Meet Serena, the small business owner of Grassroots Mentoring and Leadership program who is supporting youth in Darwin.
Serena had been mentoring at-risk-youth as a volunteer in her community for years. Many Rivers business coach, Kat, suggested Serena could open her own business after realising that the service Serena was offering was valuable and had high demand. Serena, with support from Kat, was recognised and funded by Territory Families despite the fact that they usually only fund large organisations. She was also interviewed by the ABC recently in recognition for the life changing work she is providing youth in Darwin.
“If it wasn’t for Kat, I wouldn’t have done it. I had no business knowledge and would not have done it by myself. It was Kat saying to me, ‘you are an entity, and there are so many people that want to work with you and you need to start charging for it.'”
Continue reading to hear Serena’s unique business journey that has enabled her to impact the lives of youth in Darwin, NT.
My business is working with youth. I mentor youth and work with youth–at-risk. Victim conferencing is when a youth has offended and we put them in front of the person they have offended against. Part of this is that they make amends for what they have done and work out what they are going to do to stay on the right track. I help them with that, so post-conference care is me helping them to keep to their word, to stick to their plan and keep them on track.
I also do youth advocacy and I have my own program that is being piloted by Territory Families. It is my own project that has three arms – mentoring, culture and employment. The kids I work with are very disadvantaged; they are not engaging even in schools for disengaged kids. I have them coming to my program and we have two young fellas that work with them to do a traineeship and to help build their confidence before they go into Cert II. The program is tailored for each child and requires big support. We provide meals in exchange for them working, as this is often the only full meal they have that day. I’ve been operating since December with the post-conference care. Before that, I was just doing victim conferencing and working on projects that the government wants the youth to be involved with.
I’ve been doing the victim conferencing for about two years. Before that, I was a community member and advocating for youth, so consulting with government and councils and anyone that wants to know anything about youth. I was also coordinating holiday activities but was doing that for free and collaborating with everyone else in the Palmerston district. I’ve pretty much been doing this stuff and community crimes stuff for nothing.
I collaborate with other people, like cultural mentors and cultural advisors, who I pay as contractors. I have a friend who is interested in this work and he is a builder and he is mentoring the kids in building, so part of my funding pays those people.
Working With Many Rivers
Many Rivers helped me negotiate with the Housing Commission; Kat, my Many Rivers business coach, advocated for me. Kat also advocated with Centrelink because I didn’t know about income statements and stuff like that.
And Many Rivers has helped with everything on the business side, so making it a mentoring small business and doing grant writing and invoicing and stuff like that. I had no idea about that, and Kat showed me how to do it all. I don’t really need to do marketing because everyone knows who I am here; anyone who works with youth in Palmerston knows me.
I used the loan for start-up costs. I needed many things because I literally had nothing, like no phone or even a diary. And it’s all been paid off already.
The biggest challenge has been the whole business side! I needed to get my head around the whole business side, like invoicing and charging fees. I’ve been doing it for nothing for so long, so it’s been Kat telling me I should be charging. So changing my mindset about the value of my work and what I do was a challenge. But now I bill appropriately because of Kat.
The biggest success has been my program being recognised and funded by Territory Families. Usually they only fund organisations that that have a big team of grant writers – and this has been just me and Kat.
Future Goals for Grassroots Mentoring and Leadership Small Business
The first goal is for my pilot to go well and to get ongoing funding from Territory Families. And then, on a personal note, I’d like to get a loan for a house.
Thanks Serena for sharing your Grassroots Mentoring and Leadership Program’s business journey.
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