Rosie Thomas – cofounder of PROJECT ROCKIT

Described as a pocket rocket with a ferocious passion for life, Rosie gets a kick out of providing innovative opportunities for young people to realise their potential.  In 2006, Rosie and her sister Lucy started PROJECT ROCKIT: A youth-led anti-bullying and leadership organisation that runs creative workshops in school settings. PROJECT ROCKIT’s worked with over 40,000 young people and earned the reputation as the “students’ choice”.  But with the power to do more, in 2012, the girls launched P-ROCK Online: A youth-friendly anti-bullying curriculum available from anywhere with an Internet connection. Designed by young people for young people, it’s been described as an Aussie-first and is empowering young change-makers all over the country.

Start. It doesn’t matter how innovative or original your idea is, if you don’t act on it, it’s a total waste.

Rosie has made numerous appearances in the popular media domain, including being featured on Channel 7 news, Sunrise and interviewed by the panel on Channel 10’s “The Project.” She’s been awarded ‘Role Model of the Month’ by Girlfriend Magazine, for her commitment to empowering young women and awarded first place in the social entrepreneurship competition, Victorian Business Icon Awards (2010). She’s rocked out in educational and corporate settings sharing insights and wowing delegates with her genuine understanding of youth culture. In 2012, Rosie received a scholarship to spark more social change at The School for Social Entrepreneurs. Last year she was named Melbourne’s ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’.

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen? 

From this conversation on a park bench, PROJECT ROCKIT was born…

People often say that school days are the best days of their life but the reality is, for many people this isn’t the case.  Being relatively fresh out of school ourselves, my sister and I decided that we wanted to create safe spaces where all young people have access to identity, imagination, leadership and acceptance regardless of your sexuality, gender, where you’re from or your social label. From this conversation on a park bench, PROJECT ROCKIT was born…

How do you make money? (please explain your business model)

PROJECT ROCKIT is a for profit, social enterprise.  Our clients (mostly schools) pay a fee for our workshops or an annual subscription to our online curriculum. We considered the Not for Profit path in the very beginning but I’m not sure if we would have gotten off the ground so quickly or maybe even still be here today.

How do you make ideas happen?

Start. It doesn’t matter how innovative or original your idea is, if you don’t act on it, it’s a total waste. Take a risk and initiate the first step to making your idea a reality. Planning is important but you’ve gotta take the leap.

What does your typical day look like? 

A typical day is anything from running wild workshops with students to inspiring meetings to dreaming + creating with the P-ROCK team to building partnerships to launching original campaigns to presenting at conferences to jet setting all over the country to…. Well, each day is different but equally as awesome and always starts with a morning coffee and ends with a kiss goodnight.  I’m an excitement junkie, boredom sucks the life out of me.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Aside from personal challenges like self-belief and work-life balance (what’s that?), one of the biggest challenges that we’ve faced is an absence is support for social enterprise.  In the beginning, it felt kind of lonely because we didn’t fit into the Not for Profit sector but didn’t fit into the commercial business sector either.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

There’s no way any single person on the planet knows every single thing about everything. So take the pressure off.  Find someone who is believes in you, get’s your vision and is willing to support you in getting you there. Whether it’s a partner in crime, a mentor or advisor, you don’t have to do it alone.

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment? 

  • YEAH! -Youth Empowerment Against HIV/Aids
  • Minus18 Australia’s largest youth-led network for gay, bi, lesbian and trans teens.
  • FYA – Foundation for Young Australians
  • Dogoodradio.com

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

There are big bucks in social change… and so there should be.

Fact is: There are big bucks in social change… and so there should be.   Business can and should play a huge role in affecting social change.  Another (and more important) Fact: Now more then ever do we need business to use their expertise, industry experience, dollars and power to not only ‘influence’ change but instead transform the way in which business operates so that as well as making money, we are taking care of the planet and it’s people. I’m really excited by the current transformation of old school business and it’s great to see the little guys and the big guys changing the way they do business for good.

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

We’re always on the look out for energetic and creative young presenters to join our team and help deliver workshops to young people.  We also welcome anyone start-up or other business skills to help grow PROJECT ROCKIT. So if you’re passionate about social justice for young people and want to take on high impact and meaningful work, check out www.projectrockit.com.au/employment.html for updates.

Our readers are smart, creative, talented and good looking. Here’s your chance to ask them anything.

How do you want to be remembered from your days on the planet?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Favourite Melbourne bar is 47 Blessings in St Kilda. Not just because my best friend owns it but also because it’s all about beers in jars, weird art, and a comfy seat for whoever you are.  Find me there on a Friday afternoon (and don’t be frightened by the tall, skinny dude covered in tatts, he’s actually a sweetheart)

What is your favourite song by an Australian artist at the moment? 

I’m freakin loving Diafrix. They’re an African born hip hop duo based in Fitzroy, Melbourne. They’re both refugees so have had there fair share of struggles. They’re also all about representing those who don’t have a voice, which is rad. Most of all I love them cos’ their sound is pretty sexy.  Check out ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ as a taste test!

We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?

Sure I’d love to help out in anyway I can!!

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