Australia's youngest CEO making her mark at 16


Ali Kitinas started her first business when she was still in primary school. Now the 16-year-old runs her own body-scrub company, whose business model also aims to help those less fortunate.

While school holidays are usually a time for students to relax or catch up on studies, 16-year-old Ali Kitinas also has a business to run.

"It can be a little bit of a challenge at times to find the right balance," she said. "But I think that happens with anything."

"My work hours are kind of in the evening. Often I get really excited about something and I want to keep working but I know that I have to wake up for school the next day."

At the age of 11, Ms Kitinas dabbled in social media marketing in an effort to make some money doing something she loved.

She then put those earnings towards her current venture, making and selling body-scrub powder with the help of two humanitarian groups.

The Freedom Hub provides recycled coffee grounds, sourced from a farm supporting rehabilitation services for women in Rwanda and child soldiers, for Ms Kitinas to use in her products.

Part of her earnings go towards The Hope Foundation Hospital, which provides medical services to a group of children in the Indian city of Kolkata.

Ms Kitinas began Freedom Scrub shortly after visiting the area two years ago.

"A lot of these girls were my age that needed the services of the hospital," she said.

"I had already been making coffee scrubs and body scrubs as gifts for people, and I saw that as a great collaboration."

Ali Kitinas
The young entrepreneur participated in last year's TedXYouth at Sydney's Opera House.

Homelessness hits home

Ms Kitinas' entrepreneurial skills recently led to her participate in an international mentoring program with socially-minded business leaders, including Virgin founder Richard Branson.

Upon returning home she approached St Vincent de Paul about taking part in its annual CEO Sleepout - an initiative where some of Australia's most successful business people sleep on the streets to raise awareness about homelessness.

She was accepted, becoming the youngest person to ever participate in the initiative which has so far raised more than $5 million across the country.

Her participation was particularly special for her mother, Lynne Kitinas, who herself lived on the streets when she was around her daughter's age.

"I was sleeping in a cardboard box, staying over with friends, sleeping in church halls," she explained. "It was cold. It was scary. There was a lot of violence. There were a lot of incidents where kids were taken advantage of.

"They are human beings. They have an identity, and the longer that you're in the despair situation, the harder it is to get out of that."

Ali Kitinas
Ali Kitinas started her first business when she was still in primary school.
Freedom Scrub blog

'We have a real crisis'

More than 105,000 Australians sleep rough every night, and more than 2.5 million live below the poverty line.

Saint Vincent de Paul's New South Wales chief executive Jack de Groot said the numbers have been steadily rising in recent years, thanks in part to a lack of action by state governments to address Australia's ongoing housing-affordability crisis.

"People still can spend in excess of five, and sometimes ten years on the public-housing wait lists," he said.

"We have a real crisis.

"The Commonwealth can put funding arrangements forward to the states, but we know, in different states, there is not enough public, social or affordable housing being made available."

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