Her Freedom Project with Kathryn Brooks

Meet Kathryn Brooks from Social Threads, a start-up social enterprise that works with both charities and businesses to create tangible not tokenistic impact. Kathryn was inspired by the concept of ‘social threads’ that bind a community. These threads need to be resilient and connected as to keep community strong.  When the threads are broken, or tangled- that’s when there is a break down leading to social issues. Kathryn sees her role as helping to untangle, mend and strengthen these threads.

Kathryn has over 10 years’ experience and insight from working in charities, community organisations and NFPs. On becoming a lawyer that Kathryn did not fit into that world, her direction was ‘social justice’ not ‘legal justice’.

Can you tell us about your Freedom Project?
My Freedom Project is Social Threads- a start-up social enterprise that brings together my experience working in charities and community sector to help facilitate solutions to the organisation’s individual needs. It’s about supporting those who help our most vulnerable community members.

I also work with businesses to partner with a charity or cause. As someone who is in start-up phase, I understand the significant amount of time, energy and money invested into setting up an enterprise, which makes its hard to give outside of this. Consequently, I facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships, that are not solely around monetary benefit. There’s so many ways we can each contribute to our local and wider community based on our passions and skills- I am just threading these links.

Why and when did you start your Freedom Project?
I started Social Threads because I felt stuck and frustrated in systems that were not working or utilising my skills to genuinely serve the community and make a difference. My previous roles in charities were restricted by the lack of ongoing funding which impacted on the projects and community I was working with.

I moved into local government but found I didn’t align with their bureaucratic nature and often ‘seen to be doing’ approach. I also was frequently criticised for being ‘too passionate’- clearly it wasn’t the right fit!

I felt very stuck, things needed to change but I did not know where to start. So I sought out igniting my own ‘freedom’ by exploring Central America, with a backpack and 6 weeks to lose myself in the hope to rediscover myself and what next.
My ah ha moment came when I realised that when all solutions have been exhausted, I could simply create a new one! Mine was in the form of a social enterprise, creating a purpose driven and sustainable business model that would incorporate my passion and skills to help the community.

I returned to Australia at the end of July, registered my business name, researched and incubated my ideas while working full time, until I gave notice on 1st day back in January 2017 and have been full time at Social Threads since.

What does “Freedom” look like to you and how will you know you’ve made it there?
Freedom is about building greater financial resilience while making a difference, staying true to my ‘why’, finding balance and following my gut. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to others, look at lacking or insecurity of finances and getting lost on your path because you’re so busy seeking direction from everyone else, but yourself.
The truth is- none of us really know what we’re doing, but it’s have the creative freedom and space to find it, grow, learn and chase our passion along the way.

What excites your most about your Freedom Project?
What excites me is creative problem solving and helping ignite other people’s passion, belief in their ability to contribute and our collective impact upon social, environmental and community issues. We all have something to bring to the table, it’s what makes our community connected, diverse and amazing- whether it’s helping charities work better with other charities, individuals connect to their local area or businesses to a causes- we need foster our ‘social threads’.

What has been your major hurdle throughout the journey of your Freedom Project? Have you over come it? If so, how? If not, why not?
One of my major hurdles was defining and not swaying from my self-worth. I found it hard (and at times still do) to say ‘this is the amount I’m charging and why’, basically that working with me is an investment in their organisation, business or charity.

Sometimes people really get what I do and there’s no funds to support working with me, others don’t get it but have the funds- it’s a challenge and so much of it is learning how to tell my story better to help others understand and hopefully see value in what I can offer.

What would your advice be to women who have yet to start their Freedom Project?
Be ok with the unknown- unknown set daily routine, not knowing how to do your business plan, lack of secure income, etc. If you try to hold onto it and force stability, it won’t work – so be open to flow, unknown and change, because you will be doing a lot of that and growing!

Just before I quit my job, I was consumed with fear and panic. Questions raced like ‘what am I doing, what if it doesn’t work, how do I compete with existing people in my sector and how am I going to survive financially?!’
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and thought – right you have 2 choices right now. You can continue with this all-consuming, suffocating fear or you can do see whatever happens next as an adventure.
Each time I travel there are so many unknowns. I wake up and I don’t know what the day will look like, what country I’m in, how to speak the language, I have no idea where I am going, how I will get there and chances are that I will probably get lost. But that’s ok, it’s exciting and scary- and that’s when we learn the most too.

You can follow Social Threads on Facebook.