This episode of the Strong Women. Better World podcast travels to Jordan with Nour Kayyal (banker; Founder, SWISH Basketball Academy) and New Zealand with Fran McEwen (Active Recreation Lead at Sport New Zealand; Founder and CEO, SHIFT Foundation) to unearth the secrets of how female entrepreneurs make the magic and help empower others through sports, education, and social innovation.
Carole (00:06): Hello hello, I am your host and ref Carole Ponchon from Lyon, France. And it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the ring as two fearless women spar about their trailblazing journeys in sport. In today's episode, we travel to Jordan and New Zealand to hear from two strong women who share a passion for sports and the importance of physical activity and development of youth. In the right corner from Jordan is Nour Kayyal. Nour is a respected banker by day and at night, you can find her making a trade on the basketball court as the founder of Swish Basketball Academy. Swish is a nonprofit organization created to give girls and boys access to great coaching in pursuit of their dreams to play basketball. Nour knows a lot about chasing dreams to play basketball. In her youth she became the youngest player to make Jordan's under 18 women’s national basketball team. She knows how to dribble through difficulties and how to rebound from failure. No doubt, she will bring these skills to the ring today.
Nour (1:15): Hello, I'm so happy to be here. Let's swish it!
Carole (1:20): And we are joined in the left corner by another powerful role model in sport, Fran McEwen from New Zealand. Fran is the active recreation lead at Sport New Zealand, a government agency that promotes, encourages, and supports physical recreation in sport. Fran is also the founder and volunteer CEO of the Shift Foundation. As a long-distance runner, she will bring her stamina and resiliency to the ring today. Kia Ora, Fran.
Fran (1:52): Kia Ora, Carole. Thank you for having me, I'm super excited to talk to you both today.
Carole (1:57): Ladies, I'm so impatient. I cannot wait to hear from you two to learn from your pioneering work and how you are standing on the shoulders of other Title IX Titans. The ring is yours. So off we go for round one of this episode.
Nour (2:17): Hello, ladies. Fran, we have a lot in common. And one thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is our participation in the Global Sports Mentoring Program or what is called GSMP. The GSMP is a sports diplomacy women's empowerment initiative, sponsored by the US Department of State and implemented by the awesome team at the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. I'm sure we will talk about this epic experience, so I wanted to give the audience this important background, but before jumping straight into the deep, I want to ask you a few fun questions. Please answer with the first thing that comes into your mind. Are you ready?
Fran (3:01): Sure, go for it.
Nour (3:03): What's your favorite food?
Fran (3:06): Oh, what's my favorite food. The first thing that came to mind was pizza is my favorite food. And it's because my dad used to make homemade pizza dough and mom and dad, and I would have pizza on a Tuesday. And so it's good, like whānau, family time. So that's why I love pizza.
Nour (3:27): That's awesome. It's super good to have something related to the family, just like a pizza night.
Fran (3:34): Yeah. And just like you and your family, always like eating big meals together.
Nour (3:38): Yeah. You've experienced that.
Fran (3:41): Okay, what’s your next question?
Nour (3:44): If you had the chance to be an animal, what would you be?
Fran (3:49): A dog and her name would be Ollie. Um, no, I have a dog called Ollie and she's my best friend. So I imagine if that, if I was a dog, then Ollie, and I would hang out just like we do now and go on adventures together. So I'd definitely be a dog.
Nour (4:04): That's wonderful. All right, thank you for sharing and getting us warmed up. Now, Fran, we've known each other since 2016 and from that moment, I loved what you were doing with Shift Foundation. Can you tell us more about Shift and the challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?
Fran (4:25): Sure. So, Shift is an NGO based in Wellington, the capital of Aotearoa in New Zealand and the foundation's work is around improving the wellbeing of young women. So working closely with teenage girls, um, and giving them opportunities to try a lot of different physical activities to build their leadership, confidence and capability to support positive mental health. So it's a very holistic organization that sort of wants to support the broader wellbeing of young women. And I guess the challenges of being entrepreneurial, I mean the biggest challenge is always finding funding to bring your ideas to life, financial challenges, uh, when you need money to run programs, um, that’s always challenging, and I guess at the beginning, when you come up with a new idea, just getting people to understand your vision and like support you to bring it to life. I've been really lucky over the sort of six years, that Shift has been around to work with lots of you know really amazing women that have helped me on my journey and helped Shift become what it is today
Nour (5:30): And the girls in New Zealand are so lucky to have you and have Shift as a foundation to support them.
Fran (5:36): Thanks, teamie.
Carole (5:38): Ref speaking here, ladies, if I may call just, it's not a foul, actually just curious, because I know you, I know how humble you are and you just mentioned, I've been lucky, Fran, to have all of these people around and I agree with Nour people in New Zealand are lucky to have you as well. Can you tell us the story of how this idea of Shift came up?
Fran (6:01): I had a really difficult teenage years and mental health challenges and probably not looking after my own wellbeing. I was quite disconnected to my whānau, to my family. And so I guess, as I got into my working career, I started. Trying to find ways to work with teenage girls. And I did that through my careers and community centers and libraries through community development. And then I guess I did the same thing when I started working in the sport and recreation sector through local government. I started to try to find ways to work with young women around physical activity. So my background is not in sport and I didn't necessarily have a positive experience of sport growing up, but I do believe in the power of physical activity and whether that's doing yoga, going to the gym, walking, running, like my preferred way of being active is to run, you know, I just know how good it is for your mental health and your wellbeing. So I guess, yeah, it stems from my own personal story around wishing that I'd had, you know, a woman or like supportive helping me when I was a teenage girl. So trying to be that person for others.
Nour (7:09): Awesome, Fran today you have two jobs. A big position at Sport New Zealand, plus founder and CEO of Shift, which is another big job. How do you manage two big responsibilities as a woman? And how do you find the time to pursue your crazy passion for long-distance running?
Fran (7:29): How do I do it? Well, I always think that I don't have a lot of other commitments in my life, so I don't have children. I do have Ollie, my dog. And so I have lots of time. I don't have to do, I don't have to cook for other people or look after anybody else. You know, I have my own home and a dog, and those are really my big responsibilities. And so I use my spare time to work and work on things that I believe in, and that I'm passionate about. So, yeah, it's just, I guess it's the things that fill my cup up and that, that make me happy. So it doesn't really feel like work. And I guess, yeah, the running, I mean, the running is the thing that keeps me well. So yeah, going for runs and being out in nature is really good for my mental health. So it's the thing that I do to balance, I guess, the craziness of, of all the mahi, all the work that, that I do.
Nour (8:17): I hear you, teamie. I hear you. Teamie, New Zealanders are often referred to as Kiwi. Can you tell us why and to tell you that truth? It was the first question I wanted to ask when I got to GSMP.
Fran (8:32): That's really funny. Ah yes New Zealanders are often referred to as Kiwis. And my understanding is that it comes from the first world war and that New Zealand soldiers were called Kiwis. And that it's just been a nickname that stuck with New Zealanders. And I guess I like it resonates with me as a, Kiwis are like these flightless beautiful little fluffy birds that run around on the ground. Um, so they're very unique, they're adaptable and they're a little bit quirky, which kind of, I guess, relates to me. And I guess Shift is also a little bit, it's a little bit different, so I wouldn't say it’s quirky, but it's different in the, in the approach that we take to working with young women is that we, we use co-design. So we have this kind of value about the way in which we work, where we won't produce programs or services for young women without co-designing them with young women. So I guess that feels quite unique and adaptable as well. So, yeah, Kiwi, it’s a cool name. I'm proud to be a Kiwi.
Carole (9:35): Okay, ladies that's end of round one. We're now moving to round two. With Fran interviewing Nour. Cannot wait for it.
Fran (9:45): Yay! Okay, Nourie. We'll start with some quick fire round questions, which you did to me as well, so I want you to tell me that if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Nour (9:59): Nutella.
Fran (10:01): Yeah, I should have guess that. I knew that. Okay. And then the second question that we want to ask you is, are you a person that loves getting up really early in the morning, an early bird? Or are you a person that stays up really late at night and becomes a night owl?
Nour (10:25): Actually, um, I can be both, but I wake up really early in the morning. I can stay late because in our world, everything is really late, but I love to wake up early in the morning. Um, once I open my eyes, I'm ready to start my day. I don't even need the coffee.
Fran (10:47): Cool. okay. Thank you for sharing. So something I know about you is that you are super passionate about basketball and that's your thing with Swish. So can you start by telling us who has been your biggest hoops, inspiration, and why?
Nour (11:04): Wow, when I was young the Orthodox Club had a very unique basketball, uh, team for women. I used to go and watch their practices, their games, and their tournaments. I was inspired by their point guard and few other players on the team. I can name few, like Zihan, I can say Carol, I can say Lara and Sharean. They used to support each other, their spirit on the court, whenever I used to watch them, I used to watch them with all my senses. And I remember that one day going back home, telling my dad, that I want to play basketball. Although, I started my sports career as a swimmer. So my, uh, baby steps towards basketball was my dad registering me at the little league at the club. So they were my first inspiration. They are Jordanian. Although I know I would say some other international players, but no, they were the reason behind falling in love with the game.
Fran (12:09): That's super cool. And I guess when you talk about international players. You had a pretty cool experience when you went on GSMP you got to see your first NBA game live, which I can imagine was super exciting for somebody that loves basketball. So what did you think, like when you went to your first game and the fact that you were mentored at the WNBA. And I guess the big question is what did you learn from that experience?
Nour (12:37): Do you know when a little kid goes for the first time to Disneyland? That was exactly how I felt when I went to watch the NBA game for the first time. And on my first day at the NBA headquarters, for my mentorship program every single day it was something out of this world. Going to the headquarters, learning new things about basketball, uh, meeting, awesome people. They were so supportive, they gave me advices. They made me feel that my idea and my passion and my dream is a big issue. And they made me believe in myself. And on the top of that, I had the best mentor, Hillary and she made sure to fill in my schedule to meet the right people, to help me to implement my action plan and make sure that I get the best advices to make it happen.
Fran (13:43): Awesome. And you did that, you went back to Jordan and you made it happen and you established Swish Basketball Academy. And so from one entrepreneur to another my question and my last question for you is what is the biggest challenge that you've faced setting up Swish in Amman?
Nour (14:03): The challenges are different in phases. Starting up Swish wasn't easy. Setting the plan, setting my goals, finding the court, finding the staff. Then when I started Swish, bonding with the kids, making the family bigger, keeping the loyalty. It's not easy, like studying the competitors, how to say unique, how to lead the market, how, how to be different. And I'm sure like the struggles and the, like the challenges with, with continue within the track. It's endless, but we always have to find the solutions and we have to be smart about it.
Carole (14:44): And, that’s end of round two. I'm taking the rebound here as a ref. Also curious to hear from you, Nour about your, the name of Swish. Where it comes from and how do you feel hearing that very special sound? Get us to the court.
Nour (15:00): Swish is the shot that goes through the net without touching the backboard or the rim, it's just the perfect shot. And do you know when you shoot that shot, it's a pleasure. It's a satisfaction. It's a soul satisfaction.
Carole (15:19): Awesome. I can picture it. I can hear it. I can feel it in my bones. Time to move on to round three ladies, please get us there. Tell us your story about empowerment.
Fran (15:30): Cool so, last question for you Nourie before we finish, can you tell us your definition of empowerment?
Nour (15:38): I think this definition is an ocean. It differs from one person to another. The needs are different from one person to another, but at the end of the day, we always agree, I think, on one thing is to help other people support them and to develop their confidence, to set, reach, and achieve their goals.
Fran (16:02): Beautiful. I was just going to jump in and say, I guess it's really similar to the way that I think about it. It's about allowing, like space and opportunity for other people to create their own magic in the world. Yeah. It's a pretty special feeling when somebody like helps you, lifts you up and I guess helps guide you to do something that you really want to do in the world. Yeah. So that's how I think about empowerment.
Carole (16:29): Ref speaking here. I could not help, but end this friendly fight. We have a sincere thank you to our audience. And guess what? The winner of today's episode is communities around the globe. We're benefiting from greater equality and inclusivity. Thank you ladies for your priceless time and energy. You're the stars here and today, so I leave you with the final words.
Fran (16:54): It's been really cool to have this little korero, as we say, in New Zealand, this little chat with you. Um, so thank you for the discussion and I guess for also for your work and advancing gender equality through sports. I'd like to thank our beautiful audience, whoever you are out there in the world, for tuning in to this week's episode. We hope that you've learned something about female entrepreneurship, I guess, with a little insight from Jordan and Aotearoa in New Zealand. And that you're feeling a little bit inspired to make a difference in your own community. Social change is a team sport and we're counting on you to join us as we celebrate the global impact of Title IX. Here's some easy ways to get in on the action.
Nour (17:40): Click the “like” button, subscribe to our channel and share this podcast with your family, friends and colleagues. Leave your questions and comments on social media. And remember you can listen to our episodes of Strong Women Better World podcast series on your favorite podcasting platform.