Meet the MBAs Who Turned Their Passion For Purpose Into Successful Social Ventures

As a Director and Co-Founder of the World Youth Education Trust (WYET), Hayley Lyons has spent nearly 15 years ensuring quality education is delivered to support youths in at-risk and post-conflict regions of East Africa.

The reasons for undertaking a Master of Business Administration (MBA) are as diverse and varied as the life experience of those you will find in the audience at every MBA lecture.

Some MBAs are driven by the need to accelerate their career, some by a desire to increase their salary, move overseas or simply challenge themselves. For others, an MBA is another step to creating a better world by building the skills to improve their purpose-driven ventures.

For Brisbane business executive Hayley Lyons, the decision to study an MBA at The University of Queensland (UQ) was about building a bigger skills “toolkit” not only for her career but also to further her passion for empowering young people through education.

As a Director and Co-Founder of the World Youth Education Trust (WYET), Hayley has spent nearly 15 years ensuring quality education is delivered to support youths in at-risk and post-conflict regions of East Africa, including Uganda and Tanzania.

“We didn’t start with a grand plan; we started with just one classroom to  help a few kids to have a place to access learning,” Hayley said. “Fifteen years down the track, and hundreds of students later, I hope we have made a big difference and have helped to put some of those young people’s lives and communities back together.”

Pursuing her MBA allowed Hayley to formalise and enhance the skills she had learnt over more than 20 years as a business executive, including her current role as General Manager – Business Solutions at Queensland Government-owned investment manager QIC.

“The challenges of running a business and a charity are similar,” she said. “Both require a diverse skill set. You must be great at strategy, logistics, HR, marketing, finance and anything else that needs your attention.”

The World Youth Education Trust (WYET) operates in northern Uganda and Tanzania to support and empower youth education.

The timing of her MBA, which she completed in 2019, was particularly prescient and gave her the confidence to tackle the challenges of managing an international charity during a global pandemic.

“One thing the MBA did was give me a lot of clarity and direction around what we needed to focus on when we were faced with many decisions about how to navigate the uncertain path ahead.”

Fellow UQ MBA graduate Matt Granfield is on a mission to give vulnerable people access to much-needed technology via his not-for-profit organisation Spare Keys.

The social enterprise came about after Matt, who is the Director of Marketing and Engagement for Economic Development Queensland, saw the number of corporations that discarded perfectly good computers and devices at the end of their lifecycle.

Having witnessed a family member experience homelessness in the past, Matt wondered how these resources could be made available to people going through a tough time.

“It seemed like such a loss to see potentially life-changing devices go to waste,” Matt said.

He set about building a platform and connecting with people who could bring his vision to life. This work culminated in the launch of Spare Keys, a registered charity that unlocks spare resources for people experiencing tough times and provides them access to technology devices.

UQ MBA graduate Matt Granfield is on a mission to give vulnerable people access to much-needed technology via his not-for-profit organisation Spare Keys

One of the most formidable hurdles to overcome in building Spare Keys was challenging people’s views about the causes of homelessness.

“The biggest challenge we faced was changing the common perception that people in crisis all fit the media’s stereotype of a homeless person,” he said.

“A huge proportion of Australia’s homeless population are middle-class women fleeing domestic and family violence situations. Often, they have a partner who controls the family finances, so even if they have a job, they might not have access to a bank account for some time.”

Matt believes his MBA, which he completed in 2016, was critical to the success of Spare Keys.

“I apply a lot of what I learned during my MBA from UQ to help me run Spare Keys, especially from a strategy and operations perspective,” he said.

“The MBA helped me think about how to map processes and get people out of bad situations. It’s given me an empathetic ear for the partners we work with who are out in the community on the front line, from both an operations and HR perspective.”

Are you ready to turn your passion for purpose into a rewarding career that makes a difference?

Visit the UQ MBA website to take the next step.

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Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).