August 17

Keep Calm & Collaborate

For businesses looking to get involved with or establish a not-for-profit (NFP), mentor Janine Garner says the key is to find collaborators who know things you don’t, writes Yvette Chegwidden.

After enjoying a stellar marketing career in London for more than a decade, Janine stuffed some belongings in a backpack and came to Australia with her partner, now husband, Jason. Lean times and unemployment followed but, 15 years later, Janine is a mum to three children and runs her own successful business, LBDGroup – a collective of businesswomen who connect, contribute and collaborate to drive commercial success. She is the author of the successful book From ME to WE, and a regular Huffington Post contributor, speaker, mentor, trainer and entrepreneur.

As well as being a champion of business, Janine is also the founder of the First Seeds Fund (FSF), a not-for-profit she established three years ago that helps women and children gain access to education and other resources to help break the poverty cycle. From a working class farming family in the north of England, Janine was the first in her family to leave and obtain university qualifications, so she knows first-hand the power of education. It’s this knowledge that fuels her desire to help women and children, whom circumstance has robbed of not only opportunity, but desire and ambition.










If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Collaborate

From the outset, Janine’s vision was to create something that would increase understanding and awareness of people in our own backyard who are not getting the support they need. Janine had no idea how to go about creating the change, but she had a chance meeting with philanthropist Abigail Disney who helped her get clarity. “She told me, ‘Janine, it’s not packing the backpack and climbing Mount Everest, it’s the chance to be a brick in the wall of change,’ ” Janine recalls. Drawing on the lessons she’d learned throughout her successful career launching brands and businesses, Janine applied them to her new endeavour.

“When I looked at my personal journey, my business career, and subsequently creating my own entrepreneurial and not-for-profit venture, what I have lived and breathed is seeing the benefit of collaborating and how that builds the collective intelligence of the group,” Janine explains. “It allows for the creation of opportunity that wasn’t there previously. The fact that I can still call on suppliers and contacts I met when I arrived in Australia through the relationships I’d built, is testament to that,” she adds.

Collaboration Divides Tasks And Multiplies Success

To ensure First Seeds’ funds get directly to those who need them, Janine has a board of advisors, who have regular donors. Together, she and the board decide where the money is going – an example of which is a program currently underway in Warwick Farm, 45 minutes south of Sydney’s CBD.

“Three generations of unemployment means the choice of jobs in the area is pretty limited,” Janine says. “It’s a grim tableau of teenage pregnancy, kids dropping out of school not knowing where their next meal is coming from, or running away because it’s safer than living at home.” “The program we fund supports Year 6 to Year 12 girls with the aim of building a community that will keep them safe while also encouraging them to stay at school,” Janine explains.

“Every bit of research shows that, if you invest in girls’ education, the long-term impact happens. “We also do a lot of food drives and recently bought a whole lot of bikes and scooters, put them into the Back to School Program and got the police involved to talk about safety. We’re literally working hand-in-hand and collaborating with this community to give them the skills, support, encouragement and money they need to build a better life. And we’re proving that, when you work together, change absolutely does happen,” she adds.


  1. Decide and do. Set the vision on how to get there with goals in mind, and then decide on what to deliver, how to deliver, how to measure and how to decide to continue or change direction. Forget 100 per cent perfection – make the call and make it happen
  2. Build your circle of influence. Surround yourself with people who add to your thining, complement your strengths and skills – those who will push, challenge, support you and believe in you
  3. Communicate your vision. Constantly communicate your vision to break through the noise. It creates a consistent hum of action, activity and decision towards the goal.

Everyone You Meet Knows Something You Don’t

Again, applying the lessons she has learned from business, Janine says the key to NFP success is to focus on your big picture mission and vision and find others who are either in sync or can add perspective. “The key thing really I’ve learnt over the last five years outside of the corporate environment is to seek out people who can add value to your thinking so that you’re able to make the right decisions,” says Janine. “This allows you to find opportunities you previously wouldn’t have, and then you can make the magic happen.

“This philosophy applies whether it’s your own business, building brands, the corporate world or the NFP sector,” Janine says. “It’s about clarity of vision and then being prepared to zigzag along the way to make sure you’ve got a powerful network around you that will help you achieve,” she advises. “This will push you harder than you ever thought and will challenge you in a positive way. “You also need to be very clear on what projects you will and won’t get involved in,” she adds.

“For example, our focus is women and children, poverty, abuse, education, community and employment, so we don’t invest our funds into breast cancer or anything like that. And that’s one of the key learnings: have a laser-sharp focus on what it is that you want to achieve and why.”

Great Things Are Done By A Series Of Small Things Brought Together

It’s not enough to find a cause and start your NFP; you also need to seek out partnerships that help promote growth. “It’s about working out how together you can move quickly to achieve so much more,” Janine says. “There is a lot more partnership involved in the process. It’s no longer enough to just hand over cash. As much as we would like that, the power happens when you actually give more than money. When you’re giving the skills, you’re opening doors,” she adds.


  1. Mutually exchange value. Use knowledge and insight as a currency. When they’re exchanged, they actively build collective intelligence
  2. Build a powerful network. Cross-fertilise your connections, skills and collective brainpower. Ideas that are openly discussed and shared through powerful networking will create new opportunities, innovation and solutions to existing problems
  3. Know your worth. Believe in yourself, your vision and your goals. Once you know this, you can find others to help bring it to life



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