Prison Cells and PTSD are all in a Day’s Work for Sonia

"Prison Cells & PTSD are all in a Day’s Work for Sonia"

A PRISON cell and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may not sound like the perfect healing environment for anybody to overcome grief, but a Brisbane yoga teacher is taking a different slant.


Sonia Brown-Diaz has turned the devastating loss of her still-born twins 15 years ago into a new business model that is helping inmates turn their lives around through yoga.


“I started practising yoga about three years after the loss of my sons in 2003 but I wasn’t diagnosed with PTSD until about three years ago,” Sonia said.


“Yoga started reuniting me back with my body, which made sense to me because a big symptom of PTSD is disassociating with your body.


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“In 2018 I went to the Byron Yoga Centre and undertook my 200-hour yoga teacher training and it was there I learned I started to appreciate further the connection with body, mind, and breath and the benefits this has on a person’s overall wellbeing.


 “Then I went to Brixton in the UK, where they were running specific training for yoga teachers wanting to work in a prison environment and what I saw there, and the findings reinforced that this was something I really wanted to do.”


Sonia took the next step to launching Yoga on The Inside when she commenced the New Business Assistance with NEIS program at Sarina Russo Entrepreneurs where she was mentored by Business Solutions Coach Sandra Gartner.


“Yoga On The Inside’s focus is to provide individual or group yoga classes to people who are experiencing, or have experienced, significant difficulties in their lives by providing another avenue or method,” Sonia said.


Extremely impressed with the drive and passion Sonia had displayed in pursuing her dream, Sandra wasted no time in signing off on the NEIS application.


“Sonia is totally committed to her business as she has personally experienced the benefits of Yoga in transforming lives” Sandra said.


“She is willing to ‘dig deep’ when things get tough in building her business as she knows from overseas research the positive impact these programs can have.  She’s reaching out to other community minded organisations and has secured the donation of yoga mats for female prisoners she’s currently working with”. 


“I fully believe Sonia is blazing a trail for similar success here in Australia.”


Check ‘Yoga On The Inside’ here!





Emma’s Little Poppets are Growing Up Gracefully

"Emma’s Little Poppets are Growing Up Gracefully"

FORTITUDE Valley ballet teacher Emma Taylor dances to the beat of her own drum – as do the troupe of students following in her footsteps.


Emma is the founding director of Poppet and Grace, an appropriately named dance school that operates out of Fortitude Valley PCYC and is home to more than 85 aspiring ballerinas aged two to 10-years-old.


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After its first inception in 2015, Poppet and Grace went to the next level when Emma commenced the New Business Assistance with NEIS with Sarina Russo Group in May last year.


“My best friend and I brainstormed the name and came up with Poppet and Grace,” Emma said.


“Obviously our students are all little poppets and ballet is all about gracefulness and that is something we really instill in the students, old-fashioned grace, style and values.


“I have found the most valuable part of the course was having the freedom to focus on the business while having the support network and mentor there to help you.


“It was a steep learning curve but very rewarding. The mentoring was really beneficial in helping me put financial goal-setting and a business plan in place.”


Emma’s mentor, Emily Bitkow, herself a NEIS graduate through Sarina Russo said Emma was a very committed student throughout the program.


“Emma is the kind of mentee that every mentor hopes for,” Emily said.


“She is always so willing and eager to learn and to listen to the guidance and advice I give to her.


“When we set goals and plans for her, she always comes back having achieved well above the expectation.


“Her passion and drive for her business is palpable and is reflected in the successes she has achieved in her business.”


Check out ‘poppet & GRACE’ here!





Belinda’s Brews are Hitting the Sore Spots

"Belinda’s Brews are Hitting the Sore Spots"

FOUR-years-ago Belinda Lloyd and her baby daughter Zia stepped out for their first mummy-daughter coffee outing when the new mum stumbled across a life-changing beverage.


A marketing executive on maternal leave back then, Belinda and Zia had packed the nappies and headed to the local café when she decided a change was on the menu.


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“Zia was about six-weeks-old at the time and it was so exciting to be going out for our first coffee date. I didn’t want tea or coffee so thought I would try something new, I chose a turmeric latte and my life changed from that day on.”


A long-term sufferer of chronic inflammation of the joints and subsequent fatigue, Belinda said her troublesome joint pain virtually subsided overnight.


“I did a herbalism course after becoming aware of the benefits of turmeric and its healing qualities, that’s when I decided to start my own business serving others this wonder spice,” Belinda said.


That was in 2018 – enter Sarina Russo Entrepreneurs, Business Solutions Coaches Emily Bitkow and India Suter through the New Business Assistance with NEIS program and the launch of Zandi Organics.


“I initially found Sarina Russo as my bank recommended a micro-enterprise loan offered only through the NEIS program,” Belinda said.


“Sarina Russo was my local NEIS provider and the application team were fantastic. Then the mentoring that I received through the program was absolutely priceless,” Belinda said.

“Emily and India were always there for me when I needed a confidence boost or advice and always reassured me that ‘Bel, you’ve got this, you can do this’.


“Leaving a secure job and starting my own business was a daunting process for me. Early entrepreneurship can be lonely and doubt filled, it was amazing to have such incredible support.”


Emily echoed her star mentee’s sentiments.


“Bel identified a very specific market and she was an absolute go getter,” Emily said.


“She had a vision and a dream, and I had full confidence in her and her business.”


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“Shaw” Way to Save Man’s Best Friends

“Shaw” Way to Save Man’s Best Friends

WHEN Brisbane veterinarian Dr Evan Shaw graduated from James Cook University he earned his stripes working at the RSPCA and then set his sights on saving the world – or at least as many animals as he could.


Heading to Africa, Dr Shaw witnessed some disturbing scenes which included saving rhino, antelope and wildlife daily. But it was his return to Australia and one April day that changed the course of Dr Shaw’s life – and career forever.


In 24 harrowing hours, he euthanised 15 animals all of which could have been easily preventable, counselled families through the loss of their beloved pets and most importantly, put a plan in place to stem the loss.


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“I signed up to save animals, not kill them,” Dr Shaw said.


“I knew I’d need help setting up an online business so I went to Sarina Russo Entrepreneurs and signed up for the New Business Assistance with NEIS program.


“That was in November 2017. I graduated from NEIS in September the following year and we went live online on August 1, 2018.”


That business is called and delivers your pet’s flea, tick and worming to your door. Not 12 months later it boasts more 1600 pets and just last month received a significant cash injection when two private investors tipped in more than $120,000.


“The Australian pet-care market is very overcrowded and insanely difficult for pet owners to understand what their pets actually needs. Most just want a convenient and simple solution, which is exactly what we provide.”


“There is no one treatment that prevents parasitic diseases in Australia, you need a combination to get the best coverage.


“Our members simply go online, pick their pet and our vets identify the appropriate treatments according to the pet’s size and location. Then each month we post your pet a treatment pack, with exactly what they need, for less than going to a pet store yourself.”


Dr Shaw said the NEIS experience was one he would recommend to anyone wanting to become their own boss.


“My mentor, Keith Davidson, was excellent. He and I really connected, and we worked really well together and to know I could turn to him when things got tough was so reassuring.”


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