Women's Business: Mundanara Bayles
20th September 2021
For a number of years, I had been working in education, training, and recruitment across community, private and the government sectors. I worked in many organizations where I was the only Aboriginal person in my team and many times felt frustrated with how my managers and colleagues engaged with not only myself but also the lack of understanding they had when it came to our clients who were usually all Indigenous. I reached a stage in my life when I wanted to become independent and knew that I had built relationships with different organisations across many sectors over the years. I visited my Aunt Lilla one afternoon for advice about quitting my job and expressed what I wanted to do, and she said she had something we could go into business together with BlackCard.
I immediately agreed, not really thinking about the fact I had two small children. I was working full time and studying an advanced diploma at night school. Within a month I had quit my job, registered the business, and held our first workshop.
We held our first workshop at the Mercure Hotel in Brisbane and I remember only about five people from the public came and nine others who were all family members. After 18 months of trading, we were in a little trouble. We hadn’t been managing our books properly and were operating off Aunty Lilla’s credit card.
Looking at our financial situation, my Dad, who was my biggest supporter at the time, said, unfortunately, the best thing for us was to wind the business up. I left that meeting crying like I’ve never cried before. All of my blood, sweat, and tears I had invested in the business felt like it had all been for nothing.
However, a phone call later that night from Aunty Lilla changed everything.
She said, “Don’t listen to your father, we started with nothing, we’ve got nothing to lose, we’ve got something special that no one else has, let’s prove them wrong!”.
It was about a month after that when the Commonwealth Bank knocked on our door. We had put in a proposal to develop a cultural capability framework based on Aboriginal Terms of Reference, which would underpin their Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan. Thankfully, we were successful with the proposal and have been rolling out the framework across their business since 2016.
And we’re doing even more work with them now, training everyone from talent acquisition teams, Indigenous call centre staff, executives are finally participating such as state and regional managers.
The biggest impact we are having on organisations is linked to the very first part of our workshop where we get people to answer questions about who they are, not just what they do. Afterwards, people realise, why aren’t we going to every business meeting and spending five minutes building relationships. That’s one of the biggest ways to demonstrate cultural capabilities.
We have also supported Suncorp Bank with the development of its first Reconciliation Action Plan and have rolled out training to over 650 staff at ANZ bank.
My advice would be to anyone in Business or looking at starting a business: Relationships are the key. Build relationships and get to know people. Go to as many events as possible like Supply Nation Trade Shows, IBA Forums, etc, where you will meet other Indigenous people in business. We are like one big family! The Indigenous Business Sector is growing at a rapid rate. It’s never too late – don’t let fear hold you back or the unknowns. Pick up the phone and start reaching out or start sending emails to build those relationships.
Lastly, I launched a podcast (Black Magic Woman) because I love hearing peoples stories especially during COVID I wanted to reach out to people and have a yarn and have that accessible to anyone anywhere in the world. The strength of our culture and the resilience of our people never seems to amaze me. My message is to mob "Don’t ever give up, even when times are hard, if you really believe in what you’re doing, then stick at it..."So many times i wanted to give up, but I’m not someone that quits easily, so I’ve got that stubbornness about me, and kicking goals now, still pinching ourselves that we have come this far.
Would love to connect!