An Interview with Olivia Ruello, CEO of Business Chicks

150 150 The Hunger Project Australia

Olivia RuelloCEO of Business Chicks, Australia’s largest and most influential community for women, is a passionate and long-time supporter of The Hunger Project’s work 

At Business Chicks, they know that every woman has the capacity to do amazing things. Whether you run your own business or work in an office, they provide connection and support for women to propel themselves forward.  

Business Chicks have been one of our amazing partners since 2011. Together, we created The Business Chicks Leadership Immersion Program, an overseas trip where Business Chicks members travel with us to experience the incredible leadership and resilience of our village partners in our program countries.  

Their first ever Leadership Immersion Program in 2012 took them to Bangladesh. They were immersed in the culture and learnt leadership lessons from our village partners who are combating hunger in Bangladesh. Over the years, Business Chicks and The Hunger Project have built an amazing partnership, raising over $2 million, which has impacted the lives of women in Australia and in the communities we work in.  

Olivia Ruello shares why our partnership is such an important part of what the team at Business Chicks does every day.  

Interview with Olivia Ruello

What does the Business Chicks’ partnership with The Hunger Project mean to you? 

It’s one of the most important things we do at Business Chicks. For me personally, it is the work I feel most proud of. When you step foot in countries in which The Hunger Project work and witness first-hand the impact this work has on families, communities and more broadly in society, it’s impossible to not be inspired to do more. The Hunger Project Australia are a true partner in every sense of the word. The relationship is built on trust, shared values and a vision to see women really stepping into their power and playing a bigger game in the world.

Why is it important to the Business Chicks community to be involved in social causes? 

I think it’s important that we all play a small part as global citizens in impacting change and driving more equity in the world. It would be a missed opportunity to not mobilise the community to give back, whether that be on a very small scale or a much larger one. We all have something that we can contribute, whether it be time, money, expertise. We find in our community an abundance of generosity and many members wanting to give back and have a voice in important issues.

Why do you think that empowering women is key to creating change? 

Empower a woman and you create generational change. Women invest in their families and communities and are amazing at inspiring others to do the same. We work collectively to drive initiatives. Women are strong and resilient and fierce in the face of adversity.

Can you tell us about one inspirational leader you’ve met on a Business Chicks Leadership Immersion Program, what you learnt from her and how you have applied this back in your life?

I remember the first time I went to India with The Hunger Project. We were in a small village called Lahora, in Rajasthan. I met the village leader — her name was Badam Devi. She was an illiterate agricultural worker from a marginalised community who lowered her veil when she spoke. Against chronic corruption within the bureaucracy, as well as centuries-old patriarchy and gender inequality, Badam Devi had a vision for her community. She had built a succession plan for her tenure through the sponsorship of younger women in her village, she was courageous and determined, and she had followship like nothing I had ever witnessed. She took risks and fought hard for the rights of women and girls in her community.

I witnessed the rawest form of leadership I had ever encountered. In meeting Badam Devi I knew that anything was possible for me in my life. I knew I could do better, that I could be better, and that I had an opportunity to unlock my own leadership in a real and tangible way. It changed me and transformed my mindset from one of limitation to one of expansive abundance. I became more confident to try things and determined to keep going when things sometimes get tough. She has been a constant source of inspiration in my life.

Tell us about one outstanding moment for you where something magical happened for the Business Chicks members.

Gosh there are so many, this year was the first time I’ve gone on a Business Chicks Leadership Immersion Program. I think the most powerful moments come in the quiet conversations, on the train or around a dinner table, where there is a real breakthrough in self worth, or possibility, or something that has been holding that woman back. There were dozens of these moments in India this year.

Looking back over the years, what has the partnership created that makes your heart sing?

Hundreds of meaningful connections, lifelong friendships, an abundance of possibility and lives transformed both in Australia for our members and overseas in the countries in which the more than $2m that we have raised has gone. We’ve seen our members quit jobs that were making them unhappy, start businesses, leave marriages, commit to becoming global investors of The Hunger Project, support other causes, stand up for their rights, and support others to do the same. It’s a privilege for Business Chicks to play a small part in that.