Reservist creates new strategic business vision

A RENEWED business vision and strategic outlook are just some of the benefits from Alistair Birrell’s recent attendance at a leadership conference in New York.

Held over three days in June last year the 99U Conference attracted leaders and entrepreneurs in creative industries throughout the world to share knowledge and discuss business ideas.

Alistair is a Reservist Logistics Officer with Number 21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron, and after transitioning from the Permanent Air Force in 2014 began his fine linen business ‘Mr Draper’.

“We are a direct to consumer brand and sell fine linen bedding and napery online through our website,,” Alistair said.

“From 2015 through to mid 2018, the design and manufacturing was based out of our Fitzroy studio, in inner Melbourne with two staff assisting with manufacturing and fulfilment.

“From humble beginnings on the kitchen table, I’ve grown the brand into a successful small business.”

Earlier this year Alistair successfully applied to The Prince of Wales Awards (POWA) scheme for financial support to attend the 99U Conference.

POWA provides a development opportunity for Australian Defence Force (ADF) Reservists to enhance their individual experience and knowledge in their chosen civilian occupation or profession.

“The theme for this conference was “Challenge Everything”, split across two days as “Challenge Leadership” and “Challenge Yourself”,” Alistair said.

“It was a mix of presentations focussed on the theme and breakout workshops, which are smaller groups and more hands on.

“I was exposed to world class creative business leaders. My favourite presentation was Tea Uglow from the Google Creative lab and the best workshop was with Duncan Wardle from Disney.

“Since attending the conference I have been able to reflect on my leadership style. The conference has armed me with the knowledge to come home and grow my business.”

He said he also would use his learnings from the conference to keep “challenging the status quo”.

“The conversation around diversity in the workplace was a game changer for me. I’ve never heard the argument for diversity delivered more eloquently and convincingly by the leaders of some of the biggest and most entrepreneurial companies.

“I also hope to keep shattering the stereotypes of what people in the military are like. A maker of handmade linen bedding and napery is not someone often associated with Defence. I guess what I have proven is that military service, entrepreneurship and creativity can work hand in hand.”

For information on The Prince of Wales Awards click here: Defence Reserves Support Prince of Wales Award Scheme 

Alistair Birrell successfully applied to The Prince of Wales Awards to attend the 99U Conference in New York.

Produced by: RYD Communications.



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Last update: Wednesday, 1 May 2019

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