Q&A with Zoe Caplen-Black: CEO of Happy Paws Happy Hearts Foundation
From a career in the commercial sector to co-founding a social enterprise, Zoe Caplen-Black is one of our top picks for women in business to keep an eye on. As CEO and co-founder of Happy Paws Happy Hearts, Zoe is helping make the world a happier and loving place by connecting socially isolated individuals with rescue animals in a safe and positive environment. We were thrilled to chat with Zoe about her insights as a business co-owner and her successful career journey so far.
You have achieved so much in your career but tell us, who is Zoe the person?
I’m an adventurer who has always had a big heart – sometimes to my own detriment! I love time with my family and puppies, travelling in Oz and abroad. I’m the kind of friend who is always there for a long open-ended chat. You don’t have to twist my arm to have a whiskey either.
What is something that not many people know about you?
Most people would be surprised to know that I’m allergic to cats and yet I still chose to work with animals each day! Telfast does quite well out of me!
What’s the most useless talent you have?
I can still do the Highland Fling because during school I did Scottish dancing competitions with my cousins.
What are you currently watching/reading/listening to?
I’ve just finished reading Cilka’s Journey – sequel to another book I absolutely devoured. I’m almost always listening to some country music or Queen.
Who is your professional inspiration?
I look locally for my inspiration. Sandy Blackburn has taught me so much about social impact measurement and is a constant inspiration to me.
What’s on repeat with your work playlist right now?
Conversations about scaling enterprises whilst maintaining our culture and quality of outcomes for people and animals.
What’s your most recommended Business/Marketing resource?
Your own network! You don’t have to follow their advice however getting some different opinions and experiences has always helped me determine which direction to go.
Back to your days as a communication specialist, how did you build a career in that space?
When I was in communication roles, I focussed on gaining a broad range of skills and said yes to just about any opportunity to try something different. I started in a large multinational corporation which put me in roles ranging from global knowledge management to corporate communications. I was then fortunate to join project teams both in Australia and the United Arab Emirates where I added community engagement to my skill set.
What made you want to pursue a career in the comms space?
I started pursuing a career in comms because I wanted to be on the TV show Getaway. Little did I know that I was actually going to become quite terrified once a camera was put in my face.
After realising TV life wasn’t for me, I then actively pursued a comms career where I would have opportunities to travel.
What do you know now that you wish you knew back then?
Life has a way of circling back to earlier experiences. Who would have thought that working with socially isolated people and animals could be a job and that I would ultimately use some of my engineering/construction experience in it!
The world is forever changing, especially in digital spaces. How do you keep up to date and keep your skills sharp and relevant?
Having an open and curious mind is really important. My Co-Founder and I regularly talk about how you now need to be the kind person who isn’t fixated on finding a ‘perfect and complete’ solution.
There are so many new tools available now it can actually be overwhelming. I focus on what the organisation needs to make it more efficient and scalable. However I also know this will keep changing as new pressures emerge!
What tips do you have for other founders about growing and developing a high performing team?
1. Know your passion – you will need to have this to overcome the hurdles and rally people around you.
2. Recruit people who bring different perspectives and skills to your own.
3. Spend more time listening than talking to your team.
4. Celebrate the stories of change so you can all keep living your passions.
What has been the thing that has surprised you most as a business owner?
The pressure! When you have so many people relying on you it can be quite overwhelming. Fortunately, I have a husband and close friends who run their own businesses so we can debrief after particularly tough weeks.
Any great software suggestions to help your fellow founders?
Moving to the Google Suite has been really helpful for our organisation. If you are in the charitable space, also sign up for Connecting Up where you can access discounted software and hardware.
What is next for you?
We’re taking our programs to more rescue shelters this year in both Queensland and NSW. It’s hugely exciting and also brings on more challenges as we manage fast-paced growth.
A massive thank you to Zoe for chatting with us. Be sure to check out all the wonderful things. Happy Paws Happy Hearts are doing over on their website, Facebook and Instagram!
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