Last August, I was inspired to write about a few of the amazing women I have come into contact with over the years I have been living an expat life (and you can read A World of Inspiration: A Patchwork Quilt on Velvet Escape). I have yet again been inspired to write about another expat; an expat entrepreneur who not only takes her own photography business seriously but her social responsibility too.
|Natalie's Award from the WBII|
Photo: Natalie Carstens
In fact, the Dutch based Women's Business Initiative International (WBII) has just awarded British expat Natalie Carstens with the Social Innovation Award for her exceptional contribution to the social projects she involves herself with. I decided to talk to her about the projects she works on, and about expat life.
|Natalie photographed by her |
husband, Heiko Carstens
"I was a full time student. For my Bachelors degree in Information Engineering and Technology Management I spent a one-year internship with the UK Ministry of Defence. As a result of my internship I received sponsorship for a Masters degree in Information Security and Computer Crime."
Whilst the Netherlands is Natalie's first experience of expat life, she has certainly not been afraid of change. I asked her how she came to make such a dramatic career switch from IT to photography and she happily recalls:
"I discovered IMAGES International Photography Club and joined straightaway. I loved photography and thought it would be a great way to meet people outside of work. It wasn’t long before I joined the Committee and I spent three and a half enjoyable years filling the roles of Website Editor, Publicity Officer and Chairman. Quite unexpectedly I discovered something I loved with my heart and soul."
It was not an easy decision to leave secure employment and start up for herself, but convinced that she should follow her passion she set up Tigs Creations in 2008 and hasn't looked back.
She says, "Now I work full time as a children and family portrait photographer, specialising in pregnancy and newborn portraiture."
But she also involves herself in much more, namely two social projects that are closely linked to her photography: The Littlest Heroes and Zoocrew.eu. I asked Natalie to tell a little about these projects, and how she came to be a part of them:
|The Littlest Heroes Project. Photo by Natalie Carstens|
She goes on to tell about zoocrew.eu:
|Photo: Natalie Carstens|
|One of the photos from the romantic portrait session offered for Helping Hearts. Photo by Natalie Carstens|
For Natalie, involvement in social projects is a natural activity:
"I’ve never really questioned ‘why’; it’s more something that I do on impulse. If I feel passionate about something I like to find a way I can help."
She explains that taking social responsibility is not only good on a personal level and for those less fortunate, but can also be good for your own business,
"Supporting a social project enriches businesses and opens doors. Some projects may also present new business opportunities as well as the chance to grow your network further."
Her advice for others who would like to get involved in a social project? Simply...
"Choose a social project that tugs at your heart and go ahead and support it!"
What are you waiting for?
*This was first published in April 2010 in the Expats@Home series of newsletters. If you want to receive future copies of my newsletter you can sign up in the right hand column on this blog or read more on my website http://www.thewritingwell.eu/Newsletter.html.*