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Inspiring Women - Ariane Luff from Sprout Projects

I met Ariane through The Powerhouse Collective on the Sunshine Coast and have been following her on Instagram (see below for details). Her account introduced me to a world I don't know a whole lot about and I learn something with each of her posts. The work she does is amazing; her belief in what she does and the enthusiasm and care she has for it show. To me she epitomises 'Inspiring Women'. 

Your Brand

Sprout Projects Logo

You have a really interesting background with experiences some of us can’t even imagine, living and working in diverse countries. Can you tell us about your life leading up to starting your own business?
It's been quite a windy path I would say. I was born and raised on the Sunny Coast but I've spent the last 15 years living, studying and working abroad, mostly in Europe and East Africa.

I initially went overseas at 17 after my high-school French teacher got me a gig as an au pair in Paris. And I basically just stayed! I studied languages at first and worked as a translator, but ended up translating for asylum-seekers and started studying and working in migration.

From there, I went to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations based in Rome and sort of made a niche for myself writing proposals and managing donor relations. They moved me to South Sudan initially, then once we had our first little boy we moved to the US briefly, then subsequently to Kenya where I worked for an international NGO covering Kenya and Somalia.

Ariane Luff - UN

We returned to Australia in 2017 for the birth of our second little boy, just to take a break. And as I came out of the fog of maternity leave I started to think about how I could use the skills I'd developed for good here on the coast. So here we are!

Tell us about Sprout Projects – who are you, what is it about and how did it begin?
Sprout Projects is born out of a passion to help the little guys basically. My own experience in international development has made me very passionate about transparency, accountability and localisation (which is essentially about seeing more funding directed towards supporting local solutions to local problems). 

What I've witnessed is very hard-working small organisations who were unable to access large-scale funding directly because they can't 'tick the boxes' of the big donors. These organisations have to go through bigger international organisations who do add value but they also have much higher overheads, which ultimately means less money for populations in need.

Sprout Projects

Currently, we are five consultants, these are all people I know and have worked with in the past. We are based all over (East Africa, US, Australia, the Middle East) and have different skill sets that are useful to purpose-driven orgs at different steps in their journey (program design, donor relations, grant-writing, fundraising, project development, marketing & communications, finance). The idea is to become the go-to for cause-driven organisations just starting out or looking to grow.

We also write grants for medium and large purpose-driven organisations. But I would say our point of difference is that if we are working with organisations who do not have a budget to outsource their grant-writing on an ongoing basis, we teach them how to do it themselves.

Ariane Luff

We are actually setting up a fund to enable us to subsidize support to organisations who are doing amazing work but operating on limited budgets (there are so many of them!). 

What is a typical day for you with Sprout Projects?
It is quite varied, which I love! I like to meet the people we work with, so I often have a couple of face-to-face or zoom meetings in a day as part of the on-boarding process. The whole process of designing a project is very collaborative whether it's online or in person, so there are several consultations involved.

Ariane Luff Sprout Projects

If I'm working on someone's organisational strategy, I like to have a whiteboard to scribble all over as we brainstorm. For this, I love the space at The Powerhouse Collective with its ultra-feminine vibe. Team meetings can be tricky to coordinate because of time zones but these are also mostly online.

Then the rest of the magic (the research, the writing) usually happens from my home office or my favourite coffee shop to mix it up a bit.

Which part of your brand do you enjoy working on the most?
I would say, in that it's early days, I am enjoying actually building the brand. Deciding what we are about, building awareness around that. But I also love seeing the look on peoples' faces when we do their strategy and a light-bulb goes on and I know we've captured the essence of what they are trying to achieve. And of course getting funding for the amazing work they are doing is also very rewarding.

You have 2 children – how do you balance motherhood with running a business, especially one which includes overseas travel?
It is certainly a juggle as any mum will tell you! I am blessed to have a husband who steps up to the plate when we need him too. He also has a full-time job but if an opportunity comes up we make a joint decision around whether to pursue it depending on how much we have going on.

Ariane Luff Sprout Projects

We have definitely scaled back on the travel since having the kids but it is very rewarding to still be able to do it from time to time.

Can you tell us what you have in mind for Sprout Projects over the next 12 months?
Hmmm, how much can I reveal haha. It's an exciting time. I see that there is a need for what we are doing so at the moment it's really about consolidating our systems to be able to take on more clients. I am looking for another local grant-writer actually as I find locally that people do enjoy working face to face.

But a big part of our plan for the next 12 months is setting up the fund I mentioned, to be able to sustainably work with really small orgs. This is still in its infancy but we are very excited about it. And I will be setting up a board to manage this, calling on some more of the amazingly talented people I've worked with in the past.

We'll be running a workshop series soon that will cover the basics of setting up and launching an NFP (structure, strategy, grant-writing, fundraising etc.).

Sprout Projects

Your Everyday life

What do you enjoy doing (outside of your brand!)?
Getting some beach time with my family and our crazy puppy Frankie, or doing some exercise when I can squeeze it in!

What are you reading at the moment?
I'm into historical fiction or just real stories, set against the backdrop of a recent conflict or crisis, it feels familiar and interesting to me.

At the moment, I am reading Hope in Hell - Inside the world of Doctors without Borders. But I am also reading Mothering our boys by Maggie Dent for some sound parenting advice!

What are you watching at the moment?
Handmaid's Tale, terrifying and confronting but highly addictive!

You live on the Sunshine Coast and have a day with no responsibilities to do anything you like. What do you do?
Leisurely breakfasts at some of the lovely cafes, yoga on the beach, coffee dates with friends, rockpool adventuring with the kiddies, start my own charity!

Ariane Luff founder/director Sprout Projects

Which do you prefer?

Dogs/cats - dogs

Camping/staying in a hotel - staying in a hotel

Home cooking/eating out - home cooking

Watching a movie/reading a book - reading a book

Summer/winter - winter (on the Sunshine Coast)

Waking up early/staying up late - staying up late

Tea/Coffee - coffee

Sweet/savoury - sweet

Breakfast/no breakfast - breakfast 

Online shopping/in store shopping - in store shopping

And finally, we have to ask what is the best gift you have ever received?

Oooh that's a tough one. I think the most memorable would be my 30th birthday. My husband and I flew to Mauritius and had an incredible time.

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All photos are Ariane's own except photo of Ariane in Every Mother Counts t-shirt which is by Emma Nevison

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