When naysayers told OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn she couldn’t start a successful social enterprise that aimed to repurpose wasted food, she offered a simple response: “Piss off and get out of my way”.
It was a common theme amongst the female founders at an event I had the pleasure of moderating last night, on behalf of General Assembly and Women’s Agenda.
Indeed, former CareerOne CEO and start-up advisor Karen Lawson said dogged determination is the one common trait she’s seen in all successful entrepreneurs.
“There is always this drive and a passion. This idea that no matter how many people get in my face, I will keep on knocking on doors until it happens,” she told the Sydney audience.
“And you know what? The law of averages says that it’s not such a bad thing to do that. It takes dogged determination. That’s why the entrepreneurial path is not for everyone. If you want to do it, just go and do it. Back yourself.”
Workible co-founder Alli Baker said she has that very determination, noting that she will simply “move on” if she comes across the wrong investor or somebody else standing in her way.
“If you tell me I can’t do something, I will – and sorry to curse here – fucking tell you I can!” she said. “If you’re not the right investor, I’ll move on and I’ll find the one who believes in my business.”
Meanwhile fellow panelist and founder of The Style of Mrs V, Scarlett Zola Vespa, added that if your passion is overwhelming, people will have no choice but to listen.
Ronni Kahn demonstrated just what her own determination can achieve, proudly declaring that OzHarvest’s annual CEO Bake-Off held on Monday night had raised more than $1.5 million for the charity.
She said she decided to start a social enterprise after being inspired by a friend in South Africa who had managed to bring electricity to the large town of Soweto. “I knew I wanted to feel what that felt like,” she said.
Kahn got started immediately, and told the audience that if there’s something that you really want to do, go out and get started today. “I always talk about how important today is, not tomorrow, and not yesterday. I’ve had 1000 people say to me, ‘one day I’m going to do something!’”
Kahn said she tragically learnt the importance of this first hand when she lost her daughter-in-law to stomach cancer just five months ago.
“If you’re not doing what you love doing and if you’re not being the best you can possibly be today, look in the mirror. We all think we have the rest of our lives.
“It doesn’t matter what the idea is, it’s about doing it, and doing it to the best you can.”
Check out more from Tuesday night’s ‘Ask Anything’ panel series – held in both Sydney and Melbourne – later on in the week on Women’s Agenda.