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Maddy Buchner, Little Dreamers Australia

In Bending the Future, the new podcast from Future Anything, our team chat to epic entrepreneurs that started their enterprises whilst still in school. In the first episode, Future Anything’s Nicole Dyson meets Maddy Buchner, Founder and CEO of Little Dreamers Australia. 

Maddy Buchner Little Dreamers

Maddy shares her journey from setting up the first iteration of Little Dreamers when she was just 9 years old to it becoming Australia’s leading young carers support organisation,  improving the quality of life for young carers across the country.

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Read the full transcript below.

About the podcasters:

Nicole Dyson is Founder & Director of Programs at Future Anything and Founder of YouthX, Australia’s only start-up accelerator specifically designed to support young entrepreneurs who are still at school. Connect with Nic on LinkedIn here or Twitter here

Madeleine Buchner grew up as a young carer for her brother and mother with a myriad of health conditions. Now she’s proving to herself and to the world that a little girl, whose family sometimes struggled to put dinner on the table, can in fact make a huge difference. From supporting one child to thousands across Australia and Founder and CEO of Little Dreamers, to singing karaoke with Hanson in Philadelphia and dining with royalty, Madeleine has an inspirational story about breaking down barriers and dedicating her life to at risk young people. Connect with Maddy on Instagram here, LinkedIn here or Twitter here.

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to Future Anything’s regular e-newsletter for more. You can sign up here!

Nicole Dyson meets Maddy Buchner, Little Dreamers – Full transcript:

Nicole: Welcome to Bending the Future. Today, I have the great pleasure of speaking to somebody who I have met a couple of times but watched from a distance do incredible things. Maddy, welcome, thanks for making some time to have a chat today about all things you and Little Dreamers.

Maddy: Thanks so much for having me, I’m really excited to be here. 

Nicole: We were just chatting before I clicked record about how, I guess, working probably looks really different at the moment compared to what it might have six weeks ago. How have things changed for you in the day to day now, compared to maybe if we’d recorded this two months ago?

Maddy: At the moment, I am working from home from my bedroom, from a home that didn’t have a desk three weeks ago, that now has a very small, I reckon the world’s smallest desk I’ve managed to fit into my room at the moment. I’m going into my fourth week from working from home, and I’ve decided that working from home is very different when you choose to work from home versus when you’re forced to work from home. So, I’m starting to get used to it but there are definitely some easier days and some harder days.

Nicole: That’s so interesting, right? Because when you don’t work from home, it probably seems like such a luxury, and then suddenly when you don’t have another option, it’s less fun, except for the fact that we can do things like this in pyjamas, should we wish to, without any fear of anybody judging or seeing us. So, there’s definitely plus sides as well.

Maddy: Yeah, I’m definitely in pyjamas at the moment and I definitely wouldn’t do this if we were out in public. Although, after this, the thought of putting jeans on is probably one of the hardest things to think about, so you never know. 

Nicole: There’s going to be some adjustment periods I think, definitely. Look, I do agree that jeans and maybe bras, might be something that we all need to acclimatise back to after a significant time of working from home.

Maddy: Most least used items of the whole Coronavirus Pandemic.

Nicole: Unless they’ve been converted into face masks.

Maddy: This is true.

Nicole: Maybe we’re just misusing them at the moment. They really have a place in this. Cool. I’d love to, I guess maybe just go back to the beginning a little bit for you, if we cast our mind back a number of years ago. Where did Little Dreamers start for you? What were you doing? How old were you? Where did the idea spark or kick off? How did it begin?

Maddy: When I was really young, I remember growing up with a brother who’s about two and a half years younger than me, who has been in and out of hospital for as long as I can remember, and I just remember growing up and feeling like I just had this really sick little brother, I didn’t really understand what was going on, or why my family spent a lot more time in hospitals than my friends did. I think that when I was around the age of nine, I kind of realised that maybe things are a little bit different for me, maybe this isn’t what is considered normal in everyone else’s family. I was feeling quite lonely, which I think is an interesting thought for a child to be feeling, because when you’re nine, ten years old, your whole world is meant to revolve around you. Like you’re meant to be the centre of your entire universe, it’s at that age where you have the opportunity to do this, and so, for me to be expressing feelings of loneliness and thoughts about “well why does nobody care about me”, I think for someone who’s that young, is probably, looking back it’s probably something that people around me were quite concerned about. But for me, I looked at that and I turned to my friend and said “why does nobody care about me? Why does everyone seem to care a bit more about my brother? And how do we do something about this?” So, at the age of nine, my friend and I started an organisation called the Care Net Kids’ Club which was the very first, I guess, version of Little Dreamers, and we would raise money for an organisation called Care Net, which existed to support the brothers and sisters of sick kids. I was being supported by Care Net, I had a, they called them a co-pilot, it was like a mentor, or a big brother big sister similar program, and we raised money for their co-pilots program to ensure that lots of kids could access co-pilots if they had a really sick brother or sister. 

Nicole: So, what were some of the things that you did to raise money as a nine-year-old? Like how, yeah how did you do that?

Maddy: We, our very first fundraiser was a party at the Plaster Funhouse which, it doesn’t exist anymore which I’m really sad about but it’s like an arts and crafts studio. We had 50 of our friends and their parents come down and we actually had Peter Mitchell, the news reader, come down and we, I think we raised like $1500, and we were like “this is so cool, everyone’s coming to spend the day with us”. Then we went from there and we ran a children’s fashion parade with, for all those people that love 80s Australian music, Tottie Goldsmith was our MC, which meant nothing to 10-year-olds, but meant everything to our parents, and they were paying for the tickets so it definitely was a strategic move at the time.

Nicole: That’s fantastic.

Maddy: We ran a sports clinic. We had, we managed to get the Harlem Globetrotters down to run a sports clinic, and we were doing things that we wanted to have our friends come to, basically, and things that we wanted to go to as 9, 10, 11 year-old’s at that stage.

Nicole: So, I’m so curious, like how did you get people like that to jump on board? Like, I think back to nine-year-old me whose greatest achievement was probably matching my fluoro yellow bike pants to my fluoro yellow shirt. How do you like, was there people around you that supported you like how did you, yeah, how do you do that? How do you bring those people on board? How do you organise it at nine and ten?

Maddy: We definitely have incredible parents. Our parents at that age definitely played a massive role in what we wanted to do. We came up with the ideas and we made lists and we worked through it together as, I guess, more of a committee rather than two nine-year-olds leading the way by themselves. But we just picked up the phone and we called people, or we asked, and we said, “do you know this person” or “could you put me onto this person” and eventually we got introduced to the right people. That’s been something that’s taken me over the past, I guess, 18 years now of running this business and turning it into an organisation that employs staff and works with a huge number of kids every year, that it’s just a matter of asking because, for me and what I’ve learnt over this time is that you’ll never know who will say yes and the worst thing anyone will ever say is no. 

Nicole: That’s so true. Tell me how things evolved from there. So, you’re running these events at nine and ten, you’re raising money for another organisation that was obviously having a huge impact in your life personally, and that you could see was making a big difference for people that were living a little bit like you. What was, what happened next?

Maddy: So, at the age of 14, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, I went from being a support and a carer alongside my parents for my younger brother, who had, or who still has a range of chronic illnesses and learning difficulties, to a point where my dad was providing a lot more care for my mum, and I was taking on a lot more of a hands on caring role for my brother. I remember being a really angry teenager. Like I was a listen to Simple Plan with the volume turned up slamming the doors kind of teenager, with black nail polish and fishnet stockings. I remember just not really being able to grasp why my family, why these things keep happening to my family, why, when we’ve grown up with such a sick little boy in our family, why does now my mum need to get sick. I jumped on doctor Google, I remember the night that my mum was diagnosed, or that she told us that she’d been diagnosed, and I jumped on doctor Google and I was googling breast cancer, and reading up all these things that you’re not meant to read about when your mum’s just been diagnosed, and found this report written by a professor named Saul Becker, who is based over in the UK, all about this concept of people called young carers. I’d never heard of the term, I was a very inquisitive teenager, so I read through this research report, and as I was reading through it, it listed people feeling isolated, people taking care of unwell family members, people struggling with their education, struggling financially, struggling with anxiety and mental health, and all of these things that were falling into place for me. I started questioning why has nobody spoken to me about this? Why are young carers something that nobody has acknowledged when, in the UK, there were thousands upon thousands of kids being identified as young carers within the community. I thought, well then, there must be kids like that here if I feel like that. So, there was a competition, within the community, called Youth Inspire, and I joined with my friend who, we were nine-year-old’s when we started the Care Net Kids Club, we entered this competition called Youth Inspire where we had to come up with a way that we wanted to change the world. We came up with, it’s the only time in my entire life I’ve ever written a business plan, but we came up with a plan for an organisation called Little Dreamers, that we wanted to run to support young carers in the community and the brothers and sisters of sick kids. We pitched at this live event, it was the first time I ever pitched anything, at this event in the comedy club in Melbourne and Samuel Johnson spoke, and we pitched this idea of Little Dreamers and we made it this whole theatrical thing, we were in a game show and there were people running through the audience and it was, I have a video somewhere which I will protect my life that nobody ever gets to see,

Nicole: I really need to see this vid, that’s all I can think about now is who I need to talk to to get access to this video.

Maddy: I had glittery blue eyeshadow on, and I had plaits in my hair because our theme and our colour has been, and always has been, blue and I think I took the blue theme just a tiny bit too far. But it was 2008, and we pitched this idea and the, you had the possibility to win $5000 from this competition. We didn’t win, because they said we were too established and we’d been doing it for too long, which still to this day really frustrates me because the people who did win never did anything. But what we did do with that was we had a business plan, we had an idea and on the 16th of May in 2009, we ran a cocktail party, we got 16-year-olds to run the cocktail party, I think we just wanted to seem like we were a little bit older than we were. We had 50, I think 50-75, of our family and friends within this space, we raised $6000 and that’s what we used to start Little Dreamers back in 2009.

Nicole: Incredible. Also, I can’t imagine that the winners rocked blue eye shadow nearly as well as what you did, to be fair, and that should’ve really gotten you bonus points. 

Maddy: I think it should, but we’ll have to take that when the two of us get together and run a competition like this, then we’ll make sure that there are extra points for blue eye shadow and theatrics in their pitches.

Nicole: Yeah, I think that’s only fair. In fact, we might look at our Future Anything judging rubrics for our pitches and just realign a couple of things so that that’s more explicit because I think we’ve made that implicit up until now. So, you had $6000, what do you do with $6000 as a 16-year-old when you’ve got big dreams, and a little bit of cash?

Maddy: Our first intention was to run a program that provided the opportunity for young carers to access something that they always wanted to do but could never afford. These were very similar to Starlight Dream or a wish from Make A Wish. My brother received a Starlight Dream and we; I was so jealous of him the entire time. We got to go swim with dolphins, which was just incredible, but at the same time I was like “why can’t everyone get things like this?” So, we started with a dream experience program, which is still one of our flagship programs to this day, and our very first dream experience that we ever granted was for two siblings, Erin and Adelle, and it took us time, like we didn’t grant out first dream overnight. We granted our first dream in 2010, so about six months after we started the organisation, and we gave Erin and Adelle and their family the opportunity to stay in a really fancy hotel overnight, they took a pink hummer limo to the hotel, one of the girls got given a bike, because she loves to bike ride, and they got to have this big family lunch at the hotel, and spend the day there and get some respite from their caring role with their family and just get to celebrate everything and recognise all the hard work that they’ve been putting in over the years. I remember going down to the hotel and standing out there and meeting this family and realising that we can actually make a difference, and I think, at that point I realised that there is the potential for this to be a lot bigger than I ever thought it would be. I remember feeling scared, but I also remember feeling really really excited. 

Nicole: Yeah. I want to ask like a logistical question, because. So, at 16, you’ve got $6000 in the bank, you’re making some decisions that involve, I guess, lots of adults and you know, coordinating of cars and limos and event things like holding the money. At that point, did you register anything as far as a business name or organisation? Like how were you doing some of that, I guess, the business thing, and I use that in inverted commas, but what did managing those sort of more logistical side of things look like at 16, when you were still probably juggling school and a whole bunch of responsibility caring at home as well?

Maddy: Yeah, by the time we granted our first dream experience, I was in Year 12 and I think, looking back, I probably wouldn’t have started a business in Year 12 because it made me, while I was a very good student and I did love my studying, it definitely made me a bit more distracted than I probably should have been in Year 12. But I did, I guess I did learn how to apply my knowledge a little bit faster which was good. We couldn’t register, we did register a business. I remember back in the day printing off all these pages about what is an ABN and how do you register one and what are the different company types and things like that. We ended up, I participated in a leadership program in Sydney not long after, or not long before I think, we ran our launch event, and there were, through this leadership program, I managed to meet these lawyers and I asked them, I said “look, this is what I’m trying to do, how do I do it?” and they offered to help us for free, and help us to set up all the business-y kind of stuff, so how we registered our name, we had an ABN, we registered as a proprietary limited company from memory, which is now changed. But there were all these things that they helped us do, but we couldn’t do it in our name. It was not registered under Madeleine Buchner as a director of the business because I was too young, and I wasn’t allowed to have that at the age of 16. So, it was registered, my parents were directors of the company and same with Bec, who was running it with me, her parents were directors of the company, and all of these board members that we had signed on as the official directors, and Bec and I were, I guess, the brains and the brawn behind the operation, but we weren’t the names on the paper yet. So, for my 18th birthday, I got to become the board member and director of my own company, which was kind of cool. But yeah, we definitely had help. This was not something I could’ve done by myself, and the whole time it’s been me coming up against the thing and saying “right, I think we need to register this” or “something tells me that we’re not getting this because we haven’t done this properly” or “google has told me that to get tax deductibility, you actually have to this kind of organisation” and then reaching out to people and saying “I don’t know what any of this means but can you help me or is there somebody that you know can help us put this together, because this is what I think needs to happen but I am definitely not the right person to make that happen”.

Nicole: Yeah, so, I mean, because I imagine that it would’ve been a logistical minefield, and one thing that I find really, I think, important, and what you’ve said a couple of times is just that you need to be vulnerable and ask for help when you are confronted with that uncertainty. That sounds like it’s been a theme the whole way through for you, like every time you had something that you didn’t quite know what to do with, you just kind of asked the question.

Maddy: Yeah, exactly. I think that it is something that I still do, and I do a lot, but I’m also not very good at it. So, I’m not very good at asking for help with my work when I feel like I should know the answer. I am the type of person who likes to head down and do the work and try to prove, I have a little bit of imposter syndrome and by a little bit, I mean a lot. I’m one of those people who feels they need to prove to everyone that I am the right person to run this business, and sometimes that age isn’t a barrier and gender isn’t a barrier and I’m, I’m just pushing through and getting this stuff done. So, for some things, I am not great at asking for help, and for other things I’m very much like I’m not meant to know this, I don’t know this, I’m not going to waste my time trying to teach myself this when there are other people who can and do already know this better than me.

Nicole: I want to dig into that a little bit. I think every founder has a degree of imposter syndrome, some of us more than others, and I think you’re right, when you’re a young person and also a young girl starting a business too, like there’s lots of layers, I think, to that. When you started, and certainly maybe even leading all the way through until now, being a young founder, I imagine, has some advantages and disadvantages. What were some of the great parts about, of being a young founder and then, in your opinion, what are some of the worst parts of that?

Maddy: I think the best parts of being a young founder was that I just didn’t see any risk. I didn’t see any challenges, I just thought that this could be the best thing in the world and the whole world was my oyster. Time and time again, we’ve proven that that outlook does help. Whenever we do something within the business, and whenever I decide that we want to grow the business or we want to change something, I still look at it from a very optimistic, glass half full kind of perspective, I still look at it and go “well, we’ve done it before, this hasn’t failed before, and why would it fail now?” So, that’s definitely the best thing I think about being a young founder is that I didn’t have any experience that told me that this wouldn’t work. So, in everything I did, I thought “okay, well this will work, it has to work”. I guess the challenges with being a young founder and the worst part has been the fact that, and this was more so when I was quite young and not necessarily now, but there were people where I would walk into a meeting or make a phone call, and they would say “can you just put your parents on?” or “why haven’t you brought your parents to the meeting?” and I would turn around and say “well, my parents wouldn’t be very useful in this meeting because they don’t know what’s going on” or “they’re not in the day-to-day of the business, they’re just on the board”. So, it has been a point of having to, I guess, show people that age is no barrier, and it hasn’t been for me, but at the same time, just looking at it and saying “well, if I just keep working harder and proving that everything is fine, and everything will work, then eventually people will just cotton on to the fact that they just kind of have to jump on board the train, or they’ll miss it basically”.

Nicole: So, I mean, across the course of the last 18 years, which is huge, what are maybe, what’s a highlight, like a moment that stands out to you as being really significant and important? Why that moment?

Maddy: I was in London two years ago now, and I was sitting on the floor of this apartment with one of my best friends in the whole world, who also grew up as a young carer, and we were talking about what would we have wanted when we were teenagers that would’ve made an exceptional difference for us in our lives, and how we see ourselves today. We decided that we wanted to come up with this concept to run a leadership and personal development program for young carers, which would run over six months that would give them the opportunity to gain some new skills, build some social connections, but also give them access to business mentors and personal mentors, and all these things that would’ve helped us, when we were teenagers, to figure out what we wanted to do because young carers often get so wrapped up in their caring role, that they don’t get time to think about who they are outside of their caring role, and what a future might look like for them. We sat there on this floor, and we mapped out this program until very late at night, and I came home and within six weeks, we had the Big Dreamers program online for applications, and it was a very messy program, it wasn’t perfect, as most pilot programs aren’t, but we managed to secure some funding for it. In 2019, we launched our very first group of Big Dreamers, there were 10 of them, and we’re now onto our third group of Big Dreamers, but it’s, this program has probably been the thing I’m most proud of in the whole organisation, because I get to spend six months of time with young carers, between the ages of 13-18, really getting to know them, getting to know who they want to be, what they want to do, what life is like to them, and then really tangibly see the change that we can make in their lives from building self-confidence to getting jobs to finishing school to getting into university when they never thought they could, and we can see that and over that six months of time, and then into the alumni program that we now have, I can actually pinpoint the time when their life changed. Whether that is because of Little Dreamers or the friends that they’ve met through the program, or it just so happened as a coincidence at a period of time, I am so proud that I get to work alongside these kids and watch them at such a pivotal point in time and be able to provide a service that I so desperately needed when I was their age. It’s just every day when I get to be a part of the Big Dreamers program is a great day.

Nicole: Can you share a story with us about maybe one of the young people that you’ve worked with through maybe the Big Dreamers program or, for those of us out there that maybe have been fortunate to not play a role as a young carer or have a young carer close to us, what does that story look like for the young people that you’re working with?

Maddy: So, back, oh it was probably 2010, we received an application from a family where the young girl’s name was Ailen. Ailen was nine years old, and she cared for, still cares for, her brother Aiden, who has Autism, and quite severe, high-needs, low-functioning Autism. Ailen wanted to be a zookeeper for a day. So, we granted her dream experience and then, over the last nine/ten years, we have watched Ailen go through all of our different programs, she came to holiday programs, and in 2019, she was in our first cohort of Big Dreamers. We’ve seen her do all of these things, and I’ve watched her grow. She was a very very shy, young girl and now I’ve watched her blossom into an incredibly confident teenager who wants to work in social media and marketing and she’s very passionate about music and she, over the years, I have been fortunate enough to work quite closely with her and a little bit as a mentor, but I’ve come to see her and her family as part of my family and watching Ailen grow, she actually did her Grade 10 work experience with Little Dreamers last year which was an interesting concept because I never thought as a nine year old, she would then come and do her work experience with us. To be able to watch her, and to watch her grow and watch her caring role change from something that is quite hands down to something that is, still hands on but, something that she has the skills to manage in her daily life has made me very proud of her.

Nicole: That’s so incredible. It must be a bit of a, like an out of body experience, a little bit, to think about you at nine, and where this started at the Care Net Kids’ Club, raising money, to then taking on a work experience person who was probably not that dissimilar to you, maybe, at nine. I can’t imagine that sort of moment of watching this play out over the course of the last 18 years must be quite surreal at times.

Maddy: Yeah, definitely. It’s very much a pinch yourself kind of thing sometimes when you look back and, we work with, some of the nine year olds we work with now through our holiday program, I look at them and I go “God, you’re young”, like nine year olds just look really really young. I think back to me being a nine year old and running the Plaster Funhouse party, or running the fashion parades that we used to run and thinking “what on earth was I doing and at what point did my parents look at me and go ‘we have a bit of a weird child on our hands here’”. But, yeah, it’s just, it’s a very surreal moment to look back at nine-year olds now that are going through our programs and think about how desperately I needed that and how special it is that we can now provide that to them. 

Nicole: Yeah. So, let’s talk about, I guess, you’ve mentioned a number of different programs that Little Dreamers has evolved into. I mean, you’ve got where it started, I guess, with the dream experience program, and you’ve mentioned, obviously, your Big Dreamers and moving into your third cohort, you’ve eluded to holiday programs. What is the scope of work that the organisation leads now? How many staff are involved? What sort of team is leading this work and where are you leading the work?

Maddy: We are now an Australian wide national organisation, we’re Australia’s leading young carers support organisation that aims to improve the quality of life for young carers. So, if we look at all of their different risk factors, Little Dreamers has a program that targets nearly all of them. The only one, so, there are five main risk factors that young carers face; financial disadvantage, education disadvantage, unemployment, social connectiveness or social isolation, and poor mental health. The only risk factor that we don’t tackle at the moment is financial disadvantage, because we can’t provide small bursaries and things like that, there are other organisations that we work with that do provide that service. So, we run, I think it’s now eight different direct support programs that work with young carers from providing holiday programs and dream experiences, right through to working with teachers on how to better identify young carers in their classroom and provide extra support through to an online peer support platform called The Dreamers’ Hub, which allows us to provide peer support and networking opportunities and tips and tricks and fact sheets and everything from how to get a good night sleep to how to process your superannuation and how to check that you’re getting paid the right amount to young carers all around Australia in regional and rural and metro communities, and we can do so from the comfort of an office in Melbourne. We do actually have offices now in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, which is a dream come true I think and very odd to say. We have a core team of 14 staff now, not all of who are full time, and then we have a casual team that works to deliver our in person peer support programs and our mentoring programs in New South Wales and in Queensland and our school program in Melbourne and Brisbane, which takes our head count to about 32 people now on the books, which we only employed our very first staff member in 2018. So, it’s not too shabby, I don’t think.

Nicole: You’re not too shabby. I think that’s probably a fair way to describe it. I mean, it all started with that first dream experience program for Erin and Adelle in 2010, how many young people has Little Dreamers worked with over the course of the years now?

Maddy: We’ve now worked with just over 5000 kids directly, on a one on one, I guess, support service. We’ve also worked with hundreds of thousands of kids in schools around raising awareness about who a young carer is, what challenges they face, if you know a young carer in your classroom or in your community, what can you do, or if you are a young carer, you’ve never received any services, where can you reach out to? And that service, that, I guess, we call it indirect services, so we’re raising awareness about young carers with the hope that there are young carers in the audience who will then seek support, which I think is just as important as the direct services that we run because, we’re increasing the identification of young carers, we’re talking to kids who, just like me, grew up not knowing that they were a young carer and not knowing what they could access as support. So, it’s, yeah, 5000 on a direct support level, and hundreds of thousands on an indirect support, which is exciting.

Nicole: Yeah, not too shabby, hey? I, like, this has been a huge journey for you over the last 18 years, and you touched on the fact that, you know, certainly you faced some, I guess, discrimination for your age as a young person and perhaps weren’t taken seriously stepping into some spaces that you had the authenticity and the credibility to speak from. We hear this story all the time, you know, about young people feeling that they’re perhaps too young to make a difference. You’re out there proving, over the last 18 years, that it really doesn’t matter how old you are. If you care enough and if it matters to you, you can make a difference. What are a couple of clear, simple, tangible steps that perhaps a young person listening to this could walk away and do tomorrow to start their own organisation or movement around something that they care about?

Maddy: I think the first thing to do is to always be really clear about what you want to happen at the end. So, it doesn’t need to be something you realistically think can happen tomorrow. My goal at Little Dreamers is to see a world where every single young carer is supported by someone or something. That is not going to happen tomorrow, and it, for most people when they hear that, they don’t think it’s realistic at all, but I have a clear goal of what I want the world to look like if I have achieved what I want to achieve which means that I know how I’m tracking towards that. So, I think the first thing always to do, is to have a very clear goal of what you would like to achieve in the end. The second thing that I always say that people can do is just make a list of all the things you want, and make a list of all the connections that you have, and I’m thinking not just people that you know but mums’ friends’ sister might be a someone in the movie business or something like that, and make this map of, I call it a Connection Map, and then highlight the people who you think can help you with the things on your list, and just go and ask. I mean, as I say, the worst thing that can say is no, and the best thing that they can say is yes, but you won’t know what their answer is if you haven’t asked. The third thing that I say is that you need to tell all your friends and be proud of what you’re trying to do. I am, in my life, I am everyone’s number one cheerleader. I go to all of the events, I like all the Facebook posts, I share all the things because I know that my friends are trying to make a difference, and so if you are quite clear in what difference you’re trying to make and you’re open to your friends and you tell them this is what I’m trying to do, having the support of the network around you and your friends and having them be cheerleaders for you means that you will push through those days where it feels really crappy, and I just, I guess, just keep working to that bigger goal that you have and you might not do that if you think you need to keep your idea secret until it looks perfect or until it’s in a particular format. Just share the idea that you have when you have it, and work from there.

Nicole: Amazing. So, be clear about the difference you want to make, map those connections, which I think is actually something that maybe is such a simple thing to do but when you sit down and look at the spiderweb of humans that are around you I guess that’s such a great place to start in working out where to go next, and who to speak to next, and then I love that whole idea of also being a cheerleader for other people in order to I guess build that sense of community and connection around you around the difference that you want to make. Maddy, thank you so much for your time and for sharing the story of Little Dreamers with us. If people want to find out more about you and the work that you do, where can they go?

Maddy: You can head to our website, which is, or follow us on all social media; Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, although I’m still trying to get the hang of Twitter. 

Nicole: Yeah, me too to be fair. Maddy, thank you for your time and for sharing your story. Every time I see you speak, or I hear more about your journey I personally feel so incredibly inspired, and I know that other people listening to this story will feel the same. So, thank you.

Maddy: Thank you so much. I feel the same right back to you.

Nicole: Success. Well enjoy working from home in your pyjamas, no judgement here. No doubt we’ll see you out working with schools when things sort of return to little bit more normalcy over the next couple of months.

Maddy: Definitely. I can’t wait.

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