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Elliot Costello // Co-founder & Director of YGAP & A Polished Man // Wearing our Medford boots in Black
Elliot you’ve done so much in your time already! Can start by telling us a bit about your background?
I started off in the corporate sector – my background is in accounting and finance but during that time I was also building a not-for-profit organisation with some friends. We had a passion for international development and a range of humanitarian issues. After five years of volunteering and working on YGAP we got to the stage where the organisation was growing rapidly enough for me take a leap of faith and leave my full time job to run YGAP full time. Since 2013, I have been employed full time at YGAP where we started in Melbourne and are now making a footprint all around the globe.
Tell us about your favourite project you’ve been involved with?
My favourite would be building our Polished Man campaign. The campaign was about engaging men to end violence against children through emasculation and asked them to wear nail polish. We were told by several people including a major advertising agency that the campaign wouldn’t work. We decided to go forward anyway and 85,000 participants later, across 110 countries, we successfully raised $3.2million!
Are there any particular people that influenced the direction you have chosen to take in your career?
Without a doubt, it would be spending time with people in communities. There’s an unfortunate narrative we all buy into about sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia that its filled with malnutrition, poverty, pain, starvation, and genocide. But when you go there, you realise the depths of the community and the vitality of the people – their zest for life, their capacity to stand up as a community and respond to issues is very powerful and inspiring.
What is the biggest challenge that you’ve faced?
Like any emerging entrepreneur, building an organisation from scratch is always a challenge – lack of funding, lack of resources, and having limited access to support. The ecosystem of support that you tend to find within incubators or accelerators didn’t exist in 2008 so we had to just constantly try things and experiment. Being surrounded by friends that were willing to stand up and respond made it all worth it.
What’s next for you?
I’m actually going to do my Masters in Comparative World Religions, studying the five global religions, their histories, and how they implicate the political world. I’ll be doing that in the UK this September for a year. My dad and I are also going to build a new social enterprise together which we have talked about for a little while.
What do you wear to work on a normal day?
I do like my boots, especially in winter where I can wear a pair of casual, hardy boots! I think Wild Rhino is a great brand and they have wonderful products. I would wear something more formal for presentations and I would throw on casual shoes or boots if I’m just in the office.
How would you describe your style?
I think my style is casual and inviting. I’m not very into formal so if I’m meeting with someone, I’ll put on a shirt just to look formal enough. I worked in the corporate world and found myself not into wearing a suit and a tie for work!
What do you look for in a good shoe?
Perpetuity. Something that’s timeless. Something that I can enjoy wearing for years. I think Wild Rhino really offers that. Great style, that’s timeless.
If you could close Feast of Merit for one night and you could use the space to host absolutely anything, with no limitations, what would you do?
I would love to write a guestlist to my invitation-only dinner with people I’m inspired by. I would love to bring people from different backgrounds, faith, nationality, and ethnicity together and bring up a conversation that will hopefully spark change!