Meet Kate Fisher from The Milkshakes for Marleigh

I am Kate Fisher, founder of The Milkshakes for Marleigh blood donation advocacy
movement. I’m on a mission to end persistent critical blood shortages in Australia and
around the world.
I am the author Milkshakes for Marleigh where I tell extraordinary tales of survival thanks to Australian blood donors. I have chapters published in the Women Making a Difference and Hear Us Roar series books due for release in 2024.
I am the host and producer of The Milkshakes for Marleigh Podcast where I tell the
survival stories of blood recipients to thank blood donors and to encourage new ones.

"Search the hashtag “#WCW23” to see the incredible things those involved in last year’s awards were recognied and have gone on to achieve after having their work recognised on a global stage."

When did you start your business?
I commenced my blood donation advocacy work on a very local level in 2019. This grew
to a national project within months and now is having an impact on recruiting blood
donors all over the world.

What was the inspiration behind your work/business?
Our daughter Marleigh was just 3 years old when she became unwell with Seronegative
Paediatric Autoimmune Encephalitis. This is a condition for which there is no cure but
treatment and achieving remission is possible through the use of Intravenous
Immunoglobulin Infusions (IVIG) made from donated human plasma. For Marleigh, this
is lifesaving when she relapses and life preserving for every infusion in between. She’s
just celebrated her 8 th birthday and owes those bonus 5 years to Australian blood

Before Marleigh’s illness I was unaware of the persistent critical blood shortages in
Australia and around the world. I was astounded to learn that Australia’s has to buy
blood from around the world as while 1 in 3 Aussies will need blood in their lifetime only
1 in 30 donate it. When Marleigh was at her sickest, we could only prolong her life for 10
days at a time and had to rely on the kindness of anonymous Australian blood donors
donating the blood she needed for her next treatment. A critical blood shortage could be life threatening for our child and I never want another family to be at their loved ones
bedside fearing that they wont be enough blood in the supply to prolong their life.

What are you most excited about in your work/business?
In the first 3 years of my blood donation advocacy, Australian’s inspired to donate blood
by Marleigh’s story donated enough blood to save the lives of over 5000 Australians.
This is a conservative reflection of the impact as it is only from those who recorded their
donation to The Milkshakes for Marleigh Lifeblood team in Australia. I know that many
more people have been inspired to donate blood, plasma and platelets in Australia and
around the world after hear Marleigh’s story and all of the others that I share through my
book, podcast and social media platforms.

Being recognised as a changemaker who has developed a creative solution to a social
problem is the most incredible legacy to the incredible trauma that Marleigh faced in her illness. While she is currently in remission, we are acutely aware that relapse in possible at any time and no amount of health science or medical experitise will be able to preserve her life without the support of Australian blood donors ensuring plasma is
available for her treatment.

What has been the most challenging thing about starting your work/business?
Having the confidence to launch my idea onto the domestic and global stage when there are big organisations all over the world who are responsible for their countries blood supplies and donor recruitment. My background in public health policy development allowed me to see the consumer fatigue in health information messaging and to deliver the same information in a less clinical, more person focused storytelling format. Initially I was seeking the permission and/or endorsement of these organisations for my work and my mission to end persistent critical blood shortages however, through seeing the impact of my work, I now have the validation to pursue it on an individual level. I’m comfortable with my title as Australia’s primary blood donation advocate.

What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a work/business?
It important to have a big picture of what you would like to achieve but also to break that down into smaller targets and steps, celebrate those wins and re-evaluate the next
steps. Its so important to be comfortable with change. Changing priorities, cancelling
projects that aren’t performing in the way that you had anticipated or responding to
climate you are in. You need to think about what to do first, then next and continuously
re-evaluate that plan.
I have found incredible value in being surrounded by other female founders, change
makers and leaders, even when the fields we work in aren’t aligned. These opportunities for inspiration, mentorship, and support when you face challenges are invaluable and it’s an incredible feeling when you can then offer your expertise to others and build the capacity of others.

Why did you enter the Women Changing the World Awards?
When I was nominated for the Women Changing the World, Emerging Women of the
Year in 2023 I was astounded to see that I was a finalist and the only Australian finalist
in my category. It was such an honour to have my work considered alongside other
likeminded and remarkable women who were committed to making the world a better
place for those around them.

What did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards?
The sense of community and support from all the women in the room that were all so
committed to elevating the work of their fellow competitors. There was an incredible level of respect shown to each of the other finalists and I’ve watched over the last year as those who were “competing” against each other have supported each other’s businesses and causes all over the world.

What surprised you most about the awards?
The innovative approaches that women all over the world take to making the world a
better place! I attended the Women Changing the World Summit in the lead up to the
awards and learned so much from the experiences of other women, their innovative
approaches, entrepreneurship, leadership and the diverse range experiences that
inspired their work. It was such an honour to be in a room with such phenomenal women from all over the world and celebrate their impact, even if they didn’t win an award.

How did the awards help you in your work/business?
Travelling internationally for the awards helped me to launch Milkshakes for Marleigh
onto a global stage and through the contacts I made all over the world, helped me to
understand the global scale of persistent critical blood shortages.
Through winning an award, I was able to gain media coverage that resulted audiences
that had really never thought about blood donation, understanding its relevance to them and their loved ones, and registering to become blood donors. My podcast went from very modest downloads to being recognised as one that has “sparked a global
movement” and I now have high profile guests approaching me to offer their story to my podcast and name to their cause rather than leaving my emails and social media
messages unread.
I have just released my first book filled with extraordinary stories of survival thanks to
Australian blood donors and can market it with me being an “international award-winning blood donation advocate”.
The awards have just opened doors for me from invitations to be a guests on other
people podcasts to speaking opportunities including as a 60-second pitch finalist at
TEDx Brisbane. These opportunities have allowed me to convert my “passion project”
into something that I can sustainably focus on fulltime. They changed my life.

What advice would you give to other women thinking about entering the awards?
Search the hashtag “#WCW23” to see the incredible things those involved in last year’s
awards were recognied and have gone on to achieve after having their work recognised
on a global stage.

What has been the best thing about starting your own work/business?
Founding the Milkshakes for Marleigh blood donation advocacy movement has been one of the most challenging things that I have ever undertaken but at the same time I have astounded myself with the impact my work has had in Australia and around the world.
I love that I am able to set my own schedule around the needs of my family and as the
mother at the helm of a family with additional needs no 2 weeks are ever the same! I am
currently writing this in a hospital while caring for a family member. My schedule is
flexible and work is transportable.
Creating platforms and a community where people can tell their stories and thank the
blood donors who have saved, prolonged or improved their lives or the life of someone
that they love has not only allowed an increase in blood donations but has also served
as a record of thanks to the anonymous impact of blood donation. I love that if you have
ever been a blood donor you listen or read the Milkshakes for Marleigh social media,
podcast or book, knowing you may be the one who gave the lifesaving gift to the person sharing their story.

What’s happening next in your work/business?
I have just celebrated the global launch of The Milkshakes for Marleigh book and I am
really looking forward to a book tour later in the year alongside promoting the Women
Making a Difference book and Hear Us Roar book and documentary film series that my
blood donation advocacy work has been featured in.
I will continue my work to increase blood donations, thank blood donors and also to
encourage other changemakers to seek creative solutions to social problems and
recognise the power of storytelling. I look forward to sharing my experience of building
Milkshakes for Marleigh into a globally recognised brand with other women so they can
see what has worked for me, what I would do differently and how they may be able apply some of this to their own professional development and ventures.

What are your big plans for the future?
Bucket list items would be doing a TED talk and having more opportunities to speak in
Australia and internationally.
To continue The Milkshakes for Marleigh Podcast into its fourth season. I would love it to
be picked up by one of the networks or for corporate sponsorship or a philanthropic
investment to allow me to continue this life saving work and grow the audience further.
Maintaining my current work life balance that allows me to have very intensive periods of either leaning into my work or my family! I deepy appreciate the ability set my own
schedule and also celebrate my own achievements as I am a one woman show!

How can we connect with you?

2024 Women Changing The World Awards

Nominations are open now for the 2024 Women Changing The World Awards