We recently interviewed Jessie Ballantyne as part of another project, and on International Women’s Day wanted to share just a little piece of what it is that makes her special.
At only 14 years of age, Jessie’s entrepreneurial spirit and sense of adventure was already evident. Inspired by her Year 9 French teacher, Jessie made biscuits and sold books to self-fund her dream of living in a French speaking country. This budding entrepreneurial savvy was to become a cornerstone of Jessie’s character and career, with its focus applied on benefiting the lives of others.
Jessie attributes her global perspective and heart for developing countries to her parents, who worked hard to give their children experiences others would live an entire life only to dream of. When she returned from a year in Belgium, Jessie and her family travelled around Australia while she completed Year 12 by correspondence, moving on to a 4 week volunteering trip in Cambodia. When her parents returned to Cambodia to take on the role of managing the orphanage they had worked with during their trip, Jessie lived with family friends in Australia while she completed her Year 12 exams and first year of university. Whilst being essentially self sufficient in terms of managing the demands of the exam period, Jessie credits the family who cared for her during this time as being hugely influential on her from a political, religious, cultural and relationship perspective.
After years of working in volunteer and paid roles in numerous humanitarian agencies, across multiple continents, Jessie found herself with a fairly unique set of skills and experience in the acquisition of grants. She had come to use her skills to help others write grant applications in local government - an arduous but vital task for many people in these fields. Recognising the incredible demand for funding for community groups, and the relative lack of training in this area, Jessie developed a training workshop for grant writing. Demand for this was very strong and the workshops were booked out every time, until the workshops were running twice a month. “People don’t love grant writing, they do it because they have a need for funding, and I knew I could help them do it,” said Jessie.
The seed for developing an online grants search business had been planted. Across pages of butchers paper, the structure of a viable business was mapped out with Jessie’s brother Owen, a highly trusted ally with a website and interior design background. Together they developed The Grants Hub - a user friendly, comprehensive guide to Australian grants and funding opportunities.
This is only a tiny part of Jessie’s amazing story. Jessie launched The Grants Hub when she was 39 weeks pregnant with her second child, Tom. Shortly after birth, Tom was discovered to have a heart murmur and was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease. A tiny 3.5kg, Tom underwent emergency open-heart surgery. Running a brand new business whilst caring for her critically ill son was a challenge she never anticipated. “Our two year old daughter was also a significant part of the story. She went from being a proud and excited big sister with a new baby brother, to suddenly having to be independent while my husband Justin and I were pretty much fully absorbed with the need to be with Tom.”
Jessie has a personal relationship with God and it is faith that sustained Jessie when things were desperate. “When it comes to the crunch, where do you go? You have to cry out to something. When you’re out of control you have to go somewhere.”
“There was every chance he wouldn’t make it through that first operation, but he did.” When Jessie and Justin were able to visit him, his tiny heart was visible, beating in his chest, protected by clear film. “Tom and his big sister Georgie have a very special bond, though I’m not sure they know why,” says Jessie. “Sometimes I hear Georgie whisper to Tom that he is a very special little boy and tell him how much she loves him.”
Tom’s condition is critical and life long. Jessie and her family feel indebted to the incredible work of Tom’s surgeon and medical team at the Royal Children's Hospital and hope to raise funds this March 22 in Run for the Kids.
Ultimately, it is Jessie’s parents who she attributes to her ability to chase her own dreams. “The fact that they encouraged and supported my brothers and I in whatever we did and worked hard to help us fund things when they couldn’t afford it has been a massive influence and change provoker in each of our lives,” she says.
Jessie’s focus is now firmly fixed on her family and her ability to find practical support for not for profits and community organisations. In the short period since its launch in 2013, The Grants Hub has risen to become Australia’s leading grants search website, currently listing $369,363,753 in open grants.
Jessie has a refreshing perspective on our place in the world. She is very open and unafraid of taking risks and has a love of adventure. “I get so frustrated when people do nothing, we have got so much. People overanalyse things, just do it! We’ve got one life and some people have very short lives. I need to be the best person I can be,” said Jessie.
To find out more about The Grants Hub and how it could help your community group or organisation, please go to http://www.thegrantshub.com.au/