As Life Coaches and mothers of teens and tweens, Karen and Tara offer interactive workshops to strengthen students wellbeing and resilience but also train and support parents dealing with the challenges of teenage life.

What’s your story?
According to the World Health Organisation, mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years. Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age, but most cases go undetected and untreated. Depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability amongst adolescents. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19 years of age. According to Mind Hong Kong, 53% of secondary students in Hong Kong alone suffer from depression. Mental health promotion and prevention are key to helping adolescents thrive.

As Teen Life Coaches, Karen Nathanson and Tara Bennett decided to join forces to create a safe space for teens to come together to connect and share compassionate conversations about the many pressures they face. They also wanted to support parents during this emotionally challenging time to nurture healthy family relationships. Thus, The Wild Heart Project was born.

Schools have had to come to terms with a significantly rising awareness and understanding of adolescent mental health issues. It is really important for schools to grow a culture in which young people are confident to talk about their issues and willing to support one another in a positive environment. Teachers haven’t necessarily been trained in teaching well-being and/or mental health detection or support, so The Wild Heart Project saw a great opportunity to not only create compassionate conversations with teenagers but also train and support parents, teachers and the school community.

The Wild Heart Project offers interactive workshops to strengthen students wellbeing and resilience, two ingredients essential to dealing with the challenges of teenage life. Through these workshops and one-on-one coaching, Karen and Tara help teens tackle anxiety, friendship challenges, academic pressure, family conflict and social media overload. Karen says “we need to encourage teens to identify their unique strengths and values, boost their self-esteem and confidence in order to strengthen their resilience. Our mission is to empower teens and help them feel connected to and inspired by the Wild Heart (which is really uncovering who they want to be in life!)”

What excites you most about your industry?
“Meeting these amazing teens who are literally creating their own identity for the first time and getting the opportunity to help them find their inner Wild Heart.” (Karen)

As Life Coaches, we were seeing many young people struggle with the pressures of transitioning from tween to teen to young adult. Fitting in and feeling “normal” are huge motivators for teenagers, even though they are striving for independence and discovering their true self. Tara shares “having spent most of our lives learning to embrace our own Wild Hearts, we wanted to inspire young people to uncover their own identity and understand the power of self-acceptance.”

What’s your connection to Asia?
Tara moved to Hong Kong in 2000 and has enjoyed a successful career in marketing, media and event management both in Australia and Hong Kong. Tara had the opportunity to travel and do business throughout Asia including Singapore, Japan, Thailand and Australia and New Zealand in her role as Director of Marketing for ESPN Asia Pacific. In 2009 she decided to change careers and took the leap to follow her passion in psycho-education and communication. She went on to study life coaching and a number of other transformational courses to solely focus on teen coaching. Tara has lived in Hong Kong for 19 years and has a tween and a teen who was born and schooled in Hong Kong. Her husband is an Australian who grew up in Japan, so as a family, have an affinity to a living and working in Asia.

Karen has always had a passion for Asia and had the opportunity to live in Hong Kong for seven years. Her interests in exploring different cultures and her natural curiosity about people have etched an interesting path that has led her to life in coaching. From film-making in India to translation and screenwriting work in Europe, she eventually formed a modern blended multi-cultural family in Hong Kong where she created The Wild Heart Project. She is now a globe trotter living between Hong Kong, Paris and L.A. and loves to return to Asia when conducting The Wild Heart workshops.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
We would have to choose Hong Kong because it is the country we have both had such success in, but we realize there is so much opportunity throughout Asia and we are excited to expand The Wild Heart Project. We are looking to expand into Sydney and Los Angeles in 2020.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Do not let your fears choose your destiny”.
The Wild Heart name and business idea came to us from throwing caution to the wind and following our hearts. It is a second career for both of us, so we really had to be brave to start again. Intuition makes sense after you follow it, not before. You don’t get to know the beauty unless you take the risk.

Who inspires you?
There are so many inspirational influencers, but currently, we are inspired by Jacinda Ardern for her heart-centred leadership. She has found a balance between the masculine and feminine social construct by demonstrating compassion and empathy with courage, assertiveness and decisive action. We feel she is a wonderful role model as a young woman/mother in leadership.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of vulnerability and being vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection. We try to teach teens that knowing your personal values is the most important tool, in order to respond to life’s challenges based on who you want to be!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
We wouldn’t let fear control us for as long as it did. When you don’t do something because your scared, you rob others of what you have to offer. This applies to anyone starting a new business or taking risks in expanding.

How do you unwind?
Karen likes walking on the beach and spending time with friends. Tara likes connecting to nature and connecting to others.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
For Tara it is Bali because it has so much to offer whether it’s watching a magical sunset on the beach, staying at incredible hotels with impeccable service, exciting adventure, delicious food or the opportunity to nurture your well-being and spirituality.

For Karen, it is exploring Katmandu and discovering the architectural buildings, sacred and religious sites and learning about the history of an incredible country.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Dare to Lead – Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work by Brene Brown (this book is about brave work, tough conversations and whole hearts.

Shameless plug for your business:
As mothers of tweens and teens, we have hands-on experience with these formative years.

We also remember juggling the emotional and physical demands from our own teenage experiences. We appreciate how advice from parents and teachers is precious and cannot be replaced. As Life Coaches, our goal is to add another layer of support in a safe and neutral space for teenagers and parents.

As long term ex-pats, we understand the benefits and challenges of growing up as third culture kids and the expectations and pressures in the Asian culture. We also understand how tricky it can be to parent a teenager. With the unique challenges Asian cultures can bring in mind and the rise in anxiety levels in the teens we coach, we decided to combine forces to create unique workshops to provide encouragement to teenagers and their parents.

We’ve created an Instagram account @projectwildheart for teens. This way as they are scrolling through their daily feed of bikinis and mindless memes and practical jokes, they will also see a post to inspire, empower and motivate them.

We have also created a Facebook page @projectwildheart for parents. This is an opportunity to share thought-provoking information whether it be interesting articles, video content or debates on how to raise your teen.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]
Social media – Facebook and Instagram: projectwildheart

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here: Download free copies of his books here:

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