Inspired by… Zara D’Cotta

Zara D'Cotta, Author & Keynote Speaker

1. Tell us what this quote means to you and how it inspires you on a daily basis
Different quotes resonate with me at different times, but this is one I often find myself going back to when I lose perspective. We can become so consumed by situations at work, in our businesses and personal lives, that in the grand scheme of life, don’t really matter. Sometimes I have to give myself a bit of a nudge and remember to grateful that I am here, and re-focus my energy on the bigger picture. Gratitude has been an incredibly powerful tool for helping me overcome the challenges that have come my way.

2. Miss Collective is all about helping women Level Up. Who's helped you Level Up in your
I was incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful manager when I first started out in my communications career (as an intern at CUB), Felicity Watson. We worked together for five years and she played a pivotal role not only in guiding me and supporting me through my early career progression, but also became a great friend. Fifteen years on, she continues be a great mentor and I am eternally grateful, she is a pretty amazing person to have in your corner. She’s been so generous with her time as I’ve built my own business and brand. She’s been my cheer squad, a shoulder to cry on, and so much more. She’ll even take the time to read my keynotes and give me very honest feedback. She’s a very good listener and knows how to ask the right questions, which have helped me make some pretty big decisions in both my business and personal life, always from the angle of not just what’s best for my business, but for me personally. It can be hard to balance what’s right for your business / career with what is right for you, which is something that I’ve found really challenging, as I’ve been through significant health challenges throughout my entrepreneurial journey and it can be really hard to separate the two. I think having someone that can look at your situation through a professional and personal lens is really invaluable.

3. How do you keep the balance between work, life and play?
I think balance is something we are continually striving for and I don’t think there’s a perfect formula. Different things work for me at different times, so it is a constantly evolving process, but something that is non-negotiable for me is creating space between the beginning and end of my work day for exercise or down time – so a walk, swim, or meditation in the morning before I start working, always a break at lunch time, even if it’s only for 20 mins, and I don’t work late – the computer is generally always shut down by 8pm. My health is my number 1 priority, I am no good to my business without it, and when I work late if affects my sleep, and everything else becomes unstuck. I try to make sure I’ve got at least 1 day of the week for relaxation and play.

4. We know you’re in the midst of writing a new book at the moment! Can you tell us a little about it and what drove you to write it?
I sure am. I’m writing a book about healthy homes. Not many people understand the link between the health of their homes and their own health, and I’m on a mission to change that. It’s come about as a result of my own health challenges. After going through breast cancer at age 29 and being diagnosed with a melanoma at age 31, I learned first-hand the vital role our home has to play in supporting our health and wellbeing. The impact of my cancer treatments and surgeries took an immense toll on my body and made me extremely sensitive to a number of things in our home environments, that I subsequently learned can trigger a whole range of health issues, both in the short and long-term. I’m really passionate about sharing my experience, and the things I wish I’d known when I was younger, that could have prevented the illnesses I have been through. I think the biggest challenge of our time is how can we live peacefully in the modern world while making our health a priority. There are lots of simple changes we can make in our daily lives
that can make a huge difference. I’ll be sharing these in the book, and will be launching a podcast this year too.
5. What's playing on your Spotify playlist at the moment? Anything you write to playing in the background?
I like to have a distraction free zone when I’m writing – which means wi-fi off and phone on aeroplane mode, which sadly means no Spotify! I do like to have music going though, and I try to mix it up to get my creative juices flowing – at the moment it’s Pavarotti, I haven’t listened to him in years, and he brings back fond memories of time spent with my Grandmother when I was a young girl.
6. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
That it’s never too late to change direction in pursuit of your dreams. I was working in a global role in the oil and gas industry when I was diagnosed with cancer – it was what I had always thought would be my dream role, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I thought at 29 it was too late to change career. Looking back, I can’t help but feel annoyed at myself that it took a cancer diagnosis for me to commit to finding a fulfilling career. It has certainly been a more difficult path – the challenges are never ending, I’ve stumbled and fallen many times, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing. The energy and sense of fulfilment I get from what I do now is second to nothing. And I know that no challenge I face in my business can be as hard as dealing with the prospect of not being here. It is my firm belief that you are never too old to change direction. I met a very inspiring women who went back to school in her forties to do her HSC, so she could go to medical school and graduated to become a doctor in her fifties. Pretty amazing, hey?
7. Our three go to pieces of Tech at the moment are Canva, UMUN and Slack. What
piece of tech are you loving that helps you work smarter not harder.
Audio recordings on my phone – the best ideas come to me when I’m walking. When I’ve got a speech that’s often how I’ll do it, go for a walk and record all my thoughts into my phone, then type it up later.


Inspired by… Tara Ness

Tara Ness, Customer Experience Consultant

1. Tell us what this quote means to you and how it inspires you on a daily basis.
I have to admit, I don’t collect any inspirational quotes to keep me motivated and focused, and perhaps I should! But there is one quote that I have found relevant my entire life. Everything happens for a reason, I truly believe this. When life throws all different things as you, it’s important to believe there is a reason behind it. When I look back on the significant relationships in my life and career opportunities I have had, they were all a result of little decisions I made. I had no idea those decisions would take me to where I am now. When I have had challenging experiences, I look back now and try to learn as I believe there was a reason why I had to face it.

2. Miss Collective is all about helping women Level Up. Who's helped you Level Up in your career?
I have been fortunate enough to have many mentors in my career. Being able to work directly with the Founder of the business and incredible managers along the way has tremendously benefited me. As I have spent 10 years in research, it’s in my nature to seek advice and feedback when facing big decisions. I have been lucky to have mentors along the way which has offered me so much time and advice, both professionally and personally. Now with some experience under my belt, I enjoy mentoring those starting out in their career as I have had first hand experience in seeing how valuable this is.

3. You were part of the team at Forethought for quite some time now, and managed to take some time off and have a baby amongst all your success! How do you manage the balance between work, life and play?
It definitely is tricky and something I am still working through. Everyone always talks about balance and getting your priorities right. I think the challenge is feeling as though you want to get everything perfect – being a mum, growing your career, being a good partner, looking after yourself etc. I really believe that as working mums we sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to do everything. I have learnt that balance is possible as long as you are clear on what is important to you and have an employer and family that understand that. Having a flexible working arrangement and a partner that supports you to be a working mum is critical. Transitioning back slowly from maternity leave really helped me.

4. If you could offer one piece of advice to your younger self starting out, what would it be?
Hard work pays off, keep pushing yourself and don’t give up. When things seem tough, keep your head up high and take a deep breath. Everything happens for a reason.

Inspired by… Allison Tsao

Allison Tsao, Humans Who Lead

1. Tell us what this quote means to you and how it inspires you on a daily basis
This quote captures how I’ve evolved in my own life – my journey of growth. Too often, we as human beings suffer because we want to change things that are out of our control. We struggle so much because we think to ourselves, “if only I could change that person, or if only that person would listen.” What we don’t realise is if we change ourselves – our attitudes, mindsets, and behaviours – that we can actually affect real change in the world. It’s called role modelling, or as Gandhi put it, “being the change you want to see in the world”. We must focus on developing ourselves in order to contribute to the positive evolution of humanity.

2. What drove you to start your business Humans Who Lead? And you recently moved across the world to live in Australia didn’t you?!
Yes! I moved to Australia in November 2014 with two suitcases. It was a total leap of faith, I had never even been to Australia, I only knew two people in Sydney, and I didn’t have any job lined up. I had been climbing the big corporate ladder in NYC for 8 years when I realised that that life wasn’t going to be for me. Something in my soul was telling me there was something else I was meant to do and distancing myself from my NYC lifestyle would give me some space to reflect on what that was. So fast forward 3 years, I’ve been working with a boutique consulting firm in Sydney, helping organisations through transformational change. Being in executive meetings most of the time, I realised that the pain I  experienced in corporate America felt very similar in corporate Australia. People are struggling! They are stressed, so busy, and simply overwhelmed with the complexity of the world. There are just so many demands on us as humans these days, how do we make sense of it all and lead lives that are fulfilling and energising amidst all this change?

3. Miss Collective is all about helping women Level Up. Who's helped you Level Up in your career?
If you asked me this five years ago, I would have said no one. Hah! Seriously though, in my younger years, I thought I had to figure it out all on my own, and I was terrible at asking for help. I felt like “asking for help” meant I owed someone something in return. That is simply not true. My own growth has profoundly shifted how I think about asking for help. For me, it’s about two things. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who want to lift each other up and sharing who you are, vulnerabilities and all. This is why I love Miss Collective, because that’s what you’re all about! The other thing I’ve learned is that help takes on a lot of different forms. It doesn’t always have to be formal mentorship. Rather, nowadays, it seems like everyone I meet is helping me Level Up. I learn something from everyone I meet – even the people who criticise and judge. That’s not to say that I take everyone’s advice, rather, I consider it and weigh in and take on what I feel is helpful to me because I know myself.

4. How do you keep the balance between work, life and play? Do you get a chance to do anything for yourself?
Oh, isn’t this the million dollar question? There’s no such thing as balance! It’s all about integration! (Disclaimer, I wrote my thesis on work life integration). Balance assumes that something has to be traded off, it almost inherently creates a sense of guilt in that trading off. I like to look at life as an integrated dance of work, life, and play. What this practically means is that as long as I stay present in the moment and am enjoying what I am doing, I don’t think about work, life, and play as distinct and separate from one another. This, of course, isnt’ easy. Sometimes I find myself going too fast and realise I’ve gone into hyper-doing mode. That’s when I have to slow down and listen to my body. The human body, if we can pay more attention to it, is such a smart instrument that is finely tuned to tell you when you are not integrated, or not in balance.

5. What’s your go-to Podcast at the moment?
I don’t listen to podcasts (am I the only one out there?!) I’m a terrible auditory learner so my mind literally blanks out when I listen to books on tape or podcasts.

6. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Know yourself and value yourself. Once you do, your potential will be limitless.

7. Our three go to pieces of Tech at the moment are Canva, UMUN and Slack to help us be more organised and on top of things! What piece of tech are you loving that helps you work smarter not harder?
– zoom, they are awesome. We have virtual team mtgs all over the world all the time now. We record mtgs, webinars, etc. and share them on mobile and desktop. We share screens and collaborate together. For some reason, it just feels easier with zoom than it did with all the other virtual tools before it.

Inspired by… Jess Ruhfus

Jess Ruhfus, Founder, Collabosaurus

1. Tell us what this quote means to you and how it inspires you on a daily basis
I love this quote because it reminds me that success is up to me! Waiting around gets you nowhere, you need to go out there and create opportunities for yourself.

2. So other than having the best name ever (!) tell us about Collabosaurus and what drove you to start the business?
Everyone hated the name to begin with! Luckily, I stuck to my guns and I’m so happy I did - Collabosaurus is fun and memorable, and we get so many comments on it.
Collabosaurus is a matchmaking platform that helps brands grow through powerful marketing collaborations in social media, products and events. We’re a marketing tool up to 30x less expensive than other digital advertising (and much more fun, in my opinion!)
The idea came about because I was frustrated sourcing effective brand-to-brand marketing collaborations while working in PR. We were pulling together venues, caterers, goodie bag inclusions, photographers & instagram-worthy event experiences for media launch events - and it was such a time consuming, scramble of a process. Tinder was becoming popular and I thought: “how amazing would it be to have a Tinder-style platform for brand partnerships?”
Now, we have built a community of over 30,000 businesses, big and small, across fashion, beauty, lifestyle, B2B, food & beverage (and more!) in 5 countries, all looking for brand collaboration opportunities.

3. Miss Collective is all about helping women Level Up. Who's helped you Level Up in your career?
My business partner, Nick! He was heading up the development of Collabosaurus - so we had already established trust and a great working relationship - and we decided to officially become business partners about 18 months ago. Nick has a background in the financial services industry and his perspective has been extremely beneficial to the business. He motivates me and has had a huge impact on the business’ success so far.

4. How do you keep the balance between work, life and play? Do you get a chance to do anything for yourself?
Running an online software business is a 24 hour job, however over the last year I’ve made it a priority to invest in myself! I haven’t taken a holiday in the 3 years I’ve been running the business, and instead I indulge in making sure I get enough sleep, see friends at least once a week and spend quality time at home. You do have to make time for these things - I go as far as blocking it out in my calendar - but it’s 100% necessary and worth it. I work at a greater productivity level if I’m not burnt out and stressed.

5. You’ve recently started your own fabulous podcast! It’s cued up on our phones! What other podcasts are you loving at the moment?
Yes! That was such a difficult project for me - I had no idea how unnerving it was to edit hours of your own voice recording! Thankfully, I have outsourced this part of the process now haha. To check it out...
For iphone:
For android: we're searchable on the Stitcher App, otherwise you can listen to the episodes straight through their pages in
Other podcasts - there are so many! My all time favourite is How I Built This, and I also love ‘Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller’ it’s a very interesting take on communicating & presenting in an engaging way. I’m a B2B SaaS nerd, and there’s a podcast exactly for this! It’s called The Growth Hub Podcast and it interviews B2B SaaS founders, like me (although far more seasoned)

6. If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting out in their career, what would it be?
Even if you’re packing event gift bags all day, you’re learning, making valuable connections, and making an impression. Do all things with the right attitude and your career will move quickly in the right direction - everyone started out running coffees and ordering office supplies, it doesn’t make you less of a person, in fact it presents a unique opportunity. When you make your way further up the ladder, you’ll also have a grateful mindset because you earned every little bit of success you achieve.

7. Our three go to pieces of Tech at the moment are Canva, UMUN and Slack to help us be more organised and on top of things! What piece of tech are you loving that helps you work smarter not harder?
Collabosaurus of course! It reduces what currently takes 6months to accomplish, down to about 3 - 5 weeks. In terms of tech, I am also obsessed with Yesware, The Dropbox App and the new ‘Send & Archive’ feature in Gmail.

Inspired by… Amie Fitt

Amie Fitt, Sparro Designs

1. Tell us what this quote means to you and how it inspires you on a daily basis
“Wing it til you bring it” was recently introduced to me by the talented Andrea Clarke (Career CEO).  It struck a chord and has become my new mantra!  So much of starting Sparro has been navigating uncharted waters. I experience at least one moment every day that either throws me a completely new challenge, or one I feel utterly unequipped to manage. Thus “Wing it…” has been a powerful and positive reminder that to succeed I need to step up, take control and keep moving forward.

2. Miss Collective is all about helping women Level Up. Who's helped you Level Up in your career?
Throughout my career, I’ve had the fortune of being surrounded by a number of remarkable colleagues who’ve inspired me to be better – to level up in my work, but also in my life at large.
Unbeknown to them, many of the most influential women in my career have been those who’ve simply lead by example. Furthermore, many of these women are those I’ve met during mascara application and chats over gym shower cubicles in the early hours of the morning. These are the women who inspire me to be the best version of myself – the ladies who are up before the sun, juggling careers, relationships and life, always striving to be the best version of themselves.

3. Tell us a bit about your amazing new business Sparro Designs? What inspired you to create it?
Proudly Australian, Sparro Designs is a brand of sleek, strong and seriously smart carry-alls for women who work, and love to workout.
Sparro exists to ease the load of women so typically caught struggling under the weight of multiple bags as they travel from the house to the gym/studio, office, dinner, and everything in between.
A Sparro Carry-All isn’t a gym bag, a work tote, laptop case or dirty laundry carrier … it’s an intricately engineered single-stop solution for all of these bags combined!
The Sparro story began when a Hong Kong (HK) adventure presented itself in late 2014. Originally from Melbourne, I’ve spent the last three or so years living in overseas with my partner – a fellow Aussie working for a large multinational company.
Before relocating, my week days were like that of many busy, working women. I was up and out of the house before sunrise, running or in the gym before heading to work. For me, exercise was critical. I needed it not only for my physical health, but to keep my mind in a good, balanced place. My morning workouts were like quality therapy sessions!
With this AM routine, I typically found myself showering at work or the gym. I’d leave home every day carrying clothes, shoes, toiletries, a hair dryer, laptop, keys, earphones, my wallet, breakfast, lunch, snacks, stuff … lots of STUFF, and lots of bags. My life in bags!
Upon settling into HK life, I quickly realised this regime was truly universal. Every busy, fitness-focused working woman I came across was carrying her life in bags. Moreover, we were all making a frustrating compromise between form and function. We’d either be using a stylish assortment of bags that looked good but were functionally useless, or an armful of functional bags that were, well, daggy.
The more fashionable bags would break under the weight of the 'life'; offering little or no room for sweaty post-workout apparel, while the more functional options were masculine or a bit ugly. Surprisingly, none appeared to be designed with women in mind (umm ... where do I put my steaming hot hair straighter or protect my lovely patent pumps?!)
So, therein lies the essence of Sparro. My mission is to offer a range of genuine, yet stylish carry-alls that consolidate the many bags we typically carry from workout to work, and everything in between.

4. How do you keep the balance between work, life and play?
Good question!  Merging work and home life has definitely required some navigating, as has finding a way to relax in the same space as that of my office. I’m not sure I do this terribly well - it’s a WIP!
After some challenging periods in the past 2 years, I’m learning that routine, exercise and sleep ARE critical (the books don’t lie!). My most productive and successful days have definitely been the ones with those boxes ticked.
I love to run and have learnt that it’s incredibly important to my mental health. While living in HK, I really struggled to run – the climate was far from ideal. Since moving to Chicago in late 2017, I’ve ‘levelled-up’ my running again, and have noticed significant emotional and physical improvements as a result. The simple act of getting outdoors and clearing the head does wonders for productivity!
Living overseas and away from family and friends has added another layer to the challenge of all things ‘balance’. While being away has afforded me solid focus time when i’ve needed it most, I’ve definitely missed my nearest and dearest. I’m looking forward to building my Chicago and US based network in 2018!

5. With your jam packed lifestyle I’m sure you’ve got some great Spotify playlists or Podcasts lined up to keep you motivated! What's on your playlist at the moment?
I get great energy from hearing stories from women doing amazing things in business and life. The #NoFilter Podcast hosted by Mia Freedman is a fave, as is Rachel Corbett’s You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere.
Music wise, I’m listening to a Spotify playlist called Acoustic Covers A LOT! This subdued but familiar music seems to get me in the zone and stay focussed!

6. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Only one?! Hmm, I’d most definitely encourage myself to “consider and embrace alternate life adventures” rather than be scared by them.
I’m (very!) conservative by nature, a forward-planner who generally opts for all things safe, comfortable and familiar by default. However through recent leaps of faith and embracing associated bumps along the way, I’ve learnt these adventures are the most rewarding ones. I’ve surprised myself, emerged stronger, more resilient, more capable than I ever thought possible. I also have a greater sense of who I am, what I REALLY want from life, and now trust that things have a way of working out.

7. Our three go to pieces of Tech at the moment are Canva, UMUN and Slack to help us be more organised and on top of things! What piece of tech are you loving that helps you work smarter not harder?
Living abroad and working across multiple time zones, Meeting Planner by has been a savoir! Without it, my head seriously spins coordinating meetings with contacts in Chicago, Hong Kong, LA and Melbourne.