In the Animas Student Stories series, we ask people who qualified on our Diploma in Transformative Coaching what they’re doing now. These accounts provide some insight into the life of coaches, and the variety of potential coaching careers.
You can listen to the full interview using the player, read the full transcript, or read a shorter account below.
Olivia Munoru is the founder of Life Safari, an immersive coaching and learning experience in Kenya. She speaks about the principles behind her business, the impact on the people she works with, and the importance of building a business you love. Next month we’ll publish an interview with someone who went on the retreat who will talk about her experience!
Coming from the NGO sector, Olivia was enthralled with the idea of helping people take action for themselves. She said, “The premise [of my previous work] was: Instead of NGOs and charities coming in and prescribing solutions to communities, what if the communities have the solutions within themselves and it’s just a matter of mobilising them, or them mobilising themselves to take action towards a vision that they have for their future? For me, that was like a no-brainer.”
The coach described how she came upon the idea, “I was lucky I was introduced to this idea by a group of transgender sex workers in Jakarta who were using coaching in their own community to make changes, especially around being able to negotiate with patrons to protect themselves from HIV, and it was having more of an impact, and it was costing nothing – because it costs nothing to change your behaviour, and, yet, I was working with a UN agency that was pumping ridiculous amounts of money into these education programs, and no one was listening.”
Olivia spent nine months with the group learning how to facilitate change, how to coach others, and how to make those changes in her own life. At this point, coaching became less of a profession and more of a lifestyle for Olivia. Living in Indonesia, she didn’t know about the coaching industry in the West.
It was at this time that Olivia met Nick Bolton, Founder of Animas. Olivia described, “I took on the challenge to do the Diploma, and I remember, the first weekend I was going, ‘Yes! Exactly! Yes!’ I realised that there were similarities between the coaching that was being taught at Animas, and what I was doing with communities in the NGO sector. It’s just a slightly different context.”
Inspired By Travel
“It’s kind of like talking about my baby. It’s so much a part of me,” Olivia related, “The Life Safari was born from my own personal experiences travelling and connecting with people on a human level. I found that as I’ve walked through life, I’ve always found that those human connections, often not just with people that you know but with strangers, can have a really big impact on how I see my world and how I see myself.”
This was the main reason that Olivia created Life Safari. She wanted to form an experience that helps people connect on the deepest human level with other and themselves. From her own experience, Olivia knew that travel is one of the best ways to do that.
Olivia explained, “I think, it goes without saying that when you step outside your normal everyday life and you go into a different world, a different place, a different life, you get new perspectives and you get inspired by those new perspectives and the different ways that people live, and you kind of get a chance to decompress. It’s a space where you don’t have all the other clutter going on in your life and you can really think at a more pure level about who you are and what you are all about. That’s what I wanted to create for people.” Throughout her entire career, Olivia’s work has been about creating experiences that move people.
Inside the Life Safari
While working with different communities as part of an NGO, Olivia heard from a coach who said his village had been doing work similar to hers for decades. The village is called Kasigau and they’re located four hours outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Olivia related, “I decided, ‘Not only will I go, but why don’t I bring some people with me and create an experience? We go and we learn from these amazing people about how they have created changes in their lives, and let’s get inspired by that.’”
While groups often come for volunteering, Olivia wanted to do something different. She has followed the mutually-empowering principle of coaching: “When someone comes to appreciate what changes you’ve made, or your community has made in their lives that is motivating. The experience in the community, ultimately, at a kind of spiritual level, is seeing humanity in just such an interesting and beautiful and inspiring way, and, my hope is that that would inspire you to just see your life differently.”
“I let the experience be the coach. Ultimately, my role is to create the space and to create an experience, and it’s that which catalyses and complements their personal journey, and everyone has a different journey.” Olivia explained.
Planning Her First Event
“Oh gosh, I loved the buzz of building that business,” Olivia recounted, “First of all, I did the Coach Success program, which is now called Coach Mastery. I was there with my twelve peers and Nick and walking through this process of, ‘How do I turn my passion into something that’s able to sustain my family?’ I tip-toed around with some safe ideas for a while; this one was sitting deep down, and I kept ignoring it because it felt a bit too big – taking people to Africa on trips in the village?”
With little budget, Olivia began by reaching out to people she knew. She kept the price affordable so it covered fees and made it worthwhile for her time. Olivia detailed, “The rest of it was about sharing my passion in a way that felt authentic, rather than trying some sales approach because I felt a little uncomfortable selling any other way than just saying, ‘Hey! This is what I’m doing.’ I remember one really good friend of mine saying, ‘Oh, it’s just not really my thing,’ and I realised that it’s not for everyone, but if you talk to enough people, it will be for some.”
“I wanted them to see the Kenya that I see which is quirky, difficult, beautiful, inspiring, frustrating; all of the above. I wanted them to step right away from their other world, their home, and to really open themselves up for an experience.” Olivia remarked.
Tips for Beginning the Coaching Journey
Olivia’s top tip for new coaches is to do something they love. She said of the Life Safari, “I never get tired of working on it because it just speaks so much to who I am, and I know, of course, people say this so much and it gets a bit boring, but if you can find that thing that makes your heart sing, it really is unlike work, and I hate to be just yet another person saying that, but, to me, it has been true.”
Next, Olivia advises beginner coaches to start small by creating your own website and inviting your own friends. She noted, “You have to be a bit humble and a bit amateur at the beginning. There is plenty of time later on for fancy websites.”
Finally, she advises to play to your strengths. She said, “There is no point in being someone else. My strength is that I really have this passion that people find infectious and that I love creating experiences. It was really hard to put that into a business, to find that fit, but once I did it feels easy for me because it is. That’s my strength. So, find your strengths. Know what they are.”
The Life Safari is a great example of a business which doesn’t have classic one-to-one coaching at its core, but which is founded on coaching principles such as collaboration, mutuality, and the use of the immediate experience. It is worth is considering the ways in which coaching principles can enrich the things we do already, or form the foundations of unique projects like this.