Moving to a new city is never easy. Moving to a new country is even harder. So when Novela Corda left her work, family and friends behind in Mumbai to start a new life in Sydney, it’s no surprise that she struggled to connect in her new home.
“It was challenging and deeply isolating,” says Novela. “I found it difficult to meet people, to find my way around. I felt disoriented.”
When she did start making connections however, she quickly found that she was not alone; many women like her had similar experiences of detachment and disorientation. Working alongside her friend Maia, she vowed to help other migrant women feel less alone when they first move to Australia.
Now they run Key Into Australia, a support program that helps migrant women make a successful transition into Australian cultural, social, economic and civic life.
Novela has over 10 years’ experience in the development sector, particularly in women’s empowerment, education and community, so she felt strongly about working in the area.
“Based on my own experience of the challenges accompanying settlement and relocation, I realised that women’s experiences of migration are different and unique in so many ways,” she says. “We needed services to address it but we felt like there wasn’t a lot out there.”
When starting out, Novela says she was lucky to stumble across Sydney School of Entrepreneurship. Her fledgling organisation had secured a small grant from a local council to pilot their program but Novela and Maia were determined to build something that had a lasting impact and could be was scalable and sustainable in the long term.
The SSE Activation unit gave them the skills and vision they needed to take the next step, using the business model canvas as a starting point.
“The program helped us gain clarity, refine our ideas and develop a business model. Like it’s name, Activation, it really makes you want to activate your idea.”
Novela Corda Co-founder of Key Into Australia and SSE alumni
SSE gave me the confidence to take my ideas ahead...we are really excited
The blended nature of the course, in person and online, helped her manage the demands of starting a small business and studying at the same time. SSE also helped her build a network of young changemakers that supports her and her activities.
“I met some wonderful people through the program. It is a network I really value and feel confident to reach out to,” she says.
Novela is also putting into practice concepts she learned like Minimum Viable Experience, with feedback loops and customer surveys now forming critical parts of how she scales her business going forward.
Key Into Australia is still in the early stages of working out how to turn their collection of training workshops, engagement activities and personalised services into a thriving business, but Novela and Maia are more enthused than ever.
As 2020 begins, Key Into Australia is working on launching an online community and migrant network – a kind of buddy system where more established women can support newcomers.
“We have many ideas, perhaps a new idea every day,” she says. “SSE gave me the confidence to take my ideas ahead. This is the year we are going to test these ideas and we are super excited.”
Just as her business helps boost the confidence of the migrant women she helps every day, SSE and its student network are helping giving Novela the tools and support to follow her passion.
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