Having scooped up the Drivers of Change award at InStyle Magazine’s Women of Style awards last week alongside her sister Lucy Thomas, Project Rockit co-founder Rosie Thomas tells StartupSmart the pair’s success comes from embracing family values and overcoming impostor syndrome.
The sisters co-founded Project Rockit, a platform designed to empower young people to stand up against bullying, hatred and prejudice, fresh out of high school 12 years ago.
Since then, it has grown into a movement that started with workshops in schools and is being led by hundreds of thousands of school students “who are sick and tired of bullying and prejudice and want to make their voices heard against it”.
But it’s been a rollercoaster ride, Thomas says. As a young woman leaving school, she “probably wasn’t coded to think I could ever start a business or a social movement”.
One of the biggest challenges she has faced has been one of self-confidence.
“Battling imposter syndrome is one of the biggest barriers to actually creating change or launching a business,” Thomas says.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve completely overcome that, but it’s about quieting that little voice in your head that says you don’t know what you’re doing. I realise now that no one knows what they’re doing.”
Thomas says she’s had to learn to make up for “a lack of expertise and skill with a hell of a lot of persistence and grit”. Self-doubt is a “contagious toxin that can take over your life”, she says, but the reward for pushing forward is seeing the impact of what you’re doing.
“People are creating positive changes in their schools, and that’s a good indication that we’re on the right track,” she says.
And, despite the challenges and crises of confidence, Thomas says there has never been a point where she’s thought Project Rockit wouldn’t succeed. She puts this, at least partly, down to the faith she has in her co-founder and big sister.
“There is no one in the world I believe in more than her. If I’m ever in panic, or feeling like we’ve gone backwards, I ask her: ‘Mate, do you think we can do it?’ If she says we can do it, then we can do it,” Thomas says.
“I’ve put a lot of faith in her.”
— InStyle (@InStyleMag) May 9, 2018
The pressures of working with family are overcome by the importance the sisters place on their mission. According to Thomas, there is no bickering or sisterly spats in sight.
“A lot of people would be surprised to see how respectful we are with one another. I think we probably behave better than your average siblings, because there’s so much on the line — too much to treat each other like crap,” she says.
“We have a pretty synergetic relationship in a way. Her strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa. It’s very complementary.”
The pair also want to bring a family environment to their team, creating a supportive environment in which the Thomases are “mama bears”.
“We want to make sure we have the tight-knit woven family, but without all the hang-ups and insecurity that can come with family,” she says.
And what about winning one of InStyle Magazine‘s Women of Style awards? Thomas says just being nominated for the Drivers of Change award was a shock.
“We’re both just really humbled to be included, and to be surrounded by so many incredible women,” she says. Among the other winners are Settlement Services International chief executive Violet Roumeliotis and Indigital founder Mikaela Jade.
“A lot of what we do is gruelling, hard work and scary, and it can feel like we do a lot of work without getting much recognition, so it’s nice for the whole team to have a moment to be elevated, and to get people talking about the issues and spreading the word about how we need to stand up for one another.”