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Making a Difference by Being Different.

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Last Thursday night (20th October 2016) I was honoured and thrilled to be presented with the Most Inspirational Individual for 2016 award at the NZ Innovation Awards.

For someone who constantly puts herself in uncomfortable situations and isn’t afraid of boasting what’s going well in business, it may seem a touch surprising that I genuinely felt very humbled.  I really did.  For me, when I shout our accolades from the social media roof tops, it’s usually all “thanks to our team” and “look at what record Flossie just broke”, which is a nod to the many, many people it takes to get us there.  There’s no doubt about it, it takes a village to raise a start-up!

But this one award, for the first time in nearly two decades of running start-ups, was for me…Jenene Crossan; Serial Entrepreneur, Out-Spoken CEO, Pain in Many Peoples’ Butts, Passionately Disobedient Director, Super Feminine Feminist, and All-Round-Deeply-Passionate-About-Almost-Everything Person.

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All night I fielded questions, comments, photos, tweets, comments and good-old-fashioned texts and calls.  The number of people who stopped to not just say “congratulations”, but took the time to tell me of something specific to them that I had been a part of was truly mind blowing.  I fought back tears, and blushed deep crimson shades a number of times! Even late into the evening (when some of the best celebrating happened) I had one woman repeat back to me the words from my last blog post around how it’s okay to be both feminine and a feminist.  My heart soared!  I’ve felt so alone in this thought, how wonderful it was to have the knowledge that sometimes people do hear my loud voice and it gives them a wee bit of something to hang on to too.  The pride I felt in that moment was pretty special.  It may be un-Kiwi to say it, but I don’t care.  Pride is what keeps you going when you have the sort of career like I do (where it ain’t about the money!).  It’s about being brave enough to stand out, to try and make a difference by being different – even if that’s deeply uncomfortable at times.

I was lucky to be supported in my career very early on by an individual who saw a talented 22 year old and decided to back her.  The incredibly inspiring, late Lloyd Morrison died a few years ago, but I promised him before he set off to the next realm that I would pay it forward.  That I would ensure that his belief in me was not wasted.  And I continue to hold that promise dear to my heart and I acknowledge it through my actions every day.

Being inspirational isn’t about being famous, it’s about being meaningful.  It means not only getting out of bed on mornings when the business feels way too hard to navigate, or to keeping going even when almost every bastard has said no to investment, or not flipping out when money is so tight than I can’t imagine how I’ll be able to survive, and to actually keep believing that the impossible mountain in front of me although unfathomably tall and in the clouds, is still scalable.  It also means pulling others up with me as I go, doing school speaking gigs, mentoring others, responding to requests for advice quickly, being very, very, very, very candid about all the highs and lows, and being frank about what I do to stay sane through insane times.  I have to try to remember to be positive, to smile, to invite others to celebrate all their little wins and say “cheers” often to not taking the “easy route” (that would be, getting a proper job that pays consistently well).

Innovation is what I live for and being at the centre of positive business change is what encourages me to keep ongoing.  I’m incredibly grateful to the support of few and many who back my visions.  Thanks to my some times boyfriend / some times husband (depending on the mood), best friend and fellow pain-in-the-ass, Scottie Chapman, to my family, my friends, my colleagues, my shareholders, board and fellow Directors, for all the joy and crap you put up with on this rollercoaster ride.  And thanks especially to my Chair, Tim Cook, who helped me remember what I am capable of, at a time when I seriously doubted it.  It’s easy to be a person who says “no” or finds a reason to not believe, or to be cynical, or to just get over it when it feels hard.  Tim reminds me to be the person who will fight for doing it better (even if it makes me unpopular), and to get back up again and again (even if it seems daft to do so), and break past the BS that holds many of us back. I am so proud to have people around me who do the same and encourage this passionate disobedience.

I’m fired up!  Cheers NZ Innovation Council for the injection of awesome.