Date posted: 14/06/2019 5 min read

Meet the CA turned #GoKindly founder: Laura Conti CA

Laura Conti CA aims to generate A$100,000 annually for charities by 2024 through her #GoKindly ethical products.

In Brief

  • Start-up #GoKindly ethical homewares donates half its profits to charities that support vulnerable women.
  • Founders Laura Conti CA and David Conti CA want to build the online business to be a self-sustaining source of charitable funds.
  • Laura Conti’s own experience of needing help propelled her to volunteer and give back to charities.

By Meredith Booth

Bedroom and bathroom goods online retailer #GoKindly launched late last year offering ethically made, high-quality products at an affordable price. But its co-founders Laura Conti CA and David Conti CA have another aim. At the end of the financial year, 50% of profits are donated to support vulnerable women.

By 2024, Laura Conti hopes to give A$100,000 a year to grassroots charities. To do that, #GoKindly will need to sell about 6000 of its Melbourne-made pillows annually.

The CA’s passion to give back stems from “her lived experience of needing help” as a vulnerable student, after she left her family to study and work.

"My family was part of a fundamentalist group which didn't believe in women working or having an education. That wasn't the life that I wanted to lead but I didn't have any support and I didn't have anything," she says.

Sales of #GoKindly's first product, an ethically sourced bedroom pillow, have already allowed two modest $500 donations each to Melbourne emergency housing provider WISHIN and affordable housing provider Women's Housing Ltd.

“#GoKindly was designed to make a profit from day one… and I'll do everything I can to keep it that way. The idea is that it will always be self-sustaining,’’ Conti says.

“Everything we do is with a view to giving the most we can to charity, but it’s important to have a commercial view.

“For us, we've got some charities that we have supported, [but] it just got to the point where it felt infinitely better to build a business, build awareness and give money at the same time.”

A full-time focus on giving back

Laura Conti CADavid Conti CA and Laura Conti CA.

Conti left her full-time role as a financial controller with digital accessory company Cygnett in May 2019 to focus on her six-month-old start-up.

Not planning to draw a part-time wage until 2020, Conti says her husband, David, is supporting her start-up dream financially through his role as a finance director at legal firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

The past five months have been “a bit manic” she says, as she juggled full-time work, the burgeoning business and care for infant son Frankie while David is on paternity leave.

Tough times as a vulnerable student

The Melbourne accountant is fully aware of the challenges vulnerable women face. She broke free of her family at age 19 to work and study, seeking government and charity support to survive.

"I heard about this HECS thing which got me through uni; I got Newstart (unemployment and rental assistance) and charities helped me. I don't know if I could get through that now, the cost of living is so much higher.

"The Newstart allowance and rent assistance hasn't changed [in real terms] in 20 years and I know, 20 years ago, that was not enough to live on. I had to rely on charities to provide UHT milk and canned peaches.

"For me, it's really important that we in the business sector contribute to funding some of these services.’’

Expansion plans

#GoKindly's first product, its bedroom pillow, comes from a Dandenong manufacturer located in the same outer Melbourne suburb as Wellsprings for Women, a charity supporting refugee and migrant women. Conti is the charity’s voluntary treasurer and she believes some of the women it helps work at the manufacturer.

Next will be a children's pillow followed by a tea towel with #GoKindly branding, as Conti builds the company's range to five products over the next two years.

The online retailer also has wholesale orders for a range of small businesses that want an ethical customer offering, including a recent order for 100 pillows to a chiropractor group.

Conti is hoping #GoKindly’s operations will move from her spare bedroom to a rented premises later this year. She is seeking sponsors through a crowdfunding campaign in mid July to match a A$10,000 ING Dreamstarter grant, and says corporate sponsors have committed half the needed funds already.

How being a CA helps others

"It does still shock me. It takes my breath away when I hear about someone living in a car with four kids."
Laura Conti CA

Conti sees her financial background as a point of difference for #GoKindly in a sector dominated by people from caring or social service backgrounds.

Asked about becoming a CA, she admits there was "very little reflection" on her choice of career, simply taking a practical view of finding a job that paid well. But it’s brought other benefits.

"It opened doors and brought me into contact with some amazing people and has given me the opportunity to do things," she says.

One of the great things about being a CA is having the expertise to be able to make a real difference to a not-for-profit enterprise, she says. Even volunteering as little as two hours a month, as Conti does on the board of Wellsprings for Women, is useful.

“I would encourage any of my peers, who aren’t already, to get involved with social causes or volunteer to be on the boards of charities and understand what the real challenges are – get out of your comfort zone and get into it," she says.

"It does still shock me. It takes my breath away when I hear about someone living in a car with four kids."

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