Tell the judges about yourself, your business & what you do?
My name is Tegan, I am a 33 year old mother of one and the director of Bravery Buddies which is a charitable initiative providing companion dolls to children with cancer and alopecia and more recently to children with Down Syndrome. Bravery Buddies was created in 2018 and has since grown rapidly with almost 3000 dolls having been delivered to children to date. These dolls may just be dolls, but they are special. They send the message “you are not alone”. They are inclusive dolls for both boys and girls of different ethnicities. I created these dolls, influenced by my own 20 year battle with cancer, to try and lessen the pain that that comes with cancer diagnosis and to bring even just a glimmer of joy to the lives of little warriors. To provide them with comfort and relatable companionship.
What was the reason/inspiration that started your business?
I was diagnosed with cancer as a child and in 2016 my medication stopped working and I was once again faced with the terrifying realisation of my illness and how truly precious and fragile life is. It is my own personal experience and passion that lead me to create Bravery Buddies. It is my purpose and I am sure, it is the reason I am still here – to draw on my own experiences and to positively impact the lives of children who are going through monumental life altering illnesses.
What makes you/your business/your product/service unique? How do you stand out in your industry?
There is nothing else out there like Bravery Buddies. Not even overseas. It was always in my vision from the very beginning that Bravery Buddies needed to be 100% inclusive – cancer does NOT discriminate, and so I knew we couldn’t either. We have dolls for girls AND boys, available in several different skin colours. Bravery Buddies aims to support everyone and it is my goal to have a Bravery Buddy to comfort every single child who may need one on their journey early in life.
What kind of culture exists in your business and how did you create that?
An overwhelming culture of kindness and support. It blows me away on a daily basis. In the beginning I felt quite alone in my mission. But now, less than 3 years later I have almost 15,000 supporters across social media and have had 3000 Bravery Buddies sponsored by incredibly kind members of the community.
Kindness is at the very core of my personal belief system. I am fueled by it. I believe that the easiest way to feel content and happy in life is by trying to create happiness for others…. And I try to demonstrate that through Bravery Buddies. I am so blessed to have grown a large community of like-minded souls who help me to spread the Bravery Buddies philosophy.
What is your favourite aspect of being in business?
I don’t really consider Bravery Buddies to be a business, but my favourite thing about being part of it is just knowing that I am finally doing what I was born to do. I am now one of those incredibly lucky people who find their purpose and passion and get to spend every day living it. Cancer shook my world at a really difficult time. I was 13 years old – so not young enough to get through the worst of it and move on to have a normal adolescence – but also not old enough to have already established a career and life. It wasn’t a bump in the road, it was a huge detour. I struggled with that for a very long time. Sure I found some success in other areas of business along the way, but there was always a knawing feeling that I was not on the right path.
Creating Bravery Buddies – it was like I had been walking around in the dark my whole adult life, and finally…. The light came on.
How do you define success for yourself and your business?
Success to me is knowing that this initiative I created made it possible for even one child to smile and feel joy. To have even one moment of light during days of darkness. I cannot separate success for myself from success for Bravery Buddies – because Bravery Buddies is my heart. Without fail, it continually lifts me up when I am having a bad day.
Success to me is going to bed at night knowing that you are making even a small difference in the lives of others.
2020 was an extremely challenging year both personally and for businesses. What were some of your challenges and how did you overcome them?
2020 for me was actually the year that Bravery Buddies truly blossomed. I witnessed so much kindness and generosity and was actually astounded by people’s ability during such a difficult and challenging time to still find it in their hearts to donate and support our cause.
Probably the biggest thing I had to overcome was that I had aimed to have 2000 dolls delivered by the end of 2020 – Which I had planned to do by travelling down the east coast of Australia hand delivering dolls to hospitals and children in need. However through an incredibly successful campaign to raise awareness, we still managed to fulfil that goal, shipping dolls Australia wide to wherever they were needed.
What are your future goals/ambitions? And how do you plan to achieve them?
I am currently working on expanding our range of Bravery Buddies to support children with a wide variety of conditions. Right now I am working on a doll to support children with Autism, after receiving feedback that there was a demand for them. The challenge was that Bravery Buddies have always provided comfort through physical relatability. Children who have lost their hair due to chemo for example, see their bald little doll and they are comforted by the fact that they look the same! So finding a way to create that same level of comfort for a child with Autism when there is no real physical attributes associated with Autism was a bit harder! However through surveying my wonderful community and carrying out some research I am so excited that our beautiful Autism dolls are now in development – they will be a complete comforting, sensory experience!
This is really just the beginning however – I cannot turn my brain off because my goals and ideas for the future are just so big, fueled by my passion to support and create joy for as many children as I possibly can.
If you could start your business over again what would you do differently?
Honestly, very little. I have loved the journey. Even the difficult moments and times of tears (there have been many) have just been fuel for the fire!
Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?
I am inspired every day by the incredibly brave, resilient children I get the immense pleasure of meeting and learning about through Bravery Buddies. To read their stories, to see their beautiful smiling faces even though they are in a hospital bed surrounded by tubes and things that no child should have to deal with. There is truly nothing more inspirational than the strength they show. Just when I think things are getting too hard, a beautiful parent will send me a photo of their child cuddled up, sleeping contently with their buddy and just like that, I know that nothing in this world is too hard to overcome.
Why did you enter the 2021 Roar Awards and why do you think you deserve to win this category?
I have entered the Roar Awards since its first year and have been incredibly honoured to have won gold the first year and silver the second. Roar is the only awards I enter, because it just feels different to me than other awards. It is an opportunity for everyone to showcase their passion and be acknowledged in a safe space. To show that it is possible to be successful in so many more ways than just financially. I believe I deserve to win “Making a Difference” because making a difference is literally my life’s goal. It is what drives me from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep. Bravery Buddies is not a fleeting project, it is not something I will ever tire of and every day I am driven to do more, to spread and encourage kindness… always.
Thank you Judges for reading my submission! There have been moments writing it where I have admittedly been a bit teary. But that’s how I know that I am sharing with you my truest feelings about what I do. But I don’t think I will ever fully be able to put into words how much my work with Bravery Buddies means to me. On the surface they may appear to “just be dolls”, but to a child who feels alone and scared – it is the small things that truly mean the world.
It really makes a difference.