Laura Conti, founder of #GoKindly, is passionate about paving the way for everyday people to help end homelessness for women. That’s why she started the social enterprise #GoKindly, that donates 50% of its profit to charities that support women out of the cycle of homelessness.
#GoKindly sells ethically sourced bed and bath goods. Their signature product is a bedroom pillow. As the website states, “4 pillows sold = 1 nights accommodation for vulnerable women”. #GoKindly is also environmentally aware, using no single-use plastic, as well having a sustainable and fair supply chain.
“It made sense to me, without much consideration really, that any business I started would give back,” Conti told Women’s Agenda recently.
“I don’t see the point of a business that doesn’t make the world better.”
Recently, #GoKindly was selected to take part in the ING Dreamstarter program, which offers the social enterprise an opportunity to crowdfund their expansion. ING will chip in half of #GoKindly’s ask, if they can crowdfund the remaining amount.
Below, Conti tells Women’s Agenda about why she decided to launch a social enterprise and how she continually strives to make the world kinder.
What is #GoKindly and why did you decide to launch the business?
#GoKindly is a social enterprise, providing everyday objects, which have extraordinary power. Our signature product is a bedroom pillow, from which 50% of the profits are provided back to two charities who are supporting women out of homelessness.
We’ve worked in the Melbourne CBD for the past 15 years, and have seen first-hand the increasing levels of women sleeping rough. I knew that sleeping rough was just the tip of the iceberg, and that most women experiencing homelessness are couch surfing or living in their cars. It bothered me as I knew that if we could see women on the streets, then the ‘hidden’ homelessness must be growing too. In the last census 49,000 women were recorded as experiencing homelessness. I wanted to build a way for everyday people to help end homelessness for women. I want people to feel empowered to help, rather than overwhelmed by the size of the problem.
#GoKindly donates 50% of its profits to partner charities. Can you tell us a little about these charities and why you decided to make your business cause-driven?
I’ve been supporting charities since the beginning of my career. I’ve always felt a responsibility to give back, as I was helped by charities when I was younger. I didn’t have money to buy meals sometimes as a student and I’ve never forgotten the help I was given by foodbanks and charities.
It made sense to me, without much consideration really, that any business I started would give back. I don’t see the point of a business that doesn’t make the world better. I feel and have always felt, a responsibility to repay some of the kindness that I was given.
#GoKindly offer a significant discount of 25% to students, pensioners and low-income earners. What’s the motivation behind this business decision?
I want to ensure our products are accessible to anyone who wants to make a difference. I don’t want students or pensioners buying their pillow from Kmart or Big W simply because they can’t afford our product. I want ethical goods to be available to everyone. If you care enough about the world to love our goods, I want you to be able to afford us.
You’ve been selected to participate in the ING Dreamstarter program. Congratulations! What does the program involve and what benefits, financial or otherwise, will it bring to #GoKindly?
The ING Dreamstarter Program offers us the opportunity to crowdfund our expansion, which is both exciting and a relief. We have outgrown our little front room at home, and need to find a work space to enable us to ship more orders. The ING program co-funds our crowdfunding. They’ll chip in half our ask, if we can crowdfund the remaining half. While we need to hustle to get half, it’s a relief to know that I’ll get my house back again soon. Every space in my home is taken over by #GoKindly at the moment!
On a more personal note, you’ve built an impressive career, spanning corporate finance and commercial roles in digital and entrepreneurial businesses. Did you face any major challenges in the early stages of your career? If so, how did you work around these?
Every step of the way I’ve met interesting people, from all walks of life. I’m a social person and my career has given me opportunities to learn and grow as a person from interactions with those people.
Sure, I’ve worked at interesting companies, big and small, however my biggest achievement is hands down the people I’ve met and the network of fabulous people I’ve made.
The challenges I’ve had have been related to the fact that I’m not a traditional accountant personality and I’m an extravert and super curious about how the rest of a business operates. Some businesses want a traditional accountant who sits in the corner and reads reports, and frankly that doesn’t work for me. Over time, I’ve learnt that it is important to seek out businesses that align to my personality.
What tips would you offer to women who are thinking of establishing their own business?
Honestly I wish I’d done it 10 years ago. I doubted myself for too long. I always wanted to start my own business, but could never get the courage to do it. My tip: if you’ve got that itch – just do it and start small because then you’ll only fail small.
I started #GoKindly in our little front bedroom, with 6 bedroom pillows. I thought – if no one buys them – well I’ve got some new bedroom pillows for our spare bed! I wish someone had told me 10 years ago just to throw myself in and give something a go.