MEET THE MBA GRADUATE WHO CONNECTS PEOPLE WITH ANIMALS TO END ISOLATION

MEET THE MBA GRADUATE WHO CONNECTS PEOPLE WITH ANIMALS TO END ISOLATION

ZOE Black is out to prove that often the simplest ideas carry the most impact.

Black is the co-founder of Happy Paws Happy Hearts, an organisation which connects vulnerable members of society with RSPCA animals for mutual therapy and learning.

After completing her Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at The University of Queensland (UQ), Black launched the organisation in 2014 and has since assisted isolated members of society including the elderly, disabled and service veterans by connecting them with rescue animals.

It's a simple idea, and now it's helped hundreds.

"We facilitate an opportunity for isolated members of society to help RSPCA animals," says Black.

"It started with the elderly, because that is a very large area of isolation, and from day one we saw demand from people with disabilities saying they needed a service like we had envisaged.



"Rather than being passive recipients of care, these people are now being given an opportunity to engage with a real problem and connect back into the community to help solve it."

Happy Paws Happy Hearts now operates five days a week in three different rooms at the Brisbane RSPCA Animal Care Campus in Wacol.

While Black's growing social enterprise has its roots in charity, she credits its success largely to the business skills she learned during her MBA studies.

"We didn't conceptualise Happy Paws on the idea that it would be built on the traditional model of donations," she says.

"Everything I learned during my MBA has come to the floor because at the end of the day it's a business, with the extra pressure and excitement that comes with doing good for the people and the animals that we work with."

Black also believes the MBA network is an invaluable resource when it comes to getting her idea further off the ground.

"The MBA network has connected me in with other schools at the University so we have now a really strong relationship with the UQ School of Psychology," she says.

"Once I graduated I didn't necessarily think I would need to tap back into that network, but here I am in a totally different space and I actually need it more than ever."

In the year ahead, Black is looking forward to growing her business into new locations and also expanding her offering in the veteran care space.

She believes ex-defence force personnel who may suffer from conditions including PTSD are a key demographic to benefit from animal care.

"It's amazing how quickly they connect to those rescue animals - as if saying, 'we have been through hell, you have been through hell, and we're just going to work on some things together today'."

Black was recently named a finalist in the Telstra Business Women's Awards, and she is looking forward to building momentum and continuing to solve more problems in the community.

This article was written in partnership with The University of Queensland.

For more information about UQ's MBA program, click here to visit the website or get in touch on 07 3346 8100.

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