Sitting down with the founders of Small Giants, Berry Liberman and Danny Almagor, we have an hour to chat about how the couple manages family, work and scaling down the world’s problems to a manageable size.
While it’s a short time to cover so much ground, it isn’t long before Liberman and Almagor reveal their distaste for indifference and their reverence for our planet – which they are doing their best to heal through a business venture that aims to be great instead of big.
Small Giants, the parent company of quarterly magazine Dumbo Feather, has a number of other innovations under its wing: sustainable housing, organic tampons, co-operative working spaces and cooking programs for disadvantaged kids, to name a few. The enterprise hums from a 19th century mansion in St Kilda, which could make any office look dull. There’s a beehive on the rooftop, a garden full of roses, a table tennis table that also serves as a communal dining space and a scattering of innovative knick-knacks beckoning from every spare inch of desk.
“We kind of had the idea of using business as a high impact tool for social and environmental change in the world,” says Liberman, describing how Bo Burlingham’s book of the same name set Small Giants in motion four years ago.
“Together we said what resources do we have to try and deal with some of these issues?” adds Almagor. “Our time, our energy, our intellect, our money, our networks…Small Giants was the articulation of that.”
The couple have two kids and share a penchant for action; rotating duties at home and the office and working late into the night. Liberman, who previously made short films in LA after cutting her teeth at the Victorian College of the Arts, is the creative director of Small Giants, the publisher of Dumbo Feather and sits on the board of directors of the Melbourne Festival.
“It’s a constant navigation,” she admits of the balance between motherhood and professional fulfilment. “But it is incredibly important for our children to see us making real, honest, dignified decisions.”
Almagor shares Berry’s philosophy of leading by example and says that for the moment at least, they have struck a good balance. As CEO of Small Giants, founder of Engineers Without Borders Australia and Social Entrepreneur in Residence at RMIT, he doesn’t sleep much. But he says having kids highlighted the responsibility he feels to contribute to a globally enriching conversation. “How dare we say, ‘It’s too hard, we’re walking away’.”
While it might seem like they are burning the candle at both ends, it’s the fire between this creative couple that keeps their ambition alight and their goals illuminated.
“It couldn’t have been done without the team,” beams Almagor. “We elevate each other.”
It is here that values are kept in check, negativity is unproductive and gratitude and kindness are the golden rules. Small Giants is about sufficiency, rather than growth, which means Liberman and Amalgor are always re-evaluating their objectives.
“It pushes us to say, where is the meaningful impact coming from in what we’re doing. Are we doing it appropriately? Is our compass well directed? Are we staying true?” says Liberman. “Those are the questions that really guide the heart of the business and that’s fucking exciting.”
Favourite Bookshop: The Avenue (Berry); Readings Acland Street (Danny)
Cafe: Coin Laundry (Berry); Miss Jackson (Danny)
Shop: Grace (Berry); Bunnings (Danny)
Restaurant: Da Noi (Berry); France Soir (Danny)
Cinema: Classic Cinema Elsternwick
Playlist: Melody Gardot & Bill Evans (Berry); The Beatles (Danny) “It’s still playing in my car...it’s been about 15 years”
Reading: Madame: An Intimate Biography of Helena Rubinstein (Berry); Religion for Atheists, Fixing the Game, The Bee Keeper’s Lament, (Danny)