#Tastemakers: Whitney Stacey, Founder of Monochrome International
Entrepreneurs come in many forms, and some set out to make a real difference in other peoples lives. We were privileged enough to sit down with Whitney Stacey, founder of Monochrome International, a non-for-profit organisation running programs empowering youth in Africa.
Tell us a bit about your background and what lead to the creation of Monochrome International.
Well I grew up on a big cattle station in far north west Queensland. I can't remember what happened but at about aged 14 I got this idea in my head about going somewhere in Africa to work with kids. I didn't know anyone who lived in or had been to Africa so I'm not sure what happened to make me want this. Anyway, I was way too scared to tell anyone this because I thought "I'm too stupid and too small to make a difference". So I kept it secret until I was 17 and about to finish high school. I finally got the courage to tell my mum and she was pretty surprised given I'd never mentioned anything about Africa. Fast forward four months and I flew off to Tanzania to do six weeks of volunteering. I came back from this trip knowing I wanted to make an ongoing difference to the kids I worked with so I googled "how to start a non-profit organisation" and then started Monochrome International with some friends.
What are the core programs that Monochrome International runs?
We have two core programs. The first in our unique Sponsorship Program. We launched this in 2013 and we now have 26 children attending one of the best private English medium schools in Arusha, Tanzania. It is unique in that we only take on children who's parents or guardians are willing to contribute to the cost of school fees. We want to parents to still be responsible and accountable for their child's education.
The second is our Empowering Parenting Seminar Program. This is a seminar we've run in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda where we work with parents who have children in school but they have never been to school themselves. We launched this program 12 months after the Sponsorship Program because we realised that the kids were coming home totally inspired and dreaming of being doctors, teachers, pilots etc and the parents were saying "no, you must be a farmer or a bus driver". So our seminars are basically a conversation with parents to get them thinking and discovering ways they can encourage their kids to dream and dream really big!
Do you find it hard to balance health and your workload?
Yes, when I am crazy and disorganised it is difficult and I'm like "give me burgers and a million coffees everyday!". But I find that when I am really busy I make sure I plan every hour and I plan meals. Sometimes I even schedule sleep! If I don't plan and eat well I get so tried and irrational.
Do you think age limits young people into thinking they can’t start an amazing enterprise?
It definitely limits them thinking they can start their own enterprise or business and this is thinking I am committed to altering. Age has absolutely nothing to do with doing what you love and making a difference. That's why I always share with people that I was 19 when I started Monochrome International and that I literally googled how to start a non-profit organisation. I still google stuff when I've got no idea how to do something (which is a lot of the time!), if I can't find it on google I find someone that knows how to do the thing I need to do.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs?
Just start! Don't wait until you're "ready" or you think the stars are alined. Just start something, anything and you'll figure it out. If it doesn't work out or you change your mind great! Then start something else.
Any parting words of wisdom?
Find what you love, do it really well and do it every day. And don't make everything about you, that's boring and you'll get sick of it very fast. Think about the impact you want to make of the world before you leave it and start taking action now.