When Cornelia Schulze moved to Sydney from Germany four years ago, she found the transition difficult at first. With two business degrees and a 25-year career in publishing, Ms Schulz has a wide range of skills which she was keen to put to good use.
“I was lucky because I was not a refugee and I had a job, but I still had to relearn so many things,” Ms Schulze said.
She approached SSI to help out with the Ignite Small Business Start-ups program.
“I thought ‘maybe it’s not a bad idea to help people who are less fortunate than I am.’”
For the past year, Ms Schulze has been involved with creating business cases for entrepreneurs who are part of the Ignite program. She has worked with tradespeople, a tennis coach, a fashion designer and a cake decorator to name a few, helping them to work out a two-year plan for their businesses.
“When I sit down with a client, I ask a lot of questions, but the most important one is ‘why is your idea special?’ It helps me to work out what sets them apart.”
Once Ms Schulze has spoken with a client, she conducts research and looks at environmental considerations and legal implications, and also does a PEST (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological) analysis.
Once the research is done, she helps her clients work out their start-up costs, creates a marketing and promotional plan and a cash flow plan.
“Putting numbers on a piece of paper makes them tangible,” she explained.
“You need to understand what your goals are.”
Ms Schulze has also drawn on her industry contacts and even managed to help her fashion designer client land a spot in high-end fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar.
“I pump the network I have. I have not been shy in asking for support, and everyone is so happy to help out,” Ms Schulze said.
“I’ve been so utterly impressed and humbled by the refugees I’ve met. I’ve not met a single one who has complained or expected special treatment. They want to get on with things, and they want to contribute,” she said.
And what advice would she give to someone thinking about volunteering?
“I would say give it a shot, jump in with both feet, you will be blown away,” she said.
“Leave everything you think you know at the door, take it all in and be open and you’ll be in for the ride of your life.”