Annie Gichuru is the Creator and Executive Producer of True Life Stories, an online documentary series . She is also a wife, mother, and natural storyteller. Annie believes stories are the cornerstone of who we are. They shape our beliefs and identity and teach us about those who came before and the lives they led. As the heart-child of True Life Stories Annie showcases in detail the intricacies of people who have overcome great challenges to get to where they are. Life has dealt them some tough blows that have caused them major setbacks which they have worked extremely hard to resolve. People who are now using their life stories to make a difference in the lives of others. These are stories that resonate on a human and empathetic level, stories that make the audience feel and reflect. The underlying messages behind these stories is to uplift, inspire and provide hope, whilst challenging audiences to make the most of their lives.
What is the vision for True Life Stories?
The vision for True Life Stories is to be accessible to audiences globally with the aim of spreading the message of hope. We are living in times of negative and fake news on so many different fronts that we need to be able to challenge that, and begin to create a new narrative for traditional news media where positive news stories are featured so that we can bring about a much-needed balance to the news we receive.
What ignited the spark in you to start True Life Stories?
It was really personal. I was a new mum, and most of the news I was coming across on a daily basis was negative. With time, I felt that the news was beginning to impact me negatively and I really wanted to have access to uplifting stories. Stories about people who were making a difference, role models in our community and unsung heroes. I thought of my daughter and my family as a whole and I wanted us to be able to have access to good news stories that would motivate and inspire us. I always had a dream to be a storyteller and get into media, I saw this as an opportunity to create a platform where messages of hope could be shared.
What do you believe was the best decision you made in business?
Pushing past my fear of getting into the public domain because I didn’t think I had what it took to make a difference and moreover, there weren’t many women like me that I could relate to. You know, black African women in the Australian media. I just had to start somewhere and also get over the fact that as much as I wanted perfection from the get go, that would come with time and experience so I just needed to get started and the rest would follow.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
Absolutely, am keen to share my learnings as I know it may benefit someone else looking to start out. Hearing from other startup founders has not only equipped me but also provided me with encouragement along the way. My advice would be just start with what you have. Don’t get bogged down with what you don’t have. Starting is the hardest part and once you begin to tick off some goals then you begin to make progress.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Firstly, spend time practicing your craft. Malcolm Gladwell author of “Outliers – The Story of Success” put things into perspective when he wrote about the factors that contribute to high levels of success through the 10,000 hour rule. Malcolm explains in depth the key to success as practicing your skill over and over to about 10,000 hours. As we have progressed in producing our stories, they have gotten better with time as we continue to perfect our craft. Secondly, accepting that failure is part of the success journey and you will make many mistakes, but use that experience as an opportunity to learn. It will make you better and wiser in your entrepreneurial journey. I have made many mistakes but what I have learnt from the process has helped me sharpen my skills. Am always learning and I try not to be too hard on myself. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, be persistent in your goal. You will get many knock-backs but don’t give up. Tara Mohr says it best in her book “Playing Big,” when you receive criticism for your work, it doesn’t mean it is not good. Feedback Tara highlights, doesn’t tell you about you, but rather it tells you about the person giving the feedback. It may not be something they like but there are others who will connect with your work. Those are the people you need to identify as your target and work towards building that tribe of like-minded people you can cater to. Never give up no matter how many times you are rejected. Just keep going. Someone somewhere is bound to say yes.
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
I’d have to say my dear parents. Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya where I saw my parents work hard to provide not only for my siblings and I but also a lot of my relatives as well. My parents didn’t inherit anything from their parents. They grew up in a rural remote village in central Kenya where basic amenities were considered a luxury at the time and not accessible. They’ve worked hard for everything they have. My mum in particular, started a business (running a restaurant) when I was 12 years old and I have seen her grow her business through sheer grit and determination. She is almost 70 years young now and she still gets up every morning and goes to work. Her work ethic and integrity are the skills that I most admire about her. There are many times I have felt like giving up but when I think of my mum and how hard she works I am inspired to keep going.
What was the best advice that you have been given?
Tim Healy, in my opinion, one of the most inspiring people I know once said that you don’t need much to make a difference just a Facebook page and no financial assistance. I literally took him at his word and kick-started True Life Stories within a few weeks. What had taken me almost 2 decades to make a reality, slowly begun taking root because of those words. For me it goes back to just getting started. You don’t need much, just use what you have and get started. The rest will fall into place, but you need to start first.
How have you personally measured your success?
Through personal fulfilment and satisfaction. When we have finished filming a story and I look back on what we’ve been able to create and knowing the impact the story may have on someone else gives me great fulfilment and purpose to keep sharing the message of hope. Also seeing the happiness it brings my family, how proud my husband is of my achievements and the role model I am becoming for my daughter.
Other than your business, what other hats do you wear?
Other than being the creator and producer of True Life Stories, I am also a wife to a most wonderful supportive husband and an adorable 4 year old daughter. We are also expecting our second baby in a few months. I work full time too as an HR Advisor at the CSIRO, Australia’s leading innovation catalyst.
When you think of your journey, what is the thing you are most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that I was able to push past my fear of getting into the public domain and kick-started True Life Stories. It has been 3 years in the making, but to see the progress we have made and the stories we’ve been able to produce has enriched and changed my life for the better. I am also proud of the quality of the stories we’ve produced especially knowing that I had no experience in film making prior to this.
What motivates you?
I am inspired by different things but my main two are: One, being a mum and wanting the very best for my children. I want to leave a legacy for them that they will be proud of. That they can use my life story to make something good of their own story. Secondly, my personal mantra is, “do what you are passionate about and use it as a force for good.” I am inspired by everyday people who are making a difference in the lives of others. It motivates me to continue to use my storytelling passion as a force for good.
The third episode of True Life Stories: Bella’s Story – From Refugee to First Black African Female AFL Coach, will air on September 9. Episode 1 and 2 can be viewed at http://www.truelifestories.com.au/episodes/