Woman in Innovation: Amanda Whitley
"Personally, I don't like to stand still. Innovation is what inspires me."

Each Wednesday we interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries everyday!

What are you working on?
All the things!

By the time you read this, we’ll have just sent Issue 11 of HerCanberra’s Magazine off to print, and that has consumed the team over the past four weeks—so many shoots to coordinate and stories to write. It’s a labour of love, but we think it’s such an important product to showcase just how amazing Canberra and its people are.

We also recently launched HerCanberra ACTIVE—a dedicated section on hercanberra.com.au focusing on sport, physical activity, nutrition and food, and wellbeing—which has been a major initiative.

We never do things by halves, so decided to celebrate the new addition with ACTIVE Week, which has seen us team up with more than 60 health and fitness providers to offer free classes and come-and-try sessions to our readers. This has been capped off with ACTIVE Day, a whole day of fun fitness classes (including R&B Yoga) and healthy eating workshops.

Oh, and then there’s running the rest of the website and social media channels, making sure our clients are receiving the best possible service, and developing some boutique publications for private clients. Let’s just say we don’t really do downtime!

Why is innovation important to you?
Personally, I don’t like to stand still. Innovation is what inspires me, and that’s why you will have seen HerCanberra explore so many different products and initiatives since it began in 2011. I’m an ‘ideas girl’ and nothing excites me more than turning thoughts into reality.

I also don’t believe in doing anything same-same—what’s the point? For example, when we decided to stage our bridal event, UNVEILED, we wanted it to be unlike anything Canberra had seen before. The result—which featured five full styled wedding ‘atmospheres’ as the focal point, workshops, live entertainment, food and wine—was truly spectacular. It nearly killed us, but we were so proud of what we pulled together.

I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing team who not only support my (many) sometimes ridiculously big ideas, but bring all of their passion and energy to the table to make them a reality. We also believe strongly in giving every team member the opportunity to bring their own ideas and dreams to life. Innovation and creation is what drives us.

We’re living at a time where technology is evolving more rapidly than most of us can keep up with, and it’s an exciting time to be in media. The challenge is choosing which technologies to embrace, and deciding which are just distractions. But if we don’t lean into innovation, we’ll be left behind.

What drives you to make a difference?
Ooh, that’s a tough one—I guess because I don’t really think of myself as ‘making a difference’. It sounds corny, but I just find it really rewarding to be able to positively impact someone else’s life.

I think I’ve always been someone who has been able to see where there are opportunities to do things better or differently, and been motivated to ‘fix’ them.

HerCanberra came about because I found myself out of the workforce following the extremely premature birth of our youngest daughter—for the first time in my adult life, I was isolated from my professional network (which was a big part of my life). I realised just how tough it can be to feel connected to your city, and other people, without that infrastructure and realised that other Canberra women must be feeling the same.

It was around the time that social media was exploding, but Canberra’s online intelligence hadn’t quite caught up with my desire to find information on the web, so I thought ‘maybe I should make something’. It was as simple as that (cue nearly seven years of blood, sweat and tears!)

Even though our team and our broader community of amazing contributors has achieved some great things, the most satisfying thing for me is still when someone comes up to me and tells me that they discovered HerCanberra before/when they moved to Canberra and that it’s been their lifeline—the thing that has helped them feel connected to the place where they live. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

"I've always been someone who has been able to see where there are opportunities to do things better or differently, and been motivated to 'fix' them."

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?
A few thoughts:

No idea is too big or too crazy, but you may need to pace yourself! I always have more ideas than time or money.

I live by the mantra ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. That doesn’t mean I’m reckless—I always make sure my back is covered and I’m not doing anything that would put myself of the organisation at risk—but if we don’t push ourselves to do the things that scare us we’ll never achieve our potential.

Spend time on the unsexy stuff. I had never run a business before HerCanberra, so I didn’t know anything about invoicing, tax, cash flow, etc. If I had my time again, I would have spent some time getting educated before jumping in boots and all. If you have the structures and processes right at the start, it’s a whole lot easier moving forward.

And finally…

I heard Alisa Camplin speak at a Business Chicks breakfast a few years ago, where she shared her extraordinary journey to winning an Olympic Gold medal, and something she said really resonated with me. She talked about working three jobs and crying herself to sleep every night and, to paraphrase, said ‘it’s what you do during the quiet years…the years when no one is watching, and no one cares, that will define you as a business person.’ It gave me goosebumps, and I have repeated that sentiment to other young business women many times since.

Because the truth is that building a business is really, really hard work. You work long hours, sometimes—like me—you work another job while building it up, and it can take a couple of years before the money starts to come in. Some days the last thing you want to do is work…but you do…because if you don’t, you’re only letting yourself down. But if you keep up the effort, keep plugging away every single day, and you maintain the passion that sparked the idea in the first place, one day you will get there. And it will be worth it.

Because this ‘thing’ that consumes your life is something that you made. You. And when you see it touching other people and making a difference – no matter how small – then that’s reward enough.


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