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A Day in the Life: Wā Collective founder Olie Body

Olie Body is one of many progressive wāhine paving the way for business and culture. She is the brains behind the Wā Collective, a social enterprise that provides affordable, accessible and sustainable menstrual products to students right on campuses by pairing with students’ associations. Here's how she balances the books, empowers people with supportive and healthy systems, and plans to end period poverty. 

Read more about the Wā Collective, here.

What time do you wake up?

7.30am. 

What kind of work do you do?

I’m the founder and managing director of social enterprise, Wā Collective. Wā Collective has a lofty vision of crafting a world where people are empowered by and connected to healthy systems. I’m passionate about this because I've seen and experienced what happens when we aren’t connected with systems – with ourselves and others – versus when we are. We are delivering our first layer of strategy through addressing menstruation sustainably whilst tackling period poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand. Bloody good. 

What’s the ideal way to start your day?

I’ve been swimming on the south coast of Wellington every morning for the entire year. It’s been amazing! It’s always a challenge and something I have learned so much from; both about the way I operate and in understanding the capabilities of my body and mind. 

My morning gets even better when the sun comes out and I can enjoy a peppermint tea in the sunshine on the decking at my flat whilst warming up – as yes, that winter sea is freeeezing! 

What’s your media consumption or interaction like – which podcasts, radio, videos, books, magazines, and new sites do you read or listen to?

I have a beautiful stash of books beside my bed. They are so varied that I don’t think you could put a genre or ‘taste’ to my consumption! There’s everything from a book on the socialisation and cultural significance of sheep to a handbook on the psychology of emotion, even a vaguely tragic soppy novel! 

RNZ is my go to for radio, I love a good TED Talk and I’m currently chewing through Russell Brand’s ‘Under The Skin’ podcast series.  

I do my best to not interact with social media too much, however it’s tricky as it’s also integral to be plugged in so that Wā Collective’s content is relevant. 

What do you think is unique about the way you approach your work?

I listen to my body when making decisions. If it feels good, I do it! If something feels off, I explore and get to the bottom of it.  Looking back, it’s lead to some really wise business decisions. 

What responsibility do you have in a typical day? What takes up most of your time?

There’s heaps. My work is really varied with everything from school talks, setting up partnerships, delving into spreadsheets, planning strategy with the team to prepping for my TED Talk that just came out (very exciting!). 

Within this, emails take up a lot of my time. I’m switching more and more of them to phone calls and am looking forward to the day when the business community can all laugh at how much time we used to spend stuck in the inefficiency of emailing! 

Where do your best ideas come from?

Magic happens when I can slow down, breathe, be myself and have the space to connect all the dots. That looks like me having a break! 

What does resilience look like to you?

Resilience to me used to be a stubbornness, an ‘I’m getting this to work no matter what’ attitude. While this can be really useful to get stuff done, I’ve learned it can also be damaging. Now, my resilience has an elasticity to it instead of a stubbornness. It also looks like working from a place of vulnerability. I’ve noticed that there is real power in vulnerability and so many learnings that would have otherwise gone unnoticed or unexplored if I’d just keep on ploughing through.

What has been the most transformational business practice you’ve implemented at your work?

Getting out of the way. Truly, it’s amazing. Our team has so got it. This was possible once we were big enough to be able to grow our team and once our team had been with us long enough that they had the Wā ropes enough to make informed decisions and just go for it. 

What social or environmental issues inform the work you do, as well as what you’re aiming to do with your company’s overall vision?

Yes to this question! Social and environmental issues not only inform, but drive all that we do. 

It’s especially important to our whole team that we aren’t just making surface level decisions that may look like we are doing good, when in actuality, if you dig a bit deeper, we are harming.  Instead, we have a strong culture of systems thinking, scrutinising at a deep level then actioning an MVP to test alongside and with users. If we are unsure of the potential effects of an action, we get someone in who is in the know to help. 

We started because in 2016 I found out that both Papatūānuku and our people were struggling to afford the cost of how we are managing menstruation. One third of menstruating students have skipped class at some point due to not having access to menstrual products, all the while we send enough tampons and pads to landfill each year in NZ to wrap the entire globe. 

That system’s not working for both people and planet – so, we’ve designed a new system. 

This year alone, we’ve prevented 1.2 million disposable menstrual products from reaching landfill, while saving menstruators over $400,000 that they’d otherwise be spending on chucking single use items into landfill each period. Though our impact outreach partners – women’s health collectives and students’ associations – we’ve also reached over 2500 people on the line of period poverty, equipping them with long term tools to understand and move forward positively with their bodies. 

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

Working with the most amazing team of switched on, strong, loving humans collectively solving impactful issues together. It tickles me pink. A huge driver are the daily messages we get from people saying how much we have helped their lives in ways they didn’t expect. Nothing beats that. 

What about the least enjoyable?

The aforementioned emails! 

What’s your best productivity hack?

Getting enough sleep and switching my mindset from my schedule being defined by the urgent, to the important instead. That was huge for me. 

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful businessperson and a good mother/partner/friend?

Heck yes! It’s imperative, otherwise, what’s the point? I don’t think I could actually be an effective entrepreneur and leader without healthy, nourishing, fun human connections! Family and friends are beyond important. Crafting more balance is really integral to me and something I’ve been working on all year. I’m not completely there yet, but that’s half the fun, I suppose!  

What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?

By the time I get home, I’m pretty shattered so switching off isn’t a problem. After work I either do yoga, participate in a random course I’ve found, have catch ups with other founders and friends, or if it’s a Friday I’ll be at a gig or having a bath. Bed feels amazing when I finally land in it! I love my days so much that I spend all my energy with them.

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