There are many words to describe Caitlin D’Aprano; social entrepreneur, women’s empowerment teacher, shoe and accessories designer, writer, public speaker and women’s rights advocate. Caitlin graduated with a BSc, majoring in psychology from The University of Melbourne. Her belief in altruism led her to transform her own traumatic experience with intimate partner abuse into an opportunity to advocate for women who have been affected. Determined to break the silence, Caitlin continues to boldly and courageously share her story in various settings to create awareness and share her knowledge as a way of empowering others.
Willpowered Woman focuses on empowering women. They educate at high schools and universities to prevent intimate partner abuse through creating awareness and promoting self-empowerment.
How did you get to where you are today?
It really has been such an amazing and wonderful journey for me: lots of ups and downs, but I look back on it with such fondness because it reminds me of my strength and resiliency and it really does make for a great story. Having grown up in Australia, after I finished university I felt rather restless, so I booked a one way flight to London to get a job in luxury fashion and to start my own shoe business. After a few years in luxury fashion, I started running a successful sales and business consultancy while continuing to start the shoe business. Then my Papou (grandfather in Greek) passed away suddenly and it really caused me to go into this deep questioning of life and the direction I was taking in my own life. The shoe business was ready to go, but I really wanted my life to have a sense of purpose and to figure out how to make it a business with a mission, so I put it on hold and decided to go on this journey to figure it all out. I came to the States to volunteer for a nonprofit and raised them $15,000 to feed the homeless for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In that time, I met and married my husband. After we got married, he became violent, so I left. From that situation, I realized that my purpose was going to be using my background in psychology and fashion to empower women.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
My toughest obstacle in life was getting out of my violent and abusive marriage: it took me 2 years because he wasn't willing to let go and used the courts to his advantage. I have never been so low in my life: I left him with no visa, no job, very little money, nowhere to live and few support networks because he had isolated me from my friends. I knew I couldn't go back because I was in extreme physical danger, so I escaped to an emergency shelter. I had very few resources available to me, but I overcame it by thinking outside of the box and creating lists of the Top 5 things I needed to create to get myself out of the situation. It worked: I found ways to get what I needed so I could keep moving forward with my life. I also knew that if I could keep my spirits up, it would make things easier, so I would watch a lot of stand up comedy. That situation was the first time I had come across the term "Domestic Violence". It made me remember the abuse I endured as a child and I realized I had been a lifetime survivor. In the darkest moment of my life, I knew that bringing light and awareness about intimate partner abuse and encouraging women to empower themselves was my calling. That's when Willpowered Woman came to me. Our eco-friendly accessories brand Sea came to me shortly after where I decided to integrate the mission of Willpowered Woman into Sea, so we can provide jobs to survivors and donate part of our profits to Willpowered Woman.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
Having a larger vision of where you want to go and then breaking it down into bite size pieces. I am a fanatic about to do spreadsheets: I give myself strict deadlines and as I think of more things to get done, I add them to the list. It's basically a never ending to do list and that's what keeps me super motivated and focused. I then also take the time to appreciate how much I have accomplished by writing it down and reminding myself every now and then. In those times where I may not feel motivated, I have learnt to be ok with it and to let myself have a bit of a breather. I am rather obsessive about Willpowered Woman, so when I feel like I can't keep going, that's my cue to focus on other things I enjoy like stand up comedy, dancing, writing, drawing and painting.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Above all else, know thyself. For me, this is a constant because I always have to make a concerted effort to stay conscious and observe what I do, figure out where it comes from and why I do it. When it's something that needs to change, I come up with ways to troubleshoot. As an example, I am very impatient, things need to be done yesterday. I know this about myself, so when I am feeling a lot of pressure, I try to be conscious about how I communicate with people, knowing that if I don't watch it, I can come across as abrupt.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
Analysis Paralysis: start taking action because it never ends up being what you originally thought it would be and you can only discover that by starting.
Don't listen to all of the hype about how things "should" be done: figure out what works for you.
Ask for what you want, because if you don't ask, you will never know.
Never be afraid to ask for help: this is how you will achieve the most you possibly can.
Trust your instincts: it's a constant process of listening to others advice and checking in with yourself to see what your instincts are telling you about that advice. As an example, I have had a few mentors that weren't the right fit, but instead of listening to that, I continued to work with them and it really did set me back.
How do we get more women leaders?
Encourage teenage girls to get involved in leadership and set higher standards for themselves: take them beyond what they think they can do or even what they think they want and get them to think bigger. Tell teenage girls that they can do anything they put their minds to, have faith in them and most importantly, teach them how to have faith in themselves.