This blog post comes from Sarah Mak, an Australian-based technology entrepreneur and storyteller. She’s the co-founder and CEO at Folktale, a SaaS platform for organizations to listen-at-scale through crowd-sourced videos. Hear how Sarah’s using technology for good at Cisco’s upcoming Women Rock-IT broadcast on April 22.
I grew up with a culture of ‘work hard, stay in the same job for 20 years, get your pension.’ You became a lawyer, a doctor, or an accountant. You were supposed to choose a safe and steady career path.
My first entrepreneurial bootcamp: My parents
My rebellious nature, the part of me that carved my path as a serial entrepreneur, was ingrained in me by seeing my parents tap into their own entrepreneurial spirit. Unknowingly, my parents were entrepreneurs. They immigrated to Canada with ten dollars in their pocket, reinventing themselves to build greater opportunities for their family.
Their willingness to challenge the status-quo is one fundamental rule that I also live by as an entrepreneur.
I started my career in the health industry, working on in-country assignments across the South Pacific and Asia Pacific. I watched my parents serve their community. My mum was a nurse who continues to volunteer at the Red Cross, even during COVID – which meant the health industry was a natural fit for me. However, I knew there had to be different ways to create impact at scale. I wanted to find a way to align my passion for creativity with serving others, so I started a different path, pairing health with technology to make a positive impact at scale … through Folktale.
Working globally, I’ve seen first-hand how storytelling can change lives. I once worked on a malaria program in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, where it didn’t matter what the facts and figures said (sleep under a mosquito net, it’ll save your life), it was the stories from the communities that encouraged people to act. The leap from health to storytelling at- scale through technology made sense.
Folktale is the result of combining impact, storytelling, and technology. As a SaaS platform, Folktale connects those who have stories with those that need them, allowing organizations to listen at scale. As an organization, we believe that the solutions to the world’s problems lie at the heart of our people and stories. Facts and figures will never be as effective as human stories.
This opportunity to better people’s lives is what drives me every day at Folktale, and why I believe fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs (or intrapreneurs) is the most impactful way to see change globally, across industries. We need to empower people to make mistakes and to be curious. And we need to provide them with tools to challenge the status quo. This is what will help us change the world for the better.
Creativity + Technology = Storytelling with impact
To foster entrepreneurship, we need to encourage creativity. I believe that creativity is the backbone of every single industry. Creativity encourages a sense of self, confidence, empathy and emotional connection, all vital skills for an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs (and all of us) need to lead with a strong set of values. Sometimes it seems that to successfully scale an impactful and creative idea, you need to compromise on your values. I challenge this mindset often as I raise capital for Folktale. Some investors (wrongly) assume that because we place a high value on impact and technology for good, we aren’t commercially driven.
In response, I actively seek out individuals aligned with our vision of being the global platform for organizations to positively impact their stakeholders’ lives. It is my mission to show that profit-for-purpose company models can drive the future of our economy.
Stepping into your own spotlight
As children, we are filled with innate curiosity, creativity, and the ability to connect without prejudice, judgement, or expectation. What if we nurtured these traits into adulthood, empowering us to be entrepreneurial and natural storytellers, rather than simply following the expectations placed on us?
This can be accelerated when we find a way to step into our own spotlight.
My growth as an entrepreneur started early, watching my parents work hard and build a better tomorrow for their children. I remember my mum often saying, “you need to be smarter than me.” My growth was further accelerated when I connected with aligned individuals who championed and challenged my assumptions, pushing me beyond comfort zones. Step into your own spotlight and find people who will guide you and elevate your voice. Find that deep connection and keep your values close.
Be creative. Be curious. Above all else, have fun.