proud of. I had always managed on little instead of trying to create abundance. This was a bit of a game-changer for me. I did love the partnerships module as well.
How did the program help you in your business?
The program came at a time when my business was moving to a new business model and it gave me access to an amazing network of professionals who have contributed to my business with interviews and sharing their expertise. The program made me invest more in myself and become more confident in myself as a business leader and head of my company, that if I don’t take myself seriously and invest in me how can I expect that from others.
What has been the best thing about starting your own business?
I did the accelerate program which is maybe not relevant to new businesses but on the basis the new business program is as good as the accelerate program I would recommend it.
Would you recommend the Women’s Business School to other women starting a business? Why?
I would definitely recommend the Women’s Business School to every woman starting a business. The skills and connections you gain are priceless and will set you up perfectly to achieve all your goals and more.
What’s happening next in your business?
Be the Difference will have a boys program focused on their challenges and I aim to roll out for boys and girls in schools and will include coaching, emotional intelligence and leading tough conversations training for teachers.
We also have some exciting leadership opportunities for high school girls coming up. Industry Engaged is migrating to the Thinkific platform and on its way to becoming the go-to resource for vocational education teachers to achieve mandatory professional currency by gaining insights, developing their understanding and thinking skills by applying theory in context and gaining resources and ideas for their classrooms.
What are your big plans for the future?
To roll out Be the Difference across schools throughout Australia
To become the minimum basic industry engagement platform with trainers across Australia subscribed and engaged and achieving mandatory professional currency. To create and deliver an industry recognised, award winning leadership program for high school girls that creates meaningful outcomes and links to industry and changes lives.
Applications for the award-winning Women’s Business School Accelerator program are now open!
Follow the link to apply today: https://womensbusinessschool.lpages.co/wbs/