Nina Hjortlund

Founder of

Nina originates from Denmark but has through her traveling become a world citizen. Having spent 15 years living in the Middle East and Africa has allowed her to develop a love and understanding of the many varied customs and cultures of the people she has lived and worked with. Through her years abroad she has gained experience in several fields and industries. She has worked successfully in large international companies as well as managed her own business ventures several times.

In 2018 she moved to Australia to continue her work in the not-for-profit sector through successfully founding and managing Australia for Cedar Tanzania and recently also setting up – an online shop dealing in Tanzanian handcrafts.

She has an exceptional drive and never backs away from a challenge, and she is a great believer in entrepreneurship and creating opportunities.

Nina is a mother of four children, the two eldest boys aged 19 and 22 living and studying in Denmark and her two daughters aged 7 and 8 living with her in Fremantle, Australia.

Australia for Cedar Tanzania and are both not-for-profit companies that supports Cedar Tanzania’s projects in rural Tanzania.

Cedar Tanzania operates in Nyamatongo Ward in the North Western Tanzania. This rural area is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria and is home to about 30,000 people. The majority of the people lives under the poverty line and has little to no access to clean water and electricity.

Cedar Tanzania has constructed, and now run, a health center providing quality medical care to the community. An outreach team delivers impart knowledge, treatment and care to people with disabilities in their own homes and diminishes the stigma around both physical and mental disability.

A youth project takes teenagers through a year-long football programme teaching valuable lessons in HIV/AIDS, sexual health and family planning. We are conducting a gender equality focused project through the community as well as running an entrepreneurial project for young women.

All Cedar Tanzania projects revolve around our four cornerstones: Health, Education, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship. Australia for Cedar Tanzania supports Cedar Tanzania financially through grants, CSR programmes and individual support.

Where did the idea for Cedar Tanzania and come from?

The idea was a natural progression from my previous engagement with an NGO in Tanzania.
I have lived 13 years in Mwanza, Tanzania, and in the last 3 years of my time there I was volunteering with an organisation called Cedar Tanzania. Cedar Tanzania carries out some amazing projects in rural Tanzania.
When I moved to Australia in August 2018 I decided to create a not-for-profit to support Cedar Tanzania’s projects – that’s how Australia for Cedar Tanzania was born. Our aim is to raise funds through grant applications, CSR programmes, and individual support to financially support Cedar Tanzania’s work. We also aim to create awareness and political support towards poverty alleviation in Tanzania in general.

In March this year we opened our web-shop dealing with Tanzanian handcrafts. We mainly deal with women’s collaboratives and handcraft groups for people with disabilities. In this way we support twice – first the manufacturing collaboratives where we source our products and all profits from our sales goes back into our projects in Tanzania.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I work from home – which I love. I get up 6:00am with my two girls; Emily is 8 and Sofia is 7. We get ready for the day through teamwork and do 30 minutes homework in the mornings as well as getting a few chores out of the way. Then we spend 30-45 minutes in the park with our dog on the way to school. This gives us all a great start to the day, we have a chance to have a conversation and enjoy nature.

My workday starts 9am with a check on my schedule, and listing my tasks for the day with three items as my priorities. The majority of my works happens in my office on my desktop. I have a strong work discipline and stay on task until it is done.

I break from work just before 3pm to pick Emily and Sofia from school. It is time for their activities and homework. We have dinner at 6pm and after they have gone to bed I get back into the office 7:30-8pm and work until 11pm. My children’s needs have trained me in being able to switch off from work in an instant and put it all away when necessary. A very valuable lesson. Because I know I have limited time available to me I make sure I focus on the most important tasks and not getting caught up in perfecting something that is less relevant in the big picture.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Passion. My passion drives me and help me generate ideas. Having a great team and an active board to bounce of ideas and thoughts helps to narrow down ideas and make them great. I also have a few people in my life who I use as sounding boards.

Not every idea is successful but you have to keep on trying and find the ideas that works. I don’t dwell on failures or unsuccessful ventures but rather try to see why they didn’t work and what I could have done better or differently. That keeps me going and inspire to new ideas.

What’s one trend that excites you?

More and more companies are realising the value of having a strong CSR programme.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I thrive on organisation and plans. I schedule out my work over the year in a spreadsheet. Divide it into 6 months, 3 months and monthly plans. It helps me to be ahead of what work needs doing when and I try to avoid to wait until everything is urgent. Timelines and deadlines are sacred to me.

What advice would you give your younger self?

If you have an idea believe in it and go for it!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That you can parent and run a successful business from home.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I keep on learning. To me, knowledge is king. I read, I study, I keep on educating myself.
I keep on networking, meeting people, listening to their experiences and learn from them. Get inspired from other people’s successes and not being scared to ask for advice or help.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Reaching out. Not being scared to say when I don’t know something.
When I arrived to Australia everything was new to me. Never having lived here, I had no idea how to go about starting a business, where to lodge what paper, which documents where necessary and in which order to obtain them. I was a person with an idea.
I reached out and everyone has been more than helpful. From the lovely lady at the tax office to the accountant and the bankers. Other people in the industry or in industries working in Africa has been very helpful too and have introduced me to their contacts.
I believe in the positive in people and most people are happy to help if they can.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Having paid for and manned a stall for 14 hours at an event on a 42 degrees day. It was pure torture – and it was a complete failure. No traction, no sales but racist remarks from a few of the guests. Even though the event was marketed as a multicultural event.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

In the light of the recent COVID 19 times I would get rapid test kits to Africa.

Affordable and easy accessible ways to make clean drinking water available to the world’s population.
43% of Tanzania’s population doesn’t have access to clean water.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Getting a cleaner once a week. With two active children, a puppy and long work hours I prefer to spend my free time doing something fun with my children instead of scrubbing the bathroom. I enjoy it every week and appreciate the work that has been done.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Buffer! Being able to schedule and plan my social media postings has been a lifesaver. Instead of having to focus on quality material to post I do this once a week. Much more productive.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Maya Angelou: Letter To My Daughter.
It gave me strength and wisdom.

What is your favorite quote?

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
Maya Angelou
I always strive to do my best. I also strive to forgive myself if I did my best with the knowledge I had at the time – even if it turned out to be a bad decision.
You can’t blame anyone for doing their best.

Key Learnings:

• Do what you are passionate about. Passion cannot be taught. The rest can.
• Don’t be afraid of failures and failing. Learn from it and get better at it.
• Let yourself be inspired by others. Listen and take in their wisdom and experiences. Reach out to others. People are generally kind and willing to help.