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News & Analysis

Jo Burston launches entrepreneurship movement Inspiring Rare Birds

- November 19, 2014 3 MIN READ

Today marks the launch of Inspiring Rare Birds – a strategic launch date for the organisation given it’s also Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. Founded by serial entrepreneur Jo Burston, who has eight businesses in her credits including the multimillion-dollar Job Capital, Inspiring Rare Birds’ mission is nothing short of ambitious – create 1 million women entrepreneurs by 2020.

If Burston and her team are able to execute on this vision, Inspiring Rare Birds could very well become one of the most influential entrepreneur organisations in Australia. Why? Not necessarily because it wants to provide every woman globally with the choice to be an entrepreneur. It’s because Inspiring Rare Birds’ business model and ecosystem of support may be able to achieve what it envisions.

There are four pillars that Inspiring Rare Birds operates on: Storytelling, Funding, Mentorship and Community.

Burston told Startup Daily previously that “entrepreneurs pass information through stories”. As such the storytelling aspect of the business is about telling “captivating, engaging and intelligent accounts of current and emerging entrepreneurs via print and online content.”

The Inspiring Rare Birds website will aggregate thoughts, opinions and celebrations from luminaries; and the online component will be soon be complemented by a hardcover book ‘Australia’s 50 Influential Women Entrepreneurs’ profiling the journeys of some of Australia’s most prominent female entrepreneurs including Carol Schwartz AM, Jan Owen, Topaz Conway, Emma Isaacs, Jodie Fox, Naomi Simson, Nahji Chu, Megan Quinn, Jo Horgan, Therese Kerr and many more. The book will be released in January next year, and we will likely see a second annual volume showcasing 30 emerging women entrepreneurs not long after.

Burston said that the storytelling pillar of the organisation does not only intend to inspire women and give them a voice, but also to change the perceptions held by future generations of women. In fact, she envisages a future as close as a few years from now, when it’s not so surprising to hear a young girl say that wants to own her own business or even change the world when she grows up.

The second pillar is funding. Rare Birds will act as a gateway to funding and investment for startups. This means that entrepreneurs will have access to a diverse pool of Angel and VC investors, as well as other sources of funding, should they need it.

“Women are starting business by the droves, there is no shortage of startups going on in Australia or globally. What is missing are real tools to think big and act big. Our “Deal Room” is a matrix process to get the entrepreneur investable and investment ready,” said Burston.

“We then introduce that woman and their business to funding partners, be that angel investors, seed, VC, private equity investors or simply bank loans. We realised this conversation between the women and the investors was broken. The know how and confidence is still embryonic in Australia.”

Inspiring Rare Birds will also match entrepreneurs with the right mentors to offer insights and guidance throughout their journey. The mentoring won’t be as structured as accelerator programmes where mentors go around the room to talk to each startup. Rare Birds will be creating 12-month mentoring programs that “are self-sustaining and self-managed that exists as a measured transfer of experience and knowledge”.

Milestones and achievements will not only be discussed with mentors but will also be documented. Burston believes, “It’s crazy that this tacit transfer of experience and knowledge is otherwise not captured and real progress now can be observed by both the mentor and entrepreneur. Be that financial, behavioral, learning or whatever the barriers are for the entrepreneur. With the right mentor and the right funding the women accelerate growth and have the guidance they need.” The Mentor programme will launch in January next year.

The last pillar is about creating a community for resource referrals. Rare Birds aims to have the largest database of women entrepreneurs globally, and will act as a platform for conversation. This will be achieved by creating an open source environment with no barrier to entry and where entrepreneurs have no shame in asking questions and sharing experiences on a highly socialised site. Not only will this help create this sense of communal belonging, but will also be a way for entrepreneurs to refer each other’s businesses, especially since recommendations between entrepreneurs mostly occur in an offline setting.

Rare Birds is advised by entrepreneurs and thought leaders in diverse specialty fields, including Andy Lark, CMO at Xero; Sally-Ann Williams, Head of Engineering and Community at Google Australia; and Topaz Conway, Chairman of Biothoughts.

Lark said, “The myth of the entrepreneur is that they are predominantly young males. That couldn’t be further from reality. The majority are females. But what we need is a movement that helps those women understand that they are entrepreneurs building businesses that can scale – creating opportunity for themselves and their communities. The impact of these sustainable and scaled businesses can be transformative.”

What’s impressive about Rare Birds is that it’s heavily business-driven; it’s not solely about ‘cheering on’ women who have achieved success. Unlike many women’s organisations that host conferences where each audience member receives a gift bag with make-up and skincare products, Rare Birds is about serious business. Topics of discussion include scalability, growth, funding, strategic partnerships, and all the things that are important in the day-to-day running of a business and critical to an entrepreneur’s end game.