Ally Kelly is the Chief Executive Officer & Founder of Mind Blank Ltd, aiming to reduce the risk of suicide in schools and communities through interactive theatre. Ally’s personal experience with mental health struggles and family experience with suicidal behaviour has fuelled her passion for mental health awareness.
She has led the Health Promotion Charity through eight years of service. Her innovation, creativity, and leadership have been recognised on a national scale in winning the 2017 Mental Health Matters Award for Mental Health Promotion and the 2019 Mental Health Services Award for Mental Illness prevention.
As a founder of a small grass-roots charity, she has observed that Australia lacks the body of research to show evidence in the long-term benefits of arts and health programs running in the community. Through research and program evaluation she aspires to support community arts programs and grassroots initiatives to make a more sustainable impact in Australia.
When did you start your business?
In March 2011.
What was the inspiration behind starting this business?
At the age of 6 I became a carer for my mother who has been suicidal many times. I am also is a survivor of PTSD so I know first-hand what it’s like to have to find your way through the health system. Statistics show that due to my history I am at higher risk of suicide and ongoing mental health issues. I refuse to accept this and is living proof that as individuals we can change this reality.
I created Mind Blank because I believe in my core that no –one needs to suffer in silence!
What are you most excited about in your business?
I am excited about the possibility of helping other people.
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your business?
The most challenging thing about starting a business is that you do not know what you do not know. When dealing with adversity some things you can predict in advance. E.g. a growing business may need xyz insurances. However, if you have never held experience working in business before then you won’t know the real cost value of hiring a HR professional to look over your staff contracts. Unless you have experienced it before, you may not know the value in seeking a legal advisor to do an audit of your businesses (as a prevention measure and not just because anything has gone wrong).
What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a business?
1. Find out if there are any likeminded business in the sector that currently exists. If so study them. How do they market themselves? Where do they get funding? How do they measure success?
2. If you are going to start a business be clear on your why. How is your business going to be different to what’s already out there?
3. How can you keep measuring your progress to know how you are tracking?
Why did you choose to do the Women’s Business School Programs?
My self-esteem took a hit after surviving a car accident in 2018 whilst at work. As a small business founder I felt challenged and was having an existential crisis not knowing what consequences would lay ahead of us.
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the program?
Before being part of the WBS I had been in business for eight years. I did not even realise that one of the major things I was missing was my tribe. That’s what I love about being part of accelerate! Ever since I started Accelerate I have been surrounded by lovely caring women. Some are starting out and others are more established. I love being surrounded by others going on this business journey together. I have enjoyed being about to share some of my lessons learned with some of my peers. In return, I have inherited so many helpful hands to support the lulls of a bad day, and clap and cheer on the good days.
What surprised you most about the program?
I found so much value in connecting with the power circles.
Which module was the most helpful and why?
Authentic marketing. That module really challenged me and has changed the way I market my business. It helped me push a personal brand out to explain our business why. We have gained so many followers from this one simple change.
How did the program help you in your business?
I feel like it was little things that I picked up along the entire course that helped the most. For example:
Finance Module Take Away: We already had some “ok” practices in place for financial management, however this model made me think about better to present how to measure my progress and report on it.
Expert Status Module Take Away: I was already writing blogs, however I now think about how I can co-collaborate on blog content to expand the articles out to larger audiences.
What has been the best thing about starting your own business?
I feel so lucky to be invited to help communities all around Australia that need help engaging young people with mental health education. It’s fantastic to see the transformations that can occur they a young person feels empowered to seek help for their mental and emotional health.
Would you recommend the Women’s Business School to other women starting a business? Why?
Absolutely. I think you can learn so much from other people in business. Being around likeminded people help to challenge you to be a better version of yourself. In doing so you too will see greater outcomes in your business.
What’s happening next in your business?
I am aiming to shift our strategy to encourage more sustainable community action. One strategy I foresee in the next 5 years is to trial a Mind Blank project adapting a concept of peer support methods to deliver health promotion techniques using a whole school approach. E.g. our team would work with the year 11 drama students and train them to run the program for the year 10 students. Then we would repeat the training for the year 10 drama students etc.
Other opportunities for our team lie in being able to deliver the model in more cost-effective mediums. Therefore we are exploring filming online VR and AR program licensing models.
What are your big plans for the future?
I am passionate about wanting to contribute more research in the arts and health sector space to help demonstrate evidence of the benefits of long-term program implementation options.
To learn more about Ally and Mind Blank Ltd, please visitwww.mindblank.org.au
If you are looking for support to get your business of the ground in 2020 Women’s Business School Program is open now!
APPLY HERE – https://womensbusinessschool.lpages.co/wbs/