Tuesday, December 8, 2009


A Spader is someone who sets trends, not follows them. Someone who has the admiration of their peers without seeking it. They're passionate driven individuals who exude confidence and
positive influence, determined to help those around them better themselves. A Spader is inspiring. A Spader opens doors.

All of the above is exactly what Pierre Johannessen stands for. The CEO of Big Bangs and recently named "A.C.T Young Australian of the year" is literally changing the life of thousands of kids around the world through the game of Basketball.

What did you dream of being when you were a kid?
Besides all the typical kid things like playing sports professionally? I always wanted to follow in my parents’ footsteps and get into the development industry. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more than help people. Growing up I knew I was blessed; my parents took me on most of their travels, and gave me the opportunity to meet different people and experience different cultures, to see and experience the best and worst of humanity, and most importantly to see first hand the power of human compassion. I guess I it was inevitable for me to want to pursue a life in international development.

What are you doing now in your life?
I am the CEO of the Big Bang Ballers, a not for profit, international NGO that uses the game of basketball to fight youth poverty and social disadvantage worldwide. We are not seeking to replace other NGOs; we understand the immense task that NGOs undertake, and further value their experience and expertise in delivering aid and running programs targeting poverty from a variety of angles. Our goal, rather, is to provide an outlet for those children least able to be children. We seek to remove the inevitable divides between classes and social groups, and instead teach the importance and value of teamwork, as well as the incredible and often surprising benefits that sports has as a unifying and motivating element in an otherwise divided and unmotivated world. We share our love and respect for the game and its teachings with all the kids we serve; we teach responsibility, loyalty, hard work and dedication, trust in each other and above all, respect towards others and pride in oneself. Most of all, we let kids be kids. Although the Big Bangs is a full time commitment, I also have a “clark kent” job as a speechwriter and policy adviser for a Federal Senator, run the NGO section of Johannessen Legal, and serve as an Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development representative.

What has been the best advice given to you to about starting up Big Bangs?
Together we can. Sometimes our accomplishments seem like minor miracles, so I place a lot of faith in the tagline “Together We Can”. I feel like I have an army of brothers and sisters through the Big Bangs, and would do anything for them. It’s what makes working so hard for the team so very easy; when you can see how much teamwork accomplishes, it’s easy to want to sacrifice for your team.

Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
I’m loving the GQ revolution that has taken over hustle-rich industries like sports and entertainment. For too long suits and business attire was really formal and rigid, whereas now jackets, ties and shirts are more interesting, colourful, more individual. I get a lot of inspiration from old school classic labels such as Canali and Zegna, but also love the new urban renegades in the game such as Sean John and Kenneth Cole. I spent my younger years looking up to the Grants and Sinatras for classic cool, and have now added Pitt and Clooney to the list of fashion role models.

Describe your style to us?
Young CEO. Professional and ready to take on the world. In control, comfortable and convenient. I like details; belt matches the shoes, stitching on the trousers matching the colour of the cufflinks, which in turn compliments the tie and matches the jacket. On more casual occasions I still go with the button up shirt, but match with a pair of clean crisp air force’s. Jay-Z meets George Clooney.

Describe your outfit when you go out?
Depends on the situation. More often than not I’m in a suit for work or meetings, and try to get in as much colour as possible. If I’m getting together with friends for an after work meal or drinks, I prefer a pair of crisp jeans, with lots of detail, paired with a light cotton French cuff shirt, with my Big Bangs cufflinks of course, and classic, simple blazer. To be honest sometimes I feel like just throwing on a t-shirt, and old pair of jeans and an armband like I used to when Rush and I worked the clubs, but nowadays you never know when you need to head back into work.

What item of clothing would you like to see brought back?
Knee high socks at basketball games and armbands real high above the elbow. And home-made spray-painted t-shirts.

Who is a person that has been an inspiration to you?
So many to count, but definitely my parents at the top of this list. Any measure of compassion, strength, empathy and wisdom I have I owe entirely to them. Their guidance, their support, their belief in me and their many sacrifices are directly responsible for every success I have today. I can still see myself sitting across from my father in his office, a giant oak desk between us, papers and files strung about, staff rushing in and out, my dad dealing with the latest refugee crisis to hit. He was the Regional Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at a time when internally displaced people around the world seemed an unfortunate norm; with major wars on every continent, it seemed an unending dilemma.

I sat across from him, in a small leather chair, my Asterix comic in one hand, in French of course, a sandwich in the other. My dad looked up from his papers, stood up, came around the desk, ruffled my hair, checked which one I was reading then went back to work. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t need to. He never once made me doubt his dedication to his work, his family, his dedication to me. How can you not want to follow in those footsteps?

Who is the ultimate Spader to you?
Know it sounds corny, but my mother, no doubt. From a young age she broke through a system designed to limit the potential of females, yet came out full of confidence and ambition. She made her way through the two toughest cities on earth, London and New York, in the process helping her family raise themselves up on their own two feet. She made opportunities for herself, rather than wait for something to come to her, then gave 100% in order to reach her goals and achieve her dreams.

She worked hard no matter the situation; even in our darkest days she was always there for me, always made sure there was a meal on the table and a roof over our heads. Even today she hustles like Jay Z but shines like Kofi Annan. She splits her time between the family law firm, through which she donates hundreds of hours a month to pro-bono work, as well as the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre, which provides free legal advice and support to low-income families, and continues to create and support women’s empowerment groups in Iran as well as serving as a Director and adviser to the Big Bangs.


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