We put five fast questions to global changemaker Benson Saulo on entrepreneurship, failure and what he wishes he’d learned at school about starting a business.
Co-Founder, Amity Guild
Fast Five is our quickfire interview series where we hit up some legendary movers, shakers, innovators and changemakers with, you’ve guessed it, five big questions.
Benson Saulo’s incredible bio includes time as Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations, founding director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy (NIYLA), which engages young Indigenous Australians to develop and drive youth-led social action campaigns and co-founder of Amity Guild, a unique line of suits lined with Indigenous art that appeal to professional, driven and socially-conscious individuals. In 2020, he made history becoming Australia’s first Indigenous Consul-General appointed to the USA.
Q1: Could you give us three words that describe your life as an entrepreneur?
Idea. Action. Connection.
Q2: Most entrepreneurs have an origin story- a moment in time or an experience that was the catalyst for their entrepreneurial journey. What is your origin story?
I’m a co-founder of Amity Guild, a social enterprise that has partnered with a suit tailor to create made-to-measure suits lined with Indigenous artworks and stories.
I started working in a bank when I was 15 years old, and progressed within the business. Often finding myself the youngest, and only Aboriginal person in the room. I would wear 3-piece suits because it was like wearing armour into work. It made me feel more confident and comfortable in the unfamiliar corporate world.
So Amity Guild comes from a personal place where I don’t want other young Indigenous people feeling like they don’t fit when they pursue a professional career. By lining the suits with Indigenous artworks and the stories that are connected to the artworks, I hope they feel confident and bold whilst being connected to culture.
Q3: Tell us about a massive flearning (failing + learning) moment for you.
Also linked to Amity Guild; when we launched Amity Guild, we had the idea of engaging CEOs and Executives as allies and decision makers within their businesses. The price tag reflected this target audience, but what we missed was those people starting out their career, team leaders, and managers who are equally important in shaping organisations to be more inclusive.
We missed the initial hype of going to market because we got the audience wrong and that was reflected in a price tag that most people couldn’t afford. What this also meant, our mission to support the message of inclusion and reconciliation in corporates was able to happen.
This was a major learning about the importance of understanding your market, defining your mission and consulting with potential buyers.
We’ve been able to remedy this with the support of our partner who has now opened their whole range of suits to have Amity Guild linings – as opposed to one particular suit line. This has direct impact on the price tag – which can now cater for a wider range of professionals.
Q4: What do you wish you’d learned at school about starting or running a business?
Entrepreneurship wasn’t really spoken about in my high school. My older brother is a natural entrepreneur, so I watched him develop businesses and he still offers me advice and insight.
If I could have learnt something about starting a business, it would have been the ‘Start-up Canvas’. I think this is a great tool to expand on an idea and test its commerciality. Every high school student should have an understanding of the concepts within the canvas.
Q5: What’s one book, website or podcast you’d recommend to aspiring young entrepreneurs, and why?
Tribes by Seth Godin – on audiobook because its read by Seth!
I constantly recommend this book, and have gifted the novel in the past to friends. Tribes provides a call to action to be a leader, innovator and change maker. I remember reading this the first time and feeling exhilarated to write my goals, a manifest and to find ways to reach an audience to my blog, social media and at events.
It also made me think about ‘how do I find my people’ this lead to me connect with organisations and people who helped shape my thinking about impact, community and leadership.
Check out Tribes by Seth Godin on Audible here.
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More about this week’s Fast Fiver, Benson Saulo.
Benson Saulo brings insight, passion and experience that he has develop throughout his working life from across corporate, not-for-profit and government sectors.
In 2011, Benson was appointed the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations in which he undertook a national engagement tour to gain a deeper understanding of issues impacting Australian youth. Benson then represented Australian youth at the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly as an accredited member of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Benson became the founding director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy (NIYLA), which engages young Indigenous Australians to develop and drive youth-led social action campaigns. NIYLA participants developed and launched 10 social action campaigns focusing on suicide prevention, climate change, mental health and welcoming refugee and asylum seekers.
In 2018, Benson co-founded the Amity Guild which established a partnership to create made-to-measure suits that infuse Indigenous art and stories into the lining for individuals that embody courage, integrity, creativity and a deep sense of service.
Combining the highest-quality fabrics with the long-surviving continuous culture of the First Australians, and the craftsmanship from Oscar Hunt Tailors, the Amity Guild line of suits are a embody excellence, professionalism and reconciliation.
Benson’s work has been recognised as a finalist for Young Australian of the Year (VIC), Human Rights Commission Medal for Youth and 2012 NAIDOC Youth of the Year. Benson is also a non-executive director of Innovation Unit ANZ and the Aboriginal Wellness Foundation, and supports Impact Investing Australia’s Impact Ready Growth Grants and Sidney Myer Family Trust Poverty and Disadvantage Grants Panel.
Connect with Benson on LinkedIn here.
Like this? If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to subscribe to Future Anything’s regular e-newsletter for more just like this. You can sign up here!