Winitha Bonney OAM – Successful International Students and What Drives them Forward

With the Future Founders Festival coming in July, we’re bringing our favorite Q&A with the event’s speakers.

Our second principal speaker, Winitha isn’t an international student, but her work in advocating diversity and multicultural and gender inclusivity in the workplace is exactly what we are looking for in a great leader and she was also awarded Order of Australia medal in earlier this year.

She inspires Woman of Colour (WOC) and Person of Colour (POC) entrepreneurs to lift off head start their journey to success or help leaders create a safe and positive community.

Q1: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Australia’s first and foremost expert in helping people of color advance into leadership and entrepreneurship. In July this year I’ll be releasing my book #ColourFULL: How women of color can be come powerful leaders that transform the world. Just like a business it’s taken a lot of nurturing and attention and so I’m excited to get this out into the world and scale up my advice and mentorship in a way that’s accessible and affordable to anyone that identifies as a woman of color. I’m also a global thought leader in helping corporate businesses build inclusive cultures and leader. I’ve had over 22 years of experience working in corporate organisations and being an entrepreneur (I’ve started over 7 businesses!). I fell in love with business when I was 14/15-year-old in high school and together with leadership, is in the center of my life (besides my dog Bubbles and nephew!).
Q2: Tell us what’s the most enjoyable part of what you do!
The thing I enjoy the most about what I do is passing on over 22 years of failings and success to the next generation. Life was never promised to be easy and neither is entrepreneurship but it’s worth it when you have the right support. It’s so important that we have mentors, a community, advisers and sponsors to walk alongside with us to guide us and give us support. I also enjoy hearing people’s life stories, who they are, the live they’ve had so far. Everyone has a story to share.
Q3: Do you think International students have tougher barriers to break in Australia?
International students have their own set of unique barriers particularly if you are young and away from home for the first time. At first it may seem like an adventure but then you really realise just how far away you are from home. My mother’s cooking was something I missed the most – her cooking still gives me the feeling of home. Other barriers are around language, culture and creating a family away from home. The financial pressures of many international students are real. Having to work to earn an income, to pay for school and perhaps even send money home.
Q4: Google dictionary states that an entrepreneur is: “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” Do you agree?
I would say that if you set up one business you are a business owner. If you are in the business of setting up businesses and acting on ideas that’s what makes you an entrepreneur. Just because you set up one business (regardless if it worked or not) doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is a practice, a mindset and a life choice. You do it for the thrill of the journey not finishing your company having sold it for $100 million. The key in that definition is in “financial risk” and “profit”. It’s is a responsibility to turn a profit as opposed to pursuing a lifestyle that you think it might give you or fulfilling your passion. The first responsibility is a financial one.
Q5: What’s your personal challenge when you first start your venture?
I would say fear and limiting beliefs. All fears and the “I’m not good enough/smart enough” comes out. In a company you can hide behind the brand or your manager. In a business there’s nowhere to hide. You are the business.
Q6: How do you keep driving yourself towards your career goals when an unexpected life event happens?

This is a great question that I am thinking of more as I get older and am losing more loved ones to illness and death. And it is something I needed to think of more as young person. In everything I’ve experienced in life, I’ve realised that you need to work twice as hard when life is great on your mental, spiritual and emotional health. See a psychologist, get a life/business coach, have great mentors, be part of a community that genuinely has your back and have a spiritual belief system. 

Q7: What do you think of the proverbial “half empty-half full?”
Implement the answer in the question above (Q6). Work twice as hard on your emotional, mental and spiritual health and your business will thrive. Put it to the end of the bucket list and your business and how you show up in your business will reflect this.
Q8: What three pieces of advice can you give for starting entrepreneurs
Pay yourself first.
Spend 80% of your time focusing on managing finances and generating income and 20% on all the fluffy stuff that you love to do in your business at least for the first 3 years.
Pursue feelings over goals. We are not chasing goals we are chasing the feeling we think the achievement of that goal will give us.
Q9: What are you looking forward to at the Future Founders Festival? And what ideas to you hope to come from the participants.
I am looking to pass on over 22 years of entrepreneurial experiece down to future international student founders. The ideas I hope to see are ideas to improve the quality of life for those suffering the most in the world. Anyone can make $10. Not everyone can change someone’s life.

Are you inspired yet? Don’t miss out the Future Founder Festival happening online from 15 to 16th of July now.

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