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This CEO went from $50k a weekend to $50k a year

The New Investors video series brought to you by Yahoo Finance reveals the secrets of the most successful entrepreneurs and business people in Australia today. This is part of the sixth episode of the second season.

Before Ronni Kahn became the CEO of global food charity, OzHarvest, she owned an event management business - a role that would see her bring in around $50,000 a weekend.

Then, in 2009, she won Vodafone’s World of Difference award, which requires the recipient to work solely on a charity of their choice - in exchange for a salary of $50,000.

Having founded OzHarvest in 2003 and worked simultaneously on the charity and her business, she had to choose between a lucrative business, or a start-up charity.

“I decided it was time to dive without a parachute,” she revealed to The New Investors host, Sarah O’Carroll. 

“I left a business that sometimes could have made $50,000 on a single weekend - but it was the best thing I ever did.”

OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn ran a $50k-a-weekend business - then, she focused on her charity full-time. Source: Yahoo Finance

Finding purpose

During her time in the events business, Kahn realised there was always an abundance of food - and always an abundance of food waste.

“Late at night, the caterers would just come and just toss that food. It was happening again and again, until one day I woke up and thought, this is insane, and started collecting it myself when I could and dropping it off at one charity that I knew,” she said. 

Ending food waste therefore became Kahn’s purpose; and she often helps others find theirs.

“I have so many people come to me almost desperate to find purpose,” she said.

“Today, people almost feel, [they] can find it [purpose] on the supermarket shelf.

“But actually it is an internal thing and it doesn't have to be called purpose. And in truth, I think every single one of us can find value and can find what it is that is a driver beyond a salary.”

“I happen to be particularly fortunate that I came up with an idea that nobody was doing, and there was a gap, there was a need, which is an extraordinary thing.”

Philosophies from her childhood

Kahn grew up in South Africa, and moved to Israel to live in a Kibbutz, and has no doubt that her upbringing contributed to her passion for social justice.

“The beautiful philosophy about living on a kibbutz is it is a socialist ideology in that everybody works according to their ability and gets according to their needs. So there's no financial transaction.”

While it was an “extraordinary existence,” Kahn said it was challenging for those who wanted to be an entrepreneur. 

“Even though I didn't know that word then, and didn't know how independent I was...I didn't always want to work where they told me to work,” Kahn said.

But that doesn’t mean she knew what she wanted to do. 

“That’s really important for anyone else to hear because I didn't grow up striving and thinking, one day I'm going to be a charity queen,” she said. 

“I was a spoiled little girl growing up... but what I was embedded with were values.

“Values about equality, values about how to treat people, and I guess that again came out in my life on the kibbutz. Then I left the kibbutz to just make a living, put a roof over my head, food on my table.”

And if you know your values, it’s never too late to do exactly what you want to do.

“There is no time,” she said. “There only is the time to be doing what it is you are meant to be doing.”

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