The past few weeks may have been filled with uncertainty, but one thing remains crystal-clear: kindness wins. The global coronavirus pandemic has sparked an outpouring of generosity and altruism among Australians, providing much-needed hope and comfort. It’s never been more important to support our communities, show compassion and find new ways to help our neighbours in need.

Seed Heritage, together with Marie Claire, recently launched its Seed of an Idea campaign to help women kickstart their own businesses. But in this new climate, we’ve shifted the focus and will be supporting charities and local social enterprises.

For inspiration for your own #seedofkindness, look to these three female founders, who each created social enterprises dedicated to the greater good.

Seed Of An Idea

In early 2018 Bronwyn Bate was working in the non-profit space in Melbourne. Her path would often cross with “incredible women working on the frontline of domestic violence services”, and “brave survivors who were willing to share their stories”. It was through this work that Bate was confronted with a tragic reality: domestic and family violence is the single largest driver of homelessness for women in Australia.

“I remember on one visit to a women’s shelter, the CEO told me 52 per cent of the people there had been there before, because when they leave they can’t establish financial independence,” Bate reflects. “I was just baffled when I heard that there was minimal support after leaving a shelter.”

Following a year of research and interviews with domestic abuse survivors, academics and policymakers, Mettle was born to provide “an avenue to create that financial independence through entry-level roles in a gentle and nurturing environment”. “We named the business Mettle as a tribute to our employees – Mettle refers to a person’s ability to overcome difficulties with spirit, resilience and bravery,” Bate explains.

Today Mettle’s Perth warehouse is a safehaven for survivors of domestic violence, a place where women are employed for six months and trained in each facet of the business. “To have that little escape where they are being paid and establishing their independence is so important,” notes Bate, who sees the success of her program every day at work as she watches the women – each of whom has her own heartbreaking story – gain confidence.

“They don’t know how capable and how brilliant they are and I think one of our business goals is to allow them to see what we see when they come in,” says Bate. “It’s so cool to see them slowly believing in themselves.” The highlight so far? Watching their first-ever program participant who had spent nine months living in a refuge with her 16-year-old son save up enough money for the bond on an apartment. “Without that income from Mettle, she would still be living in a refuge,” says Bate. “It’s moments like that where we do a little happy dance.”

Seed Of An Idea

Grace Brennan, who grew up in Sydney before moving to the rural community of Warren when she fell in love with a farmer, felt helpless watching the impact of the drought on her local community. But it wasn’t until a friend from the city came to her for recommendations for a ‘Buy From the Bush’ Kris Kringle last year that she saw an opportunity to help. “My immediate thought was ‘That’s a bloody good idea. Everyone should be doing a Buy From the Bush Kris Kringle!’”

Discussions with friends ensued, including one over a cup of tea with Millie Fisher, who would become Buy From The Bush’s second team member. The pair decided to harness the power of social media to bring the business to life. “I sat down at the kitchen bench, created the Instagram page (@BuyFromTheBush) and went from there.”

The response was immediate and overwhelming. “The next day we had 1000 followers and then a week later we had 10,000. I think in the first month we got 100,000 followers,” remembers Brennan, who uses the Instagram account – which now has over 200,000 followers – to showcase beautiful products created by people in rural Australian communities, and in turn inject money into businesses that usually rely on cash flow from the agriculture industry.

Looking back over the whirlwind few months of Buy From the Bush, one particular day stands out for Brennan. “The Christmas Market was a highlight,” she recalls, her voice filled with pride. “Sydney’s Martin Place couldn’t be further from the dusty paddocks of drought-affected communities where those stall owners had come from – and suddenly they were smack bang in the middle of the CBD being inundated with shoppers from the city, and people wanting to have conversations about droughts, supporting them and loving what they were selling.”

Adds Brennan of her own initiative: “I think so often we have a seed of an idea, but we don’t want to enact it until we have all the ducks in a row. But sometimes it’s just about diving in and working it out as you go.”

Seed Of An Idea

Over her seven-year career as a software engineer, Ally Watson was “always the only girl” in the room. When Watson arrived in Australia from Scotland in 2015, she hoped that in this “land of plenty” things would be different. Instead, she found herself once again entering an office full of blokes, confirming what Watson had already suspected: “The lack of women in the tech industry is a global issue.”

While Watson found this extreme gender inequity professionally jarring and challenging, it was the isolation she was experiencing in her personal life – being miles away from her female friends and family back home – that galvanised her to take action. “It was really about bringing women together to network, to form friendships and to knowledge-share,” recalls Watson of the early days of Code Like A Girl, the organisation she founded in 2015. “The energy in that room at our first event gave me a lot of strength and a lot of motivation.” Soon, what began as a “casual meet-up” for like-minded women who “have not experienced feelings of belonging their entire career” quickly evolved into a mission to make tech more accessible and inclusive. “The more I learned about the industry and the lack of women in it and why, the more motivated and passionate I got about turning the business into a solution for this problem that I had lived and breathed for seven years.”

In 2017 Watson left behind her career as a software developer to go “full-time on the business”, becoming CEO of Code Like A Girl. “At that point, it had organically grown into a very different business,” reflects Watson, who today employs over 85 educators across four states, teaching girls as young as eight to code. “To be able to put my hand on heart and say that we are actively contributing to the pipeline of women in technology is something I could never have predicted five years ago, and it’s something I am so incredibly proud of.”

The next time someone tells you you can’t change the world, give them Ally Watson’s number.