HELLO FUTURE CHANGEMAKEHERS and welcome!
First of all, we’re so excited to have you here reading this and a part of this special community!
This interview is the first in our brand new ChangeMakeHer Career Stories series, where we interview incredible women creating powerful change in their respective fields about their stories and share their advice on how YOU can do the same.
After doing some research, one of the biggest factors we’ve discovered as to why exactly girls tend to shy away from fields such as STEM, entrepreneurship and leadership roles is quite simply that there is often not enough representation. After all, it’s a lot harder to become something you can’t see. So, here at ChangeMakeHer, one of the ways we’re working to change that by interviewing amazing women out there, and showing that you’re just as capable of doing things like them!
So, without further ado, let us introduce to you: PETA ELLIS!
We were lucky enough to meet up with Peta Ellis, the CEO of River City Labs this week, who took time out of her busy schedule to share with us how she got to where she is today. River City Labs is Brisbane’s innovation co-working hub, which focusses on fostering and encouraging local start-ups and entrepreneurial drive. It’s an exciting place to be, and walking around you can feel there’s something special in the air - passion.
Peta is a true inspiration and her love for all things entrepreneurial is incredibly contagious to be around. Keep reading to find out all about how she got to where she is today and her advice to girls just like you!
Ever since leaving high school and choosing not to go to university, Peta has always been someone who had a passion for creating her own things. Peta chose to start working straightaway, because she had a hunger for paving own way. She liked having her own money, the challenges and independence, and told herself she would work in areas she’s interested in until she wasn’t interested anymore.
She began working in hotels and restaurants, and after seeing gaps in the market, started her own businesses. Peta ended up creating 5 different businesses, including a recruitment agency, hospitality staffing agency, hospitality and training agency, marketing and events agency, and a PR agency (talk about multi-talented)!
5 years ago, when she started getting tired with same old thing at her PR agency, she came across River City Labs, which was a tech co-working space. Peta didn’t know a lot about the startups at the time, but noticed it was a growing trend, and that there weren’t a lot of places to go and work in Brisbane. When Peta started, the space was very tech orientated, meaning it was mostly male-dominated without a real community feeling. Noticing the opportunity to host events and create a community of people, Peta contracted at RCL and slowly became more and more involved in running the space. Since starting, RCL has snowballed in terms of its number and quality of events, and RCL is going to be the largest tenant in the brand new Startup Precinct coming soon to Brisbane! The Startup Precinct will be the startup hub of Brisbane, where anyone from the outside who wants to get involved can access the space and attend events (how cool!).
WHY WOMEN ARE UNDERREPRESENTED
Peta recognises that the space has been improving in terms of women representation, but certainly isn’t there yet, with a few women dotted around the floor at RCL.
For young girls, Peta identified storytelling as being a large factor, specifically telling stories of other women in space to younger girls to show them what’s out there (we wholeheartedly agree!). Reflecting on her high school experience, Peta remembers how in grade 12 her options were to either go to uni or TAFE, and any entrepreneurial speakers that came in were men. Peta thinks we need more spokespeople sharing their stories (YES!)
Peta also mentioned that confidence and mindset is a huge part of it, and she encourages girls to stand up for themselves and put themselves forward in opportunities and interview. Realise you are worthy of the opportunities and just as good as everyone else!
For women already in the workforce, the largest issues Peta identified were accessibility and flexibility, which is why RCL offers pop-up childcare at larger events and on school holidays, so parents with children can get work done whilst also having their kids taken care of! (What an awesome initiative and one that a lot of businesses could learn from!)
AND HER ADVICE FOR YOUNG GIRLS WANTING TO GET INTO THE FIELD?
Peta suggests as simple as it sounds, just start something! “The more you think about it, the more you can talk yourself out of opportunities before they’ve even started. Go into the workforce, go anywhere. When you start working for people, you get to see where the gaps are, see better ways of doing things. The only way to understand gaps is to be in scene!”
She emphasises looking at things that can be changed as opportunities to do things differently, rather than things to be frustrated about.
After all, Peta says, what have you got to lose?
Peta also mentioned that the younger you start, the easier it is, simply because there are less people relying on you and you don’t have as many responsibilities.
But Peta also recognises not everyone is going to be an entrepreneur, and that’s fine! You don’t have to be the frontrunner to make a real change - you can just as well be an amazing part of the team.