The Women’s Collective: On building a brand, driving change and joining the conversation

Image courtesy of Kristin Matusich
Using both social media and once-a-month meetups to bring like (and not-so-like) minds together, the Women’s Collective is redefining one of the oldest communication technologies—the conversation circle—to create an engaging, collaborative space where innovators and thought leaders can share their stories, and where conversations are ignited.

According to co-founder Taryn Kljakovic, inspiration for the Women’s Collective came from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker’s entreaty to affect change, no matter how small, by looking after and tending your own patch, defining your own community and by affecting your own change.

“I had been feeling really frustrated for a long time beforehand in respect to the issues of the world,” says Kljakovic. “During her session, Alice spoke about how world issues can feel incredibly overwhelming, but if we each just start in our own backyard…that we can achieve more than we think.”

“She also spoke about the power of ‘conversation circles’ – purposeful opportunities for women to gather and talk about topics that are important and meaningful to them; a space where women can encourage, challenge and support one another, and a way of amplifying the positive power of women’s leadership.”

Following that encounter, co-founders Taryn and Sasha Kljakovic created the Women’s Collective group, and have carefully curated a dynamic and potent line-up of speakers for the monthly event so far, including Megan May of Little Bird Organics and Rebecca Wadey of The Centre (both pioneers of the holistic wellness movement in New Zealand), mental health advocate Jimi Hunt of Live More Awesome, Anna Jackson of Colab, and The Lucky Taco owners, Sarah and Otis Frizzell.

The Collective currently meets at GridAKL, the innovation precinct at Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter. As a shared space for startup, technology and innovation communities, GridAKL couldn’t be a more appropriate home for the Collective, who, as GridAKL brand and communications coordinator Anya Merryfield points out, “really brings the diversity needed to explore more divergent thinking.”

Harnessing “converging viewpoints and ways of thinking outside of the scope of our everyday existence” often leads to “spaces that are ripe for conversation, idea sharing and opportunity,” Anya says, bearing out the GridAKL philosophy that “innovation is a lot more than getting a bunch of tech startups in a room”.

“Sometimes the subjects covered have a natural affinity for the GridAKL Hub businesses, like social media and community building, sometimes the topics are less obviously linked, albeit just as rewarding.”

Image courtesy of Kristin Matusich

The Collective is also a multi-platform community, where connection can be digital, offline, or both. The level of engagement—whether people show up or not and leave their footprint—is clearly driven by their sense of belonging and strength of feeling around participation and engagement.

With hundreds of people showing up each month, on dark, sometimes rainy Monday nights, for three or four hours at a time, the Women’s Collective seems to have developed and implemented a powerful and successful brand blend.

Taryn regards social media as an effective way to maintain the group’s brand, be topical and engage with their network very easily and in a timely way across different channels. As a not-for-profit, it also allows the Collective to “transcend a (non-existent) marketing budget”.

“We are present on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” says Kljakovic. “I look after our Facebook page, I find it the easiest and most effective medium for us, because we can easily share links to interesting articles and content, while also putting our own commentary alongside it, which is important because we don’t want to just regurgitate information.”

“Instagram is a great visual tool too, helping us set the tone of our movement through carefully curated images. Our photographer, Kristin Matusich looks after our account, so that our visual representation is consistent.”

“We post every 1–3 days and use a self-imposed value compass to help us determine what is relevant and interesting to talk with our audience about. We like to embrace a slightly sarcastic, smart-girl tone, a ‘let’s just tell it like it is!’ attitude, because we have had enough of being pretty, polite and fluffy.”

Taryn Kljakovic regards cross-pollination as a high priority and feels privileged to be part of a community of “incredibly smart people who are on the frontline, trying to do things differently” in a space that is easily accessible, not only physically, but also intellectually and emotionally welcoming.

“From the beginning we have focused on making every person who comes along to our events welcome and helping them feel confident in expressing themselves. We make it a focus to create an environment that feels like you’re at home with friends. We provide food, drinks and a DJ before each event begins which definitely warms everyone up!”

Image courtesy of Kristin Matusich