by Dylan Stone
This week, Dylan Stone sits down with Harley Cannard, tracing the arc of his life, from his challenging early years, through his tenure at an e-commerce firm, and finally to his current endeavour, Empowered Champions, based in Broken Hill.
Mr. Cannard’s tale commences at the tender age of five. Alongside his nine-year-old sister, he was thrust into a caregiving role for their mentally ill mother in Ballarat. Amid her recurring illnesses, the siblings found refuge in foster care, but during calmer periods, they subsisted on Salvation Army food hampers.
Despite the hardships, Mr. Cannard views his foster care experience as somewhat positive. The structured environment offered a stark contrast to their previous circumstances, providing an unexpected source of stability. His relationship with one foster family endured until he turned 13.
With his mother’s health stabilizing, Mr. Cannard shifted residence, sharing a roof with a friend. Although this provided a semblance of normalcy, it led to a concerning lack of school attendance and a proclivity for minor troublemaking.
His life took a significant turn when an uncle relocated him to Melbourne, enrolling him in a private school. But as his mother’s health deteriorated again, Mr. Cannard returned to Ballarat at age 15 to look after her.
In Ballarat, he began associating with small-time troublemakers in his neighbourhood, mistaking it for seizing opportunities. Reflecting on this period, he recognizes it as his lowest point, where he felt trapped in a victim mentality. However, hitting rock bottom propelled him towards self-improvement. The transformation began with the shift in mindset – from victimhood to seeking opportunities amidst vulnerability.
His journey towards self-improvement led him to Broken Hill, where he found his calling as a personal trainer. This profession ignited a fervour for advertising and marketing, a passion that would later define his career.
Mr. Cannard firmly believes that one’s environment significantly influences their potential for success. This belief, coupled with his passion for personal training, allowed him to positively shape others’ lives while concurrently monitoring his own development.
With these experiences, he ventured into the realm of e-commerce. His foray into online training provided him a platform to utilize and further develop his marketing and advertising skills across various industries.
During his tenure at the gym, Mr. Cannard started developing AI-based systems. Their success in improving businesses prompted him to set up a marketing agency. The agency rapidly attracted a global clientele, with a significant 70 per cent of clients based in the US.
In 2021, he left the agency but soon found himself a business partner in a commercial automotive raffle company. Despite the swift progression of his career, Mr. Cannard learned some valuable lessons. The most crucial among these are the importance of conquering fear and self-discovery, which he believes to be critical for personal and professional success.
Currently, Mr. Cannard and his wife, Bec, are steering their new venture, Empowered Champions, an all-abilities support service for NDIS participants.
Drawing on his experiences as his mother’s primary carer from the age of five, Mr. Cannard is no stranger to the disability support sector. “I’ve been around disability support my whole life, and I find this to be such a rewarding role,” he shares. These experiences helped him perceive the necessity for smaller, more personalized services, leading to the establishment of Empowered Champions in 2022.
Mr. Cannard’s journey has taught him the significance of passion as a driver for his career. His love for what he does, coupled with a relentless focus on personal development, cognitive health, and regular exercise, helps him ward off burnout even with his demanding schedule.
Harley Cannard is a testament to the power of resilience and transformation. His journey, characterized by significant life changes, teaches us that true success is passion-driven and not merely tied to financial gains. He underscores the importance of perseverance, noting, “When things are tough or when you’ve got months and months of late nights and early mornings without anything to show, you’ll just give up.”
Growing up without a father, spending considerable time in foster care, and navigating through life without handouts, Mr. Cannard has overcome numerous challenges. Now, in a position of stability and success, he is driven to care for others and provide opportunities he never had.
Complementing this pursuit is his partner, whom he describes as having a “beautiful caring heart.” Together, they aspire to give back more to their community than they take. “At points in my life, I was without a home, living on the street, and couldn’t eat, but I would still always try to help other people even when my situation was bad,” Mr. Cannard recalls.
In his current role, his goal is to reinvest his time, energy, and resources into the community through volunteering, mentoring, and general assistance. It is a testament to his resilience and determination that he shares, “I’ve gone to places where I’ve nearly been at rock bottom, but on the other side are the biggest opportunities I’ve ever seen, I’m lucky I’ve seen some stuff through and persevered.”