Without Limits – An Interview with April McLennan

27 May 2018

20-year April McLennan grew up in Ōtautahi, Christchurch with her mum, dad and three sisters. She credits being home-schooled for her entire primary and secondary education with providing her the independence required to approach learning in a unique way.

April McLenman

“I love the freedom this gave me and my sisters to explore subjects we were interested in and to meet people from many different backgrounds and life experiences,” she says.

April is the Founder and Chairperson of Limitless, a registered charity that has a mission to equip young New Zealanders with the awareness, confidence and opportunities to pursue and excel in work they are passionate about.

April McLenman speaking

Limitless runs conferences for high school students where they can be inspired and empowered through interaction with speakers and each other. Post-conference, young people have access to an online portal which connects them with opportunities for mentoring, work experience, volunteering and more.

Limitless 3

“I started Limitless at the beginning of 2016 and the inspiration came from my own career pathway experience. Having finished high school in 2015, I had some decisions to make around what my next steps were. Faced with this, I was quite unsure about which direction I wanted to take for my career/study path. There were so many options and I felt a bit overwhelmed,” she says.

“It was super clear that many other people at this same life stage felt the same way. I had met so many people further down the track that were doing work they found really stimulating and rewarding, so some questions arose about how myself and those around me could create pathways towards work that was like this – purposeful, energising and fulfilling.”

In summer 2015/16, April took part in Live the Dream, an incubator programme that supports New Zealand’s young social entrepreneurs to build capability and bring their ventures to life. She relished the experience.

“Live the Dream was challenging, stretching and empowering. We learned how to use research to find the root cause of the issue we wanted to tackle through social enterprise, create business plans, prototype and ideate, pitch, market, plan and manage finances, and so much more. We also had opportunities to start growing networks of people who would become integral in our venture’s growth. During the Live the Dream accelerator, I made the decision to take a ‘gap year’ to work on Limitless, see how it went, and review it the following year – and the rest is history (that was over two years ago!).”

We asked April what has been the greatest challenge so far:

“My greatest challenges have been in my own personal growth, learning, boundary setting, reflection and more – learning how to care for myself and set boundaries for the best outcomes. Being part of a supportive family and community, having an incredible governance team for Limitless, and having mentors that I trust have been big enablers for this.”

April is highly motivated by her desire to enable every young person to have an impact on local and global challenges through purpose-driven work.

“If we can equip young people to live from a strong foundation of knowledge of their strengths and integrity to their values, then it opens up pathways for these young people to be curious, explore, learn, define what success may look like, and move towards it.”

She has this advice for other young people thinking of giving social enterprise a go:

“Keep your ‘why’ at the centre. It’s important to know who you are and keep the basis of your identity strong and not dependent on the success of everything you do, to work from a healthier and more balanced place. I wholeheartedly believe young people are capable of so much – and each young person needs a champion who will be their backer, who will believe in them no matter what.”

It seems that April is very sure of her ‘why’: young people throughout Aotearoa New Zealand are lucky to have her on their side.