Innovation

Starting young: How a 14-year-old entrepreneur is getting a head start with Girl Up

Sascha Giles may only be 14 years old, but she is already being taught invaluable lessons that most entrepreneurs are only learning about now.

Image: iStockphoto/Melpomenem

Whether there are plans to enter the field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics when she finishes school is not really on the mind of Sascha Giles at the moment.

Instead, the 14-year-old student from St Peters Lutheran College in Indooroopilly, Queensland, is busy organising fundraising events for Girl Up Australia, an initiative she launched two years ago with five of her friends, and attending international conferences where she's meeting other like-minded girls and women.

The idea to set up Girl Up Australia came to Giles after her philanthropic mum, Cathie Reid, co-founder of Epic Group, heard about the program at the 2013 Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

SEE:Why South African startups have an equal number of male and female founders

Girl Up is a United Nations Foundation program aimed to promote the health, safety, education, and leadership of girls in developing countries, such as Bangladesh, Uganda, and Malawi.

"When [she] came home and was telling me about it, I thought it was really interesting because it's a simple way to make change," Giles told TechRepublic at the 2016 DWEN Summit in Cape Town, South Africa.

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Cathie Reid and Sascha Giles
Image: Supplied

Since launching the group in Australia, Giles has been attending the Girl Up Summit in Washington DC for the last two years. The Summit has previously hosted special guests including First Lady Michelle Obama, which Giles said made the experience all the more worthwhile.

As part of the three-day summit, Giles also took part in lobbying for the passing of Girls Count Act, a legislation passed in Congress last year that aims to ensure the US government prioritises girls and women in its foreign policy.

"It's exciting to know that what you do at the conference can make a difference because it's great to go and lobby, but based on some of the responses you think 'I don't think that's going to get through.' But when it does, it's pretty exciting," said Giles. She started lobbying when she was just 12 years old.

Giles has also had the chance to take part in DWEN's Girls Track that features dedicated sessions focused on teaching skills like storytelling, event planning, marketing, communication, and public speaking.

Reid believes the skills that Giles has been taught will be invaluable for her in the future.

"I suspect the girls don't realise what valuable workplace skills that they're actually getting taught, and I can see how that knowledge is already being reflected in the approach Sascha takes on planning some of fundraising," she said.

SEE: Dell invests millions to support global startups and women entrepreneurs

Reid attributes part of Giles' drive and initiative at such a young age to the entrepreneurial influence her and husband, Stuart Giles, have had on their daughter. However, Reid admits it's only something she realised after reflecting on her own childhood where her father was her role model and was "entrepreneurial in nature."

"Both Sascha and her brother have never known what it's like to not be in a business-focused household where Stuart and I are working and owning the business. The kids have been immersed in it in a very incredible young age; they used to be in their prams tucked in the corner of a pharmacy or office, and our dinner table conversations are quite focused on business. The level of immersion they have had will have an impact," Reid said.

But, whether Giles plans to follow in her parent's footsteps of owning a business one day, or pursue her interest in math—currently her favourite subject at school—is something she said she will have to think about a little later down the track.

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Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to 2016 DWEN Summit in Cape Town with Dell.

About Aimee Chanthadavong

Since completing a degree in journalism, Aimee has had her fair share of covering various topics, including business, retail, manufacturing, and travel. She continues to expand her repertoire as a tech journalist with ZDNet.

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