A difficult childhood can make or break a person. In the case of Alana Kennedy, CEO of Ochre Bloke, it has made her a resilient entrepreneur, and an inspiration to Indigenous people everywhere in realizing that the challenges were in fact “moments of impact”.
Growing up in a remote location overcoming challenges like identity disconnection, racism and domestic violence whilst being raised by a single mother with just enough money to make ends meet is just the start of Alana’s story – but these challenges have helped pave her path to success in adulthood.
“My journey with Ochre Bloke has been longer than normal as I am committed to understanding and attempting to utilise the current avenues of support and programs available to rural and remote indigenous start-ups,” Alana explains.
“The reason for this is to ensure that from the top down appropriate language and communication channels are activated, as this has been a huge challenge for me in the past.
“I know that the time and energy spent on developing better lines of communication and access to support whilst on my journey will greatly benefit other women and men in the community that have also come up against these challenges.”
Alana is the first to admit that she feels the weight of cultural responsibility, and knows other people are watching her.
“The pressure to be an example, a role model – I feel that weight, in a good way – that’s what drives me,” she said.
“I want to fund programs that help support cultural challenges that we face in this community. By building Ochre Bloke, I will be able to do that without asking permission and knowing that I have helped to shape and improve the lives of others will only fire me up to do it more. Sometimes cultural challenges are put in the ‘too hard basket’, however I am hopeful for restoration and healing in our community and excited that Ochre Bloke is leading the way to initiate this change as unity is a priority.”
Gene Geedrick, from Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) recognised Alana’s goals and achievements, and nominated her for an accelerator program with Investible – an early-stage investment group whose portfolio includes Canva and Car Next Door.
IBA develops programs to realise its vision of economic independence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, assisting Indigenous Australians to have the same financial opportunities as other Australians.
The program connects entrepreneurs in regional and remote locations with program mentors via video conferencing, but also involves numerous multi-day trips to Sydney for intensive sessions, which cover crucial elements and different propositions, such as financial, delivery and value and creation of a consumer and investor pitch, in depth.
“This program allowed me to expand on my skills set and experience as well gain the insight and experience needed to develop and realise my business vision,” Alana said. “It helped me validate my business model to make sure it was commercially viable as we worked with successful startup founders, world class mentors in Creel Price and Angel Investors in Trevor Folsam.”
Alana said her participation in the program had changed her understanding and view of the world – both as a business leader and single mother of two young girls.
“I have a better understanding of the power of networking and mentoring and have gained priceless industry knowledge and experience. That is something that will benefit me for as long as I am in business,” she said.
“I have started to really dream again and breathe life into others dreams as I share as much knowledge and experience that I have with the community. This program was a pivotal moment that has really reshaped my future and the future of my girls and I don’t say that lightly.”
Alana’s business, Ochre Bloke, is focusing on the shift in consumer thinking in relation to natural and organic skincare and cosmetics.
“Consumers are becoming more and more educated on quality and value for money,” she said.
“They are also losing trust and faith in the huge cosmetic companies and are building more trust in smaller organisations with core values around quality, environmental protections and formulating without harmful chemicals. Ochre Bloke is a multi-tasking sunscreen utilising potent Indigenous botanicals to rejuvenate, restore and protect the skin and is designed particularly for those working outside in harsh conditions that require healing as well as protection of the skin.”
Alana says her entrepreneurial experience has been one of enlightenment and learning on both a professional and personal level. “Self-love and personal development are vital elements to success and progress as an entrepreneur. I’m very aware of my input now, meaning the company that I keep, the music that I listen to in the car, the books that I read, the people I surround myself with.”
One thing Alana says she would like to see within the startup and small business space is more open and honest conversations and a change in our perception of success and failure.
“We have a wealth in our community in terms of the calibre of people and their expertise and experience. Our networks are second to none, however in my travels and as I network, I find that no one shares their challenges as much as I would have hoped,” she said.
“People are happy to tell you of the victory and their current business position if things are going well. What we must realise is that we can all grow from knowing that others have faced similar challenges and can learn how to overcome these from other people’s experiences. Talk openly, be honest about your journey, ask for help. Chances are we’re all experiencing the same things.
“We need to change this perception of ‘failure’. Learn to pivot, be flexible, learn and connect. Your initial idea or concept might not be the end result. You will change along the way, and the business will too.”