Inspirational Women: Robin Barker

Our go-to parenting author is taking a turn and going on a new adventure. 

A Day In The Life Of… French Colignon

“Its amazing how a beautifully cut garment can elicit human emotion and this is a driving factor in my affinity with fashion.”

Inspirational Women: Josephine Perry

Each week SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Maggie Beer​

Name and role

Josephine Perry, owner of Missy French restaurant.

What is your average day like?  

I’ve just opened a brand new restaurant called Missy French in Potts Point. We’ve been open for three weeks, so at the moment I’m completely overwhelmed and exhausted but I have one of the best jobs in the world!

I host at the restaurant and I think welcoming people into this wonderful space that’s mine is such an incredible feeling! An average day for me is coming into the restaurant, replying to emails, answering the phones, taking reservations, helping the guys set up the restaurant, making all the menu changes for the day, briefing the staff and then service!

An unusual day for me could be dealing with difficult customers, dealing with very unglamorous issues in the restaurant or a day off is pretty unusual for me at the moment too.

Inspirational Women, Restauranter, Career Development, Career Advice, Mentor, Life Advice, Food

When did you know this is what you wanted to do as a career?

I started working with my dad, Neil at Spice Temple when I was 14 and a half. I started out just very innocently wanting to help a couple of nights a week and fell in love with it! I enjoyed every aspect of the restaurant.

I loved chatting to people and meeting new people, I loved my relationship I had with regular customers, who now come and dine at my restaurant. I loved working in a team environment, I loved the training and the knowledge we were given on food, wine, spirits! Since then I’ve never thought about anything else.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find inspiration in all different places and people. I’ve had a lot of incredible dining experiences around the world which have inspired me greatly. My staff inspire me, my customers inspire me! I’m very lucky that I get to work with a whole bunch of extremely talented and creative people.

Do you have a mentor? 

My dad has been a huge influence in my career.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path? 

I was so young when I started working with Dad. I found working with people a lot older than me my biggest challenge. Trying to prove yourself at 15 is pretty tough!

When I decided to undertake the responsibility of my own restaurant at 20 years old, I don’t think I knew what I was getting myself into. It’s been a huge learning curve for me and I’m working seven nights a week while my 21-year-old friends are out, so it can be tough sometimes, but so rewarding.

Inspirational Women, Restauranter, Career Development, Career Advice, Mentor, Life Advice, Food

What are your goals for the future?

I want to be the best possible restaurateur I can be. I’m still learning every day and that’s what I love about what I do. I would love to do some travelling as well. My dad’s proved to me that hard work pays off so I want to work as hard as I possibly can now to give myself a head start to the best possible future.

What is your favourite ingredient at the moment and why?

We’re using a lot of juniper berry at the moment at Missy French. Blood oranges are coming into season as well which are so versatile! I think we’ll have a killer blood orange cocktail on the menu for spring!

Who are you enjoying on Instagram at the moment and why?

I love Dan Pepperell’s food shots – he’s the head chef at 10 William St and he takes these amazing shots on a black table with natural light coming in, they’re really nice! I love Margaret Zhang too, she takes incredible pictures.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

If you have the passion for it, give it all you’ve got! It’s not an easy industry to succeed in, it’s hard work but it’s worth it!

Inspirational Women, Restauranter, Career Development, Career Advice, Mentor, Life Advice, Food

To find out more about Missy French head to the website:


A Day In The Life Of … Erin James

Ever wanted to step into somebody else’s shoes for the day and see what life is like as a magazine editor, a professional sportsperson or corporate high-flyer..? Well, SHESAID is giving you the closest thing to your very own Freaky Friday experience with our A Day In The Life Of… series.

RELATED: A Day In The Life Of… Carissa Walford 

Name and role

Erin James, plays Monica in The Little Death movie

Tell us a bit about what you do?

I guess I would describe myself as a storyteller and a communicator, bringing characters to life on stage and screen. I love engaging with people and connecting with them in as many ways as I can. What I love about my job is that I can work in so many different mediums. For the past 10 years, I have told stories in musicals, plays, cabarets, concerts and film with a host of incredible people. There has never been a dull moment, there is always something new and exciting around the corner (even when you least expect it) and that’s terribly exciting.

When did you discover your talent? Did you always want to be an actress?

I’m sure my family will say that I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic, but I’ve never thought that it was my only option. Just as I love working in a profession which is ever-changing, evolving and always different, I am equally interested in other professions and other means of communication. I thrive when I’m learning. I discovered my love of storytelling very early on (my first acting role was playing the role of Alice in a primary school musical version of Alice in Wonderland!) but I don’t remember making the choice to pursue a career in the arts. It just happened. (And thank goodness it did). No two days are ever the same, no two jobs are ever the same and that is an absolute joy.

My early training was actually in dance (my first tap dancing lesson at age five was really the start of it all) but I studied music, musicology, voice and acting throughout my teenage years. I guess I was an inquisitive child and never stopped asking questions about all kinds of occupations. I was lucky enough to have a great support network around me who all encouraged me to remain focused on academia and remain inquisitive about the world. I’m got a Graduate Diploma in Music, so have taught HSC music at high schools in NSW, I gained my NAATI Accreditation as a sign language interpreter for the deaf and have worked in that capacity since 2007. I run an online business and I’m still studying now, would you believe! I’m in my second year of Post-Graduate Law and I’m finding it absolutely thrilling! I think as an actor you can’t be too inquisitive.

Where do you find your inspiration? Who has had the most impact on you and your career?

When I was very young I watched all of the old Hollywood movie musicals I could get my hands on with my grandmother. We started with Shirley Temple films and moved onto movies starring Fred and Ginger, Gene Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. I suppose my early inspiration was from these artists who spoke to me through the television set. In terms of having an impact on me as a creative person and my career, well that’s a very hard question to answer quickly. I love to learn – I don’t think we ever stop learning – so I think I have taken a little inspiration from almost everyone who has helped shape my career over the years. From the unwavering support of my family to my the teachers who have carefully taught me my craft. I suppose if I had to pick one person, it would be my mum. She is my lucky charm and my most honest critic. I still use her reactions to my work as a gauge.

Its not always bright lights and glory. How do you deal with the challenges and down times?

I am now a master at living out of a suitcase and I can pack a travel bag in record time! It is true; the bright lights and flashy side of show business is only a very small part of the job. It is hard being away from loved ones, but missing important life events because of production schedules and and working odd hours means you become very good at making the most of the time you’ve got, while you’ve got it. Also, the internet (especially Skype) has certainly helped make the world a smaller place and helped keep me connected to my family when I’m away. I’ve been very lucky in my career that I always feel busy. There is always something to work towards, always something to focus on. This could be in the form of an audition, a job, a personal goal or creating new work. That’s how I deal with the challenges: always look ahead, never look back.

Erin James

What role has had the most effect on you? Tell us a bit about your latest projects…

Professionally, Monica in The Little Death had the biggest impact. It was my first major film role and something which I am very proud of. I learned so much working on that shoot from everyone involved, not least of all our incredible director and writer Josh Lawson. Being nominated for two awards (AACTA Award and Film Critics Circle of Australia Award for Actress in a Supporting Role in a Feature Film) absolutely blew my mind. I had a great time shooting a short film with Tom Ward (from Please Like Me) which will premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival this October and I’m currently rehearsing for the Australian tour of CATS the musical with the lovely Delta Goodrem.

What are your goals for the future?

I would love to work more in the film and TV realm. It’s a medium which I am falling in love with the more I work in front of a camera.

What advice would you give to someone following the same path as you?

Focus, hard work and planning are just as important as talent and passion. Be kind to yourself, but remain vigilant in keeping your skills honed. You never know when they might come in handy (Side note: I was cast in The Little Death in a role that required the use of Auslan after having worked with a deaf theatre company in my first year out of drama school. If I hadn’t retained all of the language and made a point of keeping that skill up, I wouldn’t have been able to audition for the role in the first place!)

Your workdays are much more exciting than the average 9 to 5. When you’re preparing or performing, what does a typical day involve?

My days are rarely ‘typical’, but I’ll take you through a day in my life when working on a major music theatre production.

Early am: Wake up in time to chat to my husband before he starts work (could be VERY early depending upon time zone differences)

9:30am: Cup of English breakfast tea, two weetbix and sultanas. I’ve had the same breakfast for as long as I can remember.

10am: Yoga time. Whether I’m on tour or at home I try to make sure I fit my daily yoga practice into my morning routine. If I’m performing in a musical, it’s especially necessary to wake up the body, stretch and strengthen muscles and start the day well.

11am-1pm Work time. Running an online business means lots of emails. I try to make sure all of my administration is done early in the day so I can move onto other work (like learning scripts and songs) later in the afternoon.

1pm: Lunchtime! – Catching up with a friend for lunch is one of my favourite things – especially since I’m often away from my close friends while working.

2:30 – 4:30pm: My time. Catching up with my family, learning material, scripts, songs. A reformer pilates class, depending upon the day. Getting ready for the theatre.

5:00pm: Dinner. With a performance at 8pm, I try to make sure I’ve eaten with enough time to digest before heading to the theatre.

6pm: Theatre. There are many things to do before the curtain goes up at 8pm, so I try to arrive at the theatre between 6pm and 6:30pm. I always do a full vocal and physical warm-up before the show so I minimise my chance of injury and fatigue.

11pm: Once the show is finished, it’s time to wind down with the cast. I love to have a glass of red wine and some delicious cheese before heading home.

Images courtesy of Kurt Sneddon at Blueprint Studios

Inspirational Women: Genevieve Radnan

Each week SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Sally Brown and Chrissy Biasotto

Name and role

Genna (or Genevieve) Radnan, CEO and founder of Gennarosity Abroad

Tell us about you? What do you get up to on a day-to-day basis?

I’m a 24-year-old registered nurse and the CEO and founder of the registered charity, Gennarosity Abroad, which is based in Kenya, East Africa. I have always had a passion for helping others and caring for those around me. I’ve always consciously been grateful of my upbringing, the family I was born into and the morals and values that I’ve been raised with. I enjoy working in a community setting and working with children which is why I work as a school nurse. I’m able to not only help the children when they’re unwell or injured; I’m able to educate them as well. One of the greatest benefits of being a school nurse is that you get to work within school hours, and have the rest of the day to continue living life. In my time outside of work I get to focus on my charity work, giving speeches to school and various communities about volunteering and the work I do, and I am about to take up a second degree in a Bachelor of Arts in International Aid and Development.

How/when did you know this is what you wanted to do as a career?

I originally went to Kenya when I graduated from high school in 2009 to take part in a teaching and building volunteering program for two weeks. I personally never thought I was academic so didn’t think seriously about university or the possible opportunities that could come from it. During my second trip to Kenya in my gap year for 6 months in 2010, I came across a family of 10. Eight children were born into a family making less than $1 a day. The mother, Zipporah, was illiterate and uneducated whilst the father, Jack, worked casually as a labourer. This was the evening that changed my life. There I was, an 18-year-old, fresh out of a private high school taking for granted that I had been accepted into a university course and had deferred it as I was certain I wouldn’t go. I didn’t want to go because of pressure from my family. And little did I realise the opportunities university would afford me, and just how lucky we are to receive the access and levels of education that we do here in Australia. I realised that school, let alone university, was something the people of this village, and specifically women and girls could only dream of. The only reason they couldn’t go was they were born into families they didn’t choose, that are so unfortunately deprived of the opportunities that we get. At 19 years of age, I felt obliged to do something about it. I wanted an education for me, and I wanted an education for these communities. Education I believe is one of the main keys to ending the cycle of poverty, and I want this to be my life.

Inspirational Women, Charity, Life Advice, Career Advice, Career Development

What drove you to creating Gennarosity Abroad?

I couldn’t help but notice a kindergarten shack made from cardboard and wood in the original state it had been when it was built thirty years prior. The same cardboard walls that were old and decrepit, the same wooden desks and chairs that were falling apart, and the same timber roof that was caving in. I wanted to help and provide a better learning environment for those children didn’t give up until I accomplished my mission. This is how Gennarosity Abroad began.

Since building the kindergarten in 2010, we have established and a training centre in Karunga. The purpose of this centre is to teach uneducated and illiterate women and girls above the age of 12 years. We promote gender equality by providing a quality school environment, helping avoid HIV/AIDS, improve maternal health, promote child protection, provide counselling services and increase accessibility to clean water and sanitation. Up to 40 students will be selected annually for this course which will enhance their abilities to support their families by teaching the following basic skills: sewing, English and Swahili, mathematics, financial literacy/business students and health education.

What were the initial stumbling blocks, getting Gennarosity Abroad started and since then?

Where do we begin? There have been a number of hurdles along the way, some of which we are still trying to overcome. A main issue we have had to work around is the corruption in Kenya. Unfortunately due to my complexion, I am a walking dollar sign for those who want to do business with us resulting in prices increase and bribes which I don’t like to condone. Numerous times we have had teaching materials shipped to Kenya from Australia as well, and unfortunately some of these boxes never make it through their customs borders. It is sad how corrupt it is and that there is no consideration for the purpose of the contents of the boxes which would so greatly help the community. Our greatest hurdle at the moment though is trying to get our DGR status approved, which will help us with getting fundraising and donations from companies and individuals who would like the claim back their donations on tax. There is a lot more paperwork and a lot more processes than we anticipated with most things, but it is all part of the learning curve.

How did you overcome these?

It’s important to be smart about these things and have an understanding of the cultural differences. I now don’t go along on business deals and have my Kenyan business manager and team organise any deals that are necessary. I have very strong views about not paying bribes, especially if it’s the charity’s money paying them when that should be going towards the project and improving lives, not for those who are greedy and misuse their power and authority. The only way to get DGR status is to continue to be hopeful and keep amending and resubmitting the documents until we’ve met the standards required.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?

My mentor in high school was my tutor, David Whitcombe who always told his stories about his time in Namibia. As I already had an interest in Africa, this nourished my desire Since beginning my journey with Gennarosity Aboard, this has expanded to Margaret Lowe, the deputy principal of Emanuel School and one of my sisters, Stephanie Radnan who has stuck by my side and dedicated hours upon hours to help me lift this charity off the ground. They have helped put my charity website together, completing forms and information for registering the charity and help with fundraising events. We hold meetings monthly to convene about where the charity is, what we are working on, and where to go from here, as well as problem solving any issues we are currently facing.

You deal with issues that others often shy away from, what drives and motivates you to keep going?

I just don’t believe in giving up when times get tough. A lot of people tell me I am fighting an uphill battle. But I don’t understand why that is necessarily a bad thing. I don’t understand why people give up on things so easily. Maybe it’s a result of the culture we live in where everything seems to revolve around instant gratification. The issues of poverty aren’t going to be resolved anytime soon, and I’m in it for the long haul. Being ignorant and only observing the hardships this world faces doesn’t do anything to help resolve the issues. Poverty isn’t going to be solved by watching the news or reading about the devastation that it causes in the papers or online. And all I can do is help in whichever way I know how, and on whatever scale that might be. What drives me to keep going is that poverty won’t be solved overnight, and so you have to keep going. Everyone leaves a mark on this world somehow, and I want this to be mine.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration in knowing I have the personal ability and communal support to follow my dreams. When you look at the bigger picture it is daunting however if you take it step by step and day by day it’s much more achievable. The most inspiring aspect is seeing the outcome from the work we do. Having graduates from 2013 open up their own businesses from the skills they were taught at our Grandma Jenny’s Training Centre is priceless. We have given 70 women and girls the opportunity to better not only their lives, but cascading down to their family members and community.

What are your goals for the future and the future of Gennarosity Abroad?

I would love to one day open up a medical clinic and an academy however this will only take place once the training centre is self-sufficient. I want all my projects to be run by the community for the community without depending on the help of the charity full time. This would be my ultimate success; helping the communities developing facilities that they will then be able to manage and run as part of their society.

Inspirational Women, Charity, Life Advice, Career Advice, Career Development

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

Do it! Get involved, find out how and go do it. So many people want to stop you from achieving your dreams because it’s hard. Let me tell you, that’s a part of life. Once you accept that and get on with it, you’ll be further than you know. Surround yourself with likeminded people and those who have similar interests, passions and hobbies. Ask questions, all the time. Find out what you can, discover your passions, and then take action. I am always happy for people to come on board and help out. So if anyone is interested, don’t be shy and please contact me.

What’s your personal mission statement?

You can’t help the family you are born into. We should all feel obliged to help as those around us born into poverty could have just as easily have been us. We aren’t entitled to the lives we live. We are just so incredibly fortunate for how fate guided us. If we could all just spend 5 minutes a day doing something for someone else then this world would be a much greater place. I am all about recognising my fortunes, and helping to spread them to those who weren’t so lucky.

 Images via

A Day In The Life Of… Amber Scott

Ever wanted to step into somebody else’s shoes for the day and see what life is like as a magazine editor, a professional sportsperson or corporate high-flyer..? Well, SHESAID is giving you the closest thing to your very own Freaky Friday experience with our A Day In The Life Of… series.

RELATED: A Day In The Life Of… Jordan Mercer

Name and role

Amber Scott, principal artist with the Australian Ballet

Tell us a bit about what you do?

My life as a ballerina is a combination of dedicated routine alongside a great deal of travel and performing. From the outside, a life on the stage and performing around Australia and overseas may seem glamorous, but in reality there is a hidden backstage world where all dancers work themselves to peak physical condition every day. Sweating it out in the studio for hours leads to the reward of performing when a new season opens.

When did you discover your talent? Did you always want to be a dancer?

When I was a young girl my mother noted my boundless energy and took me to creative dance classes. I loved these as it was such a fun way to express all that energy. I grew up on the Sunshine Coast QLD so being physical was such a huge part of my youth. I feel all the running, swimming and climbing I did as a youngster really helped condition my body for the life ahead. My parents took me to see Swan Lake when I was five and it was definitely an epiphany, I think that was my fated moment when I knew what I wanted to do. Along the way, the years of training and endless dedication occasionally became a bit tedious and I probably had ulterior careers such as a paediatrician or actress up my sleeve, but my true love of dance always won out!

Inspirational Women, A Day In The Life Of, Career Development, Career Advice, Ballet, Performance, Talent, Theatre

Where do you find your inspiration? Who has had the most impact on you and your career?

I have been inspired by every teacher I have been lucky enough to learn from. My first teacher Anne Fraser was so important in teaching me the pure beauty of classical technique. Eileen Tasker from the National TheatreBallet school in Melbourne gave me the courage to go for it and try new steps and even if they weren’t perfect she gave me a real sense of joy in performing. Marilyn Rowe OBE, Gailene Stock CBE AM and Leigh Rowles picked me out from a room of eleven-year-olds to join their associate program and thus began my life within The Australian Ballet family. Marilyn Jones OBE directed me as young girl and taught me my first solo en pointe. I feel so lucky to have been inspired by these women from a young age. They all gave so generously of their time and shared their ballerina secrets with me. When I think of grace, kindness and humility I think of all these ladies. My mother is also a beacon of light for me. She gave up a lot of her dreams so I could have mine and we had so much fun learning together about this wondrous world of ballet. It’s always so special to perform when my family are in the audience. Thinking of them comforts me and makes me want to express all the joy of life when I’m onstage.

It’s not always bright lights and glory. How do you deal with the challenges and down times?

The toughest times have been when I have been off because of an injury, or having to dance through pain because of one. It is par for the course in our line of work and fortunately we have a brilliant medical team to guide us through these times and keep us strong. I certainly wouldn’t have lasted this long without their care! Sometimes early in my career the amount of shows our company perform each year (160+) would really wear me down and even though we would be performing beautiful works, the grind would be really hard to push through. Looking back I can see how all those years of pushing through endless corps de ballet roles really gives you the grit you need to have longevity in this career.

What role has had the most effect on you? Tell us a bit about your latest projects…

I think the role of Odette in both Graeme Murphy’s and Stephen Baynes’ versions of Swan Lake have had the biggest impact on my career. It was my first big break when David McAllister asked me to be Odette when I was 21. I still feel so grateful for that leap of faith he took in me, it was terrifying and wonderful all at once! I still am dancing that role and growing with the ballet each year we perform it. I think I will always be learning more about her character. The other special Odette moment was when Stephen Baynes said I would be in his premiere cast for a new traditional version. I was a principal artist at that point, terrified all over again but so humbled to be stepping into that iconic ballerina role. I love the score of Swan Lake and always find this motivates the emotions I feel for the ballet.

A Day In The Life Of, Inspirational Women, Career Development, Career Advice, Life Advice, Ballet, Theatre, Performance, Talent

Your workdays are much more exciting than the average 9 to 5. When you’re preparing or performing, what does a typical day involve?

My workday is certainly not the usual 9-5 but it also varies a great deal depending on our performance schedule. Over years of late theatre nights I am certainly not a “morning person”! Because of this I tend to push back waking up until 8am and then dawdle over breakfast. chores and emails at home. After a stop off at a local café for a flat white I get to work about 9:45am to warm up for class.

Class is generally a similar affair each day. We begin at the barre to warm and stretch our bodies and gradually the intensity increases to include turns and jumping in the centre of the room. After a 15-minute break it’s back into the studio for two and a half hours of whatever ballet is coming up. At the moment there are four different ballets being rehearsed so it is a typically busy time at the Australian Ballet. If it is a show day we will stop at 3pm to rest, eat and maybe get some physio before heading to the theatre at 5pm to put make-up on and prepare for the 7:30pm performance. After a big show I like to jump in the ice buckets up to my knees to combat any swelling or muscle soreness the next day. Then it’s time to go home and have a late dinner, usually an omelette or leftover pasta, around 11pm. Not ideal dietary advice but I prefer to relax and eat dinner after the show so I don’t feel queasy during pas de deuxs! On the days when we don’t perform I keep rehearsing after lunch till 6:30pm and then head home to cook dinner or catch up with friends and family if I can. I love cooking, it’s one of my favourite ways to unwind at the end of the day. The Ugg boots go on and then it’s straight to the kitchen to try a new recipe out with my boyfriend. Actually he is more of a “recipe” person and a great cook. I tend to make up dishes depending on what we have in the house. Luckily he is always very encouraging of my experimentation!

A Day In The Life Of, Inspirational Women, Career Development, Career Advice, Life Advice, Ballet, Theatre, Performance, Talent

What are your goals for the future?

My most immediate goal for the future is to give my all to performing Aurora and Lilac Fairy in David McAllister’s new production The Sleeping Beauty. I am loving revisiting both these roles and re-interpreting them with a more mature approach. There have been many rewarding hours spent with David and our Ballet Mistress Fiona Tonkin helping me develop my interpretation. The staff of the company spend so much time with us, they see us at our best and worst, I always feel so lucky to be able to be completely honest in the studio with them.

In the distant future, I would like to study health science and continue learning about human anatomy which is something I am currently studying online. I think it will tie in really well with my ballet background and hopefully enable me to give back to the artform in some way in the future. Of course, I hope to keep dancing as long as possible and hopefully revisit some of my favourite roles such as Tatiana in Onegin, and Manon. Beyond that, I daydream of travels to Europe, having a family, a garden, and staying happy and healthy.

What advice would you give to someone following the same path as you?

As advice for someone wanting to be a ballerina I can only offer advice based on my own experience. I think if I was speaking to myself as young person I would say, be patient and be kind to yourself. It’s natural for dancers to be very self-critical but if you spend so much energy focussing on the negative you lose that feeling of joy and escapism that dance can offer. I would also say to embrace your uniqueness. Forget about lack of physical symmetry, stiff joints, not being flexible enough, and celebrate your strengths. The audience doesn’t want to see all that worry, they want to be swept away into another world.

A Day In The Life Of, Inspirational Women, Career Development, Career Advice, Life Advice, Ballet, Theatre, Performance, Talent

Amber will be performing in The Australian Ballet’s upcoming contemporary triple bill, 20:21. The show in Sydney will run from 5th – 21st of November. For tickets head to

Women On Top: Maria’s The New Face Of Australia’s Mining Industry

When it comes to Australia’s $128 billion-dollar, male-dominated mining industry – one high achiever stands out from the rest: MEC Mining’s general manager Maria Joyce.

RELATED: Business Ethics: Why Can’t People Keep Their Word?

Maria, 33, is at the helm of MEC, a Brisbane-based, global mining consultancy which recently capped off its milestone 10th anniversary year by being selected as a finalist – as only a first-time entrant – at the prestigious 2015 Telstra Queensland Business Awards.

With a Brisbane HQ at 215 Adelaide St, and an office in Santiago, Chile, MEC Mining specialises in mine planning, onsite management, training and innovative and flexible technical services solutions for the international mining industry.

In its 10 years of operation, MEC has contributed to a total value of $140 billion worth of projects and provided expertise in 13 countries and across 11 commodities. In addition, it has completed 400 projects and consulted for more than 100 clients since its inception, specialising in both open-cut and underground mining for the coal and minerals sectors.

A highly capable senior businesswoman, armed with 12 years’ industry experience and a UQ Bachelor of Engineering Mining (Honours), Maria represents the future of both MEC and the Australian mining industry.

And whereas once it was unheard of for a woman to be running a mining company, Maria is also joined by another highly accomplished businesswoman – MEC’s commercial manager Julia Kouba – at the top, alongside the company’s founder/director Daniel Chippendale, co-director Ted Boulton and managing director Simon Cohn.

However, this is far from the norm: mining remains Australia’s most male-dominated industry, with men holding more than 90 per cent of executive positions. And in the global mining industry, women hold just eight per cent of executive committee positions reporting directly to the chief executive officer, according to a recent study.

careers, businesswomen, career development, women in mining, sexism

So, how did Maria do it? By being a first-class businesswoman first and a woman, second. She’s brought a wealth of knowledge, skills and proven competencies to her challenging and rewarding role, such as strong leadership and outstanding professionalism, experience and dedication. And never one to shy away from any obstacle in her path to success, Maria has always relished defying industry sexism.

“Having worked in a variety of roles, different operations and on studies both domestically and internationally, I have been constantly challenged both as a woman and a professional in the industry,” Maria says.

“I have never been afraid to take on a new challenge, but more-so I look to seek them out and conquer them. At times in my career when I feel I wasn’t taken seriously because of my gender, I dusted myself off and worked even harder to earn the respect and support of these individuals and to date I have been successful.

“Throughout my career I have always maintained my core values as a person and as a professional and this is something I am very proud of. Working in a leadership position at MEC has been my most challenging and rewarding role yet. The key leadership team, outside of the company owners/directors, are all women and we support/mentor one another on a daily basis.”

Maria’s current role sees her work closely with the company directors, commercial department and the HR and recruitment team to ensure MEC maintains its first-rate reputation for delivering proven and quality outcomes to its clients.

In addition, she oversees MEC’s Australian-based office and site-based consultants and manages the company’s varied client base, which ranges from pit engineers in the Bowen Basin all the way through to CEOs across the world.

careers, businesswomen, career development, women in mining, sexism

She first joined MEC as a senior mining engineer in 2007, working her way up to the role of Technical Services Manager of the company’s Townsville office, at which she led a team of consultants through the mining industry downturn.

And Maria is also busily supporting other women’s ascension through the ranks in the mining industry as a mentor for Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ), a voluntary, not-for-profit group supported by The Queensland Resources Council.

“I am enjoying the opportunity to encourage and empower other women in mining through WIMARQ,” she says. “Throughout my career, I feel I have encouraged and supported both women and men alike within the mining industry and it’s great to have the occasion to turn this into something more formalised.

“It is a pretty amazing opportunity to have a real impact on the lives of young women entering the industry and I take this on with great seriousness and consider it a privilege.”

Maria sees her biggest challenge in her current role as striking a work/life balance, but luckily for her, she’s got a massive backer in her­­­ husband.

“I constantly battle with maintaining a work/life balance and this is something I have honestly struggled with my entire career,” she says. “I finally feel as though I am maturing in this space. I have an extremely supportive husband and we have both made sacrifices in our careers for one another.

“He followed me throughout my career in the Bowen Basin and then when he had his opportunity to take on a new challenge in Northern Queensland, I followed him to Townsville.”

Outside of her work, Maria’s interests include health and mental fitness – she’s even a qualified CrossFit Level 1 trainer.  “I challenge myself not only at work, but at CrossFit, which is another passion of mine in life,” she says.

“It builds mental confidence and strength to take on challenges in life. It also instils important values such as compassion, integrity and a sense of community.”

Images via,

Inspirational Women: Celeste Barber

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Juliette Wright

Name and role

Celeste Barber Actor, comedian, #celestechallengeaccepted creator.

Tell us about your passion as a comedian? How long have you known you wanted to make people laugh?

People have been laughing at me for as long as I can remember. From a really young age people would always laugh at stupid things I did, it used to frustrate me because I wanted to be taken seriously.

What was the hardest time in your career and why?

It’s really hard to have a consistent ongoing career in Australia. It can be quite disheartening at times. I know some of the most amazing actors that are working for their parents to pay the bills. So whenever I am working I’m really grateful. The hardest time I have had while actually working was when Mark died. We worked together on All Saints and he was my best friend. When he died I never wanted to act again.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My friends. I have the greatest friends in the whole wide world, I’m sure other people say that but they are lying, MY FRIENDS ARE BETTER THAN ANYONES. I’m pretty picky with the people I spend my time with, so the people I surround myself with are quality. I LOVE actors and creative people, they really inspire me, but most of my friends have ‘normal’ jobs from HR management to retail assistants. My sister, Olivia is a university tutor and is by far my favourite person in the whole wide world.

Inspirational Women, social media, Instagram, comedy, actor, Career Development, Career Advice, Mentor, Life Advice

How do you feel about the huge amount of media you have received in the past two weeks?

Weird, fun, scary, awesome, stupid, crazy and exciting.

What has been the craziest minute of the past few weeks?

Sitting with my husband and two friends Kate and Phil last saturday night. My sister called and told me the Daily Mail online had done an article on me. So we spent the rest of the night watching my Instagram account grow. We invented some fun drinking games: ‘For every 100 followers we must scull.’


Because it’s weird. I’ve been working in the industry since 2003 and all of a sudden I post a photo of myself lying half naked on a dirt pile and BAM, I’m running for president.

How did you handle it?

I drank, A LOT.

Why do you think people have responded so well to your take-offs of celebrity photos?

I don’t really know, I think people like to laugh, I know I do. Seeing fancy people do fancy things that require A LOT of fancy money and calling it ‘everyday’ is kind of tiring to see all the time. So I wanted to be me, not so fancy, a bit silly and super honest.

Inspirational Women, social media, Instagram, comedy, actor, Career Development, Career Advice, Mentor, Life Advice

Did you have a mentor?

I have a few, I ask a lot of different people what they think about a script or a photo I want to post before I do it, the people that are close to me are my mentors.

Who/what helped you to get your career of the ground?

MY PARENTS, my mum has always said to me is “just be yourself” and that has always stuck in my head. As well as financial supporting when I as younger, they were always said and lead by me. If I called them and said that I wanted to leave my agent and freelance for a while, even though the security of an agent was appealing to them they were always supportive of my decision. My dad would say: “Whatever you want to do princess is great.”

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path and since then?

It wasn’t until I actually started working on All Saints that I realised I was funny. I had done the Big Laugh Comedy Festival before I started on the show, but I didn’t really think I was great at it. I really love and respect the people I worked with on that show and we had so much fun. Joking around on set with people like Mark Priestly, Virginia Gay, Wil Traval – people I think are fucking hilarious was where I think I found my confidence in comedy.

Inspirational Women, social media, Instagram, comedy, actor, Career Development, Career Advice, Mentor, Life Advice

How did you overcome these?

I feel like I got old really fast, I have always been the youngest in my group of friends. But then it felt like all of a sudden there were people younger than me audition for the same things and I thought: ‘Okay, it’s time to realise that funny is your thing, and if you’re not going to wrap your head around that soon and have a crack at this acting thing then there are a lot of younger people who will do it for you.’

You said “next step Ellen”, which is so totally possible (and we cant wait!).  What would you love to ask Ellen about her career as a comedian?

The first thing I would ask her is if I could go house shopping with her, I LOVE interior design (I’m constantly moving my house around, much to my hot husbands disgust) and she seems to buy a house live in it then move 6 months later. I’m quite angry, loud and self- deprecating with my comedy, whereas I find Ellen to be upbeat and positive which I LOVE. I would ask her if I could borrow some of her ‘happy pills’ so I could be more like her.

Who makes you laugh?  

My 4 year old son Lou, he LOVES making people laugh.  My sister and the way my mum talks to my dad when she knows she has an audience. Also, my husband falling over is the funniest thing ever. He is the most grounded, coordinated, centred human I have ever met. He surfs, skates, snowboards and can ride a bike one handed while carrying our sleeping 4 year old son. So when he slips or trips on something, I have to stop what I’m doing so I can respect the belly laugh that is about to spew out of me.

Inspirational Women, social media, Instagram, comedy, actor, Career Development, Career Advice, Mentor, Life Advice

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as y?

I really struggle with giving people advice. There is SO MUCH advice being given by people that are really privileged and out of touch. Insta quotes will be the death of me. So I guess my non advice would be: Have a crack at it, or don’t. Whatever.

What is your biggest dream for your career?

Work with Tina Fey, I want to do more TV. I LOVE working in TV. Sitting around on set a lot of people talk about doing films, but my heart lies in TV.  I want to be given lots of money to work on the scripts that my friend Belinda and I have and when they are ready, shop them around. That would be pretty cool. To be honest, I’d like to be offered something, I’m HORRIBLE at auditions I hate them so to skip that step and just be offered a comedy role would be a highlight. I’d love to be part of SNL.

To see more of Celeste’s work and #celestechallengeaccepted follow her on Instagram: @celestebarber

Inspirational Women: Hannah O’Donnell nee Furness

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Violeta Ayala

Name and role

Hannah O’Donnell (nee Furness), founder and managing director of Straight Up PR.

Straight Up PR is a health and wellbeing lifestyle PR agency, whereby we connect our clients with the people they care about. With our Straight Up approach to PR we work with media, bloggers and influencers to deliver strategic, and meaningful public relations campaigns that achieve outstanding results.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

With my team I generate the right kind of noise for and about our clients from their target audience. I do this by connecting with people on a deeper than surface level, through getting to know my clients personally and professional and taking a keen interest in understanding their business objectives. Once I’ve got this covered, I can then build a targeted public relations strategy and advise on the various ways of reaching and exceeding their goals, and reasons for engaging in PR. We then work closely with media, bloggers and influencers and provide them with content which we know is right up their alley for their respective outlets.

We don’t stop here as these days PR is so much more than your contact list, it’s also about being able to appreciate a damn good publicity opportunity when you hear or see it – always knowing and being able to recommend the right events for your clients to attend, awards they should be entering, discussions they should be taking part in on social media or speaking opportunities they should be going for. But how can we possibly do this all in a days work? Well that’s easy, it’s called communication – and not the kind where you sit behind your computer all day, no, we get out and we take our clients with us – totally immersing ourselves and those who work with us, in the amazing possibilities that are out there. If you just take the time to truly connect with people you’ll be surprised by the beautiful opportunities that will present themselves.

How/when did you know this is what you wanted to do as a career?

I studied a Bachelor of Communications with majors in Marketing and PR and was on the fence for a little bit as to which one I really wanted to focus on – because I loved (and still do) organising events and being creative but also writing, and the power of the media also fascinated me. I then realised that PR could provide me with all of this. Brilliant.

As for having my own PR agency, this has always been something I knew I would do or perhaps others around me knew I would do and would often remind me of this, but for me it was just a matter of when. I needed to get the experience I needed and learn from amazing and not so amazing leaders, make mistakes and then hit that moment in life which so many people talk about as their defining moment, and that which spurs them on to do something daring, or just simply, do it. This moment, when I decided to make the decision to resign from the security of my fulltime job and entertain the idea of starting my own business, actually wasn’t as scary as you would think. It just felt so right. And I now appreciate why that is, when you’re doing something that you are meant to do and living in your authentic self then it should feel like you’ve been there before and you’re in your natural flow.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I don’t look to other people in my industry for inspiration and I’ve never just had one person who I’ve admired. Since starting Straight Up PR my biggest source of inspiration has been the health and wellbeing industry, as although I love PR and the media industry and this was what I always wanted to be the core of my business, I also knew that I didn’t want to run my business or life like a typical PR agency as saw the huge burnout in staff and futile client relationships sometimes cultivated. So I modeled my business vision on that of the health and wellbeing industry, whereby we live and breath the health and wellbeing ‘workstyle’ aka lifestyle. By this I mean the typical 9-5 job doesn’t apply to us, we do yoga and pilates and go for walks during the day, and work from cafes or parks if that’s what we need to do. We listen to our bodies and energise our souls and in return our clients are thanking us for it, as we consistently deliver creative and outstanding results. And we do it all with a smile.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you learn more from your ‘not so great’ examples in life then the good ones, which I can somewhat relate to from a work perspective as it’s often these people that provoke some kind of reaction within and fuel something you might never have known existed (I thank them for this.) Sure, I learnt from these significant others a lot of what I don’t like and don’t want to be like as a manager and team member, but also what I do appreciate and what’s truly important to me. But in saying this I’ve had some incredible people along the way support me in my career journey and I’m very thankful for the opportunities that have come my way. But most of all I also have to thank my parents for this as mentors can only get you so far; you also have to have the right attitude, as that will take you the whole way.

My big tip here is that there’s always going to be people along the way who will help and encourage you, inspire and back you and also those that won’t be so supportive, but that’s ok. It’s when you start to front up to life wholeheartedly and allow yourself the beauty of what others have to offer you whether you like it or not, and start to be actively present getting comfortable with trying new things and taking risks and being vulnerable, then the worst that could happen is that you might just find happiness and in turn success with your life professionally but also personally. Give it a go.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path and since then?

Taking the first step and understanding that I didn’t have to complete the staircase straight away or have all of the answers. Once I made the decision to do my own thing and start Straight Up PR then the rest just followed. Sometimes I have to stop myself from saying how easy it was, as of course there’s been challenges but they’re my own challenges and I would have it no other way. I love that my husband encouraged and allowed me to just take some time off to do my yoga and pilates and chill out, well, this was the plan but within days the word spread and business started flowing in that I had started out on my own. Months went by and with business booming I thought I better get serious about this and employ my first employee. Whilst I considered working from home with Nastasia (my right arm!) I thought that we better get an office space to base ourselves and all of the ‘stuff’ that comes along with working in PR – magazines and our gorgeous clients yummy products can take up a bit of room!

How did you overcome them?

I simply just faced them head on and with the most supportive husband, family and friends I felt like I could conquer anything, and still do. You know it’s funny, I often think about getting a business coach and entertain the idea and then once I read what they have to say about limiting beliefs and fearing failure or success, it just reconfirms for me that what I’ve got is an exception to the rule as I’ve fortunately never suffered with this but can see how hindering our mind can be.

I’ve also realised over time some of my own body and mind triggers and what does and doesn’t work for me. So at all times I try to remain true to this. For instance, just this month actually my husband and I settled on our house and started renovations, so we’ve been living with my parents-in-law while the bathroom gets done. To add to this we’ve moved from central CBD to north shore, yes over the bridge, our friends have been saying goodbye to us like we’ve moved overseas! Well we have I suppose, but not really. This change in my life has actively reminded me of the power of our mind. I pride myself at Straight Up PR that we don’t do things the typical ‘agency way’ and that we all listen to our bodies, minds and hearts so that we can deliver stellar results for our clients, and most importantly be happy. And this month, after not feeling this sensation for a long time, I felt scattered and unsettled, I felt like I was back in the day to day grind of old agency life, getting up early to race to meetings, not getting to my pilates class, leaving late.. and I didn’t like it.

So I have actively been trying to make little changes so that I can get into my own little rhythm again so that I can get through these next five weeks a little in limbo. A sucker for routine some might say. But hey, if you know what works for you then you will only ever be your own barrier – take the steps and make the changes in your life so that you can be truly happy. Too many people sit still and ignore all of the signs – instead listen to them and take action.

What are your goals for the future?

To continue to grow Straight Up PR at a steady rate in Australia and then look offshore to New Zealand to expand our horizons, as we’ve noticed a huge surge in health and wellbeing products and businesses that could do with our expertise. We’ve also just started Straight Up People and we’re very much looking forward to growing the talent management side of the business for health and wellbeing influencers.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

Don’t use recruiters if you’re in PR. You should be able to PR yourself. So get out there, immerse yourself in the media industry, do your research on the type of PR that you would like to do and agencies that you respect and you would like to work at. Then contact the agencies directly and ask to take the MD out for a tea or coffee or even a juice so that you can communicate face to face how you could add value to their business. The fact that you are asking for someone’s valuable time shows that you aren’t going to waste it and you’re somebody that they should meet. Then after this, follow up with a nice email. This is often the step that people miss and for me is the most important because if I meet with someone and they don’t follow up then they are not even going to be considered.

My dream child Nastasia actually hit this step out of the park – as when we met I bought her a green tea and was talking about how much I loved tea, and days went by and I hadn’t received an email and was starting to get baffled as I pride myself on having good gut instincts with people and thought the energy was right with this one…  but instead of ‘just an email’ Nastasia actually sent me a hand written card in the post with a green tea enclosed saying how nice it was to meet and “this time the green tea is on me!” Winner!

A Day In The Life Of… The Style Co.

Ever wanted to step into somebody else’s shoes for the day and see what life is like as a magazine editor, a professional sportsperson or corporate high-flyer..? Well, SHESAID is giving you the closest thing to your very own Freaky Friday experience with our A Day In The Life Of… series.

RELATED: A Day In The Life Of… Sara Caverley

Names and roles

Marie Cruz and Sarah Gonsalves, owners of The Style Co. 

Tell us about The Style Co. How did it come about and what makes it unique to others?

The Style Co. was born from Marie’s frustrations over the lack of unique options to customise the design and feel of her own wedding. This belief that every event whether it be an wedding or private event, should be customised to make people feel something, is the oxygen that fuels our super talented team of twelve to continuously show clients that thinking outside the box is the only way to execute an event.

When did you both discover your talent? Where you always creative bodies?

Marie: I’ve always been creative, from making jewellery right through to designing stationery, so event design was a natural progression and one that only become my serious career path after years of working as travel agent left me feeling uninspired and hungry to start my own business.

Sarah: I was lulled into the world of events whilst completing an internship at a creative agency. It was here that I fell in love how styling could significantly impact people’s experiences and I knew that finally I had found my calling.

The Style Co. , Inspirational Women, events, Style, Career Advice, Career Development , A Day In The Life Of

You create beautiful custom events that continually push the boundaries, do you ever feel the pressure to continually design, create and impress?

We love the challenge of continuously thinking outside the box and designing something that is innovative, fresh and experiential. We don’t feel any pressure externally, it’s more so an internal drive within our team, that sees us always reaching for bigger and brighter ideas that we know will create lifelong memories for our clients and their guests.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Our inspiration comes from so many amazing places, particularly from this amazing city – Melbourne! We’re obsessed with architecture, interiors, fashion, travelling and soaking up the millions of beautiful images we see on blogs and Pinterest.

The Style Co is now in its fifth year of operation, congratulations! What were the initial stumbling blocks and how have you overcome them?

The finance side of the business. Day to day cashflow was difficult to manage at the beginning.  It’s not something that comes easily to a lot of creatives and also something you don’t think about when starting a creative business. Not being able to pay myself an income the first few months also meant that I took a hit personally and had to juggle bills and a mortgage.

The Style Co. , Inspirational Women, events, Style, Career Advice, Career Development , A Day In The Life Of

What are your goals for the future and the future of The Style Co.?

To continue pushing the boundaries and showing people the possibilities when designing events.  We also have our eyes set on doing a few events overseas and workshops.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in the same career path as yourself?

Get as much experience as possible.  If it means putting your hand up for free work, do it.  And work hard!  Call the people in the industry that inspire you and ask them what they look for when hiring.  Each business is looking for something different.. but something we all have in common is that we’re all looking for the hardest working and most eager to learn.

Your workdays are much more exciting than the average 9 to 5. What does a work day for you involve? Particularly if you were planning or the day of an event!

The designing and planning of an event can sometimes be more hectic than event day itself..  but there really is no typical day..


6:45am: Hit snooze on the old alarm

7am: Wake up, get ready and pack Harrison’s things

8am: Wake Harrison up, feed him and get him ready (pray to God I don’t have a screaming baby on my hands)

8.45am: Head to work with baby on board

9am: Have breakfast and check my emails

9.30am: Daily team meeting to discuss the week ahead

10am-6pm: Is generally filled with site visits, concept meetings, supplier meetings, sourcing, workshop and marketing planning all while juggling Harrison feeding routine.

6pm to 7pm: Client meetings where the team present our latest concepts

7.30pm: Put Harrison to bed, have dinner and catch up on daily gossip with hubby or watch the next episode of whatever series I happen to be obsessed with at the time

10pm: Respond to emails and troll the Internet for design inspiration or check out and obsess over unrealistic holiday destinations that I can’t take a baby to (sad face).

11:30pm: Hit the sack and hope that bub sleeps through the night.

The Style Co. , Inspirational Women, events, Style, Career Advice, Career Development , A Day In The Life Of


6am: Alarm goes off. Denial sets in…….snooze!

6:15am: Alarm goes off again!!! Get up & shower relunctantly. Throw on some (hopefully clean) gym gear, grab a change of clothes and head out the door.

6:30am: Drive to Pilates listening to Triple J.On the way I’m brainwashing myself by repeating the mantra ‘exercise is a good thing’

7am: Pilates with some of my fellow Style Co. team members

7:45am: Pull my broken body off the reformer bed and hit the showers.

8:30am: Back in the car heading to the studio.

8:45am: Arrive at studio, make brekky whilst gossiping about the night before’s Bachelor episode. #welovebachie

9am: Sit down and map out my day and prioritising my tasks.

9:30am: Daily Meeting with the team to get a run down of everyone’s top priorities.

10:00am – 6:00pm: A standard ‘work’ day consists of lengthy phone calls with overwhelmed brides, site inspections, new client appointments, management meetings, design presentations, catching up on my fav blogs and daydreaming on Pinterest.

6:30pm: Switch into girlfriend mode (Damien my boyfriend also works at The Style Co.) and we head out for a bite to eat choosing from a Broadsheet wishlist he’s enthusiastically created over the weekend.

9:30pm: Get home, shower, read a chapter of whatever happens to be resting on my bedside table.

10:30pm: Bedtime. *High-five* Damien for remembering to turn the electric blankets on!

Images via The Style Co.

Inspirational Women: Juliette Wright

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Jillian Broadbent 

Name and role

Juliette Wright, GIVIT Founder and CEO, Australia’s Local Hero 2015

Tell us a bit about what you do, what do you get up to on a day-to-day basis?

On a day to day basis I take care of two gorgeous kids who are 6 and 8 years old and although I am CEO of Australian charity GIVIT during the week, on weekends I’m supporting my family manage a cattle property on the NSW / QLD border.

What drove you to establish GIVIT? When did you realise this was what you wanted to do?

Following the birth of my second child in 2008, I was surprised at the struggle endured trying to donate my second-hand baby clothes to someone in need. Instead, local charities were searching desperately for essential items such as sanitary products for women who had fled domestic violence, steel-capped boots to enable unemployed fathers to secure work and clean mattresses to stop children sleeping on the floor. I quickly realised it wasn’t about overloading charities with items, but instead recognising the specific needs they already had to help pull their clients out of poverty. That’s where the idea of creating a website which connects those who can give items, to those charities which need those items, began.

Did you know there are more than 2.5 MILLION people (1 in 6 children) living in poverty in Australia? When I started GIVIT I had one goal – to make giving easy. I wanted to alleviate the effects of poverty by making sure every charity has what it needs through the simple act of giving… and what better way to do this than online. The following year I created GIVIT ( an online platform connecting those who have with those who need. Through GIVIT’s website everyday Australians are able to see exactly what is required by vulnerable members of their local community and easily donate those items. Somewhere in Australia, there is a pair of unwanted work boots which could help that father secure work to support his family, a reliable washing machine to allow a single mother the time to apply for work instead of washing clothes by hand and texts books to enable a disadvantaged student the chance to graduate university.

Since I established GIVIT in 2009, more than 210,000 items have been donated through our website to assist those in need. More than 1,000 trusted Australian charities are supported as these urgently needed items are sourced direct from the public. GIVIT supports the charities, but we also provide a platform encouraging and inspiring people to feel good about giving. Tens of thousands of Australians in every state and territory have donated through GIVIT to help someone else with an exact need. It is an amazingly uplifting experience to help someone who desperately needs it – I believe we help the givers too.

Inspirational Women: Juliette Wright

What have been the stumbling blocks, initially getting started and since then? How did you overcome these?

I have had a number of learnings. Business learnings and management learnings… so many in each of those. My biggest learning has been the importance of staying true to you.  When I have pretended to be someone I’m not, I’ve always failed.  For example, I am not bureaucratic at all and initially found working with government very challenging as they have such a huge (and essential) focus on risks and failure.  When I decided to be myself, mitigate issues my way and relate to them naturally, my relationship with them became stronger.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration in how generous people are – we see it every day. At GIVIT, we constantly hear amazing stories of how one simple donated item pulled someone else out of poverty. A personal favourite of mine was when a soccer ball was given to a young refugee boy struggling to fit in at school. He was very talented and playing soccer allowed him to go from zero to hero with the other children.  Donated rugby boots helped kick-start a rugby league team on the remote Mornington Island in far north Queensland. The disadvantaged community was struggling to form their first league team as they had just one pair of boots to share among 18 players. As part of an effort to help foster healthy community connections, local council contacted us in hopes our donors would respond. We shared their plight through our website and social media channels and within hours more than double the amount of requested boots had been donated from right across Australia. To me, that is simply amazing.  I’m also inspired by our reality – how can anyone rest when there is such awful poverty around us.

GIVIT not only helps those less fortunate but has stepped up in times of natural disaster. Can you tell us a bit about GIVIT’s involvement in the Queensland floods?

In 2011 Queensland was hit by devastating floods and an overwhelming number of people desperately needed essential items to help rebuild their lives. Then-Premier Anna Bligh turned to me for help and GIVIT became the state government’s official website for matching donations so charities weren’t swamped with excess, unwanted goods. The GIVIT website received 1.8 million hits in 10 days and more than 33,500 goods were matched in three weeks. This led to the establishment of a dedicated GIVIT Disaster Recovery service. In partnership with the Queensland Government, GIVIT is now the only reliable source of exactly what is needed in disaster response and recovery. I am incredibly proud of the system we created and the power it has to help Australia’s most vulnerable, especially during traumatic times such as Cyclone Marcia, the Moreton Bay floods, Logan House Fire and Ravenshoe café explosion.

Inspirational Women, Mentor, Charity, GIVIT, Queensland, Career Development, Life Advice


Your amazing work has seen you nominated for Queensland’s Business Women’s Award for Innovation and winning the Local Hero category at this year’s Australian of the Year awards. How do these recognitions affect you and GIVIT?

I feel unbelievably honoured to have received these awards and now be on the Australia Day Honour roll. Accepting an award from the Australian Prime Minister was the most humbling experience of my life. I this award helps inspire people who want to make a difference – don’t let anyone tell you it cannot be done! With GIVIT, this recognition and endorsement has provided me with renewed energy and passion. It’s given me the confidence to chase my goals, continue growing GIVIT and keep reaching out further to those who need it.

What are your goals for the future and the future of GIVIT?

In future, I would like GIVIT to be a household name nationally as I want all Australians to understand how one simple, donated item has the ability to pull someone else out of poverty. In Queensland, GIVIT will be heavily focused on disaster recovery – expanding from natural disasters to a disaster of any kind, including the support of families after a tragic event. On a personal level, my family and I grow cattle and run 1,000 breeders on a property outside Warwick in Queensland. Spending time on the property, I have grown an understanding of and empathy towards the land and those working on it. I am grief stricken by the stories coming from the land of how our farmers and local communities are being affected by the drought.  This has led me to create a Drought Campaign, aiming to pull every drought-affected community up by the boot-straps. As a result, next year I will be heavily focused on helping those living in remote, rural and regional areas.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

I have three…

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway. So many people told me GIVIT couldn’t be done and wouldn’t work. It has. If I listened to everyone who said no or I thought failure was a sign I was not supposed to be doing GIVIT, I would not have helped more than 210,000 people who are impoverished, marginalised or vulnerable.  
  • As social enterprises are always new and exciting, think about getting a law firm’s support.  When I started I was told I have the T&Cs of a hairdresser! Lawyers seem scary as a breed, but I think they have been the most surprisingly warm and supportive group. I said I wanted to start a donation portal and you know risk adverse they are! Get a ProBono lawyer, get their advice and solid T&Cs.
  • “It will be a roller coaster, enjoy the ride!” If I had have known that, I would not have been so surprised by the difficulties I have had to overcome to make it happen. GIVIT is supposed to be a positive, inspiring website but to obtain money to support its growth has been a constant challenge.

Inspirational Women, Mentor, Charity, GIVIT, Queensland, Career Development, Life Advice

Inspirational Women: Maggie Beer

Each week SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Pippa Hallas

Name and role

Maggie Beer, founder of Maggie Beer Products

What do you get up to on a day-to-day basis?

Everything in my life has been an ‘organic’ process that has developed rather than necessarily been planned… that’s not to say it has always been easy but more so that I have learnt to ‘go with the flow’. So when it came to a career involving food it really just evolved. There was no grand plan – but moving to the Barossa when I married Colin and being surrounded by such wonderful, seasonal produce certainly sparked my existing interest in food to be taken to the next level.

There isn’t really too much that’s ‘regular’ on a day-to-day basis! Every day is different for me, I might be filming and cooking in an aged care facility to promote my latest project, the Maggie Beer Foundation, teaming up with my favourite side kick from our TV days, Simon Bryant to cook on stage to a live performance by the WASO, taste testing and fine tuning my latest ice cream flavours with my product development team, cooking for a photo shoot for a magazine or my website, or picking produce from my garden to cook for dinner – always a common theme of food, food, food.

How/when did you know this is what you wanted to do as a career?

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was growing up, so when I left school I carried out a career ‘degustation’ of sorts – from a lift driver in a New Zealand department store to the assistant to the senior geophysicist for British Petroleum in Libya and in the fields of light aircraft to being a citizenship law clerk for the American Embassy and undertaking house management at the Women’s College of Sydney University. So when it came to a career involving food, it really just evolved.

Where do you think your passion for food developed from?

This is a tough one. In many ways it was my parents; my father, particularly, was a great cook and was obsessive about freshness and quality. As a child I learnt so much without realising it. Even when financially there were really tough times in our family, quality of food never suffered. Then the luck of coming to live in the Barossa continued my journey. This is where I really learnt about seasonality, simply because we lived it and it framed my whole philosophy on food. We were so busy surviving in the days of the Pheasant Farm Restaurant that we could not afford to eat out or travel for years. But that very thing allowed me to develop my own style by simply being a produce-driven cook. I loved the writings of Elizabeth David. She had abundant ideas and suggestions that spoke to me as I’ve never had the patience to follow recipes. Then later, I was influenced through my friendship with Stephanie Alexander, whose knowledge and writing adds so much to so many Australians.

What drove you to first create the Farm Shop/Barossa Pheasant Farm Restaurant?  

I guess the path chose me in that it was a necessity that turned into serendipity. When we first started breeding pheasants we could sell them just for novelty value but no one knew how to cook them. Any written recipes that people might have tried were pretty horrific and would have resulted in dry, overcooked birds – so no wonder they didn’t come back a second time. Cooking came naturally to me so that’s what I started to do – cook our pheasants, our quail, pickle our quail eggs, make our pate and utilise every bit of the birds. We started the farm shop and sold fresh birds with instructions on how I cooked them and offered roasted pheasant and stuffed quails as picnic food on the side of the dam. Still I wonder how I had the audacity, with no experience or training, to start a restaurant (the acclaimed Pheasant Farm Restaurant which closed in 1993) but I’m so happy I did. And today we’re a farm shop again, serving picnic fare, so we’ve truly come full circle.

,nspirational Women, Career Development, Life Advice, Cooking, Cook, Recipes, Career Advice

What were the initial stumbling blocks, getting started and since then?

My original food philosophy from all those years ago still stands today; to always cook from the heart, with ingredients at hand, never letting anything go to waste. This is the basis that underpins all that we did in the Farm Shop’s starting years, and all that I still hold dear now. Of course things have developed quite a bit since those early days of peaches arriving by the ute-full at the Farm Shop, and the pate being made in 10kg batches. Those first days of pate production, using a domestic food processor, didn’t even muster enough profit to cover our costs but it started something I could never have envisaged. Our first dedicated pate kitchen was the incubator shed rebuilt after a fire. That lasted for 10 years until we were bursting at the seams. In November 1996 we built our state-of-the-art Export Kitchen where even though our pate is now made in the thousands we still make it with as much care and attention to detail as we did in those first production days of only 4 to 5 blocks a week.

As an indication of terrific growth, the Pheasant Farm Pate is currently available in just under 2000 retail outlets across Australia, but it certainly hasn’t been all smooth sailing. When you rely on produce sourced in season you are completely dependant on the weather and its lack of predictability; fire, flood, pestilence, we’ve had it all. Even though it’s been tough at times, I love it. I have never been someone who is governed by convention, so I am always looking for another way of doing things.

You are much more than a humble cook, now a successful author, television presenter and businesswomen. What caused you to create and grow? Did you ever think your work would be such a hit?

Moving to the Valley and being surrounded by ever changing seasonal produce has always been my greatest inspiration, and that in turn has allowed me to learn my craft by trial and error and I’ve gone along from one idea to the next.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Superior seasonal produce is key to everything I create. Living in the Valley has certainly taught me a great deal about the rhythm of the seasons, how to delight in fruit and vegetables picked ripe and at their best, and how to maximise the potential of not only what can be grown here, but what is available in the wild too. There is nothing more engaging for a cook than to work closely with the freshest of fresh produce. It continues to be my inspiration and starting point for any new product that comes into the range.p

What are your goals for the future?

Given that I love what I do and have more ideas than I have time in life to fulfil them, my quest is simply for a bit more time for myself and my family and friends.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

Be tenacious, have a point of difference, think laterally and be prepared to work like the blazes!

Ones To Watch: Ashlee Harrison

Everybody is on the hunt for young up-and-comers and, here at SHESAID, we have been lucky enough to meet a few of them. These ladies are on the road to success and generating waves within their chosen field. Whether they be creatives, sporting talent, founders of start-ups or someone striving to make are difference, these young women are definitely ‘Ones to Watch’.

There is no doubt Ashlee Harrison is generating positive change. At a young age, she experienced first hand the grief and overwhelming impact suicide can bring to a community. However, instead of letting the event hinder her, the WA native chose to use her position to benefit the lives of others and it was with this in mind that zero2hero was formed. zero2hero aims to ensure every child and young person is educated and empowered to effectively communicate and deal with mental health issues. Focused on providing programs and raising awareness, Ashlee’s hard work and commitment to the cause is inspiring. This week, we managed to find a spare moment in her busy schedule and see what she’s been up to.

RELATED: Ones To Watch: Claudia McEwen

Tell us a bit about you. Where are you from, what do you do?

I am 27 and live in Perth, WA and am about to embark on the journey called ‘motherhood’ for the first time.  I work as the CEO of a WA –based charity called zero2hero and I am the Director of a media consultancy Social Say. I value family, growth & development, new experiences, community and health.

What was the catalyst for starting zero2hero? When did you realise that this was something that you wanted to do?

At the age of 20 I lost my step-dad to suicide. The moment it happened I was shocked that someone close to me could have been struggling on such a deep level and I didn’t know. Suicide never just impacts the person that’s lost; it has a massive ripple effect. My whole family and friends were affected. After Graham’s death, I felt a deep desire to ensure that this didn’t happen to others. When I learnt that suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians under the age of 44, I knew I had to do something. So at 21 years of age I started zero2hero.

At first we hosted events and fundraisers with the aim to have people speak up and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. All of our fundraising went to mental health services such as Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Australia. I spent years educating myself on mental health and suicide prevention, completed courses and learnt from people and mentors running very successful not-for-profits. It was then that I saw that there was a gap in education for people before they reached the point of crisis. To prevent suicide we must start by educating our entire population on the basics of mental health and mental illness. Similar to the education we receive about our physical health, we must learn about the health of our brain. This was the turning point for zero2hero.

Today zero2hero is a WA-based charity that provides mental health and suicide prevention programs to youth across the state. We aim to achieve three outcomes with young people:

  • Educate: young people about mental health, mental illness and suicide
  • Engage: young people in open conversations about mental health with the aim to eliminate stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide, and increase help-seeking behaviour
  • Empower: young leaders to become mental health ambassadors

Each year zero2hero reaches over 70,000 young people and has trained more than 180 mental health ambassadors in suicide first aid.

What makes zero2hero unique to other organisations?

We believe that in order to impact our social issue we need to train young people to become mental health leaders and ambassadors in their community. Our research has shown that the majority of young people seek support from their friends and peers when they are in need. Using this knowledge we created programs that equip school-aged children and teenagers with the skills to speak up when they are struggling and the confidence to stand up and support their friends when they may be experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, bullying, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

Our programs are created in partnership with the people we serve i.e.: young people. They are the advisors for all of the youth programs we run. Our programs are also free for all schools across WA to access. We believe that each and every young person needs to be educated about mental health and we don’t believe that finances should be a barrier. I believe so much in what we do, that for 6 years 100% of our income has been invested into our programs. It is only now that we are looking at hiring staff to ensure our programs are sustainable and increase our reach to rural WA.

What have been the stumbling blocks for you, initially getting started with zero2hero and since then?

The subject we are dealing with has not always been palatable. 6 years ago people were even more hesitant to say the word ‘suicide’ than they are today, however this is shifting. Funding is always a clear stumbling block for any not-for-profit when getting started. However, starting with zero has taught us to be very resourceful and innovative with the funds we do have. A big challenge for me personally has been in questioning my own leadership, asking myself ‘am I on track’ or ‘am I practicing what I preach 100% of the time.’ I am committed to being a person of integrity and this means facing where I am not being authentic to myself. Facing yourself is one of the biggest challenges a person will ever face. Worth it? Yes, but easy? Never.

What were your initial goals with the organisation and what are your plans for the next few years? How do you plan to expand and evolve?

The initial goals for zero2hero were an increase in the conversations about mental health and eliminating the stigma. This is still a goal however now we want to re-educate an entire country on mental health and how to look after their own. As an organisation we are looking at ways we can be financially sustainable and innovative. We want to create new programs and increase our reach to primary school students and rural communities.

Who do you look to for inspiration? Do you have a mentor?

The kids I work with inspire me every day, which is why I continue to do what I do. My family keeps me grounded and focused, and my peer network provides an immense amount of inspiration. I have many mentors. I would not be in the position I am today without them. I have connected with mentors through organisations such as Foundation for Young Australians and the School of Social Entrepreneurs, and I have also created mentor relationships with business people and charity leaders who inspire me.

Zero2hero focuses on some pretty heavy topics, what drives/motivates you to keep going?

I have one major rule: look after you before you even think about looking after others. I make sure that I check in with myself every day. When I am out of balance I am little good to myself or others. I also believe that in order to do the work that I am doing I must keep my feet on the ground. This means that I attend all of our youth leadership camps. These give me an opportunity to see our work first hand. It is these young people that motivate and inspire me.

Through zero2hero you have been honoured with being a State Finalist for the Australian of the Year Award. How do these recognitions such as this affect you and your organisation?

The Australia Day Council (who host the awards) has been extremely supportive of the work we do. These awards have significantly increased community awareness of our organisation and suicide prevention. They also provide recognition of the work we are doing and increase enquiries for our programs. For that we are thankful, however awards are not our focus. Our vision is that every child and young person is educated and empowered to effectively deal with mental health issues. It is important that we keep focused and let our work speak for itself. We recognise that both doing what we do and promoting it are important, as long as there is balance. Seeing the impact our programs have on young people is the true reward.

Do you find your position, as a young person aiming to change the culture among young Australians, makes your message resonate with your audience?

Working with teenagers I feel old – all the time. I think the belief and passion behind what I do would resonate regardless of my age. I do however know that being young makes it easier to connect and engage with young people. I used to get hooked on the ‘age concern’ in the business community and then when I stopped questioning myself and my age, so did others.

What are your goals for the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

With a 5-year-old, camping with 50 of Australia’s most prominent young mental health leaders in a facility that’s located off the grid (i.e. no Facebook) that is owned by zero2hero and forms part of our social enterprise.

If someone else were looking to follow the same path as you, what advice would you give to them?

I think there are 7 billion paths and the advice I would give to anyone is to find their own and follow it with nothing less than 100% passion, love and authenticity.

To find out more about zero2hero or to donate towards the cause click here

Inspirational Women: Jillian Broadbent

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Meredith Cranmer

Name and role:

Jillian Broadbent and Chair of Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Chair of Swiss Re Life & Health Australia Limited, director of Woolworths Ltd and Chancellor of Wollongong University.

Tell us about your role?  What is it?  What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

After 25 years working in banking and finance I moved from an executive role to take up a number of non-executive directorships. I have served in this capacity on publically listed company boards, government corporations and in the not for profit sector. As a non-executive director I participate on the boards of organisations overseeing the strategy, governance and management of them.

Your professional career has been quite diverse, how has it developed and evolved over the years?

I have been lucky to have opportunities to work in a wide range of fields. After graduating my first professional job was as an economist at the Reserve Bank of Australia. Most of my banking career was with Bankers Trust/BT Australia, which grew from 60 to 4000 employees over my 22 years there. At BT, I built a number of different departments, which was both satisfying and rewarding. Through the wide-ranging contacts I had with industry clients in building this banking business, many opportunities arose. These involved requests to apply my financial skills in the not for profit sector in particular, at the Art Gallery of NSW, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Through my participation in these diverse activities my career developed and evolved to span positions in the public and the private sector.

When did you know this is what you wanted to do as a career?

I never really knew what I wanted to do as a career, I just responded to the opportunities with diligence, enthusiasm and capacity.

What where the stumbling blocks when you first started on your career path and how did you overcome these?

There were always stumbling blocks starting with self-doubt, exacerbated by a male dominated sector and culture. The first step to overcoming stumbling blocks is to deal with the internally generated ones, building your confidence, observing success and the learnings it carries and not wasting any of your precious energy on blame and ill will.

Did/do you have a mentor?

I did not have a mentor but I did observe successful people whom I liked and admired their approach and effectiveness. This helped me develop my own sense of self and confidence.

You have been honoured for your hard work with many accolades to your name – what to you feel has been your biggest achievement?

I feel satisfied by a number of achievements:

–  Building a successful business at BT and a positive culture, where people were enthusiastic to come to work each day, the business was profitable and the clients we serviced were appreciative and supportive;

–  Serving on the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia for three terms which was beyond the term of most RBA Board members and acting to improve the wellbeing of all Australians, was a great honour; and

–  Chairing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation through a change of government and keeping the corporation on track and enthusiastic despite the current government’s policy to abolish the CEFC.

Your success has paved the way for many women in business.  How have things changed for women since you began?

Many things have changed over the nearly 50 years of my career. There are more women in business, though still not enough.  Childcare choices have expanded, and the attitude from partners and fellow workers is more supportive or at least benign.

What are you goals for the future?

After 50 years in a working career, I am not focused on goals for the future but I would like to continue to use my private sector skills to facilitate public policy outcomes as I have done at the CEFC and the RBA.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

Advice: Work on your inner stability, develop a bit of teflon coating, not being super sensitive to criticism or insensitive comments from male colleagues.  Do your homework and be prepared as it will improve your effectiveness and help your confidence and sense of belonging.

Inspirational Women: Shannah Kennedy

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Pippa Hallas

Name and role

Shannah Kennedy, executive life strategist, speaker and author, wife and mother

Tell us about your role? What is it? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My role is first and foremost as a life coach. I coach elite athletes, CEOs, managers in large and small companies, business owners and people in general who want to be a better version of themselves. A life coach ignites potential. The individual benefits of coaching are as wide-ranging as the individuals being coached, impacting not only careers, but lives.

Coaching is not therapy, which goes into depth about various issues, usually dealing with the past, nor is it consulting which generally results in giving the client answers. Coaching is more action-orientated and focuses primarily on the present and future. Coaching is not about instructing or telling or directing. It’s not about therapy or healing. It’s not about a right way or a wrong way.

Coaching is about self-reliance and personal responsibility. It’s about taking action, contributing, and making an impact. At its core, coaching is about helping people tap into existing strengths and talents. Our clients have the answers already – our job is to engage them in a dialogue that brings those answers to the surface. Clearly, these kinds of individual benefits can have a ripple effect throughout a company, a family and even friendships improving morale, retention, efficiency, productivity and satisfaction with life. By working in a completely confidential setting, coaching breaks down barriers to success and challenges individuals to reach new levels of achievement, satisfaction and balance in life.

You have not always been a life coach, what was the catalyst for change? 

I have always been a high achiever. As soon as I left school I jumped straight into work – and I worked hard. First in stockbroking and then in a fast-paced role as a sponsorship and PR manager for a high profile sports eyewear company. I worked with more than 100 world-class athletes in Australia and internationally. By most people’s definition of success, I was living the dream. It was exhilarating, satisfying and demanding all at once. It was also incredibly intense. I was used to overloading my life, so as the stress, fatigue and exhaustion mounted, I brushed these warnings signs aside as just the price to be paid for the kind of success I craved. Unwilling and unable to slow down, eventually my body delivered a devastating reminder of its need to be taken care of and abruptly gave way to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It was debilitating. Virtually bed-ridden for 12 months I lost everything that mattered to me – my sense of self, my network, my ability to do the simplest things. My body just wouldn’t respond. Sinking towards depression I felt overwhelmed with shame and failure, replaying over and over why things had gone so wrong. It took a long, slow three years for me to fully recover, but working with a life coach I eventually regained my energy, clarity and motivation to move on.

I have also (unforgettably) witnessed many elite athletes self-destruct once their sporting careers were over. This, as well as my own experience with burn out, has inspired me to get over my distaste for study and embrace extensive qualifications as an Advanced Certified Coach. I could see the opportunity to coach sports people to become whole people rather than has-beens, with purpose and vision to create the life they want both during and after their short athletic careers.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I listen to a lot of audiobooks to keep educating and challenging myself. When I am walking, in the car or even meditating, I am listening. I get inspired by everything around me; the simple things in life. Mindfulness in life has taken my life and happiness to a whole new level, as has learning to breathe properly – all free and amazing! Who would have thought it could be that simple! I am inspired by people, magazines and audio and enjoying photography for myself as a hobby. I am inspired by the vision I have built for myself to always keep evolving as a human being.

Do you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career of the ground?

My first coach when I had chronic fatigue syndrome changed my life. She believed in me, my dream, my skills and my ambition and helped me get through the fear of leaving the corporate world and starting my own business as a life coach; 15 years ago when there were no life coaches around. No one understood what it was and thought it was all just hocus pocus.

I studied life coaching and there are not many around that have been coaching for as long.  Along the way I have employed coaches for myself each year to keep me evolving, learning and they have challenged me constantly to follow my dreams. In the beginning I would have been happy with 10 clients. Now I have 40 clients, two books out and speak every week at conferences. I also have a great marriage and two children in primary school. I know it was possible and really wanted it but needed some great people around me as my support team. I also had to and still have to put my health first and foremost – mental, physical and emotional health are at the forefront of every decision I make.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path and since then?

My first stumbling blocks came from where I was most passionate – i.e. coaching athletes into retirement. I was way before my time I think and the doors were not opening. I saw athletes finish their careers after looking after over 200 in my corporate years, with no plan, no structure, and little confidence in themselves as person even thought they had achieved in their chosen sport. The other parts of their lives were not developed enough to support them. So it turned quite corporate very quickly as they were all open to getting the edge and working with a coach to be improve.

My challenges now are finding the right partners to collaborate with for my new book The Life Plan. How to get life-skills into more hands. I am passionate, extremely passionate about people learning the skills that will support them in life, in relationships and with their mental health. It is about making these skills available to all, not just those at the top or those that can afford a coach. I have packaged up the skills for all to take, to learn and to apply and my challenge now is to get it into corporations as a gift and training tool, for schools to give it to school leavers and for those with some mental health issues to start their journey through the book, which is a guide to building your life.

How did you overcome these?

I always overcome obstacles by going around them. When the door doesn’t open, knock at another one, and then another one, until one opens. I have always taken responsibility for my own luck and sometime you have to dig a bit harder and try a bit harder and be uncomfortable about it all, but the rewards are incredible. I also had a fear around speaking on stage as I don’t have a naturally loud voice and I am terrible at jokes! I have learnt through my own coaches that authenticity speaks volumes and to not try and be anyone but yourself.

You are about to launch your first book, The Life Plan. What is it about? What can we plan to find within?  

The Life Plan is my first published book after self publishing previously with great success. The Life Plan offers life skills in a simple and beautiful format, so that those who want to learn can start their journey and get inspired and motivated in life. Deliberately set out in a visually beautiful format and written so you don’t have to read from cover to cover, each page gives you a skill, an inspiration or an action to help you develop your life plan. Most self-help books are very heavy reading and too much for people to digest and take in, so this one offers the best snippets from a whole range of practical life and wellness skills.

It is your handbook for life. There is room to write, there is room to discover who you are and build the structures in life that will support you and bring out the best in you. It is you commencing on a journey to be the best version of yourself in life. PLUS it is a beautiful coffee table book! We are making self-help practical and inspirational.

What are your goals for the future?

My goals are to get life-skills to more people in the world. They are not taught at school, yet they should be the foundation for your life. I want to be the first life coach with a profile in Australia as we don’t have one; they are all American. I have 15 years under my belt and I am ready to come out and be that person. Life skills are essential. They are the foundation of who we are, why we make decisions and can be a part of us that unlocks our individual excellence. They need to be available now in a format that is motivational, easy and practical. And of course there is a whole lot more on my list of goals! More books, more speaking, TV, online, etc. Plus keeping my health at its optimal level and continuing the great work on my marriage and as a mother to two children, all of whom are my core and whom I adore.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

It is now a very crowded space I think and it is about really building great relationships and using your networking skills. I have never advertised anywhere, and simply worked on my own relationships with people and have let the referrals take me to where I am now. I think if you are going to be a coach, you should employ your own coach as authenticity is key. And most of all, dream hard, work hard and nourish yourself the whole time.

Image via The Daily Mail


A Day In The Life Of… Carissa Walford

Ever wanted to step into somebody else’s shoes for the day and see what life is like as a magazine editor, a professional sportsperson or corporate high-flyer..? Well, SHESAID is giving you the closest thing to your very own Freaky Friday experience with our A Day In The Life Of… series.

RELATED: A Day In The Life Of… Laura Hannaford

Tell us a bit about what you do?

I write produce and present music/fashion/pop culture segments on channel V Australia. I’m also a host on Channel 10’s Movie Juice.

Give us a snapshot of your career journey. Did you always want to be where you are now?

My background is in performing arts as a trained singer, dancer and actress. I have wanted to be in the entertainment industry since I was 4 years old. My dad is a singer so I grew up around music. I went to NIDA and completed a 1-year acting course and 1-year presenting course, which helped me get to where I am today.

Where do you find your inspiration? Who has had the most impact on you and your career?

I think music is in my blood and I’ve always looked up to my dad in that department so I would say he’s had the most impact. My parents were very encouraging to follow my dreams and I never had a plan B – I just went for it.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? Is there a moment or person that has resonated with you?

I have to say meeting some of my favourite musicians and actors on a daily basis is a dream come true. Achieving great interviews by really connecting and getting a story out of people is very motivating. Most recently I interviewed Cara Delevingne. That has been my highlight this year as we connected and could have spoken for hours.

Inspirational Women, A Day In The Life Of, Television, TV Presenter, Career Development, Music, Fashion

Your workdays are much more exciting than the average 9 to 5. What does a day for you involve?

6:30am: I wake up early and eat breakfast- I never leave the house without eating…

7am: I spend an hour or so getting ready and then I play with my dog Romeo before leaving the house.

10am: On a shoot day it can get pretty hectic – I’m writing, learning scripts and interviewing artists so I’m very focused as things move and change very quickly and you need to be able to adapt. Fast!

3pm: In terms of outfits I do all my own styling and I really enjoy putting looks together. My audience loves to know my outfit choices for the shows, so I post Instagram photos after shooting to show the brands I like to wear.

6pm: I love ending the day with a hip hop dance class [if I’m not too tired] or just going home to relax, maybe a bit of meditation or a hot bath. Its important for me to chill out as I’m ‘on’ 24/7 and it can be draining.

Inspirational Women, Television, A Day In The Life Of, Music, Fashion, TV Presenter

What are your goals for the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I have learnt that the world changes quickly, so as long as I’m happy that’s all that matters. Its cliché but I’ve realised it’s the simple things in life that are pretty special. Ill always be doing what I love and what I’m passionate about – that’s all I know.

What advice would you give to someone following the same path as you?

Have patience and learn from your mistakes – they make you stronger, wiser and prepare you for your next project.

Inspirational Women: Violeta Ayala

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED Inspirational Women: Nicole Lamond Philp

Name and role.

Violeta Ayala, an independent filmmaker. I write, direct and produce films.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My days are so different depending on which stage I am at on a film. There’s researching, shooting, editing or knowing when I’m promoting my next film on the festival circuit. Sometime I have to do all of them at once, but on different films.

At the moment, I’m working on a film trilogy. I’m promoting The Bolivian Case on the festival circuit, Cocaine Prison is in the edit suite and due to be completed by the end of the year and South Meets North is in development. I’m writing a feature film screenplay called Cocaine Queens. I’m also working on a personal film about the birth of my daughter – I really wanted a natural birth and being swept up in the emotional roller-coaster that pregnancy is and how I got caught up with the wrong doctor.

The short story is that after 33 hours of labor, I couldn’t give birth naturally and I had to demand a c-section. The next seven days were the hardest in my life, to see my little baby fighting for her life in intensive care. Fortunately she’s now a year old and a very healthy & happy little girl.

I travel a lot and have to work on the road. I have an office I’m rarely in. Once I begin making a film, I work 24 hours a day. My head just doesn’t stop thinking about it – sort of like how it is taking care of your kids. At the moment I’m breastfeeding Suri and feed her while I’m writing, traveling and even as I spend a lot of time in the public. I even breastfed her the other night in the cinema during the world premiere of The Bolivian Case. Motherhood has grounded me as a woman and as a filmmaker.

How/when did you know this what you wanted to do as a career?

I was born with severe dyspraxia, but paradoxically I was also born with a talent for telling stories. As a little girl, I used to write plays with my brothers and we’d perform them on special family occasions. We also had a family monthly newspaper, which considering how young we were, was surprisingly well produced.

In my teens, I became a theatre actress and performed in London, New York, Paris, Rome, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Edinburgh – we toured the world for about a year. My mum was a doctor and always wanted me to go to university but I felt university was too boring.

After the theatre, I traveled all through Latin America, the US and South East Asia, working odd jobs and that was when I decided to go to University. I studied communications at Charles Sturt University and luckily discovered my future career.

I was in second year and had a class in video production, as soon as I saw how a film was edited together, something in my head clicked and I instantly understood how to make films. I spent the next two years at University exploring filmmaking, shooting during the days and editing during the nights, making short films about everything. I even made films for every member of my family as a Christmas present. I’d found a new way to express myself and I just couldn’t stop. It’s been a process of discovery ever since and I’m now making feature films which I find exciting.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find stories through the people I meet. I’m very curious and talk to everyone. I’m not afraid to talk to anyone from the taxi driver or someone on the street selling things, to the president of a country or a convicted drug trafficker. We’re all people and once you start a conversation it’s often surprising what people tell you, if you only ask.

“Everyone has a story to tell and quite often the most interesting stories come from the people you least expect.”

I’m interested in telling stories relevant to the times we’re living, but I’m a little bit confrontational so I like to tell stories from a different or unexpected perspective. By telling the stories of the people whom society shuns, for instance in The Bolivian Case, I tell the story of a group of people the justice system considers criminals. I give the audience an alternative view to the main stream media and by doing so I challenge the status quo in this case of the War on Drugs.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?

Filmmaking is a very collaborative process and I’ve worked with many talented people from whom I’ve learned a lot. The person I’ve learned the most from is my creative and life partner of the past 9 years, Dan Fallshaw.

I’m also terribly fortunate to have been supported by the wonderful people behind some of the world’s most prestigious film funds such as the Sundance Documentary Fund, MacArthur Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Chicken and Egg, France’s World Cinema Fund, Britdoc Foundation, Screen Australia and Screen NSW amongst others.

I’ve participated in many film labs and markets where I’ve met many friends and collaborators in every corner in the world from Berlinale to Film Independent, AIDC to Good Pitch.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path, and since then?

The film industry is dominated by men, studios are run by men, TV stations are run by men and most film funds are run by men. Being a woman of colour and the daughter of an immigrant to Australia, I’m well aware of limitations set by society. That said, I don’t feel I’ve had many stumbling blocks, but it hasn’t been easy road to get to where I am today.

When I was 6, I was playing in the park with my dad. I started a running race with another little boy, when his mother shouted at me, “you can’t race against my son – you’ll lose, you are a girl.” I looked at my dad who said to me; “Look at your legs, they’re the same as his legs, you can run just as fast.” I was so glad my dad said that to me at such a young age because it marked my life. I don’t like to comply with gender limits imposed on us by society.

How did you overcome these?

By focusing on my work, making the most of the opportunities I have. I love what I do so much that I can’t see myself doing anything else. I will make films until I am 100 years old or even more. I’ve taken a lot of risks, sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t. But on the whole, I’d have to say that as a filmmaker it pays off to take risks than not.

What are your goals for the future?

To finish the next two parts of the drug war trilogy I’m working on. I will make my first narrative feature film in the next 5 years. I will continue to build and grow my production company, United Notions Film, focusing on producing films by women, minorities, young people who are talented and hardworking but underrepresented. However, the most important thing for me is to see my daughter grow up, enjoy every single day with her, even when I’m so busy. My overall goal is to keep fighting for what I believe in and to tell stories that matter.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

The only way you will become a filmmaker is by making films. Don’t wait for someone to discover you, don’t try to become part of the establishment; you really just have to get in there and do it. You don’t even need to go to film school, we all watch so much TV, films and media that we know what works and what doesn’t – filmmaking is a trial and error process.

Rock the boat, break the status quo, don’t become part of the statistics that keep women in the waiting seat. No-one is going to hand it to you on a platter. Explore your creativity, fight for what you want and don’t let anyone make you believe that your story doesn’t matter. Filmmaking takes your life. Making a film is like putting a puzzle together without knowing what the picture looks like until you get to the end.

It’s so exciting when you see all the years of hard work and doubts come together into something tangible. It’s this uncertainty throughout the entire process that makes a film such a powerful work of art, capable to ignite change.

Inspirational Women: Melissa Browne

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Sharon Williams

Name and role

Melissa Browne and I am the CEO of A+TA (formerly Accounting & Taxation Advantage); Co-Founder & Director of Business at Thinkers.inq as well as a writer and author.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

That all depends on the particular hat I’m wearing at the time! At A+TA my role is that of a business strategist and tax expert and I work with business owners and my team to help business owners escape the cycle of fear and chaos they often find themselves in and to grow up as business owners. That means I spend a lot of time with clients, with my team but also thinking and working out where next for us as a business. At Thinkers.inq I’m able to put my strategy hat on and work closely with my co-founder Rod Soper to provide financial direction but also finding and financing the next preschool spaces (our aim is to have ten long day preschools within Sydney within five years). Finally I spend at least one day a week writing articles, creating content for websites, writing columns, working on my next books and preparing for keynotes. Every day is different and every week is different for me and this variety is something I really relish and thrive on.

When did you realise that accounting is what you wanted to do as a career?

To be honest, not until around seven years ago. At school all I wanted to be was a lawyer and I only studied accounting when I dropped out of law after three and a half years of study. I only studied accounting because my dad was an accountant and I just didn’t know what to do next. If you’d told me at age eighteen that I would one day own an accounting firm I think I would have burst into tears! The reason I ended up falling in love with my particular business is because it’s not a typical accounting business. I realized about eight years ago that I loved strategy, business advice and working closely with clients to grow their businesses and money mindsets but I wasn’t doing any of that. So I pulled apart my business, started studying an MBA, read everything on business I could put my hands on, enrolled in coaching and began to build a business that I wanted to work in.

You are much more than just an accountant, with multiple layers to your business, what caused to you create and grow?

Firstly, thank you for saying that! I believe that what sparked my business growth and evolution was a decision I made at about age 33 to try to care less what people thought of me. That might seem like a strange place to start but I think as business owners it’s often through personal growth that we can find the courage to create real business growth. As I grew personally I grew as a business owner through studying an MBA through MGSM, devouring business books, discovering business greats like Jim Collins & Verne Harnish and through implementing and taking chances and not being afraid to try things – even if they didn’t always quite work out how I planned. I believe now it’s the determination to see out our big ‘why’ which is to create transformational change in ourselves and our clients, that drives myself and my team to not accept the status quo and to always be looking for new opportunities and ways to create and grow.

Your first book, More Money for Shoes, was written for women in business and created clarity surrounding the subject via coupling business essentials with relatable fashion analogies. What do you have in store with your recent sequel, Fabulous But Broke?

Fabulous but Broke is just as pretty as More Money for Shoes in that it’s another full-colour, illustrated book. This time however the subject is money and in particular it’s about the money messages we’re often unconsciously carrying around with us that are sabotaging us financially. Of course, like most things I do it’s not done in a typical way. So Fabulous but Broke contains 13 financial fairytales that set the scene, describe the typical ending if you continue to allow your unconscious money messages to guide you and then suggests an alternative ending if you were to become a conscious consumer and become the author of your own financial fairytale. They’re all designed to challenge your thinking, start conversations about money and hopefully change your behavior so you can create the life you want. So for example, Sleeping Beauty is the Passive Princesses who are just waiting for Mr Right while Peter Pan is the boy who won’t grow up particularly when it comes to joint finances.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere! For Fabulous but Broke it was a conversation with a neighbour who was talking about how his daughter had just moved home after splitting up with her boyfriend and how she wouldn’t be able to buy a house now until she met her husband. With More Money for Shoes it was about a decision to try and fuse my love of business with my love of fashion when it came to writing. Often it’s an article, a quote, a picture on Instagram or simply a random conversation. I believe inspiration is everywhere if you’re open to it.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career of the ground?

I didn’t have a mentor so I have always consciously surrounded myself with others that are like-minded business owners. When I first started it was through a networking group called Women with Altitude and today it’s with groups that include Little Black Dress Group, Business Chicks and Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO). I’ve also just engaged a Coach to help me grow and take my business to the next level and I think this is something that will be a lifelong quest of learning and development – at least I hope so.

As a business owner, what were the initially stumbling blocks and since then?

Initially I think the main stumbling block was me. I was in my late twenties, tall, blonde and I used to think that I had to look and act like an accountant to be accepted. So I would wear a lot of grey and black, put my hair in a bun, wear sensible shoes and try to fit in as much as I could. I remember trying to buy work shoes and describing them as ‘boring, ugly shoes.’ Now I think, ‘why?!’. I ended up with a business that was very conservative, very traditional and that I really disliked working in. And a Monday-Friday wardrobe that was hideous! Once I decided to create the business that I wanted to work in, the biggest stumbling blocks have again been me and finding both the courage and the discipline to continue to create, grow and innovate. I’ve also struggled with managing teams – running a business is often the easy part but managing people can be incredibly tough!

How did you overcome these?

Through a lot of courage and deciding every day to put on my big girl pants and create the business and the life that I want. Of course, courage is only part of the story, I also studied, read voraciously, took part in group coaching, put in place great systems and processes and made some strategic decisions to be authentic both as a business owner and as a business.

What are your goals for the future?

If history is anything to go by my goals will grow over time. Currently for A+TA it is to continue to innovate and to extend our reach which currently means creating an online world called the Numbers Lounge which we’re incredibly excited about. At Thinkers.inq it’s to change how preschool is done in Australia – an ambitious goal but my business partner Rod Soper and I believe the entire industry needs a really good shake-up. There are also more books in the pipeline of course. Personally my goal is to continue to create the life that I want – that is a life by design not by default.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

I would encourage them to think about what makes them unique and to be courageous and authentic in having that shine through in their business. I would let them know that success is often a series of small wins and that it takes more courage to get up and keep going, adapting, failing and getting back up and trying something else than it does to give up or to simply go back to the status quo. Finally I would encourage them to find their tribe or what Seth Godin calls the ‘weird ones’ who will support you, buy from you, work for you, encourage you and cheer you on when you need cheering. As Seth says, making art which is what many of us are doing with our businesses, can be incredibly tough and confronting but the final product, if you are willing to persevere, can be incredibly rewarding.

To find out more about Melissa’s latest book, Fabulous but Broke head here.

Inspirational Women: Pippa Hallas

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Michelle Doherty

Name and role

Pippa Hallas and I am the CEO of Ella Baché.

Tell us about what you do – what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My role is about setting and implementing the strategy of the business. It’s about managing people and bringing everyone along the journey, getting them to understand our strategy, where we’re going and what needs to be done. I also spend time with our stakeholders including franchisees, David Jones, our college and manufacturing representatives. I spend a lot of time in meetings!

You have been involved with the family business your whole life, however you did not always work for Ella Baché. Can you tell us about your career journey to becoming CEO? 

I’ve been with Ella Baché for 10 years now. After leaving school I went to uni to do a business degree. Then, like many people, I jumped on a plane and went overseas. I didn’t particularly want to work in the family business straight away so I spent a couple of years in London working in advertising and Paris before eventually finding my way home after a long stint traveling. I returned to advertising at some big Sydney agencies, but then I hit a crossroads in my career. I could either turn right and keep working in advertising and going overseas where the opportunities were, or I could jump ship and work for Ella Baché, and that’s what I did. I started off at Ella Baché in a marketing role, ended up heading marketing for 4 years. Subsequently I became CEO and have been for the past 5 years.

Taking on the role as CEO is a big step for anyone, what where the initial stumbling blocks in this role and how did you overcome these?

I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks is your perception of yourself. Going from a team member to CEO – it’s true when they say ‘it can be lonely at the top’, so I think it’s important to have the reality and confidence to back yourself with that title. Becoming CEO, where the buck stops with me, can be quite isolating at times, so it was all about getting used to that title within myself.

Do/did you have a mentor? Who has helped you get your career of the ground?

People throughout my career organically became my mentors and some of my early bosses put me under their wing and mentored me informally as well. One of the things I did when I became CEO was surround myself with 3-4 people externally that I could call on anytime and use as a sounding board as I knew they’d be completely honest with me, whether I wanted to hear it or not. No one can be an expert in everything, so you need to know when to call on people who know more. It’s important to get honest feedback because in the role of CEO it’s sometimes hard for staff to be comfortable enough to give you the truth.

Ella Baché celebrated its 60th year in 2014, congratulations! Why do you think the brand has resonated so well with consumers over the years and continues to grow?

I think it’s a combination of a couple of things. Ella Baché is such a well-known and trusted brand with a lot of integrity around it. In this day and age, the younger generation are so researched, so it’s important that our products really work, which they do. There’s nothing that Ella Baché tries to hide.

Ella Baché is also very much a people brand – there are so many passionate people that work for this brand, and that passion is passed on to our consumers. We try really hard to keep reinventing ourselves and innovating so we have a very rich history with a contemporary edge.

How do you find juggling being a mother and a successful businesswoman?

I love it. It’s great being able to have the opportunity to do both. I wouldn’t want to do one without the other, but it’s not for the fainthearted. When I get busy, sometimes I feel guilty not being at home, or not being at work. It’s that ‘Mothers guilt’ and I feel torn a lot of the time, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Luckily I have people around me that support me so I don’t feel the need to do it on my own.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Different people and their stories inspire me, as does travelling and looking at what others brands are doing. Innovation, creativity – there’s so much awesome stuff going on in the world. With technology now, everything has been brought to the surface, like a loudspeaker – there are so many opportunities.

What are your goals for the future and the future of Ella Baché?

It’s about making sure we are leaders the Australian skincare industry and as skin experts it’s about staying results driven, at the heart of the brand. We have salons all over in places like Kalgoorlie and Hobart, to Melbourne and Sydney. It’s amazing how many women have become business leaders in this brand, it empowers women in their own careers. I want to continue that journey and make sure we’re market leaders setting up a business model that’s unique in Australia.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

It’s a really exciting journey but sometimes you have to make things up along the way. You need to back yourself, take risks, sometimes stand-alone and have the ability to fail, but not so much that it cripples you. You need to find that balance between backing yourself, taking a risk and having a go.

Ones To Watch: Viktoria + Woods

Everybody is on the hunt for young up-and-comers and here at SHESAID we have been lucky enough to meet a selection of them. These ladies are on the road to success and generating waves within their chosen field. Whether they be creatives, sporting talent, founders of start-ups or someone striving to make a real difference, these young women are definitely ‘Ones to Watch’.

Viktoria + Woods is a partnership between Maggie Woods and Lisa Reynolds that has brought them great success in the Australian market. Since its humble beginnings in 2005, the brand now has over 70 stockists, including retail giant David Jones. Most recently the pair have been listed as finalists for DHL Express’ Fashion Scholarship, quite a feat since entrants have almost doubled since last year. With fans of the label only continuing to rise, there is no denying we must all keep a keen eye on this dynamic duo. This week, we managed to find a spare moment in their busy schedule and see what she’s been up to.

RELATED: Ones To Watch: Genevieve Clay-Smith 

Name and role:

Margie Woods and I am the Founder and Creative director of Viktoria + Woods. Lisa Reynolds and I am the Co-director and Designer of the brand Viktoria + Woods.

Tell us about what your roles. What do you get up to on a day-to-day basis?

Margie Woods (MW): As Creative Director and Founder I have a very solid vision of the brand and V+W future. From a design perspective, I am very conceptual and visionary in terms of my influence on each collection, but not hands on in the day to day perspective as my incredible partner is. My days involve driving the flow and direction of designs, marketing and brand growth. Sign off on many decisions; direct the team, including new projects. Writing collection releases, interviews, signing off on daily marketing activities, design meetings and fittings, organizing photo-shoots and team and management meetings. My role is not very operational, its mostly directional and on the whole wonderfully creative. There are administrative sides to my role, but it’s the conceptual and creative that I am passionate about.

Lisa Reynolds (LR): My role is to head and manage design and direct the production and pattern making team. The day involves a lot of research, mood-boarding, fabric supplier meetings, sketching, and fittings. The design process is quite operational. So its hands on and exciting, but does not come without challenges. Including finding that right fabrication, getting specifications and fits perfect for market release, and troubleshooting any issues. There is a lot of research, and sourcing, meeting with factories that may have specific capabilities we are looking for. It’s a challenging role but incredibly rewarding.

When did you discover your talent? How/when did you realize that fashion and design was an area you wanted to be involved with?

MW: I grew up with a very fashion obsessed family, so it was always part of my life. My mother designed her own clothing growing up, and had a dressmaker sew up or tweak all her special pieces. She still does to this day. I think that history has always been a part of me, and subconsciously this industry was always going to be my future.

LR: I came from an incredibly creative and crafty family. But it was a fashion show with Australian designer Toni Mateveski that I saw during the Melbourne Fashion festival that drove me to study fashion, and never look back.

Where did the idea come from to create Viktoria + Woods?

MW: It was an idea I had to create a line of contemporary merino wool basics, which I felt was a huge gap in the market. At that time, there was very little in the way of modern lightweight options in the market, and I had a strong vision for what the line would look like and where it would be positioned. My then partner helped make this vision a reality, which I am forever grateful for.

What were the initial stumbling blocks getting V+W off the ground? How did you resolve these?

MW: Mostly funding and sourcing the perfect quality merino that I wanted to work with. We were lucky to be able to work with a distributor in early days who helped us get through these hurdles, and support us through the development and growth until we were able to take over the distribution internally.

How would you describe the style of a women who wears Viktoria + Woods?

MW + LR: Our women are chic, classically stylish, confident, and informed on latest trends. They mix function with fashion to meet their busy lifestyles, quality driven and value designer labels

As creative, how do you deal with the pressure to continually design, create and impress?

MW + LR: Trends and lifestyles are always evolving, and so there is always something more we want to offer, and so much more we want to express. In our collections work with concepts that are often driven by feelings of what we want right now, or what we feel our customers wants from us. This is forever evolving. You can never express everything in one collection, so inspiration is constant.

Where do you find your inspiration?

MW: Spending time at the beach around water and fresh air is where I reboot and find time to be inspired. Travelling, reading, and artwork. Right now I am very inspired by ‘objects’ and installations as artwork. I am also exploring photography over painted art. Raw landscape images are contributing a lot to our moodboards at the moment with natural, organic and raw imagery with modern layers of colour.

LR: Inspiration is all around us, from the Australian lifestyle and culture to beautiful piece of merino, fine yarn or organic cotton. We design our collections to be timeless, but with a modern edge so classic tailoring is always inspirational for technique and how we can work this into a collection that has a relaxed contemporary feel.

Do you have mentors? Are there any particular people or designers you look up to? 

MW: Ellery is an inspiration. I love her courageous approach to design and the how she represents the creativity and passion that can come from Australian design.

LR: I respect and admire Stella McCartney not only for her inspired designs, but for her incredible commitment to using sustainable fibres and materials wherever possible.

Viktoria +Woods has recently been selected as a finalist for DHL’s 2015 Fashion Scholarship. How has recognition such as this affected the brand?

MW + LR: It has been incredible to be recognised as a label with potential for success and growth by DHL. The mentoring, advice and assistance this scholarship offers is an incredible opportunity for us to stay focused and on path.

What are your goals for the future?

MW + LR: To inspire our staff, our customers and our followers with beautiful clothing and an honest approach to design. To represent Australian fashion globally. We are incredibly excited to be stocking Bloomingdales from August this year. We hope to continue to evolve as a uniquely Australian brand, and hopefully support our local industry for many years to come with Australian made designs.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

MW: Don’t rush success. Know who you are and what you represent. Work with the best creative people you can. Inspire and empower your team to be better each day.

LR: It is such an exciting, passionate industry that is filled with challenges, lots of highs and of course there are lows. But always stay true to not only yourself but to the vision you have for your label.

To view Viktoria + Woods latest collection, shop online or find your nearest store, visit:


Inspirational Women: Renata Roberts

Each week SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Michelle Doherty

Name and role:

Renata Roberts, restaurateur – Sichuan Bang Bang and Pizzeria Violetta – and yoga teacher

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I try to start the day with yoga, running or training, to ensure a clear head for the morning which is when I am at my most productive. I usually have some social interaction at lunch time to hang out with friends and other small business people, eat out as much as possible and exchange ideas.

After a little siesta, I head to the restaurants around 5pm and occasionally drink a caffe corretto with grappa to give me a boost before the night of service ahead of me.

How/when did you know this is what you wanted to do as a career?

During my seven years of university education, I worked in hospitality for some wonderful entrepreneurs and was excited by their energy. When I realised that I could travel internationally with a job in hospitality I got even more excited. Six months into a corporate job, working 9am-5pm, was the nail in the coffin in dedicating my energies full time to hospitality industry.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My desire to share authentic and provincial food based upon my experiences in living all over the world. Melbourne and Sydney are so spoilt for cultural food choices and I want to bring to Brisbane that luxury.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?

I was lucky enough to land jobs in Australia, UK, USA, Canada, France, HK and China with inspiring, off beat, out-of the-box thinkers who allowed me an enormous amount of freedom in my role, as well as allowing me to learn their own individual styles. Paul Mathis (Melbourne) and Michelle Garnaut (China) were my greatest influences.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path and since then?

The greatest obstacles for me were conforming to mainstream ideas in business. Finding the ‘right’ people to work for, whose visions were unconventional, had a huge impact on my confidence in avoiding mediocrity and maintaining confidence in my decisions.

Now my greatest opportunity is to increase my customer’s awareness and appreciation of the authentic origins of food from other countries

How did you overcome them?

Self-confidence based on experience. Of course I have the tendency to crack up when customers argue with me that honey chicken is real Chinese food, or that pineapple does belong on a pizza.

A couple of shots of Stolichnaya usually assists.

What are your goals for the future?

To increase awareness on food. Although Australia is sometimes referred to as a melting pot of cultures, I disagree and would love to share true and traditional foods from all over this big planet with

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

Hands on work, focus on the job and the work, being available and curious.

A Day In The Life Of… Anna Allbury

Ever wanted to step into somebody else’s shoes for the day and see what life is like as a magazine editor, a professional sportsperson or corporate high-flyer..? Well, SHESAID is giving you the closest thing to your very own Freaky Friday experience with our A Day In The Life Of… series.

RELATED: A Day In The Life Of… Lauren Hannaford

Name and role: Anna Allbury and I am a writer/producer of kids television by day and creator of My Hippie Kitchen by night!

Tell us about My Hippie Kitchen.

My Hippie Kitchen is a web series featuring creative food and edible flowers, made by me in my little apartment kitchen. Each episode is inspired by a different aspect of life in Melbourne – a botanical antipasto platter inspired by the Royal Botanic Gardens, an edible coffee inspired by Melbourne’s world famous coffee scene, street art ceviche – you name it! My belief is that we’re all fully qualified to play with our food. I’ve had no formal food training – It’s all about just throwing caution into the wind and giving it a go! All 7 episodes are online at, as well as downloadable recipe sheets. They’re the kinds of concepts where you can follow the recipe to the letter if you like, or, you can take the idea and make it your own.  That’s something I absolutely welcome and encourage!

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When did you discover your talent? What made you want to follow it into a career?

It’s been a slow and natural progression. My Hippie Kitchen was really born out of my Instagram account @highheeledhippie. I’ve always loved cooking and food, and over the last couple of years, I’ve just been sharing what I create on social media. The great thing about social media is that it’s a wonderful platform for all things niche, it’s a great way to connect with people all over the world who are interested in the exact same thing as you.  Even if it is eating flowers and playing with food! It’s so important to share your work, because great things can come from it! From there a friend of mine asked me to do some creative menu consulting for his cafes, and that was a real buzz – seeing something that was once in your brain on a menu and being ordered by the people at the table next to you! After that, I embarked on a culinary trip around Europe for a bit of time out and inspiration. I learned how to make croissants in Paris, pasta in Italy, ate at my idol Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner, and got out of my comfort zone for long enough to return to Melbourne with a fresh perspective. I think prior to that trip I was scared to create something like My Hippie Kitchen, I had all those normal self-doubts and fears – but something about being away blew out all of those cobwebs and I realized that I had to follow through and create the ideas that were inside of me. We’ve all got our own unique voices and talents, and I think the greatest disservice we can do ourselves is ignore those hopes and dreams for fear of failure, or not being good enough. That’s the other thing about travel, it makes you realize how lucky you are to be born into a life where you actually get to choose what you want to do with it. So many people in this world don’t get that choice – and to not make the most of that gift seems completely insane!

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere!!  Since I’m obsessed with food and creating an experience with it, my mind is always going. A perfect example is when I first had the bolt of inspiration for my vegan eggs. I was standing in a queue at lunch at a bakery and I looked at this basket full of pastries. I saw one with what looked like an egg yolk in the middle – then realized it was an apricot halve. Duh. Then a little light bulb in my head went… DING! And a few days later, I made vegan eggs using an apricot halve as the yolk, and coconut yoghurt as the white.

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Your workdays are much more exciting than the average 9 to 5. When you’re working on My Hippie Kitchen, what does a typical day involve? 

For me, every day is a different adventure! My Hippie Kitchen is a project I’ve created in my spare time, on top of my 9-5 job, which is writing and producing kids television. Safe to say when I’m working on My Hippie Kitchen, things are very busy for me – but it’s about finding ways to keep the balance and make sure you’re looking after yourself! A good day for me looks something like this:

6.15 am Early morning vinyasa flow yoga. I love it because as well as being great for the physical body, starting the day with a bit of mental stillness and meditation really helps boost creativity during the day – and that’s vital for me!

8.00am Before heading off to work, often I’ll experiment in the kitchen with breakfast. That’s the great thing about My Hippie Kitchen, I’ve been able to build creating recipes in to my day to day life – a girl’s gotta eat! Some of my favourite ideas have been created in this space – the frozen breakfast flowerbomb, the breakfast bouquet! So often it’s not something I’ve really planned, just free-styling and playing with what I’ve got in the kitchen, and ideas I’ve got in my brain – then grabbing a quick snap of it for instagram so it’s documented! From there I grab a quick takeaway long black from my favourite café on the corner, jump in the car and head off to work.

9-5pm My day job.  As a writer and producer of kid’s television this can be anything from creative brainstorming sessions, writing scripts, directing field shoots, producing on the studio floor, dressing up as a crayfish, over-seeing edit sessions, and more! I feel really lucky to be able to work in a job with so much variety, with the added bonus of wonderful people.

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5-9pm Home time! When I’m in the throes of production with My Hippie Kitchen, my evenings are spent at home editing scripts, building / maintaining the website, taking a look at rough cuts of episodes and making edit notes, sourcing music. For the first series of webisodes we filmed them all across one weekend. Filming is really just the very tip of the iceberg, with weeks and weeks of work leading up to the shoot, and then weeks and weeks of work after!  Somewhere in there I’ll have dinner, then maybe a quick meditation before bed, or I’ll read a book to unwind. I’m a non-fiction girl, and super-interested in quantum mechanics!

What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in the same career path as yourself?

Be prepared to work, like, really work – Having that passion for what you’re doing is the key – because in my experience there’s a lot you invest when you create something new. For me, there have been countless nights and weekends where I could have been out having fun, but I chose to work because I knew it was the only way I was going to make any of this happen! As well as the time investment, there’s inevitably a financial investment too – be prepared to pour everything you have in!

Be prepared to fall over, and know that everyone else falls over too – I think especially thanks to the media, social or otherwise – our perception of what success looks like is just a small snippet of what really goes on behind the scenes. Yes, success is a very real thing and those wonderful highs absolutely do occur – but the not so glamorous path to getting there we don’t often see.  We don’t see the failures, the frazzled late nights, the mistakes – but they happen. Know that it’s normal to hit dead ends, you have days you want to toss everything in the air and give up completely, but if you truly love what you’re doing – you wont.  And that’s what makes it all worth it, and your future successes all the more meaningful!

Celebrate – Be sure to stop and smell the roses! So often we’re caught up in what’s next, rather than being present and appreciating where we’re at on the journey. If you had a great day and kicked some goals, made some progress – break out the champagne and oysters! Life’s too short not to!

Start. Just start. If you’ve got an idea for a concept, an app, a business and it’s something you’re really passionate about, take the first step today! What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Do that!

Inspirational Women: Debra Tranter

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Kim Kelly

Name and role: Debra Tranter, founder of Oscar’s Law

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My role with Oscar’s Law changes day to day, it is so unpredictable and difficult to plan as anything can happen. We keep an eye on what the industry are doing and saying so we can respond immediately. I spend a lot of time reading state legislation so I am prepared especially for our meeting with politicians; we can tell them what’s not working, and why we need change. Writing submissions for legislative change is difficult and time consuming but vital to what we do.

We also have many awareness projects on the go so touching base with all of them and making sure they are progressing. Following up on complaints of cruelty is a big part of what I do and we liaise with other organisations in order to get the best outcomes for the animals. We are always looking for and creating opportunities to bring about awareness to the issue and finding ways to reach different audiences as people react differently and we need to tailor our message in order to expand our reach.

How/when did you know this is what you wanted to do as a career?

I don’t get paid for volunteering with Oscar’s Law. Oscars Law simply doesn’t have the funds to hire staff but I am also morally opposed to paying myself or anyone else. Oscars Law will always remain a grass roots organisation. We are the underdog in many ways, we don’t have a lot of money or paid staff but what we do have is thousands of dedicated supporters who continually help to raise awareness and we have succeeded in making sure this issue is on the political agenda.

I still work as a registered nurse. I put myself through university when both my daughters were in primary school. Once I graduated I chose to work in aged care as I saw many injustices and knew I could bring about change. I worked my way up to manager and then within a few years I was promoted to area manager and managed 5 nursing homes. I eventually took on a role as Quality Manager for an aged care company. It was a role I loved as I was empowered to really make a difference in the lives of our elderly residents, and it was something I had worked so hard to achieve. However the time I was dedicating to work left little time for my volunteers work for animals. So at the age of 47 I made the decision to quit my career and focus on my work with Oscar’s Law. I now work for a nursing agency and work 3-4 nightshifts per week in order to pay my bills.

When did you start Oscar’s Law and what took you to begin the campaign?

I founded Oscars Law in 2010 but I have been working on this issue since 1993 when I first found out about puppy factories. Back in 1993 no one had heard about the issue and no one gave much thought about where the cute puppies in the windows of pet shops came from. I thought it was an incredible injustice and when I went to my first puppy factory I resolved then and there to do everything I could to bring about change, the decision changed the course of my life forever. Fast forward 20 years and I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve, now more people than ever know about puppy factories and are making kinder choices, they don’t want to contribute to this industry and the public are taking away the market from puppy factories.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started and since then?

Initially it was just getting people to believe me, no one thought we could be factory-farming puppies in this country and even those that worked within animal welfare refused to believe it was an issue. It was a very lonely time, and giving up seemed to be so easy. I wasn’t taken seriously and the people with a vested interest did everything to shut me down and discredit me. I was challenging and threatening to expose the way they made their income. It became almost unbearable at times with the constant threats and lack of support due to people just not thinking it was an issue. The industry was huge and they had representatives on most Government animal welfare advisory committees so just trying to be heard was very difficult.

How did you overcome these?

I have never wavered from the belief that this is a terrible injustice based on cruelty and consumer fraud. I chose to block out all the negativity and not waste any time on it. I read up on every piece of legislation surrounding the issues and argued that all of the laws were to protect the commercial interests of puppy farmers not the dogs, and then I set out to prove it over and over again. Once you see, you cannot un-see; and what I was witnessing first hand on puppy factories was so horrific I simply refused to give up.

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What are your goals for the future and the future of Oscar’s Law?

We are at the stage now where politicians are listening, and this is testament to our supporter base that have made this a political issue. We are currently working with political parties on legislative change that will make a huge difference and because this is a state issue we need to keep working in each state until we have a consistent national solution to bringing about an end to puppy factories. Oscars Law is a great example of a leaderless campaign whereby we empower the public so they can help bring about the changes needed. We are very proud that we have always supported grass roots campaigns and have offered support and guidance and helped fundraise for other organisations. I am determined that Oscar’s Law will continue to provide this support in solidarity with others in order to bring about change.

What is the response you receive from people when you tell them about the campaign and how do you get others to take action?

When people first find out about puppy factories they are horrified and eager to help. The graphic images of cruelty that these dogs endure can be quite disengaging as most people turn away, no one likes to view cruelty to animals. It’s why we try and find different and creative ways to reach out to the public in order to make them feel empowered and let them know they can make a difference and be part of the solution.

Where do you find your inspiration?

The animals, always. They are forever on my mind. I have witnessed what they endure, I have held them in my arms and I can feel their suffering. Their ability to forgive astounds me, they have every reason to hate humans but I have watched puppy factory survivors on their journey of healing and their ability to learn to trust and forgive humans is inspiring. We betray them in so many ways but puppy factories would have to be the ultimate betrayal to our ‘best friends’.

Driving community and political awareness surrounding the issue is a big part of what you do. Tell us about how you extend your important message?

This issue is so important to me and it’s been a 20-year journey so I am prepared to do what ever it takes to achieve a better outcome for these animals. Involving and encouraging other organisations to take on the issue is so important as it only make ‘our voice’ stronger. Collectively we can reach out and educate more people. Oscars Law organised a two-day advocacy program to teach others how to be advocates in their community and this attitude of empowering others and sharing ways to bring about change underpins everything we do.

What advice would you give to someone who is passionate about challenging puppy farming or wanting to follow the same path as you?

Don’t think you can change the world overnight! Be prepared to stick it out, change takes years. Try to find positive achievement with your campaign every day, I call them “moments of greatness”, it keeps you going. Reflect often on the things you have achieved. Ignore the haters, success breeds’ enemies. Stay focused on what matters. Believe in yourself.

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