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Champions!

As mentioned in a previous post, Enlighten Education were Finalists for the NSW / ACT  Small Business of the Year, Children’s Services.

The Awards, hosted by Precedent Productions and sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Government, celebrate the achievements of the 1.88 million small businesses in Australia. We were incredibly honoured to be a finalist in these prestigious, national awards and were just thrilled to have WON!

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In our speech Francesca and I acknowledged the many clients schools who have supported us, and the thousands of beautiful girls who have joined us in schools and held our hand on this Enlighten journey.  

enlighten is  championing the rights of young women and ensuring our girls are empowered to respond with intelligence to the changing world around them. “

I was just flabbergasted when it was finally announced that I was also the NSW / ACT Small Business Champion Entrepreneur of the Year! Oh my! Official Press Release

Winning such an incredible Award has made me stop and reflect on why I have been so driven by this work. I thought I would share some of my motivators with you here… 

The heart connection.

When I was two years old I was badly burnt; I received third degree burns all down my right arm and neck. As is often the case with burn victims, I also suffered two major secondary infections – german measles and the potentially life threatening golden staph.

Growing up, my feelings of inadequacy due to this scarring were quite overwhelming; I was a bright, popular and ambitious young girl but my main preoccupation was with my scars and how best I could hide them from the world.

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And as we choose to believe we are less because of how we look, and our inability to conform to a perfect image, we become less.

In my adult years as a teacher I explored ways in which I might come to terms with my burns, indeed in many ways teaching forced me to come to terms with them as I was now a role model – if I could not accept myself, how could I possibly ask my students to accept themselves?

I became aware of the importance of a dialogue around gender and identity, and of the urgent need to help girls come to terms with the mixed messages about beauty they were being bombarded with. Although the scars I had to accept were more obvious, so many girls carry scars of their own.

With enlighten I have created a platform from which I can question, encourage and spread love, light and laughter.

The head connection.

One of the many things that I love about enlighten is the fact that we celebrate diversity and recognise that women are many things; our workshops focus on the girls as consumers, friends, students, budding career women …

I too see myself as the sum of many parts. Whilst I definitely connect with this work on a profoundly personal level, if I am being entirely honest part of my motivation for creating enlighten also emerged from my compulsive desire to innovate and create – I am most stimulated when involved in designing and leading new projects and in seeking creative ways around problems. I also find the business sector enormously stimulating – hence my desire to undertake post-grad. study in business management.

I am also a person with firm beliefs and a strong sense of justice; I have always had a strong interest in gender issues and in empowering young people to reach their potential. For me, enlighten has provided a fabulous opportunity to combine my skills in innovating and promoting with my own personal passions.

Both the desire to be a successful manager and a change maker are equally as important to me. I have always approached my work with a commitment to quality and have been at times quite hard on myself (and perhaps Fran) in my pursuit for excellence. Yet what other way is there? I believe our young people deserve more than just good intentions. This underlying approach to my work also partly explains why enlighten was never established as a non-profit. I think it needs to be good enough to be highly valued in the market place; I did not want to rely on hand outs. I have seen too many programs that have been funded externally become complacent, inflexible and more focused on quantity than quality.

The hand connection.

Nothing drives my success quite like seeing the faces of the girls we work with (they literally transform – from looking tentative and perhaps even dejected to shining).

For me, there is no greater motivator than simply being with my girls – all my girls – the teenage ones we work with in schools, and my amazing staff.

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I would like to publicly acknowledge here all the friends, family and colleagues who have nourished and challenged me – intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

Much love and respect (in no particular order!) to all the enlighten girls – my “Amazons”- Frantabulous ( enlighten’s co founder and my partner – how can one girl be so yummy? I could not have possibly selected anyone better to share this all with) , Sonia ( Program Director, Victoria) , Storm ( Program Director, Queensland), Jane (Program Manager, Adelaide) and the NSW “dream team” – Mel, Kellie, Lucinda, Monica, Nikki, Donelle and my scrumptious “Admin Angel” Christine.

Thanks to all our client schools and particularly to those women in leadership I have been blessed to developed a real friendship with – Ann, Amelia, Elizabeth, Stephanie, Sarah…

My former managers and colleagues in the Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Parramatta, who had faith in many of my ideas and allowed me to innovate – I shall always be equally as proud of what I achieved by founding the Lighthouse Project ( a youth mentoring program for at risk students, now coordinated by the brilliant Melinda Phillips) and “Project E”, a program developed to foster entrepreneuralism in young people and show them that enterprise is about adding value, not just making money. I was so blessed to have worked in an inspiring environment and with people of enormous integrity: many, many thanks to Leo Keegan, Cathy Smith, Magda Quinlan, Kerry Stirling, Mick Bezzina and Kevin Jones. Dreamers all. 

Gratitude too to my TAFE colleagues Rob Hart and Anne Ford, and to Barry Calvert, Jennie Rudder and Vicki Clark. What fun we had growing Lighthouse and seeing her shine! Hundreds of young people have literally been saved by this amazing program and the beautiful mentors who commit to acting as role models for young people who are particularly vunerable. I am so proud to see Vanessa and Melinda continuing and indeed expanding on this work. 

Love to my family and friends – you know who you are. 🙂

   

Published inWomen and Careers

6 Comments

  1. Francesca Kaoutal

    WOW, what a moment! Danni as usual has been most efficient and precise, articulating beautifully her thoughts and feelings regarding our win and hers for NSW / ACT Small Business Champion Entrepreneur of the Year. I want to avoid being repetitive but must indulge in a few words. Firstly I want to say that I feel incredibly honoured and overwhelmed with pride and joy that the fabulous work enlighten does has been recognised in this way. It has been an exciting and busy journey for me. I need to also say a huge congratulations to Dannielle for her award. The passion and drive she has for enlighten is inspirational. I have so many precious enlighten moments of which she has been a key part and I feel incredibly privileged to know her as I do. I am so excited about enlighten’s future and its potential to touch the hearts and minds of so many more girls and people. Thank you girls for opening your hearts and minds to us. I would like to acknowledge once again my family, friends, enlighten team and colleagues for all their support and unwavering belief in the value enlighten brings to the world of teenage girls. I am just glowing with happiness!

  2. Danni, a stunning outcome, and an accolade well-deserved by you and your team. I am so proud to have been associated with Enlighten in a small way through developing this blog ……you’re a champ!

  3. Thank you Judy, and yes, you did a stunning job on this blog! Your contribution is significant as this is now fast becoming a real share point for information on girls. Love it! 🙂

  4. Jane Higgins

    What a wonderful achievment wonder women!! Danni and Fran, I am so proud of you both and all the work you have put into your wonderful company. I get to live my dream because of you two!!
    Danni – what an amazing award! I feel to do what we do with the girls and see the change and connection in their eyes is the best job in the world and for you to be recognised by “industry” for innovation, passion and results is the icing on the cake.
    So so so amazing – CONGRATS and keep it up – so proud – so happy.
    Lots of Love
    Jane

  5. Ella james

    Congratulations to you and all the team on your marvellous success at the Small Business Champions Awards.

    I was the MC for the night, and I was so thrilled to hear the story of what you are achieving in our community.

    Working in the media for 20 years, I have met and interviewed some of the ‘role models’ of our time. From Elle McPherson and Whoopi Goldberg, to Chrissie Amphlett and Magda Szubanski. Politicians, sporting legends…I’ve had them all through my radio studios and TV sets..and the one thing that always astounded me was that many of them who appeared to ‘have it all’ were not happy. Having been part of a post-feminist wave of women who were led to believe that if we had hips one size smaller, and breasts two sizes bigger we would be happy, I started to investigate what makes us happy. I now travel the world delivering my keynotes HIGH VOLTAGE HAPPINESS and YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ALL..WHERE WOULD YOU PUT IT?

    I speak to corporate groups..men and women in the workforce, and they have already had years of self judgement that have impacted their self esteem and sense of worth in the community…how wonderful that you are meeting these ‘women of tomorrow’ early on and filling them up with positive reinforcement of their true value as human beings…supporting who they are…not how they appear to be..or indeed valuing them for what they do.

    We are never taught to congratulate ourselves, instead, relying on external forces…teachers, parents, bosses, colleagues, lovers and partners and friends…to offer us that boost that we need.. The Small Business Champion Awards has been wonderful to be involved in as it shows gratitude to small business, rewarding them for the hard work that they do. You are to be congratulated for showing girls that the best gratitude comes from within..that way, you ain’t waitin’ for nothin’!

    Love and happiness to you Danni and the whole team at ENLIGHTEN EDUCATION…

    Ella James

  6. Ella you were a brilliant MC and you literally shone on stage…it was so obvious that you are an empowered woman who is not just comfortable in her own skin, but worshiping her body AND – yes, it made you glow. Thank you for sharing a few of your insights here, and for your kind words both in this post and on the Awards night.

    It has always struck me that women who are in a pretty amazing space themselves are more likely to support other women – there is none of the usual “compare and despair” that can so often jeopordise the sisterhood.

    May there may be more healing and, in turn, more sharing the love….

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