Why mindset matters to women’s entrepreneurship and why we should invest in it, especially now

At The Difference Incubator (TDi) we’ve been supporting social entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses for over a decade. In 2019 we partnered with PNG Women’s Business Resource Centre and Kate Wilson from Kamaji Tree Consulting and Coaching, with the support of the Australian Government, to unlock the full potential of eleven talented female social entrepreneurs in PNG. 


At TDi, we know that an individual’s mindset is a big driver of business success. For us, mindset is made up of the underlying beliefs we hold about ourselves, others and the world. It shows up in all our work, time and time again. 

As Kate Wilson – an experienced mindset coach – often shares, one of the most common beliefs that many of us carry, is the idea that “I am not [blank] enough.” I am not experienced enough, professional enough, valuable enough. I am not a good enough leader, business woman, mother, sister, daughter, etc. This ‘not enough’ mindset causes us to over work, over give, undervalue and underprice. It leads us to say yes, when we should say no. It leads us to take on too much responsibility for things that are not ours to carry. The list goes on. Ultimately it is these beliefs that drive our behaviour and only once we shed light on them, can we make real change in our lives and in our business. 

The Guria Business Accelerator – meaning shake up or earthquake in Tok Pisin – was led by TDi and designed to help female founders grow their businesses and find freedom from self-limiting mindsets.

It included four intensive blocks and one to one coaching sessions over 7 months. The group discussions, case studies, business advice and reflection exercises focused on everything from assessing your business, to developing a growth strategy, to unpacking your mindset. 

The program’s design followed Otto Sharman’s Theory U approach, a change management process that influences most of TDi’s work, and helps individuals (and the group) go on a journey to transform old patterns and embrace their full potential, all the while building out a better business. 

At the end of the program, all the participants were expecting to more than double their revenue within 2 years, bringing in an additional AUD$1.8 million to the PNG economy, annually.

This represents a potential 10-fold return on investment for the Australian Government and will significantly benefit vulnerable communities throughout PNG through increased employment and inclusion in supply chains, as well as growth in valuable services, such as affordable solar lights and affordable digital learning in schools. 

Guria Impact Key Numbers

Participants identified two key reasons why the program was so successful. One of them was the program’s explicit focus on mindset development. See our Guria Case Study for more details.

In our third intensive, Kate Wilson joined us from Kamaji Tree, to help the Guria entrepreneurs identify what was really holding them back. Kate is a mindset coach. She has experience delivering individual and group coaching and in the third intensive she led an evidence-based group process that helped individuals (and the group) understand their underlying beliefs and early childhood experiences that were still driving their behaviour today. She facilitated interventions that helped them name and let go of these beliefs. She also helped participants with some key strategies for managing their mindset, ongoing. 

For many in the cohort, the Guria program, and the mindset work in particular, has been a life changing experience. One participant shared that as a result of the program she felt

“lighter, focused and absolutely driven to make this work for me, my family and my country.”

In relation to the mindset work, another shared that,

“you don’t realise at all how past traumas can impact your business today, the way you shape and carry out all aspects of your life really. Other programs don’t do this at all.” Another participant commented that the mindset work, “tears down walls you have built around yourself over the years to protect you from failure, fear, rejection all manner of negative energy. It serves its purpose not only in a professional role but also personal, as these go hand in hand in order to live your best life.”

And another participant said,

“we hear all the time when working in the professional space “don’t bring your personal life to work, leave it at home.” So when I realised that Block 3 was going to be a session of talking about things that happened in our personal lives in the past, I was a bit confused…I now realise how important it is to have that part included. I have been able to identify why I do certain things in my business which stem from my past. I now understand why I think the way I do about a certain thing which relates to my business. How invigorating and revealing this session was!!” 

The Guria program ended in early March 2020 and shortly after, COVID-19 turned our worlds upside down. Much of what Guria focused on has ultimately been put to the test. 

We have been in regular contact with the cohort over the last three months and what we learnt is this: 

All participants agreed that as a result of Guria they are better equipped to respond to COVID, than if they had not done the program. 

When asked why they gave this score, participants said:

“it has given me the confidence to go after other income streams and business models.” Another participant said “rather than giving up altogether, I’ve reassessed my position & taken on my old job on a part-time basis in order to survive but also have time to plan and search for new clients post covid19. [I am] determined to push on for the better days that are yet to come and up selling on that point.” 

Another participant said:
“Guria has helped me to be able to ask myself difficult questions, making me take decisions to do things or think out of the box.” 

While another said:

“I strongly believe that bcoz of GURIA I have been able to stay positive and come up with many new ideas for my business to stay afloat. I feel confident that I will land a job soon with a client or create a new source of revenue by providing a service that is actually needed during these difficult times.”

All the participants agreed that Guria has helped them to increase their emotional resilience.

Emotional resilience is fundamental to helping us adapt, cope with stress and handle unpleasant feelings. It also helps us not get discouraged in the face of adversity and stay focused and think clearly. All Guria participants agreed that the program helped them to improve their emotional resilience. These skills have been fundamental to business survival in the last two months. 

Guria businesses feel more supported and connected 

Guria participants have also felt like they have a strong group of women ‘at their backs’. This network of support has been key for many. They feel confident and connected knowing that there are others who share similar stories and experiences.  In having a network of like-minded women, they both feel supported and are driven to support others like them, which in turn can improve their resilience and collaboration.

One participant shared:
“the group of ladies and our facilitators that were a part of the Guria program have provided an unbelievably strong support group. To be able to inspire, innovate and support each other and those around them. My mindset has totally improved 110% after this program. Thank you.”

Implications for the economic recovery ahead

In the next two years, the Australian government plans to play an active role in supporting our Pacific neighbours to find a ‘new normal’ through its Partnership for Recovery, Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response. The strategy has a strong focus on economic recovery and an ongoing commitment to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. 

Within this strategy, we see a real opportunity to invest in the resilience of women-led Pacific SMEs and to better understand what really drives and undermines their business resilience. Such an approach could simultaneously support economic stability and enhance gender equality. 

As for what really drives resilience? Well for us, Guria highlighted the power of combining mindset development alongside entrepreneurial capability development and a connected, supportive cohort. This approach significantly contributed to increasing the resilience of the Guria cohort. 

From our perspective, those that have the ability to adapt, cope with stress and stand in their own power, will have a better chance of surviving this uncertain time. Mindset has always mattered in our work, but it matters even more now. It’s time we invest in it to ensure women-led businesses continue to survive and thrive. 

Find out more about our Guria Womens Entrepreneur program in Papua New Guinea

Spread the love

Meet Difference Maker, Ruth

Ruth has worked closely with us on several projects including the Laikim Sister program, as well as our ongoing work with bilum.

Holiday Recommendations – 21/22

Looking for some reading, listening or watching recommendations for the holiday season?Throughout the year, in our Newsletter, we have shared various recommendations for reading, listening and watching. We share some of these below that you might like to enjoy over...

Meet our WOW participants

We introduce you to some of the participants of the Women of the World program, due to begin in early 2022.

PNG Local Business Coach focus: Mari Ellingson

Empowering women in business is something we’re very passionate about. So when we get to build local capacity in our women-led business coaching program it’s even more exciting, as the potential impact is so much greater. Mari is one of our Local Business Coach...

Women of the World

Women of the World – a cohort business program offering economic independence and health literacy programs for migrant and refugee women.

PNG Local Business Coach focus: Mary Handen

We are excited to be partnering and building local capacity in our women-led business coaching program in PNG. Mary is one of our Local Business Coach (LBC) participants and we have loved working with her over these past few months. We caught up recently and want to...

Business and mindset coaching offers key to covid recovery for women-led businesses in PNG

TDi are working with PNG Women’s Business Resource Centre to recruit and coach a total of 100 women-led SMEs (or deliver 800 hours of coaching) over four rounds of coaching from May through to December, with an average of 200 hours of coaching per round. Alongside, 4 Local Business Coaches are being trained in TDi’s method to continue to support women-led SMEs in PNG. Here are the results for the first of the four rounds of coaching.

What 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us

Last year TDi celebrated 10 years, and over that time we’ve had the opportunity to travel with a number of organisations and often get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on. Recently, TDi’s CEO Anthea Smits, had the opportunity to reflect on what the past 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us. This article is a reflection on our top 6 learnings.

Meaningful Conversations about Reconciliation

This month’s Meaningful Conversation coincided with the start of National Reconciliation Week so we took the opportunity to explore the notion of reconciliation, and particularly this year’s theme which invites brave action.

Using the Business Model Canvas

When it comes to creating a new business, one question looms larger than all others: “Does this have potential?” The Business Model Canvas is a great starting point. This blog by TDi’s Isaac Jeffries describes how to fill out it out.