February 29

Why Embracing Your Brilliance is Key to Serving Others with Kelly Slessor


If you’re a woman in business, there’s no doubt you’ll have faced some unfair challenges when seeking investment from others. And the stats don’t lie: women, particularly those of colour, are the lowest common denominator when it comes to securing funding to grow their business. 

So how do disadvantaged women or those in underrepresented groups rise up in business? Our guest today is passionate about finding the solution to just that, and is unleashing her own brilliance in her field of expertise to make a meaningful impact in serving others.

Kelly Slessor has mastered the digital landscape for over the last two decades, and was recently crowned a Woman to Watch in Retail Disruption. She’s all about crafting what it is that she knows, embodying that spirit of your own brilliance and using those skills to uplift others.

Join me today as we hear all about Kelly’s incredible passion to support underrepresented minority groups in the e-commerce space, and the lessons she’s learnt on her journey towards uplifting others in business. 


Connect with Kelly:

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Janine: Today, we're going to delve into the story of a woman who understands the power of leveraging her expertise to drive meaningful change. Today's guest is Kelly Slessor. She has mastered the digital landscape for over the last two decades. She's the founder. Of shop you and was [00:01:00] recently crowned a woman to watch in retail disruption.

What I love about Kelly is that she's all about crafting what it is that she knows, embodying that spirit of your own brilliance and using those skills to uplift. Others as she shares in this podcast, every single setback is an opportunity to learn, and every single thing that you do has an opportunity to uplift other people.

Enjoy this episode of unleashing brilliance.

Welcome, Kelly. It's so fabulous to have you on today's podcast. How are you?

Kelly: I'm good, I'm really well.

Janine: It's so awesome to have you here. So e commerce coach, digital expert extraordinaire, advisor to thousands of people around the world, around digital, and we've got you [00:02:00] here. How awesome, love it. So I've got to ask, cause you are like all things digital in my world.

where did that passion come from? If you could sort of track back to. where that passion came from for the work that you do, why technology, why small business, why retail?

Kelly: going back to my younger days, my dad was a CNC engineer, so he was kind of one of the first computer generated or, or computer engineers back in the 1980s, and he used to build out machines that did weaving using computer technology, And I just remember as a kid, him talking to me about technology and how it was going to change the world and how it already changed his industry.

And he was one of those lifelong learners. So even when he stopped [00:03:00] working and he hurt his back, he brought a computer, he brought a big BBC computer, a massive one, and he used to sit at home and teach himself how to code. And this was just in his spare time. So I used to sit and Watch him do this. I'd sit on his knee and I'd watch the green dot and he'd talk to DOS back then, MS DOS, and he'd talk in a particular language and he'd tell it to do something.

And then he'd go, wow, Kelly, look at the little green dot moving across the screen. I've just taught it to do that. Which now seems crazy and so far away from where we are today. But I remember being fascinated by technology then. I naturally went into technology in uni and college and, and then my first job out of uni was working for a big telco and I'll never forget.

I got to work on a project called Sainsbury's, the store of the future. And I've told this story many, many times, and we were building out big, massive connections to multiple supermarkets all over the UK, and [00:04:00] I was fascinated and probably the only one on the team at the time, and probably in some cases still now going forward, the only one on the team at the time that was fascinated with who is the person that's going to use that piece of technology?

How are they going to use it? And what are they going to do with it? And how can we make their life actually easier? Because a lot of the big tech then and actually, same situation now, a lot of the big tech that is used is a great idea that someone comes up with, whether it be video conferencing or, holographs, it's a great idea, but actually is it enriching our lives?

Is it saving us time? Or is it meaning that we're just spending more time in technology for the sake of it? So that's Always been my career and that's really what I'm passionate about. And when it comes to e commerce, it's about how do we connect with real people on the other end that are looking to solve a problem, whether that be new trainers, some health, products or art, whatever it may [00:05:00] be.

Janine: And you mentioned there that you used to work in a big corporate, much like myself. How many years were you in corporate

Kelly: Oh, I would have been in corporate for about, uh, I left uni. So maybe about 10 years, I ended up as the CEO of a, of an organization. And then I left there to start my own


Janine: And so what made you leave and start your own company? Cause there'll be many people listening to this podcast that are either running their own business or even thinking about that shift. Can you remember what did it for you? What made you jump and set up on your own?

Kelly: Yeah, I think I was, burnt by the lack of. I suppose responsibility and accountability to customers that I was very burnt by the profit making organization, the profit making board and the lack of connection to customer, which is actually what I do in technology as well. and I got to the point where I was.

I was having my first child and [00:06:00] I realized that I needed some more work life balance, and in order to get that work life balance, I knew that what I was doing wasn't feasible and I couldn't keep going at that pace and have child and, be working at three o'clock in the morning on the U.

S. Times, seven o'clock in the morning on the UK times and then, midday on, Australia times. So it got to the point where I had to make a choice. And that choice for me was to, move into my own business and start my own business and work on my own terms.

Janine: And how's that been for you? It

Kelly: they say that it's all champagne, starting your own business and being the life of an entrepreneur. It's all champagne and razor blades. I'm

not sure how many champagne bottles I've had yet. but it's been a rollercoaster. working in, your own business is, you know, every day.

you have your hi hi moments and you [00:07:00] have your big, oh my goodness, here we go again moment. So yeah, but I love it. I wouldn't have it any other


Janine: you've evolved quite a bit in your journey of being self employed and in your own business. I think when we first met, you were essentially digital agency. you then started up, The app ShopU, which you were pitching around looking for investment. And, you've spoken, you've been an advisor or consultant, and now we'll come on to it shortly.

The work that you're doing in terms of the digital e commerce coach space, but also the work that you're doing in terms of giving back to community. But what I do want to talk briefly about Is, you know, I talk a lot about positioning, about, stepping into brilliance, about really owning your, your spotlight.

And I know over the course of the few years that we've known each other, that, need for you to step into your spotlight, particularly in that [00:08:00] investment space of trying to get investment at times, wasn't that easy. there were times that were challenging, weren't they? Can you share a little bit more around?

looking back in hindsight, how important it is to have that confidence and equally how hard it is to pursue your dreams in that space of seeking investment from other people.

Kelly: It was a really challenging time actually. I look back on it with mixed emotion. I never have regrets because I believe everything is meant to be and it's a learning lesson. But, putting yourself in an investment position, think especially for women, for women in tech, I think puts yourself often, a very vulnerable position because you're asking for help.

And I think there's a lot of people out there that prey on that that take advantage of that. And I think, there's a certain element that happened to me. And I think that the lessons I've got from that is that well, [00:09:00] firstly, I hope I never have to raise money again. And if I did have to raise money again, I would raise money with people that had the value alignments and that, know that were on the journey with me.

one of the challenges we have, especially as females in business. I think when we find people that we want to align with, sometimes we can force an alignment. for want of a goal. And actually deep down we know that the alignment isn't really there or it's only there for part time for a moment and therefore Things will start to unravel when you dig underneath that.

Janine: yeah. And what advice you've said there about finding someone that's aligned on values, do you think it's harder for women to get investment? Do you think it's harder for women in tech to get investment? And do you think it's harder for a woman in tech and a woman of colour to get investment?

Like is, is it a real thing? [00:10:00] Or is it something that the media are making up or something that doesn't actually exist in reality? What's your thoughts on that?

Kelly: Oh, no the stats don't lie We are the lowest common denominator So as a female as a Black female in tech. I am the least likely to succeed. I am the least likely to get investment and funding, and I'm the least likely to go on to a profitable organisation

Janine: And how does that make you feel?

Kelly: That's, that's tough. Do you know what? It actually makes me feel, which probably leads into answering one of the next questions you're going to ask. It makes me feel. very passionate about empowering people that are the least likely.

It makes me feel very passionate about not having that story play out for others.

It makes me very passionate about wanting to help. Underrepresented minority groups get what it is they need in order to grow [00:11:00] their business, scale their business, and be able to do the things they want to do and impact the people they want to impact without having to worry about whether people see their colour or their disability or their gender and really just worry about focusing on growing their business.

Janine: let's talk more about that because what I see is, you as an individual that is incredibly skilled in your area of expertise. You spent decades mastering, the craft of what it is that you know. And also continuing to learn. So to continuing to invest, to make sure you're at the forefront of technological change.

You know, you're doing a lot of work in the AI space in terms of advising organizations, how to use it properly, that intersection of humanity and technology. And, you know, what I see is it's a classic example of someone who's taking their decades of experience to now make an impact. [00:12:00] In their next season of work, whether that be the work that you're doing directly with retailers.

But you've also recently started helping, underrepresented communities here in Australia, but also you've been doing some amazing work in the U. S. with the community over there. Can you share a little bit more about why that matters? to you, and the impact that you've seen of, that work that you've been doing so far.

Kelly: uh, why that matters to me is because of the story I just told you it matters to me because I know there are there is genius out there in some of these businesses, but they don't have. The support that they need, they don't have the skills that they need. They weren't fortunate enough to go to the best private school in Sydney.

They weren't fortunate enough to have a mate whose dad's a banker is going to give them some money to invest in their business. they didn't have some of those lucky breaks or, breaks that other people had. And on top of that. If [00:13:00] they were to approach someone for investment or support or technology support, they're going to find it a lot harder to get that than most people.

So, that's my reason for being. That's my drive. That's my passion. And again, I think there's been a common thread of what I've done throughout the years. So, Shop You was all about that. It was about personalization. It was about responding to individuals. It was about making sure that, if you were not, you know, the standard fashion persona of size eight, you know, blonde model, then you could still have representation.

So that's kind of played out. some of the things I've been doing, Which I'm really loving is So one of the projects I've worked on recently is with Brookfield properties. It was with, GCS in the U S so essentially it was working on a.

Accelerator program for black founders and the Accelerator program help black founders in retail [00:14:00] scale and grow their businesses. and Brookfield Properties have committed 25 million dollars to doing that. For me, that's sustainable change. I see very often in this, especially in this market, in this country that there will be pockets given, or there will be an event surrounding.

Making change, but actually it's not sustainable change. It's a one off commitment that is not going to create a sustainable ongoing change. the other project that I've worked on recently is a program with Make It Happen, which is in remote community. And it's all about teaching Aboriginal people in remote community how to develop their technology skills.

it's such a passion project for me. It just, both projects fill my soul. So a couple of weeks ago I flew to Fitzroy Crossing, um, with Make It Happen, and we did a workshop in a community centre [00:15:00] in Fitzroy Crossing in the middle of nowhere, and we had a guy and a girl that came in and the guy wanted to sell fishing shirts.

And the girl wasn't really sure, she was kind of there for her, I think it was her cousin or her brother. She was just there for her cousin or her brother and, was kind of like, Yeah, I'm just, I'm here to learn, I'm with him. After about two hours of working on his business and looking at how we kind of set up an e commerce store and, source fishing shirts, she started to share with me that she'd done some photography.

And she showed me some of her amazing pictures and they were just sensational. And these were taken across the Kimberley and they were just in the most beautiful spots and beautiful photos. And she shared with me that once a year, a photographer will come to the, to Fitzroy crossing in a van, get out and take some pictures.

And then that's how. people get pictures done, professional pictures done. And she was saying, I'd love [00:16:00] to set something up. And I said to her, well, what about doing that? But also being able to take tourists to the best spots to take their photography, their Instagrammable photos. And she said, yeah, I'd like to sell prints as well.

So she started off very quiet, quite shy, not really contributing. And by the end of it, we had. Got her a logo, a brand, a brand name. We designed it on Canva, we built out a website, we put together some products. We had put together an email address for her and we'd launched it. We'd launched a new business for her and she walked out of that just a little bit taller than when she walked in.

And the fact that she now has the skills, whether she goes on to be an award winning photographer, she could be. Whether she goes on to do a multi million dollar, e commerce store or not. She now has some skills she didn't have before that will definitely be useful [00:17:00] for her going forward in life.

Janine: And there's so much in that, isn't there, Kelly, in terms of, The opportunity that you've created for somebody else to unlock their brilliance, that opportunity for someone to share a passion and dream and for you to connect and then support that. But equally that piece around the impact that we are all capable of making if.

We can just get curious about what's going on around us. what did you learn about yourself throughout that process, when you think about impact, when you think about being a business woman that has skills and talent, that's running a commercial enterprise, but what else have you learned from that, for yourself from that experience?

I've learned that I can't do it by myself. Which has been an awesome lesson for me to learn. when I first started doing the pro bono work, I was working with disability organizations. I was [00:18:00] working with, I worked with a child bride soldier, refugee. and I was doing a lot of the hands on work myself.

Kelly: And what I have realized and learned over the past couple of months, or past six months I would say, is that, It's going to take a village to really have impact. Like, I can have impact on individuals. And that's awesome. You know, that's good enough, if that's what you want. But I want to have bigger impact.

And in order to have impact, I've got to bring people on this journey with me. And I need to Build a village to deliver this. And so I've partnered with come LZN, who's actually OPPO, um, and been in the e commerce space for forever, and we've launched the digital inclusion project. We've now got 15 ambassadors on and just some phenomenal ambassadors that have built million dollar plus.

Businesses and are willing to give up their time to support the cause who are just as passionate about this [00:19:00] as I am. and it's exciting. It's really exciting. And that's probably one of the biggest learning lessons I've had in the last couple of months. it also doesn't need to be a financial drain, which it was becoming.

And I've actually worked out that you can.do good without t it impacting you financially. so that's been a massive learning point for me. what have I learned about myself? I think every time I touch this, every time I talk about this, every time I think about it or start doing, actually working on it, the passion grows. Like I'm just so passionate about it. I'm so excited about it.

Janine: And I love that piece around passion and that it takes a village. and I think it matters what, business you're in. It's about finding that thing that lights you up. That, makes you feel like every day is worth living. I'm curious, cause I have no doubt there's people listening to this, that have a [00:20:00] passion, whether it be a passion to grow a business or a passion to give back or a passion to, to create a new product or a new app that might be feeling like they keep getting the knock backs.

And I know you've experienced lots of those over the years of building your business, whether it be knock back. financially, whether it be knockbacks from people that don't believe in your vision or don't support your vision, or even, you know, some of this incredible work that you're now doing, in community, what advice would you give to people listening that may feel like they just keep hitting their head against a brick wall of, you know, not being able to achieve or get to where they want to go.

I'm imagining you've. You've probably seen lots of those stories in your travels as well from other people. What, what advice would you give to those listening that feel like they might be banging their head against a brick wall and just not moving forward?

Kelly: think some days I still feel like that. it's, I don't know if I've found the answer completely yet. and I don't know if I ever will, maybe I [00:21:00] won't. but everything for me is a learning lesson. So I try and take everything that is. everything that's banging my head against the brick wall.

I look at the investment as what did I learn from that? And I look at all of the learnings that came from that. And I know that I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't gone through that journey. That was part of it. And actually, some of the fundamental things that I will bring into this program going forward, I learned on that investment journey.

So it's all become part of the journey. And I think giving into that and just going. You know, sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm banging my head. I feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall, but I felt like that 6 months ago, but that brick wall was actually a massive learning lesson.

And it was actually a step. It wasn't a brick wall at all. It was actually a step to the next thing. And so, in the moment, I still find it really hard to remind myself of that. You know, we were applying for a grant last week, and we couldn't get charity status sorted out in time, and it just felt like we're [00:22:00] up against it.

But I know, in doing that, I found out all of the things that I needed now to sort out, in order to make sure that I'm prepared next time. So it was a step. It wasn't a brick wall.

Kelly: It's just got me to the next stage. So I think Just thinking about it like that actually helps. I think the other thing is, leads into your, it's who you know.

I think it's surrounding yourself with the right people. And I think in those moments of, fragility, if that's even a word. Yeah, it is. Yeah, I'll take that. Fragility. I'll it's seeking out the people that are going to pick you up and give you that strength again and energy to keep you going.

Janine: Love that. Kelly with, I've got sort of two last things I want to cover off with you. One is, whilst we've got you, online on this conversation and tech, uh, gosh, it feels like it's changing every. By the minute, almost, you know, you think you've got it nailed and then it evolves again. we've seen in the last couple of years, the [00:23:00] increasing impact of AI, and we've only just, you're, you're more aware than we are than the majority of us are at where that's evolving and where it's going.

But what do you think if you could share some key learnings for our listeners about what they really should be focusing on when it comes to. Leveraging, using tech to grow their businesses. what sort of tips would you share?

Kelly: what problem are they trying to solve for the customer? So everything I do with technology is I'm thinking about an e commerce being exactly the same. What is it that customer is coming to that website or that piece of tech or that app for? What are they trying to solve and how can you help them by using that?

to show you how you can use that tech actually solve that problem, as opposed to how can I sell them a product? How can I sell them a service? How can I get them on this? How can I actually help them solve a problem? And if you just simplify it like that, the tech doesn't actually matter that much.

You know, you [00:24:00] can use tech to enhance that, and we are, as you said, seeing some amazing Progress, leaps and jumps in the industry with AI. my mind is blown every day by the advancements in AI. Like, literally every day. I would say, every three or four days, I jump on YouTube and I watch the latest AI news.

And then I'll follow whatever Sam's doing. And I'll follow, you know, um, the various platforms. And I'll have a look at what, what the updates are. And every few days I sit there and go, Oh my God, that's crazy. It's insane. Like that's a game changer. then there comes another game change and another game changer.

Last week I was working on, a video, um, platform whereby I can take a picture of myself. I upload it to the video platform. I record two minutes of my voice. Now what I can do is get that photo. And press a button. It will turn that photo into video. So it will [00:25:00] make me talk and look animated. I don't, it's just a photo.

I don't need to do anything. Then I will type in what I want it to say. And in my voice, it will overlay my voice onto that. And exactly what I want to say. Then, I can go one step further. And have it translated in my voice to Chinese. Or to whatever language I want. And I can be talking like this to you in another language without actually ever having been there, without actually ever having made a video, by just using two minutes of my voice clone to do it.

Like, it's crazy the things we can do with this technology.

Janine: Crazy and almost overwhelming I'm imagining for some people. I love what you said there though, about customer first versus jumping onto absolutely everything, making sure the customer is at the center of the decisions that you're making in terms of the tech that you're adopting into your business, and imagine the social [00:26:00] platforms you use, how you go about it, et cetera.

cause I see so many businesses that almost follow shiny stuff and then they wonder why nothing seems to be working. And it's really, as you said, keeping the client, the customer front and center of your decision making.

Kelly: Yeah. Oh, and don't get me wrong. I love shiny stuff. It's how I've built my career. I love, love, love shiny stuff. But I think if you're not a natural technologist, you can get very caught up in shiny stuff. And, you know, for me, I've got the history of seeing what shiny stuff works and what doesn't work, but I've also got the skillset to be able to play with something quite quickly, get it up and working, test it, and then go, no, that doesn't work and move on, which is part of my training.

It's part of my call, but for others who are spending weeks on trying to implement a new technology platform or millions of dollars trying to build out the future when they fundamentally haven't worked out how to connect with the customer and what the customer problem is that they're [00:27:00] trying to solve.

That piece of million dollar technology or weeks that they're spending is never going to fix anything.

Janine: And I guess much like technology is evolving, business is evolving continuously too. It's, you know, change is never not there. It's, it's part of being an entrepreneur or a business owner to continually keep looking at how You can stay ahead of the curve and you can start serving your clients and customers.

I'm really curious as we wrap up this conversation, given the breadth of your experience of, corporate global organizations, businesses, and then the work that you're doing with underrepresented communities. what message do you think they would have for us as business owners? And what message do you have for us to support?

Disadvantaged communities. How do we bring it together? Cause I have no doubt that there are things we can learn from each other as well as work that we can do to support [00:28:00] each other, to ensure that we drive that change, not only in our own community, but across the planet. what would be your, your message from what you've noticed and what you've seen in the conversations you're having?

Kelly: So the, there was a study in the U S companies that have more diversity are more profitable. The more diverse thinking you can bring to the table, and that doesn't just mean diverse in gender, it doesn't just mean diverse in color, it doesn't just mean diverse in disability, it doesn't just mean diverse in, age, it's everything.

The more diversity you can bring into your organizations. will increase your profitability. If that isn't enough of a stat, you know, it's 20 percent more profitable. If that isn't enough of a stat, I don't know what is. I think the other thing is as we move down this AI journey, AI is so much more accessible than any technology we've ever had in front of us.

You know, the mobile phone started it, and now we've got this, AI technology that [00:29:00] allows us to do quite complex things. So, what I find exciting and fascinating is if you look to, historically countries that weren't necessarily on the global scale of, technology forward thinking countries, you know, maybe Africa or India, they've now got access to very cost effective technology.

Very cost effective algorithms and actually, you know, you pair that with human genius, which exists in all of these places, the ability to actually create something that is a game changer becomes accessible to all. So, if companies don't involve minority groups and diverse groups, they will develop their own thing and potentially displace companies.

in the next few years. And that's the change. Not, I don't want to be part of a change that displaces companies, but I want to be part of the change that allows these minority groups to [00:30:00] work with these organizations to actually create game changing technology.

Janine: Yeah, love that. can you just share with our audience, the program that you currently run in that space where you're inviting this more collaborative partnership approach to get, minorities working together and more, I suppose, more visibility in, space of what you do.

Kelly: So I've obviously got the e commerce training company, which helps retailers grow. We're, Basically working with Pete. I'm using some of the funds from that organization to put into the digital inclusion project. And also a lot of the people that I've worked with in that organization. they're now helping on the digital inclusion project.

So the digital inclusion project is essentially we're going to run for accelerators a year. Two will be for startups, completely new startups, and two will be for scale ups. So underrepresented minority groups [00:31:00] that are able to walk into a room and over a 10 week period, get all the support and everything they need and the village around them to help them grow an online business or a technology business.

in retail space, so whether it be, you know, someone down in the Kimberley who wants to sell photos or someone in the U. S. selling sunglasses, we will help grow that business and help them get to a point of sustainability. So, in terms of organizations working, there's two ways I think that organizations are really going to benefit from that.

One is, some of those won't go on to start an e commerce business. But they will have the skills. So actually, it will become a recruitment channel for some of those businesses because you will have highly skilled, underrepresented minority groups that you can tap into to recruit. The other is, some of them will go on to develop products and start to work with partners.

You know, big partners in the retail, e commerce [00:32:00] space. And that's another way that some of those big corporates can tap in.

Janine: I love it. As she says, it takes a village. Isn't it interesting how even in our short conversation, we circle back to that, passion that you have around it taking a village to drive change. And I wonder what your dad would say if you were sat next to him right now and he was Busy, but he'd been programming, what was it?

MS DOS and he's seeing the green thing. And now look at the work that you're doing. yeah. What do you, what do you think he'd say about everything that you're, you're trying to do to drive change?

Kelly: Oh, he would, yeah, he'd say you need to work harder.

He'd say you need to

get everyone around,

Janine: those barriers.

Kelly: get everyone around, cook them soup, make them bread, and convince them that they should be part of this journey. he'd be complete champion


Janine: Yeah. And I love it, Kelly, because it's, it's not just in the digital space. It's in, in all of our lives and in business, [00:33:00] as you said, we can't be successful alone. And I think as, you hit those. roadblocks, it's surrounding yourself with people and getting brave to reach out to the right people to enable you to ultimately achieve that goal and that vision.

as we wrap up, what is your big vision? Why are you doing what it is that you're doing? What's the big vision?

Kelly: Big vision is to impact one million underrepresented, and minority groups. Why am I doing what I'm doing? God, it just fills my soul with joy. I don't want people to go through some of the, brick walls that I've had to run through or step over. yeah, that's the big vision.

One million by 2026.

Janine: Excellent. doing an awesome job and I hope anyone listening here, I'll put the details in the show notes of how to contact you. thank you, Kelly, for being the ripple of change that you are, for doing the work that you do and for [00:34:00] being the impact on so many others that you already are.

It's been an absolute pleasure to have you here today.

Kelly: Thank you for having me.

Thanks. Bye.


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