Rita Joyan is hardly ever idle. In fact, when I caught up with her, she had just finished a worldwide business tour. After spending most of her childhood under troubling circumstances, Rita is perhaps engineered not to waste a single second of her life. She is a big-picture thinker, much like her parents who fled their homeland of Afghanistan when the Soviets invaded, taking infant Rita and her siblings with them in the hopes of giving them a better life. Rita says she will always be grateful to them for the sacrifices they made for her and her sisters, spending 18 months as refugees in India until they finally got the opportunity to come to Australia. Since coming here, she has honoured her parent’s sacrifices and has never looked back.
Rita’s story is an interesting one, to be sure. It took her family two whole years to get here. Rita’s father was (and still is) a big influence in her life, and in the lives of her siblings. When the war broke out in Afghanistan, it meant that Rita’s sisters could no longer go to school – a defining moment for the girls. Rita remembers her parents’ words; “going to university is your ticket to freedom”. That freedom was suddenly lost to them.
However, Australia came with fresh opportunities, and young Rita found herself entering university here – and yet, she felt intuitively that it was not for her. She then went in search of a different kind of freedom, holding a variety of positions in the corporate world instead. She worked for Optus, the Sydney Morning Herald, and a variety of educational institutions, and was usually employed to solve human resource problems. She was often supposed to investigate problems around productivity and sales, but what she found instead was that most of the problems stemmed from the attitudes of the people who hated their jobs. What she was hired to do was simply provide band-aid solutions.
This gave her an idea for a business to help people find meaning in their working lives; to uncover their passions per se. She delved into research on how one should go about finding one’s purpose and felt that she was onto something. So, Rita quit her job cold-turkey and started her first training group session, which she initially offered for free. She rounded up a group of people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, and ran a workshop to teach them how to find their passion.
Finding this to be a marketable concept, and that there was a great need for these workshops among disgruntled employees in large corporate and government departments, Rita was convinced she had discovered a previously untraversed path. She knew this could work, but it was still early days and she was still finding her business feet. It wasn’t long before she realised she needed paying clients, or else she would be unable to sustain these workshops. So, she swallowed her pride and took a bold step; deciding to bet on herself, Rita booked herself into the Mind, Body, and Soul festival in Melbourne.
The formula worked for her this time. She gave the talk and made an offer, and got her first two paying clients. Then, she rinsed and repeated the formula. She delivered another talk and made another offer, and this time she got 11 clients.
And thus, at this pivotal point, “Unbox Your Gift” was indeed unboxed!
As her confidence and successes multiplied, she attended (and ran) many workshops where she taught people what she had learned. Firstly, you should find your passion. Secondly, you need to add voice to your value, and then you should always have an offer (to create a transformation for your audience). And finally, you need to be able to monetise your mission.
Like the Meerkat commercial says: “simples”! (But it’s never obvious.)
It was around this time (in 2015), that Rita entered the Canberra Women in Business awards, winning the award for Young Business Woman of the Year. This gave Rita the validation she needed to push on.
“It gave me the boost I needed to take it to the next level,” she said.
In terms of her personal approach to business, Rita doesn’t attend events or do business with businesses that compromise her values (like alcohol consumption – for example a pub – or tobacco, or gambling). Firstly, she says that you need to live your life the way you run your business, based on your authentic values.
“If it’s against your morals, then don’t pursue it. After all, it’s about common sense, too. You have to believe in your client’s products and their motivations. It’s not rocket science!” says Rita.
As for moving forward, Rita is constantly re-enrolling herself in all of her goals. For example, she had walked 16 kilometres the day before we met, and forced herself to re-enrol in her vision, in that moment, of finishing that walk. She believes it’s an analogy for business goals. You have to keep the big picture in mind, she tells me; that beautiful end-goal you set for yourself. That’s how the mission pulls you, you have to keep your eye on it and it will drive you.
Talking about goals, Rita set some big ones in 2017 and has just returned from an international workshop tour. She flirted with the idea for a while and then bit the bullet. She offered a five-minute talk in Wellington at a business networking day. Her topic was, “how to attract clients in one talk”. And of course, she made an offer and got 10 people to enrol in her half-day workshop/retreat. Then she really put herself out there, doing a whirlwind 90-day tour visiting Islamabad, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, then Sydney and finally, Canberra. It was highly successful. In true Rita Joyan fashion, she firmly believes that you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it.
But you must “put your money where your mouth is”, she tells me, as well as take measured risks. She has now managed to systematise her offerings through what she calls her “Speaking Success System™”. She further developed the system from her five-minute: “how to attract clients in one talk” speech.
Rita’s next vision for the future includes licensing her crafted system of how to find your passion (Unbox Your Gift), and offer it to counsellors, teachers, coaches, and consultants.
Then after that, who knows? Maybe a documentary.
You can connect with Rita on www.unboxyourgift.com or via her Facebook page. And you can count on seeing her bucking the trends further – from what I have seen of her, she won’t stay still in business. Not even a little bit. And that’s a certainty.