A Griffith University project is empowering women over 50 with the confidence to start their own businesses, in the face of sometimes extraordinary challenges.
The Sisters Support Business Together program, created and led by Dr Dhara Shah, has helped women realise their business dreams, while also preventing homelessness and social isolation.
Dr Shah said a key part of the program was mentoring, matching participants with people who guide them through their concept and help them bring it to reality.
“All our sisters are mainly from two main locations of Logan and Gold coast Area, but they come from lots of different backgrounds,” Dr Shah said.
“The project in itself is to look at women who are 50 years and over who are in vulnerable positions, who have, due to whatever reasons, circumstances which have changed.
“They’ve been either unemployed or underemployed for a while, they are on government welfare, they haven’t been able to get into the workforce. So we are mainly looking at these women, really trying to empower them through training, through mentoring to getting them to start a business.”
She said the concept for the project came from her own research.
“I’ve been looking at women’s careers, looking at what are some of the challenges women in general face,” she said.
“We need to really empower our women. We really need to give them this training, we need to give them that confidence to do it themselves.
“They all have it in them. It’s just been years of elder abuse or just not working, taking care of other things than themselves that has brought them down.”
She said the program has had spin-off benefits for the wider community, including preventing homelessness in this age group, now one of the most vulnerable to suddenly losing their home.
Sisters project participant Lorraine was selected for the first program and is now back for her fourth.
“It’s been valuable information,” Lorraine said.
“But also the networking between the sisters and getting to know other people so we can support ourselves as well outside of the program.
“I had really low self-confidence when I came into the program and just having the support step by step and getting back to what I knew prior to a situation that was life changing for me.”
Participant Maria is incredibly grateful for the opportunities the Sisters program has given her.
“I actually went to Griffith Uni in the late 1990s early 2000s and I studied a degree in business management, majoring in enterprise management and accounting, and I then worked in public practice and I part-owned a public practice and had a serious car accident on the way to work one day,” Maria said.
“It left me not able to go to work for eight years and I want a little hand up to get back into business. So this is where I am.”
Local business owners volunteer as mentors to share their ups and downs, and success stories.
“I love being a part of the mentoring of Griffith sisters and there’s always incredible people in the room,” Jo Cleary, from Blue Chip Consulting Group. said.
“The most successful cohort of start-ups and business people are 50s and 60 year olds.
“We’ve got a lot of life experiences. We’ve been there, we’ve moved over the hump from having to prove who we are. We just want to do some good.”
Hear more about the Sisters Support Business Together program on Griffith University’s Remarkable Tales podcast: