Inspiring life stories


Building an iconic brand—it’s all in the WHY!

Franziska Iseli, Founder, Basic Bananas

Franziska Iseli sat crossed legged on her living room floor eating breakfast after an early morning surf at Narrabeen on Sunday 17 February 2008 when her phone rang. It was her brother Reto calling from Switzerland. He told her their father had suddenly passed away from a heart attack—he was 58. ‘I have no idea how my brother made that call to me,’ Franziska says. ‘It must have been so hard to share such incomprehensible news with his little sister across the other side of the world.’

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Sharing knowledge with anyone who wants to learn

Mukul Pandya, Editor-in-Chief, Knowledge@Wharton

One of the most crushing experiences of my childhood in India inspired the birth of Knowledge@Wharton, the online business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. From its inception, I was passionate about knowledge being made available via Knowledge@Wharton–for free–for anyone who wants to learn. You can’t really understand my perspective on Knowledge@Wharton unless you understand Manorama Bhatt, my grandmother.  

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The lesser trodden path

Heather Stratfold, Cellist

Since the dawn of the new millennium, I’ve taken the lesser trodden path, playing electric cello and improvising, although for 25 years leading up to then I successfully performed as a classical cellist in orchestras and ensembles in London and Sydney.

I started playing cello professionally as an Adelaide high school student, performed with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra while studying, gave my first cello lesson when I was 18, and now play a fusion of the old and the new, traditional and improvised.

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…and it all started with a phone call to some friends

Madeleine Easton, Baroque violinist

‘I woke up suddenly, jolted upright at 4.30am on 28 December 2015, with an idea,’ Madeleine Easton, a baroque violinist says. “I’m going to set up a Bach orchestra in Australia.” I’d lived and worked in Europe for 17 years, performing with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the English Baroque Soloists, directing the Bach Cantata series at the Royal Academy of Music, but I was questioning what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was trying to find a way home to Australia. The idea for a Bach orchestra felt right. Then at 4.30am the next day, I woke up suddenly again -bolt upright . . .

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We can only solve our planet’s wicked problems if we all do it together

David Mason, Volunteer

A few weeks after receiving a Public Service Medal honouring his contribution to human rights policy and law in Australia during his 26 years at the Human Rights Commission, David Mason was faced with a stark choice – work for a new manager who he believed lacked the knowledge and skills to do the job competently – or leave. Leave an organisation that for a quarter of a century had fulfilled his need to secure greater social justice for marginalised groups of Australians.

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kathryn barton photo

The carpet might be ripped out from under you but you can always find another carpet to stand on

Kathryn Barton, Journalist

I grew up in a Catholic family of six children, three sets of Irish twins – four girls and two boys. We fiercely competed – if my younger sister Bernadette did three hours of study, I’d do three and a half hours, if I did five, she’d do six . . .

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Be authentic and live your values

Filomena Maiese, Executive Director

I woke up struggling to breathe in intensive care at Concord Hospital on Christmas Eve a few years ago. I was critically ill with pneumonia. I spent six days day watching the hands of the clock on the wall creep so slowly along its path I wondered if the battery was slowly going flat. Lying flat on my back I wondered how I got here. All the minutiae I used to sweat and stress over seems so insignificant as I struggled to breathe through the respirator. Severe pneumonia. I was run into the ground and let the persistent flu escalate so far it became life threatening. Now I was in hospital struggling . . . 

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