When the pandemic hit a couple of years ago, Muriel Altink, the 255th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, was unsure what to do.

Not because her career was damaged. But because she’d recently started exiting from a business she’d built and run for 17 years – and now that she was stuck at home, rather than hustling in her business as she’d done for so long or travelling the world as she’d planned for so long, she was unsure what to do with herself.

Muriel found a few ways to regain her sense of purpose. She volunteered at an art gallery; she took the company director course at the Australian Institute of Company Directors; and she accepted a board position at a not-for-profit organisation.

More recently, Muriel became a business coach and board facilitator at The Alternative Board Australia, an organisation that brings non-competing business owners together in a group setting, to discuss the challenges and opportunities each of them are facing.

Muriel was born and raised in Holland, before moving to Australia more than two decades ago – initially just for a few years.

Partnering with a good friend back home, the two women searched for a business opportunity that would take advantage of their European connections and Muriel’s Australian location, and give the friend a chance to visit Sydney from time to time.

In the end, they convinced the Norwegian supplier of high-end children’s products, Stokke, to appoint their company Exquira as the Australian distributor.

The company steadily grew in the following years, as it built a network of resellers and picked up more distribution deals. But not long before the pandemic, the two women decided to exit the business, as the novelty and challenge had worn off.

Muriel’s role was to run the sales and marketing, while her partner handled the finance and operations. Along the way, Muriel acquired an enormous amount of knowledge and overcame innumerable challenges – which is why she’s so perfectly suited to her new role as business coach and board facilitator.