Awesome Story FT. Limitless
April McLennan is the CEO & Founder of Limitless, which she started in early 2016 after finishing high school and taking part in a social enterprise accelerator. By mid 2016, she was selected as one of 3 New Zealand delegates to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in California. (Read more about her GES experience here!)
The Limitless mission is to equip young New Zealanders with the self-awareness, confidence and opportunity to pursue their passions when deciding on a career path.
“We’ll each work 80,000 hours in our lives — imagine what we could do with that time.”
Q: What inspired you to start Limitless?
A: I started Limitless after doing a Social Enterprise Accelerator (Live The Dream) which I did pretty much immediately after I finished Year 13. I guess the inspiration for me came straight from personal experience — from finishing high school and trying to pick a career path. I felt that many people around me were very unsure about what the next step should be. Further down the track, people I knew who were already studying or already working were sometimes unsure if that was the right place for them.
“I had a lot of opportunities to meet people who did work that they were very passionate about. I realised those people were in a variety of career paths. There wasn’t just one career path you needed to be in to love your work.”
During these meetings with so many different people, I noticed that there was something about how they connected with the reasons behind their work. I’m talking about the “why” that people talk about sometimes. The why was very clear with those who were the most engaged.
“People that I met along the way whose work really connected with their strengths and values were doing some really amazing things. It wasn’t necessarily easy work either. I met people who were doing some really challenging things but the connection to their work meant they really loved it.”
When I spoke to others about their work it seemed to me that their jobs were just to pay the bills. In seeing those two alternate futures, I realised how much it matters to have passion for your work not just for your own satisfaction but because it creates opportunity to bring some really cool things into the world.
Q: So you wanted to connect your own experience with others so that they can live more meaningful lives?
A: Yes. That’s exactly it. In my case, I wouldn’t have started my own organisation without having had the opportunities that I’ve been given. Being able to go to events and be part of communities with people who backed me and gave me the confidence to take the first step was critical. I was able to talk to people who had started their own businesses and began to think I could start my own. To be honest, a few years ago I didn’t particularly envision that I would be starting my own business but establishing Limitless seemed like the best way to create the change I wanted to see.
Q: What’s your entrepreneurial journey been like?
A: My entrepreneurial journey will be really interesting. I have learnt so much over the past few years and — when you’ve established your own business — you learn a lot about yourself and how you operate. It has also been challenging, I’ve gone through times where things are going great and it’s amazing and everything is falling into place. At the same time, there are times when, out of the blue, you can be hit super hard by self-doubt — really struggling with how you feel and questioning your capacity to do different things.
I remember being told on the Entrepreneurship Accelerator course (Live The Dream) that it is going to be like a rollercoaster and there will be ups and downs. They said that it’s not only things that happen within your business that can make becoming an entrepreneur difficult or challenging but it is your own mental journey that goes alongside.
“But yes, it’s been amazing and I feel like I’ve gained a lot of self-awareness and learnt a lot about balance — and I’m learning so much still!”
I think one of the things that has been so important is having support and mentors helping you with practical things like how to make a business plan or how to do marketing and branding. Having people around you that support you, have your best interests at heart, and ask how you’re doing from time to time is so important.
I’m super fortunate to have a lot of amazing support in my life, from those who are close to me as well as those I’ve met along the way. So I think that, from a personal development point-of-view, being an entrepreneur has been really significant for me. I often feel fear about taking risks or knowing what the next steps are and having that support is critical.
“Having systems in place around well being and personal development is very important. I know a few people who have started businesses focused on well being and they always say that the greatest investment a person can make is in looking after themselves. It is essential in an organisation to invest in and care about yourself and those around you.”
A: I’ve been constantly impressed by people’s generosity. I’ve repeatedly asked the community for assistance, collaboration, or to lend their support to an event and they’ve always said yes. There are a lot of generous people out there and I think it is a matter of sometimes just asking.
Q: How has Ministry of Awesome helped you on this journey?
A: Ministry of Awesome has helped in so many ways. Through Ministry of Awesome I have had the opportunity to refine my pitch, to speak to the community, and that has really fueled my journey through the Social Enterprise Accelerator as well as afterwards. It’s amazing that there is an organisation that helps start-ups, connects entrepreneurs with opportunities, and provides necessary resources and training. Ministry of Awesome provides amazing value to the startup ecosystem.
“Through Ministry of Awesome I have had the opportunity to refine my pitch, to speak to the community, and that has really fueled my journey through the Social Enterprise Accelerator as well as afterwards. Their network, support, encouragement, and generosity is fantastic.”
Ministry of Awesome is not only running specific boxed services, they’re also very open to how things might change and they support that ideation. People within Ministry of Awesome have supported me personally with running workshops as a part of Limitless which was super valuable. Erica has supported with content advice and facilitation for workshops and this has been so valuable for Limitless.
Ministry of Awesome gives you that feeling of support, comfort, and trust which makes you feel — as an entrepreneur — that you are in a safe space and that everyone is truly welcome!
Q: What programs that Ministry of Awesome offers have been influential or useful to building your venture?
A: The Coffee and Jam events are really cool — they bring such a diverse group of people together, to talk about their ideas and you never know what you’re going to hear about or who you’re going to meet. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak as part of the Coffee and Jam events which has been really awesome. The ability to make connections with other people, especially in the early stages when you don’t really have that network of people is really key for organizations like mine. Also I gained a lot of support from within that Social Enterprise Accelerator (Live The Dream) workshop which was facilitated by Catarina who worked for Ministry of Awesome at the time. The support has been awesome!
Thank you so much April for sharing your entrepreneurial journey and thoughts with us and for joining Ministry of Awesome’s Awesome Stories Series! It has been truly inspirational hearing your story and seeing what you’ve achieved in a relatively short time. If you are interested to learn more about April and her social enterprise, Limitless, visit the website here
April McLennan, Founder
MOBILE: +64 278586965
Interviewed by: Imogen Loakman, Awesome Intern at Ministry of Awesome