Rachael Akhidenor

Rachael Akhidenor

Founder / Self Care Originals

BlogFounder

If you had asked me who I wanted to feature on The Cool Career at the start of 2022, I would have reeled off a list of somewhat controversial, interesting and world-changing women. People that I thought deserved to have their name up in lights and planted in the minds of students. Sitting at number two on that very list was Rachael Akhidenor, founder of Self Care Originals.

Rachael is an example of the notion that a conversation can change the trajectory of your life, and I’m so here for all of it. The 26-year-old, from Melbourne, created her self-funded brand, Self Care Originals, in 2018 while at university with the aim of encouraging people to look after themselves mentally, spiritually and physically but she then shifted her focus to promote the message that everybody has the right to pursue health and wellbeing.

This year Self Care Originals has released a new suite of tools designed to offer a deeper, more meaningful version of self-care that focuses on improving self-awareness, self-knowledge and self-compassion.

In this interview, Rachael takes us back to the very beginning, why she choose to study at Monash University (and for 7 years) and how she started her biz. I am so proud of this interview.

Let’s begin…

Where did you grow up and how did your experience shape the person you are, and the career that you are in today?

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Naarm / Melbourne, Australia. I grew up in diverse suburbs – with people of all walks of life living around me. I think Melbourne’s rich culture has influenced me and my career, as there is just so much to see and explore. There’s the arts, food, music… there’s a real richness and depth to the city that has influenced me to become the person I am today.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was young, I wanted to be a writer. Before I could write, I would say stories aloud that my Mum would write them down for me. That changed as I moved through school. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I thought I knew what I wanted to study at university (either something business related or in the legal field).

Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?

I went to a private all-girls school in Melbourne’s north. It was a really great experience, and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to go there. Growing up in a migrant family (my Dad is from Nigeria, and while my mother was born here, her family migrated back to Greece when she was young), education was highly valued. I was an incredibly studious and academic child. I threw myself into my studies, as well as sport, music, service, and debating – essentially, all the co-curricular activities. In year 12, I was my school’s Vice Captain. Looking back at that time, I have such fondness but also compassion for the person I was. I think I threw myself so deeply into school as a way to not look inside of myself and really contemplate and sit with who I was… I’m quite a different person today than the one I was back then.

Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?

I always knew I was academic, so in that way, high school showed me that I definitely wanted to go to University. But most importantly, high school taught me how to study. It taught me lessons in discipline and dedication. It also taught me the importance of having well-rounded interests and just trying everything – regardless if you’re terrible at it!

Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.

I did an internship at school as part of work experience. It wasn’t in the field I wanted to be in; I just did it because it was a requirement to do in year 10.

Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?

I did go to University. I studied a Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Commerce, and a Diploma of Languages in Mandarin at Monash University. It was a long degree (7 years total), but I found the length of time so useful as it gave me a 7 years to actually figure out who I was, and what I wanted to do. I always knew I wanted to study Commerce (likely being a by-product of my parents, who are both business owners). I studied Chinese because I had studied it in high school, and both of my sisters’ had studied it at University. And I studied Law because I’d always been drawn to it.

Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?

My career journey has been non-linear. Looking back it makes sense. However, I didn’t approach it with strategy, but rather, curiosity. While studying, I followed my interests, working in a variety of fields that ultimately led me to what I do today. I had always loved writing, so I interned at a boutique copywriting agency, Willow & Blake, and The Urbanlist. That then led me to freelance copywriting, which brought me into the wellness world (as a result of my clients).

Copywriting also led me to Marketing and Design. Clients were asking me if I offered design services or Content and Marketing Strategy. By following my passion and equipping myself with the necessary skills (read: self-teaching myself Adobe Suite and other platforms), I ended up being the Marketing and Content Director at a boutique residential property development firm. At this time, I was also dabbling in my own creative ideas, and after a few false starts, I began my company Self Care Originals in 2018. Now, I run Self Care Originals, alongside working part-time at Deloitte in Management Consulting.

Some key highlights for me would be the impact we’ve made with Self Care Originals in making self-care and the wellness industry more diverse and inclusive in Australia, and being named as one of the Top 100 Innovators in Australia by The Australian.

So how did you get into the job that you are in now, how did SCO actually start?

I got into the world of business and start-ups by having the courage to put myself out there and take that first step. And then, by continuing to show up every day and do the work. There was no magical pathway or internship that led me here. It was many years of trying different things, following my curiosity and interest, and consistently acting upon that.

What is the hardest part of your current job as a Founder, but also as an employee?

For me, the hardest part of being a founder is the uncertainty and the risk. It’s tough, particularly for those who are drawn to innovate in a space. There’s no real formula, because you’re trying to create something that doesn’t exist. Navigating the uncertainty and uncomfortability that comes with taking risk can be confronting. It’s not a job that’s for everyone.

What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?

I don’t really have a ‘typical business day’ as it depends on what is happening in the business and what’s needed of me. In saying that, I like to stack my meetings so they’re either all in the morning or the afternoon. This way I’m free to have a solid stretch of time to get into my work. My working day will generally have two meditation breaks (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). I always have lunch away from my desk so I can fully disconnect. And I have quite strong boundaries around social media and the workday. I only go online if I absolutely have to (read: if it’s for work).

Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?

My heroes would definitely be my parents. They were faced with many challenges in their life (migrating to Australia with little to nothing, being in a biracial couple etc.). But the way they have managed to overcome those obstacles and provide my sisters and I with the life we now have is truly incredible. I can’t think of two more hard-working people, and I’m just so in awe of all they’ve accomplished and achieved. So much of my work ethic, discipline and grit comes from them.

What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?

Get to know yourself. Get to know what you like and don’t like. Get to know what drives you and inspires you. Get to know what you’re fearful of, and what you’re avoiding. Get to know what lights you up and how you want to serve the broader community. Knowing yourself – knowing your why – will make everything make more sense. And it will give you the strength and support to keep moving forward when it gets tough.

List the most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration.

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