#WomenCrushWednesday : Gemma Major

Seed Waikato has been hitting the Waikato by storm with amazing events, workshops and challenges for young people in every walk of life. We have been luck enough to partner in some of these events, support others, and watch Seed Waikato grow from, well, a seed to a living being force. We spoke to Seed Waikato Co-Creator and everyday super woman Gemma Major about life, inspiration, start ups and dreaming big.

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Tell us about yourself!

Ko Maunganui te māunga
Ko Te Tai-o-Rehua te moana
Ko Boeing 747 te waka
Ko Rosalie Tasker rāua ko David Slack ōku tīpuna
Ko Ngāti Slack tōku hapū
Ko te whare karakia matua tōku marae
Nō Ahitereiria ahau Engari kei Aotearoa Kirikiriroa tōku kainga inaianei
Ko Sharleen raua ko Brendon ōku mātua
Ko Jesse tōku hoa rangatira
Ko Gemma tōku ingoa

My name is Gemma, and I love doing sparkly things with sparkly people. I adore my husband, and we have our first little human due at the end of August. I love turning ideas into reality, and supporting others to do the same. I studied a Bachelor of Management Studies (Hons) at the University of Waikato, and am passionate about the role young people can play in philanthropy, social enterprise and community-led development.

What makes you passionate about life?

My purpose. I'm deeply passionate about youth development, empowering a generation to overcome their challenges, and ignite positive change. 

If you could tell 13 year old you something that you've learnt what would it be?

Believe in yourself. Go and find out how to believe in yourself. Then learn how to believe in the hopes and dreams of the people around you. It's the most incredible experience to support your friends and Whaanau to believe in themselves in their pursuit of their dreams.

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How was Seed Waikato born?

By listening. By asking questions. By falling in love with a problem. By finding like-valued people with different perspectives and strengths to mine.

We found out that young people in the Waikato wanted a place to belong. Have access to inspiring speakers, epic mentors and experiences that develop their potential. To know how to be resilient in the face of adversity. To feel empowered to turn their dreams into reality. To play a role in creating the future they want, making their voice heard. To challenge the status quo. So in late 2017, we launched our events, bringing together diverse young people to learn from speakers on topics like growth mindset, resilience, vulnerability and wellbeing.

In Hamilton City alone, 23% of the population is aged 18–30. I want every young person to know that they are enough, that they have the power to change stuff, and that together we can change the world. I’m seriously passionate about the potential of the millennial generation to transform the economy, society and our environment. We have significant challenges as a generation, as does any generation, and we have powerful possibilities and opportunities, thanks to generations before us who have carved a path.

On a more personal level, after surviving crippling bipolar and drug-induced psychosis, I realised that so many other young people are facing mental health and addiction challenges, clearly represented in the horrific fact that every 63 hours a young person takes their life here in Aotearoa. Learning tools to do life differently coupled with building a Whaanau that accepted and loved me empowered me to improve my wellbeing. And if I didn’t have exposure to opportunities and access to incredible leaders, I wouldn’t be here today doing what I’m doing.

Where do you see Seed Waikato in 5 years?

To have built meaningful relationships with organisations across the sector, becoming the glue for us to work together to drive significant change on issues we all care about. 

And to to have built the eco-system for young people to really thrive. We’re passionate about uplifting, inspiring and empowering young people to realise the possibilities and determine their future. From becoming great parents, to talented employees, impact-driven change-makers, passionate entrepreneurs, purpose-driven students, motivated volunteers, and confident leaders. 

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What are some of the most important things you have learnt as a woman with a start up?

1 - A great leader doesn't have the answers. A great leader knows how to ask the right questions. This is something I try to commit to improving everyday with our team of 15 permanent volunteers.

2 - The importance of my inner self-talk and building self-awareness. I'm really hard on myself, and have a very strong work ethic. If I'm not careful, my inner-soccer mum becomes the loudest voice, saying things like:

"You could have done better" 
"What will you do differently next time?"
"How can you develop?" 
"How could the outcome be different?"
"What was your blind spot?"

These questions are really important in the pursuit of a growth mindset, but there also needs to be some space for the inner cheerleader, who says things like:

"Wow, what an incredible achievement."
"You have worked so hard. Take a break."
"Well done."
"I'm proud of you."
"You've come so far."
"Reflect on your wins and celebrate your progress."
"You've got this."

Learning how to identify and develop your inner-self talk will do wonders for your perception of reality, and your resilience! 

What advice would you give to other woman with such tall dreams?

Dream big, but start small. Heaps of people have great ideas. What will set you apart, is how you execute, or how you turn that idea into reality. The best piece of advice someone gave me is that if what you launch to the world is perfect, you waited too long. Let go of perfectionism, and find someone who can keep you accountable to making progress. 

Find mentors. Mentors are key. I chose to work in an organisation that had inspiring woman who were experts in their fields so that I could practically learn from them. And today, I choose to spend time seeking out advice from people who lead with a similar set of values to mine, who have executed well and who want to let the ladder down. Find your mentors. 

Find tools to turn your ideas into reality. Don't fall in love with your ideas, fall in love with the problem you want to solve. Design-thinking has been and incredible tool that we have used at Seed Waikato to test and validate ideas. Lean start-up, the learning processcommunity-led development and continuous improvement are others. 

Supporting women who are running, and succeeding, in creating their visions locally is something YWCA Hamilton is 100% behind.

Check out more about Seed Waikato on their website here or pop over to their social media here.