Mentoring

Ones To Watch: Genevieve Clay-Smith

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’.

Who knew that at someone so young could make such an impact? We certainly didn’t, at least that was until we meet Genevieve Clay-Smith. Back in 2009 along with a small but driven team, Genevieve created the short film, Be My Brother, whose protagonist and film crew included Australians from marginalised backgrounds. After the film won first prize and best actor at Tropfest, Genevieve took the initiative to create her own organisation – Bus Stop Films. The pioneering organisation is providing people from all walks of life with the opportunity to become involved with the film industry. So it comes as no surprise that Genevieve’s hard work is being recognised with multiple accolades to her name. 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 the co-founder and co-owner of a creative agency, Taste Creative, I also voluntarily run a not-for-profit organisation, Bus Stop Films and I am a filmmaker too! So I wear a few hats and have a very hybrid career across business ownership, creative leadership and social entrepreneurship.

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

It all started with wanting to be involved in the film industry. Originally I was working towards becoming an actress but at university I discovered I actually had a knack for getting projects started, and making films. While I was at uni I got a job as a trainee filmmaker working on a documentary for Down Syndrome NSW, where I discovered that film could champion positive social change and I was very attracted to the idea that something I make could change and impact society.

Your success at Tropfest in 2009, lead you to found Bus Stop Films. What inspired you to create the film, Be My Brother?

Gerard O’Dwyer was the inspiration behind Be My Brother. He was one of the participants with Down Syndrome in the documentary I was making and he wanted to be an actor. Although he was full of talent and ambition, he’d never had the opportunity to study at a mainstream acting school and get opportunities other young actors might get. So I began questioning, who was going to see him, who was going to help him achieve his goal of acting? And then, a bright idea entered my heart – I call it my miracle moment, and the thought was “why don’t I make a film?”

And so on no budget, with limited resources, I did just that. And on this journey of making a short film starring Gerard, I was ethically driven to also include other young people with disabilities in helping to make the film too. I believed the process of making the film, was just as important as the end result. I wanted to give others the opportunity to learn. So I held a filmmaking workshop for five people with disabilities in a friends lounge room, who then fulfilled crew roles on the film.

What makes Bus Stop Films unique to other organisations?

We heavily focus on engagement with the professional film industry. We focus on using film education to up skill people’s English and literacy skills as well as personal development skills – learning how to be on time and grow self esteem. We teach film theory as well as practical filmmaking and because people are interested and passionate about the topic they step up to my expectations. When I make a film with my students I hold them to the same standards and expectations that I would have of anyone else working on set. It’s quite military. But in having high standards, you show a person that you believe in them and that you respect them, you also give them the opportunity to achieve something, they might never have thought they could.

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

When you think you’ve fixed one problem another one arises, and when you have finally achieved something, it’s all about what’s next. Bus Stop has achieved a lot and created some incredible social impact, but the next step for it now, is how to make it sustainable, and how to give more people access to our program. I am currently working with some amazing people who are supporting me through working out what Bus Stop 2.0 will look like! When I started Bus Stop with my Co-founder Eleanor, I simply tried to connect with as many people as possible who knew more than me, and the Foundation for Young Australians was also a wonderful support which helped me through the very beginning of setting up.

What drives/motivates you to keep going?

I know that our filmmaking program and the films we produce have an impact, and I want more people to gain access to what we’ve developed. I get fan mail every week from people all over the world saying “thank you”. And that is a big driver. I am also very passionate about education, I love teaching people and seeing them grow, I love how sharing my knowledge and passion for film can help a person develop and grow confidence. It’s magic.

Bus Stop Films is now 6 years old, congratulations! How has the organization evolved over the years?

We’ve gone from just making films with people with a disability, to realising that what we’re doing can help other people, like members of the refugee community and CALD communities. It’s all about helping people up-skill through studying a subject of interest, like film. As humans, we all love story telling, we do it everyday, we re-tell stories, we read stories and we watch films. What we do at Bus Stop, can help other people who might need help with English skills, and personal development and also, we can help those who just want to learn more about the industry. Also as my creative agency, Taste Creative has grown we’ve been able to work out pathways for my Bus Stop students to gain work experience and employment on some of our sets.

Your work has brought you some serious recognition, being named 2015 Youth of the Year and winning the Young Leader category of Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence. How has this affected you and your work? 

Honestly, it’s been wonderful to get a pat on the back, Bus Stop is voluntarily run on the side of my other work with Taste Creative and I do it for the love of it, so recognition like that simply helps me to keep going and makes me determined to get our program and films out to as many people as possible. I feel like I found something important and impacting and I need to steward it well and ensure that it can reach and help people more broadly.

As a creative, what inspires you?

I love other entrepreneurial stories, I’m very inspired by my friends at Thank You Group and also watching films and reading books inspire me. Even going for walks can help to clear my mind and bring new ideas into my head!

What are your plans for the future and the future of Bus Stop Films?

At Bus Stop we are going on a journey to explore and discover how to impact more people more broadly. We are looking at developing a new business model that will allow it to operate without me, which is very important for any organisation – the exit plan for the founders. I have discovered, only recently, that I am not scalable! The way I teach my workshops and engage with people is unique to my personality and me and can’t be replicated, so the question for us is, how to we give more people access to our program without me? We are looking at how I will set the culture and tone of our program but then ensure we can make it accessible for a wide range of people. It’s an exciting adventure because it means I am taking our impact to the next level and hopefully will help more people at a larger scale than what our current capacity is.

What advice would you give to somebody hoping to follow the same path as you?

Anyone who has an idea to do something, should jump off the deep end and give it ago – find mentors, find like minded people and just start! You might have to make some sacrifices but that’s the price of taking a risk. Also don’t expect it to be easy – if you think it will be easy you’re dreaming, and if you fail – that’s not an excuse to give up, failure is a part of growing and learning, just read Walt Disney’s story and you will be inspired not to let failure dictate your future decisions!

To see more about what Genevieve and her team get up to, head to http://www.busstopfilms.com.au/

June 10, 2015

Inspirational Women: Emma Isaacs

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: Kate Vale

Name and role:

Emma Isaacs, CEO of Business Chicks, Australia’s largest community for women

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

My role is CEO which means I inspire my team to do better, and I agitate for change and growth. I start most of my sentences with ‘What if we could …’ I have a lot of ideas, and it’s my job to keep my people and my community alive and awake to my vision of building a truly global network of women who support each other and want more for themselves and their lives. In a team of 30 people, I currently have four direct reports and my time is spent developing them so that they can in turn lead their teams effectively. I’m a natural leader, but a very ordinary manager so I try to stay top-line and let them focus on execution. I also drive the culture of the company – the employee experience is every bit as important to me as our customer experience. 

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

I was always an adventurous and inquisitive child (might be the first born thing, if you believe in birth order biases.) I had my first business when I was seven years old! I’d gather all the kids in my street together in our backyard and ask them to go and bring back some money from their parents. I’d then go and buy lollies and we’d distribute them into smaller packages and then sell them back to the parents at an inflated price.

I always knew I wanted to be successful, and I figured that if I began early, I’d get the head start I needed. My next door neighbour had a restaurant so I begged her to give me a job – I think I started the day I turned 14 and 9 months (or perhaps a bit before!). While my friends partied, I worked every Friday and Saturday night and took every shift offered to me. I never resented it. There was no ‘a-ha’ moment of realising I had to be my own boss. It was never an ambition of mine. It just happened in that serendipitous way that all things that are meant to be happen.

You are only 35 and have already managed to take two businesses and transform them into extremely prosperous companies. What drove you to take on these projects at such a young age?

Perhaps I was born an entrepreneur, as somehow I knew that the conventional career path wasn’t for me. I spent six months at university but quickly realised that it wouldn’t get me where I wanted to be. At the age of 18, I joined a recruitment company, and a few months later was a 50% shareholder. I didn’t do it to become an entrepreneur or a business owner – I didn’t really even know what those two things meant. I did it to create, which is still what drives me today – the notion of not knowing where you’ll end up, but knowing that if somehow you can get your mindset right, it’ll be a heck of a journey with lots of cool experiences and learnings along the way.

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

My first experience of having a mentor was through a structured mentoring program when I was in the early stages of my first business. I was a young entrepreneur and the woman I was paired with couldn’t have been any more different to me, which ultimately was the most effective matching I could have hoped for. She’d grown significant businesses with market caps of over $100m and was tough and strict. She lifted me to new levels of leadership and had me question my effectiveness and strengths, teaching me many important lessons, such as the need to develop delegation skills which I’ve taken throughout my entire career. Since then I’ve had mentors through other structured programs, and also through my own relationships – I’ve learned something different from each of the entrepreneurs and business leaders who I’ve worked with and make a point to keep in touch with them.

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

Business Chicks wasn’t my first business, so I’d had the chance to cut my entrepreneurial teeth a lot earlier than that. But growing Business Chicks was a unique learning experience in that it was unchartered territory, and in a lot of ways we were creating a category (and still are!). We struggled with all the traditional problems that plague start-ups: at the beginning we were probably underfunded and definitely under-resourced – there were great learnings but I’m happy to have moved on from those days!

How did you overcome these?

I don’t think I overthought it. I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong – getting stuck in analysis and not taking action. For me, I just saw a job that needed to be done. I didn’t wallow or give time to whether I’d be able to do it or not – I just gave it a shot. I don’t think I consciously knew I could make it a huge success, but I must have had some subconscious thinking that led me to keep going. And once you’ve gotten through the start up phase, and you’ve built a solid foundation of people, practises and profits, the rest is relatively easy. 

You have 4 beautiful children, how do you find juggling being a mother and successful businesswomen?

It’s akin to being on a roller coaster – you just hold on tight and enjoy the ride! It’s amazing what we’re capable of as women. Before I had children, I would have never believed there was enough time in the day or enough energy in my body to juggle a business which supports over 35,000 women across Australia and has achieved a 40% growth rate for the past few years, as well as raise four children.

I’ve learnt to let go of striving for perfection and feeling guilty. I just try to do my best and be kind to myself. My secret is outsourcing everything. I don’t do housework and I get great people around me in my business and in my home that enjoy working with us, and can handle the pace! I’ve tried every conceivable make-up of help from live-in au pairs through to grandparents through to daycare and full-time nannies and when it works, life is great.

Through Business Chicks you have met some of the worlds most influential leaders, visionaries and entrepreneurs. How do you take on their advice and implement it? Is there anyone in particular who has resonated with you?

I learn something from every visionary we bring to the Business Chicks stage, but Dr Brené Brown immediately comes to mind. Her TED talk has been viewed over 17 million times and something she said stuck with me: “Vulnerability isn’t weakness, it’s our best measure of courage.” I always practice being as vulnerable, open and transparent as I can, and the more you flex the vulnerability muscle, the stronger it becomes! I also adored working with Arianna Huffington, and loved how she said “There’s no bigger networking skill than being a giver.” As a person who is constantly connecting others and doing favours for people, this really resonated with me. Diane von Furstenberg, Julia Gillard, Sir Richard Branson, Rachel Zoe and Sir Bob Geldof have also left lasting impacts on me.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I feel really grateful to be able to do the work I do. Business Chicks is now Australia’s largest community for women and it’s a privilege to serve our members. I feel really strongly about supporting women to be their best, to play a bigger game, and ultimately back themselves and support others along the way. When you have access to 35,000 high achieving women, inspiration is not hard to find!

What are your goals for the future?

At the moment our main focus is our expansion into the US, as we launch there in July 2015. We want to create a strong footprint in the US and then ultimately take the offering to Europe and Asia too.

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

Go for it! There is no more rewarding ‘career’ than being an entrepreneur.

Image via emmaisaacs.com

June 5, 2015

Inspirational Women: Meredith Cranmer

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: Inspriational Women: Aimee Buchanan

Name and role:

Meredith Cranmer, Managing Partner of BEcause Brand Experience.

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

BEcause Brand Experience is an experiential marketing agency based in Sydney. We create engaging brand conversations and live experiences, designed to change behaviors and get people talking. I worked for the London office of BEcause for 5 years before moving to Sydney 3.5 years ago to do a joint venture start-up.

Typically, my day-to-day touches all areas of the business with a particular focus on business development, marketing and new business. I could be meeting with a client to discuss their brief and how experiential marketing could help them answer the challenge, leading a creative brainstorming with the team, developing our marketing plans and looking at future opportunities for the agency.

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

Looking back, I got the events bug quite early on in my career. Working at the MediaWorks in NZ as a broadcasting graduate, I conceived and staged an event up the Sky Tower in New Zealand. It was an outside broadcast, charity breakfast. They (Skycity) had never done anything like it before. I naively pitched the concept and delivered the event without realizing that it was a pretty big deal for a 20-something starting their career! I loved the adrenaline, practical creativity and ‘live’ aspect of the event. Seeing how an idea flies in the real world and how it instantly impacts peoples thoughts and behavior felt very powerful to me.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere! I love going to music festivals, exploring new places, camping and trying new things – be it a new restaurant that has opened, music or pawing through magazines. I do love a good bit of people watching/listening on public transport, too. I’m naturally curious – my friends would probably say nosey, so tend to like asking heaps of questions to solve creative problems.

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

I’ve had many different people help me in my career at different times. My parents, in particular my mum, always encouraged me to embrace opportunity and not be afraid to give things a go.

The turning point in my career was when I joined BEcause in London. Sharon Richey, the CEO and Founder of BEcause, employed me as an account director on one of the agencies biggest accounts. Her story and management approach has been incredibly inspiring to me. She actively develops the people around her, always playing to their strengths and never taking things too seriously. I remember being at an event with her one night and telling her that one day I’d like to have my own agency. In the years that followed, I did just that under her wing, starting BEcause in Sydney.

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

Moving countries and starting a fresh has definitely been a challenge. I left NZ to go travelling around Australia after gaining just one year’s work experience in broadcasting. After meeting my now husband in Australia, I moved to London with him. Despite buckets of enthusiasm, I didn’t find it easy to get a career-led job. Not knowing how the job market worked there, and with little contacts and local experience, I found it quite tough. I ended up temping for quite a long period of time for a local council on the IT help desk. Not exactly what dreams were made of. I did however learn that turning your computer off and on is a legitimate form of advice when things are going wrong!

When I left the UK and moved to Sydney to start BEcause, I did so again rather naively without any local market experience or contacts. The stakes were much higher with this move as I was venturing out on my own for the first time.

How did you overcome these?

I tried to meet as many people as possible who could help connect me in some way. Basically, I networked like crazy and always followed up on pieces of information or referrals. I’m not afraid to ask for help and always find it so humbling how people will go out of their way to lend you a hand when you need it most. So many people have helped me in both small and big ways. I try to remember to thank people and take the same approach when people ask me for my help. What goes around really does come around.

What are your goals for the future?

I would like to continue to grow BEcause, both locally in Australia but also expand into another market overseas. I love to travel and meet new people, combining this with work is the best of both worlds!

Globally, BEcause have launched a fundraising initiative for the marketing industry and its partners called ADD Positivity. It aims to make a positive impact on the lives of others by raising money for education-based charities. I’m hoping that our local team get behind the initiative and lay the local foundations for what is such an exciting, collaborative idea.

On a personal level, I’d like to tick off South America from the travel bucket list and one day go to the Burning Man festival.

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

Hustle. Work hard. Say yes to everything and get involved. Be open to gaining different experiences along the way. I believe life experience is just as important as on the job experience so get out there any try new things and take the opportunities that life presents you.

February 27, 2015

Inspirational Women: Lara Bingle

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 Bridges

Name and role:

Lara Bingle, founder and CEO of The Base.

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

I travel so much. I often say that I feel like I’m everywhere but nowhere. The Base for me is a 6am to midnight kind of commitment.

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

I was always so fascinated by beauty – hair stylists, makeup artists – I got to work with so many talented inspiring people on shoots that it felt like a natural progression to create something like The Base.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everything! I never know who or what will inspire a great idea, so I try to be truly engaged in the world around me. 

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

Visionary, self-made women with inspirational careers (like Natalie Massenet, Victoria Beckham and Oprah). 

What are your goals for the future?

Family.

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

My advice would be – start now!

February 20, 2015

Inspirational Women: Haya Maraka

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:

Haya Maraka, I wish I had one answer to that! Writer, stylist, consultant anything creative.

What do you do on a day to day basis?

No two days are the same for me! Sometimes I spend the day writing, others I am with a client shopping, and some days I am casting models! One thing I do do consistently is walk my adorable puppy Cleopatrick every morning.

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

Clothes were my first love in life, ever since I was tiny I always remember how much I loved clothes and shopping. So being in the fashion industry was never a decision I had to make it was just what I always knew I was going to do.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere of course! To me inspiration doesn’t generally have to be something beautiful or a place! Sometimes I will be walking down the street and see a construction man with paint all over his jeans and I will go home and decide that I need to paint my jeans.

The good thing about inspiration is you never know when it’s coming, but when it does, only good things come out of it.

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

I don’t have a mentor per say, I do have a lot of people that I admire that are sadly no longer with us, that I have never even met.  Reading about them and what they did is almost like having a mentor! I am obsessed with Diana Vreeland. As far as advice I go to my mother, she is very supportive and gives the best advice always!

What are your goals for the future?

I have so many goals for the future that I could never just sit here and list them in this interview. One of my major goals would be to get my book published.

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

I would say let go of what you think you want, and let the universe guide you, and also always listen to your intuition.

February 13, 2015

Inspirational Women: Sharon Williams

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: Ford + Harris

Name and role:

Sharon Williams, CEO of Taurus Marketing

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

I am founder and CEO of Taurus, an integrated marketing agency based in Sydney that enjoys a niche of servicing tech and entrepreneur clients. So day-to-day, I swim and run at the beach most mornings, get in to the office and then attend sales meetings most of the day, checking in with my COO and the team as I go. I have a lot of fun getting out and about and love my job.

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

I guess the light bulb moment for me was when I was told there was no future for me when I got pregnant with my first child and I turned this doubt into a source of inspiration and realised that it was a great opportunity to take the bull by the horns and to start my own company.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find I’m constantly surrounded by inspiration whether it is my three children, my in-laws, my sister Lisa who died of cancer, my wonderful team – and the beach!

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

Yes, I have an informal chairman who acts as a mentor and I have been fortunate to be a member of various networking and mentoring groups from local gatherings to AICD and The CEO Institute where I chaired a syndicate for 3 years. Being surrounded by business savvy and liked-minded individuals provides an excellent network of support and mentorship.

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

Juggling babies without family around, husband being away on business with small children, whether to hire that first hire, take on office, take on loans for growth – all things to weather but maybe not stumbling blocks.

How did you overcome these?

I guess with tenacity, focus, hard work, biting the bullet, you just have to back yourself and go out there and do it.

What are your goals for the future?

More beach! I love my job but I have other interests, for example, I am an Ambassador for children’s charity Good Beginnings and have just taken on the Australian representative role of Advance.org which is a global network of over 2 million Australians here and overseas. Always lots to do! I guess it’s all about finding the ying-yang balance between work and play.

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

Hire the best you can and let go of staff quickly if they are not right, find mentors around you to guide you who have done it before and get work balance right from the start.

January 16, 2015

Inspirational Women: Terri Vinson

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: Ford + Harris

Name and role:

Terri Vinson, Managing Director and formulator of Synergie Skin

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

My day to day schedule is diverse; most days I will be working in our lab on new formulations or conducting research on cutting-edge ingredients to determine how I can harness them in my cosmeceuticals range to impact the skin in a positive way. I am also committed to education and spend much of my time travelling, hosting lectures at medical conferences and education workshops with my clients. I am dedicated to furthering knowledge on the principles of formulating and skincare in our industry.

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

I have always been fascinated with both beauty and science. A career in formulating has enabled me to marry my two passions. When I opened my skin clinic over 10 years ago, I realized there was a huge gap in the market for skincare backed by clinical data and scientific results. Furthermore, formulations on the market were riddled with harmful additives. Harnessing my chemistry knowledge, I started researching active ingredients in clinical journals, and became driven to create Synergie Skin.

I decided to focus 100 per cent on formulating in 2007. Having a clean science philosophy and formulating without harmful additives is so important to me. This became even more important to me when I became a mother of two. Being a mum, I always say: “If I won’t put it on my face, or my children’s face, then I won’t put it on my customers’ face.”

Where do you find your inspiration?

I draw inspiration from the feedback of my customers, both medical and beauty therapists and end user consumers.

Many people believe the beauty industry can be superficial, however I believe that physical appearance has a direct impact on a person’s self-esteem. My expertise is making clean and effective skincare and makeup, so if I can help create a positive change to a person’s skin and empower them to feel great about themselves, then I know I have done my job. This really inspires me to grow and enhance the Synergie range.

Did you have a mentor? 

I have had two prominent mentors in my life, the first was my high school biology teacher who really went the extra mile to ensure all of her students were engaged in learning and had an enquiring mind. Sir Gustav Nossal, a renowned immunologist from my Monash University years, has also really inspired me to excel in my field of formulating science.

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

The people who have helped me in my journey are too numerous to mention! I’ve always known I could rely my own instincts and abilities first and foremost, and my wonderful team are a huge part of Synergie’s success. I started from nothing and grew organically. I have no regrets with anybody I have met or any experiences I have had in this industry, as they have all driven me to where I am today.  

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

Being a small company in a large pool of corporates, I have found it challenging to educate consumers that smaller, specialised boutique brands can offer superior results to department store brands in producing long-term, positive changes to the skin. Through my education forums around the world, it has been a challenge having to dispel some common myths surrounding skincare and to cut through the marketing hype. So many skincare companies make false claims when it comes to the results from active ingredients, and I make it a top priority to encourage people to do their own research and endorse skincare that is backed by clinical data and scientific results.

How did you overcome these?

Every product I create contains active ingredients that are backed by scientific, clinical data and all are certified cruelty free. My team and I always make an effort to educate in clinics (both in store and online) to demystify the skincare industry and expose the truth of good skincare.

What are your goals for the future?

I hope to give new markets the opportunity to have Synergie Skin. We are currently expanding distribution throughout the US, UK, NZ and parts of Asia. I am also proud we have come so far, given that we are 100% Australian made and owned, and our formulating and manufacturing is done all under the one roof at our Melbourne headquarters. I look forward to growing our global presence even further and taking on the new markets.

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

  1. Be really passionate about what you do and you will look forward to every day and its challenges and possibilities.
  2. Always seek to expand your knowledge and never be satisfied with what you know today.
  3. Persist with your dreams, have a clear vision and see it through to fruition.
  4. Don’t be afraid to work hard. People who work hard and are good at what they do always get noticed.
December 12, 2014

Inspirational Women: Ford + Harris

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: Georgia Coote

Name and role:

Sharona Harris and Rachel Ford, founders of jewellery label Ford + Harris

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

SH: I am the sales and marketing manager for Ford + Harris, so I look after all the PR, branding, website, social media and retailer liaison, however as a start-up brand you need to roll your sleeves up and also do whatever it takes to get the job done so packing orders, managing customer relations and being the main contact for our factory is also a major part of my job!

On a daily basis, I will fulfil orders and check inventory. I will also respond to any media and stylists requests to loan our products, which we have been very fortunate with as we have built some great relationships with celebrity stylists such as Dale McKie (clients include Montana Cox & Bambi Northwood-Blythe) as well as Marina Didovich (who works with Jennifer Hawkins for Australia’s Next Top Model). I will then also plan our social media such as Instagram and Facebook, and research any up and coming bloggers, photographers, stylists and publications that I think we should be working with. The next major part of my role will be to ensure Ford + Harris will be positioned in premium retail boutiques, so I am currently researching this also.

RF: Sharona and I juggle the entire business between the two of us and our jobs change depending on who has the time for the particular job required. My role for Ford and Harris is mainly to work out the technical elements of our designs, and because I am not trained as a jeweller, sometimes this takes a lot of research and time. However, I feel so overwhelmed with happiness when an idea comes to fruition that it is completely worth all the hard hours of thought. All our designs are little works of art that a person can choose to wear. It is a very satisfactory process when you see customers enjoying your work and creations. Sharona is really good at sensing trends and she sends me inspiration and ideas for designs – then it’s up to me to come up with specifics. So in a nut shell Sharona briefs me – then I go off and research and it works really well.

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

SH: It was NEVER something I thought I would be doing but I couldn’t be happier. Rachel comes from a family of jewellers so it’s in her blood, but I sort of joined in and now I can tell you how many microns of plating a jewellery piece has, the cut of a gemstone and all these other weird and wonderful jewellery terms that sounded so foreign to me only 12 months ago!

RF: Art and fashion are both long time loves of mine. I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Queensland College of Art directly after finishing school and later completed a Diploma of Fashion Design. I didn’t like the fast paced and “throw away nature” of fashion however, and thought that perhaps I could direct my love of aesthetics into jewellery, which I think tends to be loved and treasured a lot longer than clothing.

Where do you find your inspiration?

SH: Of course Instagram, Pinterest and websites such as style.com and street photographers such as Tommy Ton give me sources of inspiration for what’s currently happening but I think real inspiration comes from your passions and personals discoveries and for me that comes from music, movies and books, especially from the 60s, 70s and early 80s era’s, which we then reinvent into something original and modern. I won’t give much away but for our next collection Rachel and I were inspired by Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface, it just shows you that you never know where your next big ‘ah ha!’ moment is going to come from!

RF: I find inspiration every day. Things people say, things people wear, things I hear and things I see. Everything is open to interpretation. I also love history and looking back at era’s and trends. For instance our latest collection was an amalgamation of the Byzantine art era, the 1970’s punk rock music scene, in addition to paying homage to Coco Chanel and her early costume jewellery designs. Nothing is new anymore – it’s all about reinterpretation. One who claims they are creating something totally new is being completely silly. We all depend on each other for innovation.

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

SH: I have so many mentors. I am incredibly fortunate to have so many talented friends that range from artists, fashion designers, entrepreneurs, financial planners and musicians and they are all mentors. I try to learn and absorb from people around me as much as possible. It so important to surround yourself by inspiring people, it makes life a much more fulfilling experience.

RF: My mother, Suzanne Bribosia, who has impeccable taste in jewellery, is my main inspiration. She is a hobbyist jeweller – however, if she had pursued a career in the field, she would be very well established and very well known. She still has the most amazing ideas and visions to this day and she continues to help Ford + Harris on this journey with ideas and with technical support.

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

SH: The whole journey has been one big stumbling block! Not in a bad way, just because neither of us had run a business let alone worked in the jewellery industry so we started from absolute ground zero. But I always put one foot in front of the other and believe that things will work out… and so far they have!

RF:  Due to having no technical training in jewellery design, the start of designing our first collection was quite overwhelming for me. At times it felt too much to take on, however having a supportive partner by my side to talk through all the problems, made it possible to deal with. In freak-out times, call Sharona and get some perspective. You learn a lot about who you are when you don’t know what you’re doing. You learn your strengths and you learn your weaknesses too. It feels very satisfying to learn your strengths, and completely horrible to realise your weaknesses. But this is the journey of life, right?

How did you overcome these?

SH: NEVER be afraid to ask for help and open your eyes to the amazing sources of knowledge you have around you. Sometimes I think ‘how am I going to do that on my own?’ but I try to remember not to be too proud to ask for help, as soon as you do things become so much easier and you will be surprised by how willing people are to help someone out… Just always remember to return the favour two-fold.

RF: As I said, be honest and talk the issues out. We have learnt that communication is key, and we have also set boundaries with each other. Being best friends and business partners is hard, but for us – so far – really, really good. Be patient with each other. Be patient with all humans, we all have good days and bad days.

And knowledge is power. Learn all you can. Throw out your television. Read books, listen to Podcasts, talk to people.

What are your goals for the future?

SH: For 2015, I want to position Ford + Harris in the best retailers both here and overseas. In the long term I want Ford + Harris to be positioned world-wide as the answer to tough luxe accessories… I think there is a gap in the market for high-quality jewellery that is seriously cool and still affordable… so here we come!

RF: Sharona and I would like to be able to work full time for Ford and Harris. This is not fashion for me – I’m making people art – and I hope when people wear our items they feel the beauty, strength and love that we put into each and every item.

In the future, I would love to go to a particular town in Vietnam called Sapa, and set up a local jewellery company to support the abandoned women and children of that area. I was given a pair of amazing earrings made from coke cans about ten years ago that I love to death. The people of this area have skills in jewellery making but do not have design vision. I would love to set up an industry for these people. It’s just a matter of time for me. I want to give back somehow.

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

SH: One step at a time! Just focus on the one problem or the one goal at a time and then move onto the next one, everything is achievable when you break it down into bite sized pieces.

RF: If you can’t do it by yourself, find a good partner who believes in you, and just chip away at it. One day at a time. Two minds are always going to be more powerful than one.

And – never think you have to be formally trained to do anything. We live in an era where information is easily accessible. If you want to learn it, you can. You just need the motivation!

December 5, 2014

Inspirational Women: Georgia Coote

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: Jodie McLean

Name and role:

Georgia Coote, director of MAY The Label

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

My role is the Director of MAY The Label. Fortunately I have a wonderful team at May HQ that has allowed me to narrow down my daily tasks. I tend to focus mostly on creative direction for our collections so work very closely with our head designer Alexandra. I also need to be in constant communication with our national and international sales agents and also our public relations agency. I also oversee many other aspects of the business including production and distribution of our collections, website and online store and social media. Each of these facets can be very time consuming and require a huge amount of effort and attention to detail.

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

I was working in fashion wholesale and saw a gap in the market for fun, minimalist and affordable feminine fashion.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Fashion on the streets and the environment around you can be very inspiring. Glossy magazines are a great reference, not necessarily for the fashion but for the colour, texture and feeling.

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

I have actually come across a few excellent mentors throughout my career. Initially, I would say previous business owners I have worked for were a huge source of inspiration and then once I moved into my own business my sales agents have been a great support helping to guide me in the right direction as my business has grown. To this day I still have so many inspirational woman working in similar businesses around me. We love to share tips and information. My staff are also incredibly well versed in their roles and keep their finger on the pulse.

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

When I started this business I was so obsessed with it, so it was never difficult to get up and start work. As I worked from home in the beginning it allowed me so many working hours in the day (no travel) so for that reason I could keep on top of everything as a one woman show. It started to get tricky when orders where increasing and 20 cartons of stock would arrive at my house and I had to try to distribute from there. I had orders all through the house, on the kitchen table, beds and up the hallway, crazy!

How did you overcome these?

Eventually I couldn’t keep up anymore so I hired my first staff member and a warehouse office space. There have been many hurdles since, but nothing I haven’t been able to overcome without the support of my family and staff.

What are your goals for the future?

At the moment we are beginning to sell into some amazing international online stores such as Revolve and Nasty Gal, that has been a very exciting move for us! We are going to be popping in other great stores in the USA and other countries so stay tuned!

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

Have a business plan, be organised, make sure you reply to all your emails, have a user friendly and pretty website and make sure you update your social media.

November 28, 2014

Inspirational Women: Jodie McLean

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: Irene Falcone

Name and role:

Jodie McLean, director of June Dally-Watkins Brisbane

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

As the company has 2 facets, I am Managing Director one of Australia’s top Model agencies, Dallysmodels and Australia’s first School of Personal and Professional Development, June Dally-Watkins.

I am also a Professional Speaker and Corporate Facilitator, this role has me traveling abroad, I am currently working in Papua New Guinea and China, two very extreme environments, however the experiences have given me so much, not only professionally, but more importantly personally.

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

My wonderful mother enrolled me into a JDW Personal Development course when I was 15 years of age, I was so unsure of myself, like so many 15year olds, felt insecure, shy and unattractive. The way the teachers made me feel, how they introduced me to the philosophies of being the” Best you Can Be” really resonated with me. When I graduated I was really beginning to like me, dare I say it even love me for who I truly was.

Where do you find your inspiration? 

My mother – she always wanted the best for me, her children are her most valued things in life. She pushed me, believed in me and held my hand every step of the way.  Still to this day, she is so proud, mind you she does not always say that, but I know she is, and that lights up my heart.

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

Initially my mother, then my tribe of wise elders began to grow. I love the fact that these incredible women open the encyclopedias of their lives and share them with me.  Dianne Cant, Cecilynne Jurss and Coleen Oswald were my teachers at JDW, I wanted to be like all of them, and they were such great role models. Colleen has left us but, but she will always be in my heart and mind. Cecilynne and Dianne are still dear friends of mine 35 years on.

June Dally-Watkins has always been a mentor for me from very early in my career. Like me her mother was a big influence on her life and career path, I also was such a convert to the JDW ways as her philosophies changed my life. Another was and still is now is Ursula Hufnagl I admire her so much, and she has shared so much time and gentle learning, I consider her as the true catalyst in my life, as she has always said to me, “ you can do it Jodie. Just do it!”

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

If I am true to myself and totally transparent, my biggest fear and obstacle was and sometimes still… is ME.

That voice we all possess in our heads, sometimes we need to change the tape that is playing, telling us what we cannot do, giving us reasons to why we will fail. Sometimes it is much easier to give up, and not face your fears, and this best is done by looking inwards, learning about what scares you, break it down and work through it.

Being grateful, not only for what you have, being grateful for your friendships, your loves your losses. Taking time to sit with you and just be.

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

Be teachable; realize that we don’t know everything. Elders or mentors can share so much with you, they can help guide you along this journey of life.  Take time out to find what makes you happy; learn to like the skin you’re in.

And if you can try to start your day, before you hop out of bed, with three things you are grateful for in your life, may just be the start to change that tape that is playing in our heads from time to time.

November 21, 2014

Inspirational Women: Jackie Maxted

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: Irene Falcone

Name and role:

Jackie Maxted, founder and managing director of beautyheaven.com.au

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

My role is to inspire and lead the company (which consists of three websites, beautydirectory, beautyheaven and homeheaven); across content, sales and admin teams. Together with my management team, I strategise and plan for continued growth in the industry, to meet the needs of both our members and brand partners. I then aim to translate that into a clear vision and tone to create the right culture for a positive working environment.

Each day starts with a 15-minute stand-up managers team meeting to set the direction and goals for the day. I spend the rest of my day in internal meetings across financial, content, technical and HR issues. I keep up to date with industry news through daily updates on beautydirectory and keep myself acquainted with the best beauty purchases I need with a daily dose of beautyheaven. More recently with the launch of our new baby, homeheaven, I am familiarising myself with all things ‘housekeeping’. I usually wrap the day up with preparation of a to-do list, so my next day starts with a little less chaos.

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

I could never have imagined ending up here when I was studying communications at uni in the early ‘80’s! I have traversed through media, marketing and PR for my whole working life and allowed my career to unfold as technological changes presented new opportunities. I have now been in digital publishing for 16 years and am delighted to be a market leader in what is considered a relatively new industry.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Sometimes it happens in internal meetings as long as there is plenty of lollies on the table and we have generous amounts of time to play with very silly ideas. But usually I find inspiration in the strangest places and often great distances away from the work place. Interesting thoughts arise from unexpected experiences. I make sure that I always have a fiction and non-fiction book on the go and I see as many interesting films and TV shows as I can.

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

I have never had one singular mentor but I have met many experienced and developed business people over the years, many of whom have given me new ways to approach old problems. I am also always on the lookout to build new relationships with business professionals who come from different backgrounds to mine. I have worked in a business of my own for many years now so can lack the perspective that big corporations or equally one-man-bands might have; so continuing to working with people with those experiences is incredibly relevant and important to me.

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

Starting a new business and trying to successfully build a new concept is challenging because ultimately (in our situation) we were asking people to change their behaviour – 16 years ago, Google and smartphones weren’t the norm and an online business or resource was quite foreign! We spent a lot of time educating our new audience and our clients about ways to work together in this new medium. It wasn’t really a ’stumbling block’ but it certainly required our tenacity and passion to create the success we wanted.

What are your goals for the future?

In this highly competitive and ever-changing industry, our goal is to continue to deliver high quality information and entertainment websites and simultaneously grow an engaged and connected community. For beautyheaven in particular, we aim to remain innovative and inspire females and beauty lovers in general with both practical and exciting beauty news, reviews and product tutorials.

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

As my career has unfolded and opportunities presented themselves, I have always responded in a way that embraced change. My advice would be to accept that your life can and will have many chapters – things change, including you, your situation (whether that be professional or personal) or your environment. How you choose to respond to those changes will shape you and your life. So, try to turn every opportunity into one that’s in line with your values and passions. Always be open to learning new things and challenging yourself. This will help you be a head above the rest.

November 14, 2014

Inspirational Women: Sally Obermeder

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: Carole Renouf

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

I have two roles, both of which I am incredibly passionate about. The first is as co-host of Channel 7’s The Daily Edition, which is a national news and entertainment program. I get to work with and interview smart, funny and talented people every day. My other role is for swiish.com.au, a lifestyle website which I founded and work on together with my sister, Maha. SWIISH is about living a luxe lifestyle for less. We cover fashion, beauty, health, family and home. I love working with my sister, and bringing SWIISH readers all of the quickest, easiest and most affordable ways to live a fabulous life. Maha and I have also just released a green smoothie recipe e-book, called Super Green Smoothies. We’re getting so much incredible feedback from people who have downloaded the book and started making green smoothies, saying that they have never felt better. It’s an absolute thrill.

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

I think I always knew that I wanted to work in television, from when I was at back at school. I wanted to be a newsreader. I was just too afraid to try it as journalism was seen as a risky career choice – the perception was that there were not many jobs available, and no job security. So I went down the safe path and became an accountant instead. Needless to say, I really didn’t enjoy it. So when I was in my late 20’s, I decided it was now or never if I was to pursue my dream of working in television. I left my job in finance and began volunteering anywhere and everywhere I could to get experience. It was a lot of hard work, and still is. But I’m so glad that I made the decision to go for it.

Where do you find your inspiration?

In all kinds of places – from my family, who have supported me through thick and thin; especially my husband Marcus, who has always encouraged me to chase my dreams, no matter how big or small they may be. I live in Bondi, and I draw a lot of inspiration to live a healthy lifestyle from being near the ocean. I’m also inspired by seeing strong female entrepreneurs enjoy great success in their careers – in particular, I find Arianna Huffington, Rachel Zoe, Sophia Amoruso and Kelly Cutrone inspiring.

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

I don’t have a mentor, per se. But I do have people who I go to for advice – usually Marcus or my sister. Sometimes I also bounce ideas off Larry Emdur. In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have learned from many of the brightest and the best. Sarah Stinson, our executive producer for The Daily Edition who I also worked with on Today Tonight has been amazing to work with. I basically just adopted the mantra early on that there is something to be learned from everyone. So I made sure I was really present and paid attention – like a sponge soaking up as much knowledge as possible. I also found that because I was up for even the most simple of tasks, such as going to get coffees for the team; that went a long way. People remember team players that have a good attitude.

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

Initially the stumbling blocks were finding out how to get work experience in TV. Since then, the challenge has been how to juggle everything with family and work.

How did you overcome these?

I started out by doing a TV presenting course, which was advertised in the newspaper, and then through that tried to make a few contacts who helped me to get (unpaid) work experience on community television (Channel 31).  On the juggling front, it’s about accepting that I can’t always do it all, even though I try to! But Annabelle comes first, always.

What are your goals for the future?

On the family front, Marcus and I would love for Annabelle to have a sibling. Maha and I are super-close, so I would love for Annabelle to have a little sister or brother, too. On the work front, I just want more of what I’m doing – I love co-hosting The Daily Edition, and working on SWIISH too. I’m happy.

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

Firstly, I would say that you have to be prepared. What I mean by that is, you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to follow your dream. I worked unpaid for many years. I’m not saying it will be the same for everyone, but if that’s what it takes, then you have to be willing to do that. Apply for work experience and internships. Network. Become an invaluable member of the team with a positive attitude. Go the extra mile to get the job done. And be persistent. Don’t give up. There’s a quote by Harrison Ford where he says, “I realised early on that success was tied to not giving up. Most people in this business gave up and went on to other things. If you simply didn’t give up, you would outlast the people who came in on the bus with you.” I really believe that’s true.

Sally will be attending a major event on NBCF’s calendar called An Evening of Gratitude raising funds for breast cancer research, on Monday 17 November in Sydney. For more information visit www.aneveningofgratitude.com

October 31, 2014

Inspirational Women: Kath Purkis

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.

Name and role:

Kath Purkis, co-founder and CEO of global subscription fashion service Her Fashion Box

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

As co-founder of HFB, I created the business from the very beginning a little over a year ago. No two days are never the same at HFB and my day can switch from CEO mode to fashion buyer within hours. A typical day consists of early morning emails before the team arrive at the office, securing partnerships with fashion designers for collaborations, trend forecasting the latest fashion accessories, planning buying timelines, meeting other start-up founders who reach out, looking at the daily data behind our business with google analytics and our backend of the website. I also mentor new interns at HFB and introduce them to our big goals of being a leading subscription fashion service globally.

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

I started my first business at 21 years old and always knew I wanted to be my own boss and build a passionate team around me. My first business, fast fashion e-tailer Le Black Book is now 8 years old and was better than a degree. Nothing beats just giving it a go and launching something, if you never try you just never know what’s possible. At 26 years old, I decided I wanted to launch a fashion subscription box and put my focus towards this. Our goal is to ship 1 million Her Fashion Boxes in the next two years. We deliver Christmas every month to women with our fashion subscription box and that is very exciting. I love seeing everyone post their HFB box shots on Instagram and Twitter as soon as they arrive.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I read a lot and draw inspiration from other entrepreneurs both start-up & highly successful. I spend at least 2 hours a week reading websites like Forbes, Tech Crunch, Startup Daily and other business sites. I also surround myself with likeminded people who are walking a similar path, I find these people incredibly inspiring too. I am also inspired by my HFB team, they are all amazing and hopefully I get to invest in their businesses one day. I know we have a few future entrepreneurs here.

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

I’ve had a few mentors who have helped shape who I am today and been able to offer advice in both exciting and tough times. I feel it’s very important to have a mentor and someone who believes in you. It’s also fun sharing the journey with them and having your own mini cheerleading team. When I started my first business at 21, I was self motivated and wanted to launch my own fashion e-tail business when no one was doing e-tail well in Australia. Inner drive is very important and it means you will sit tight on the rollercoaster journey.

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

I’ve been quite lucky and when I’ve had hurdles with each business I have been able to solve problems and move forward swiftly. It’s very important to have a solid team who have the same vision as you, with this you are unstoppable.

How did you overcome these?

Have great mentors, a great partner, an amazing A-team and surround yourself with great mentors.

What are your goals for the future?

We want Her Fashion Box to be a leading subscription fashion business bringing happiness to women all over the world each month. Personally, I will be an angel investor in other start-ups who have a passionate founder who has great ideas and a solid roadmap. Ultimately, I want to be happy and enjoy each day of my life. Professionally, I want to keep creating & growing businesses I am passionate about.

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

Just give it a go and don’t waste too much time thinking about the concept. So many people think far too much and delay a launch well beyond the MVP (minimum viable product) stage to the point they never launch. At least if you launch and makes some sales, you are able to validate the concept and then focus on amplifying the business.

If you are passionate about something, make sure you live it each day and don’t wait for tomorrow. Life is short and there’s never been a better time to start creating.

October 24, 2014

Inspirational Women: Joanna Gruenberg

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.

Name and role:

Joanna Gruenberg, senior tour guide for AAT Kings

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

I lead groups of up to 50 people on cultural tours around the base of Uluru, hiking through the domes of Kata Tjuta and along the rim of Kings Canyon.

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

Public speaking is something that has always come natural to me and is why I originally pursued a career in broadcast journalism in my home country of Canada, where I had a few good years dabbling in sports radio. Journalism is an extremely competitive industry, however, and I wanted to find something a little more stable. I had co-workers, friends, and bosses in recent years tell me that my ability to connect with complete strangers was being wasted as a waitress while I waited for my radio career to take off. They encouraged me to look into the tourism industry and try my hand at guiding. AAT Kings took a chance on me in March 2013 even though I had no experience in leading tours or much knowledge of Australia and its indigenous history. The more I learned about this ancient land and the people that inhabited it, the more I fell in love with the place. Within a few months I was receiving positive feedback from guests on a daily basis and being asked to train new staff. For the first time in a long time I felt successful and realised this could be the career I’d always dreamed of having, and I haven’t looked back since!

Where do you find your inspiration?

There are few words that can describe the feeling of seeing the sun break the horizon behind Uluru in the morning. You would think nearly two years of desert sunsets would get tiresome but it’s the natural beauty of this place and the simplicity of life that drives me each and every day. I’ve been privileged in getting to know the Anangu, the traditional custodians of this land, and being trusted to share their history and stories with visitors is a role I do not take lightly. They have an incredible connection to each other, the landscape, the animals, and it’s impressive to know they are continuing to pass down traditions from over 22,000 years ago. It’s something that many do not fully understand when they arrive here but I am always confident that a tour with me allows people to leave with open minds and acceptance. As advanced as our society has become, the Anangu have so much wisdom to offer us. They inspire me to take better care of myself and my surroundings, and when I hear whispers of similar sentiments through my groups, I just know that I’ve chosen the right career path.

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

When I moved to Australia four years ago, I had no connection to the country nor anybody here who would compliment my speaking and social abilities and encourage me to try something different. I figured I had to trust my gut instinct as I had nothing to lose. I quickly found that the skills I learned in college, and refined in the newsroom, could be applied in the role of a Tour Guide and if anything gave me a boost in solidifying my role within the company. Constant encouragement and praise from my Managing Director and colleagues made me want to go above and beyond my job description. In a way, I felt like I was back in school and trying to be the best student I could be; not for the approval but to see what I was capable of. Without all of this support, I never would have taken the leap in the first place.

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

When I moved to Australia from Canada in September 2010, I was still trying to make a real breakthrough with broadcast journalism but was overlooked for a lot of jobs due to my visa work restrictions and was stuck doing basic hospitality work. Coming to the realisation that a career in journalism wasn’t going to happen was not an easy reality to accept. I hadn’t dreamt of doing anything else since I was eight years old. I had also felt guilty that I had spent my parents’ money on a degree that was going nowhere. I met many young Australians in my first few years in Sydney who suggested a career in tourism would be perfect for an outgoing, independent traveler like myself. I had always had an interest in this industry but was denied every job I applied for as most places wanted Australian citizens or permanent residents. Since becoming a permanent resident in April 2013 I have found doors open much easier. Occasionally though I still get eyebrow-raises from people who think someone with my accent has no business recounting historical events and stories from Australia’s oldest indigenous community.

How did you overcome these?

I made sure to always remember not to take the job rejections personally. Work laws are strict in this country and I had to respect that and simply wait for my time to come. I took this transitional period to research Australia’s history and involve myself in the culture. I wanted to get a real sense of what Australians value, their attitudes towards work, how they unwind, etc. The longer I spent here, the stronger I felt about the idea of making Australia my permanent home. This desire drove me to stick through the stressful times of immigration uncertainty and keep focused on a new goal of working in my new dream career. I got the sense that Australia was happy to reward its inhabitants with success but you’d have to work for it and so I was happy to accept this challenge.

What are your goals for the future?

I’d like to take my experience as a Day Tours Guide on the road. There are people I have only met for an hour or two on tour who feel compelled to give me their address and invite me to stay with them if I’m ever in their city. If I could use these strong interpersonal skills of mine, along with the knowledge I’ve gained from living in one of the most remote places in Australia, and apply them to personalised, small group touring which would give me a great sense of accomplishment. I want to bring out a sense of wonder in people all over the world and encourage them to see this planet beyond their front door.

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

I am often told by guests that I have so much passion for my job. I always tell them, “When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like a job.” I want people young and old to know that the “best” jobs aren’t always the ones that have the highest income or the richest benefits. You will feel so much more productive and fulfilled when you spend your time doing something that drives you.

October 17, 2014

Inspirational Women: Becky Jack

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.

Name and role:

Becky Jack, designer and founder of peony swimwear

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

Peony was born out of my life-long love affair with the beach. I grew up with the ocean in my backyard, so the beach has always been an influential part of my life. As one of four sisters, my fondest memories are those made on summer holidays with my family in Byron or the Sunshine Coast. I created peony in celebration of everything that I love about our relaxed, coastal lifestyle and I named the label after my favourite flower, which blooms at the beginning of summer. To me, the peony flower represents the true philosophy behind the brand – effortless feminine style.

My daily routine varies a lot depending on the time of year. I start the day with some form of exercise, normally yoga, Pilates or a walk along the beach, and I try to be at my office desk before 8am. Then it’s about emails, emails, emails for the first few hours. Once they are done, I attend to that day’s tasks, whether they are designing, overseeing production, packing orders, liaising with our PR team or managing customer service.

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

I have always been passionate about design. As a kid I would sketch garments on notepaper during class and on napkins at restaurants. Swimwear design was particularly appealing to me because it seemed that was all we wore for nine months of the year. Although I had dreamed it, I never imagined that one day I would actually turn my passion it into a career.

After school I studied a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Business (majoring in Marketing and International Business). Following graduation from university, I went on to qualify and work as a lawyer for six months. Although I loved studying law, I found legal practice personally unsatisfying and creatively stifling. I felt a fire in my belly for something more and it didn’t take long for me to realise that it was time to pursue my dream of starting my own swimwear line. Soon after that, I finished working at the law firm and began the daunting but exhilarating journey of starting peony.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find inspiration in our relaxed coastal lifestyle and in the simple joys of summer – diving into the ocean, the smell of coconut oil, the taste of a banana Paddle Pop and the feeling of bare feet on the hot tarmac. When I think of an Aussie summer I think of our rugged coastal landscape, frangipani trees, sausage sizzles and bikinis hanging from the hills hoist in the backyard. All the little things that make you feel excited for the warmer months inspire me to create something tangible that embodies the intangible.  

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

 

Yes, I had two strong female mentors that helped me get peony off the ground in the beginning and who continue to mentor me today. Both were good family friends and women that I had long admired for their work and family life balance. One runs a successful international marketing company and the other worked in the Australian magazine industry in for 15 years. Both were able to give me advice specific to their area of expertise and I relished every opportunity to sit with them (often over a glass of wine or two) and absorb as much as I could.  

In addition to my mentors, my parents are incredibly supportive of everything I do. My dad has a copy of the first newspaper article on peony stuck on the wall of his tearoom at work. My partner Nick is also a pillar of strength and has patience beyond measure. I feel extremely lucky.

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

Dealing with disapproval and criticism was a hurdle in the beginning. It seemed everyone had an opinion about what I had chosen to do. The majority of those I told couldn’t understand what has possessed me to abandon a secure career and regular pay cheque for the minuscule possibility of success in one of the most saturated and competitive industries known to man kind. A part of me wondered too. So I had to summon a lot of focus and determination during this time and again I fell back on my family and mentors who provided perspective and encouragement.

Being an Australian made brand also has its financial limitations. The industry is full of brands that are mass-produced offshore for a fraction of the price, so in the beginning it was difficult to make ends meet.

How did you overcome these?

I try to approach every obstacle like a challenge. I sit down and come up with options to overcome it, assess the pros and cons of each option and then make a decision that is in the best interests of the brand. In saying that, whilst being methodical and measured is my general approach to problem solving, my heart has the trump card. When in doubt, I always follow my heart.

 

What are your goals for the future?

 

Peony is still very much in its infancy as a brand, so I have a lot of goals for the future. I want to see peony reach its full potential and for it to be recognized, nationally and internationally, as an authentic Australian brand with heart and substance. I want my genuine love for what I do to be evident in the final product.

In my personal life, I want to continue to surround myself with people that inspire and encourage me so that I can be the best version of myself for the people that I love. 

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

You are much more likely to succeed in something that you are passionate about. Sit down, write a detailed business plan, find a mentor who is willing to help you and get started. Stay focused on your own goals and just enjoy the journey.

October 3, 2014

Inspirational Women: Carole Renouf

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.

Name and role:

Carole Renouf, CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation

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

My role as CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation is both busy and complex. We raise and grant funds for research, and our aspirational goal is to achieve zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030. We receive no Government funding, so this means we really need help from all corners of the community. No two days are the same for me, but my role is therefore largely about inspiring individuals and companies to help – through public speaking, media appearances, face to face pitching – and then providing very good stakeholder management so that all our supporters feel engaged and acknowledged – while at the same time I have to ensure we are all driving in the right and same direction.

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

My career has never really looked like a ‘career’ till recently. Today, we are told people should expect to have four or five careers in their working lifetime and it’s all about transferable skills. That wasn’t the expectation when I started working, so I console myself by thinking I must have just been ahead of my time! I started out as an actress, went into teaching, then journalism, health promotion, consumer advocacy, and back to health and medical research. And that’s more or less where I’ve stayed.

I’ve now spent over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector, where perhaps I found a fit as I always felt I was such a ‘misfit’ for more traditional markets. And it’s become fashionable to work in what I prefer to call the for-purpose sector, and it now looks like a career. But there was no plan… other than it’s always been about making a difference through the use of what I was good at, namely my ‘soft’ skills (communication, influencing, persuasion, etc). It’s fascinating to me that those ‘soft’ skills, over the time I’ve been working, have now come to be highly regarded in leadership positions. I never thought that would happen!

Where do you find your inspiration?

I don’t have to try very hard for inspiration. I am a naturally energetic person anyway, but any contact with the beneficiaries of our work inspires me. Speaking to women and men with breast cancer; making documentaries or writing reports that highlight their needs and the issues they face; seeing that some research we have funded has achieved real change for them, delivering a new therapy, a new way to manage side-effects of treatment like lymphoedema, or a new understanding of the needs of partners of women with breast cancer – that’s inspiring.

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

I had one short-lived attempt at having a formal mentor. For me, it’s been more about being privileged enough to work for and around some really high quality business leaders. You learn by osmosis when you walk with giants. But in fact, you often learn even more from the managers and leaders who haven’t worked so well for you.

Every promotion I’ve had, I’ve driven. I’ve always looked for the opportunity to stretch and grow any role I’ve had, and proactively proposed ways to do this to my manager. I haven’t expected anyone to do it for me. I had no sense of entitlement, but a huge sense of possibility.

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

The stumbling blocks, for me, have been more internal than external. When I was younger I lacked confidence in myself and I allowed critical, energy-draining people to get too close to me and influence me. They would tell me I was a ‘misfit’ and a ‘dilettante’ because I wasn’t following their pathways – this included both my parents and my ex-husband! When I left the marriage was when my ‘career’ took off, because I then had no choice but to find my faith in myself. I had an eight year old daughter to provide for and no money, and self-doubt was an indulgence I could no longer afford.

The only external stumbling block I really struggled with was working full time and trying to reach the C suite as a single mum. That was tough. At 21, my daughter still remembers every occasion when I didn’t make it on time back to after school care to collect her… and every athletics carnival I missed…. and I still feel guilty.

How did you overcome these?

In terms of the internal stumbling block, I made a deliberate decision that I would go it alone and become very good at nurturing myself, and surround myself with positive, energy-creating people – and that’s worked.

In terms of the external, I could never overcome it but I just did the best I could, on a day by day basis, and taught myself the meaning of the phrase ‘good enough’ (I was a perfectionist), and somehow it turned out OK in the end. There are so many things I didn’t do right, but my daughter is beautiful inside and out – fiercely intelligent, driven, generous and compassionate – so I got lucky.

What are your goals for the future?

I would like to arrive at a point where I am able to create some work/life balance for myself. I’ve never been very good at that and circumstances have not assisted me. I don’t know when it will be possible…. but before I am decrepit I would love to have a little cottage somewhere in the south of Italy or France, grow my own vegetables, look after the village children, have lots of animals and welcome my grandchildren for holidays.

In the meantime, there’s no shortage of social problems to fix!

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

I think a lot of people have a very rosy notion of the for-purpose sector. Doing a stint in the NFP sector is fine, but making a successful and enduring career out of it requires an unusual amount of drive and stamina as well as low ego. The drive has to be dialled up because with lots of passionate people around, it is very easy to get distracted from your purpose – and you are there to achieve that purpose.

The stamina has to be dialled up because your purpose is always going to require far more resources than you have. You will also often find yourself having to compromise in terms of the quality of resources you can afford. This gets downright tiring, over the years. And the ego has to be dialled down because it’s always got to be about the people you serve. You have to ask yourself every day, is there a more effective and/or efficient way to deliver for my beneficiaries? At the end of my time, will I have left things better than I found it? That’s what you have to keep in your sights.

Carole will be attending a major event on NBCF’s calendar called An Evening of Gratitude raising funds for breast cancer research, on Monday 17 November in Sydney. For more information visit www.aneveningofgratitude.com

September 26, 2014

Inspirational Women: Caroline Africh

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.

Name and role:

Caroline Africh, founder and director of Attipas Australia

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

Attipas Australia makes ergonomic shoes for babies and toddlers. We have been going strong since September 2012. On any one day I could undertake an array of activities, including driving marketing and sales, managing the supply chain, dealing with customers and managing the warehouse. Oh, and looking after my two children!

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

I spent the last 10 years building a career as a Project Manager in London but after the birth of my son Henry in 2011, I decided to pursue passion over corporate and leapt into a world of being my own boss! Having Henry made me realise the importance of spending time with family and children when you have the opportunity to. A home-based business suited this goal and certainly has allowed me to be a stay-at-home-mum as best as possible.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My children inspire me – I always want the best for my boys! Attipas Australia was actually born after I discovered these unique shoe-socks while on holiday in Japan. I was looking for a comfortable pre-walker for my son that wouldn’t fall off. After realizing Attipas’ untapped potential for the Australian market, I secured the exclusive distributorship in Australia and haven’t looked back!

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

I’ve not had a specific mentor but have received guidance from friends, family and colleagues. Many have provided advice which I have taken and utilized to my own advantage.  My husband is a great sounding board when I need a second opinion.

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

In the early days, starting out was hard especially trying to keep the business afloat whilst having a baby! Attipas Australia was still in early days when I was first pregnant with my second child, but by the time Oscar was due to arrive in October 2013, things were running full stream ahead! Although I had planned to work right up until 40 weeks, Oscar decided to arrive a week early, which was possibly the busiest week in my business’ history! That very week, I had a container arriving from Korea, moving warehouses AND I also had a stall at a baby expo! Quick thinking and being organised kept my business afloat, and I was able to work whilst in labour, delegate other tasks to family and managed the shipment/warehouse move via telephone. After Oscar was born it was a juggling act to maintain the business during the early days, but fast forward 9 months and we are doing better than ever.

How did you overcome these?

I was able to overcome the obstacles that was faced in the early days of the business with help and support from friends and family, and being organised really helped! Like anything in life, hiccups will happen no matter what. In order to be resilient and bounce back from them, you need to think quickly, act in an organised manner and ask for help when you need it!

What are your goals for the future?

We are planning to leverage our huge customer database and social media following by launching new baby products next year via our ‘Things 4 Bubs’ brand. Watch this space!

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

My advice for anyone who wants to become their own boss while still having the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mum would be to set goals and stick to them. Don’t expect to be rewarded without putting in the hard work and sacrifice. Push on and persevere and you will get there!

September 19, 2014

Inspirational Women: Aimee Buchanan

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.

Name and role:

Aimee Buchanan, Managing Director OMD Sydney

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

I manage the Sydney office for OMD. We work with our clients on building great marketing campaigns to address their businesses challenges. One of the things I love most about this industry and my role is the diversity. It sounds cliché but every day is truly different. A lot of my time is spent internally coaching my teams on managing clients and their workloads, and strategising how we continue to evolve our business to address the changing media landscape. Dependent on the client, you find that the challenges, the people and the environments are always different. Advertising, like many industries, is founded on great people so it makes sense that my role has a huge focus on attracting, developing and retaining the best talent.

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

I started my career wanting to be journalist or film producer. Coming out of uni I didn’t even know there was such a thing as media specialists, who design, plan and execute media campaigns for clients. I stumbled across an ad in the newspaper, fresh out of uni, that appealed to me. After a few years in the industry, I knew that I had found my sweet spot. I loved the mix of business acumen, creativity and people management that this industry draws on. We are uniquely placed to work with some of the biggest and most sophisticated brands in the country (leading telcos, banks, airlines, etc) but we also get to step away and bring fresh thinking to them. It doesn’t get old. Agencies are entrepreneurial by nature; you need to continually adapt and evolve to stay relevant.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I tend to draw inspiration from the people I work with – staff, mentors, mentees, clients and key partners. It is an industry ripe with creative and innovative people that spark great ideas and that keeps me motivated. Just when you think you may have figured it out, along comes a new spin or development that challenges us to rethink it all!

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

I have had a few different mentors along the way. I think it is important to find someone who can give you guidance for where you are at and wanting to go.  I have been fortunate in my career to have supportive managers who have continued to mentor me long after I have worked with them – they have given great guidance because they know and understand me. The relationships I have built with my clients has also been key for me; I have worked with some amazing businesses and great leaders within them. They have backed me and taught me a lot.

I’m now in a position where I can give back, and this is a particular area of focus for me. I mentor four very talented individuals within the business, all of whom are women who are focused on their career and wanting to grow and evolve. Recognising the importance of supporting each other and establishing a strong professional network inspired me to initiate quarterly dinners for senior women within the industry.

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

There has been lots of stumbling blocks! Early in my career, I started a job at an agency and I knew after a week that it wasn’t for me. I then had to work out if I should stay or leave. I ended up taking another role a few weeks later and stayed there for 9 years. The experience taught me to look at the people you work with, what you can learn from them and how they will challenge you day in and day out. I had gotten caught up in the normal things – salary, titles, etc, and it taught me to make career choices from gut and longer term opportunity vs ego and status.

How did you overcome these?

I have tried to stay true to looking at my career choices as opportunities where can I learn, and work with people who can teach me the most. This is about your immediate team, your manager, but in media, it is also about the clients your work with, where their businesses are at and who is wanting to stretch their agencies to do great work and really involve them as partners.

What are your goals for the future?

I am really excited about the direction that we are taking at OMD.  We are increasingly finding ways to work more closely with our clients, their data, and build strategies that are accountable and drive business growth.

With the data now available to us, we are positioned better than ever before to do this, and it’s now about how we can elevate and train our people to have greater business acumen, take a seat at a higher table and connect into multiple facets of the clients business. My ambition is to develop the proposition and partnership approach within OMD that realises this for our clients. 

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

Work with great people, be proactive in pushing yourself to learn and grow and progress, titles and salary will come. Focus on what you can learn in your current role, what the people around you can teach you and milk it for all it is worth.

Also, remember to enjoy the journey and have a little fun along the way!

September 12, 2014

Inspirational Women: Janine Allis

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.

Name and role:

Janine Allis, Founder of Boost Juice

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

It depends on the day, but one of my favourite starts to a day is 6.30am at the City Yoga studio. Home by 8am to take my daughter to school. Then off to the park so the dogs can have a good run by 8.30am with a coffee and juice in my hand. Then the day begins. Normally with a number of meetings and time to get through my emails. The day ends with me cooking dinner for the kids, sitting down and hearing about their day. I am normally in bed by 10.30pm with my beautiful husband.  Then the day begins again tomorrow. 

My days are very diverse as I travel, I do talks and interviews, so every day is different, which is exactly how I like it.

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

My list of jobs and careers is as follows: check out chick at Target, media assistant, model, aerobics instructor, assist gym manager, account executive, camp counsellor in San Francisco, nanny in France, sales person in Portugal and the Canary Islands, stewardess on yachts in Italy, the Caribbean and France, manager of cinemas in Melbourne and Singapore, publicist for United International Pictures, then business owner – and I am not officially qualified for any of it.  Still working out what I want to do for a career…

Where do you find your inspiration?

Within. I want success. I want to create something amazing that makes a difference. I do not want to fail.

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

My husband is my biggest fan and someone who had more faith in my ability than even I had. He helped me continue to be grounded. Geoff Harris was a great help in the early days of Boost.

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

Stumbling blocks happened every day. But thank goodness for them, as they make your businesses stronger and you more resilient. The times when you are the most stressed are the times you learn your biggest lessons.

How did you overcome these?

By just simply not taking no for an answer and staying with the problem until it was solved. 

What are your goals for the future?

Continue to drive the business forward and grow other brands and the business internationally.

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

Be prepared to have every moment of your waking day thinking about making your business successful and making your business successful. The only way to have a great business is to have great people working for you or with you. Never settle for mediocrity in your people or your product. Continue to talk to your customers and make sure you exceed their expectations, every single day.

September 5, 2014

Inspirational Women: Sharon Thurin

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.

Name and role:  

Sharon Thurin, founder and director of Slim Secrets

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

My daily roles are very diverse and include a mix of marketing, accounts, sales, production, new product development, customer support, export management and more. I love the fact that my day is never boring. I can be doing invoices one minute, working out online strategy the next, liaising with distributors, chatting to customers, tasting new products, chatting to my overseas counterparts… and that can all be in the space of a couple of hours!

Of course whilst there is never a dull moment in my day I also have very little time out as I often work at night too (with exports) and all the multi tasking can be very stressful! When it gets too much, it’s time for that massage or time out with my family!

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

My background before starting Slim Secrets was quite diverse. I have an Arts/Law degree, Diploma of Education and I’ve done a life/health wellness coaching course. I worked for 15 years with my husband in his pharmacies whilst our 3 kids were young and growing up (they are now 29, 27 and 21).

I come from a medical family (my father, brother, father in-law and brother-in-law are all Doctors) and as such have always taken an interest in health and wellness. I also worked closely with various nutritionists at an anti-aging clinic I helped set up in my early career.

It was with all this background (but no actual food or real business knowledge) that I innocently started Slim Secrets. It all happened one sleepless night in 2005 as I lay in bed concerned about the growing rate of obesity in Australia. After my experience working with weight management specialists in the anti-aging clinic and then doing some health/weight loss coaching myself to help improve people’s health I realised  there was a gap in the health and wellbeing market. I set about creating a healthy snack bar range that had a point of difference (nutritionally better than others, fun packaging and a product that actually tasted like a treat). It was meant to be a side hobby… but I have never looked back.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My family inspires me to be the best I can be. My parents live life to the full and give back in a big way which has paved the way for me. My husband and kids are so proud of what I do with Slim Secrets (my daughter Mel is now working with me in the business which has been fantastic!) and they inspire me to keep achieving even when I may not have the energy! Life also inspires me – I wear a bracelet by Fairley Jewellery that states “you only live once” and try to live by that every day.

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

My mentors have varied from family members to business colleagues. In the early days when things were tough setting up Slim Secrets there were many times I wanted to give up even before the launch and if it wasn’t for my husband Peter (who is a business speaker in his business called Blackbelt In Excellence) and our kids coaxing me on, Slim Secrets wouldn’t be where it is today. My extended family are also great business mentors for me.

Also, in the early days I had a coffee with Janine Allis from Boost Juice and she gave me some great tips especially regarding intellectual property traps. I love chatting to other like-minded business women and have attended some Business Chicks functions and other such events for this reason.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path, and since then? How did you overcome these?

There are many challenges that had to be overcome in the early days and some that continue today. Initially, challenges included my lack of knowledge in the area of food, labeling and lack of business experience (Google and Austrade were my best friends in those days). However a big challenge initially was also being a new brand coming into the market with very little marketing funds or knowledge and competing for shelf space with some of the better known, larger brands. Proving to distributors that Slim Secrets was going to be a success and convincing them to take on the brand was definitely challenging but because the brand did have some unique characteristics this challenge was overcome quite quickly in the early days.

Another challenge is our reliance on contract manufacturers for our products. This means that we have pressure on us in regards to pricing, new product development isn’t as fast as I would like it to be and sometimes we need stock produced urgently for exports or supermarket orders due to unexpected demand and we can’t always fulfill this as it is out of our control. There is no real way to overcome this except to build great relationships with our contactors and this definitely helps when we need things done urgently.

For exports, the dollar has been challenging for us but still manageable.

I believe I am very lucky as the business has grown and developed very quickly and we are not plagued by many of the challenges that so many businesses are in today’s climate.

What are your goals for the future?

We are launching many more innovative new products this year as well as working on our global expansion. Probably the most exciting goal which has been taking longer than I had hoped was to launch in the US under a license agreement. This should be happening in early July and we hope to capture the large US market. There is still so much growth in Slim Secrets and potential to tap… if only there were more hours in a day!!

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

It can look extremely daunting at the beginning and you may be apprehensive to start a business for reasons such as inexperience, gender, competition, family etc. When I started I nearly gave up within the first 3 months as everything was so hard and new for me. Thankfully my husband Peter was an amazing support and he kept me in the game and without his and my whole family’s support I may not have survived the first few months of my new business.

My advice would be finding someone in your life that you can talk to and bounce ideas and thoughts off. Get sound advice and don’t be afraid to ask questions from other experienced business owners. Ensure you have a plan but don’t be too rigid with it as sometimes opportunities present themselves that are too good to not to pursue.

Do it – don’t just dream about it. Anyone can have a great idea; it’s about turning those ideas into reality. There’s never a right time; you’re never too young or old. If you’re dreaming about it, grab the opportunity now. Sure it takes courage, but sometimes you’ve got to take that leap of faith. Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen and can you live with the consequences? I’m not advocating that you put everything you own on the line, but don’t be afraid of failure. We risk more than failure if we don’t try to turn our business dreams into reality; we risk not achieving our potential in life.

My advice recapped in 8 steps:

  1. Research is essential
  2. Don’t be afraid to take the first step
  3. Take small steps so that you don’t put everything on the line
  4. Speak to and surround yourself with other entrepreneurs
  5. Plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan if you feel it may be advantageous
  6. Life balance is important
  7. Building relationships is very important
  8. Be the best you can be in everything you do
August 29, 2014

Inspirational Women: Sacha Drake

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.

Name and role:  

Sacha Drake, designer and director

Tell us about your role. What do you do on a day-today basis?

Generally my week is filed with fittings of garments for current and future collections. Lots of staff meetings, marketing, sales, management. I try to fit in time to brainstorm new ideas across sales, PR and also design.

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

I knew as soon as I learnt to pattern make at 14 years of age. I could see my ideas coming to life. I love the constant learning that is involved in garment design and construction.

Where do you find your inspiration?

On a creative level, I often photograph great shapes or motifs that I think could be worked into fabric prints. These can be found anywhere at any time and it’s fun to play around.

On a commercial level, my customers are ultimately my inspiration. I am always trying to see the world through their eyes – why would they choose to wear it, where are they going, why must they have it?

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

I have had the great fortune to have many mentors. My first mentor was an insolvency accountant! She helped set up a financially strong business with great systems and procedures. My fashion agents are always great counsel in the development of the brand. I have had external business mentors who have been excellent sounding boards and guides through turbulent times. And lastly, many friends and family who are also business owners are continually great support.

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

The ragtrade is one big stumbling block for the uninitiated! There are so many people involved to get the product to market. It’s always the same challenges. Design the RIGHT garment. MAKE it at the right cost. HOW to get it in front of buyers and customers? DELIVER it on time. GET paid… And this is just the surface of it! As time has gone on, we have just had to solve these questions on larger scales.

How did you overcome these?

From every mistake or challenge there comes an idea and new way forward and a better way of running your business. I listen very  hard to my agents, my sales staff, my customers, I strive constantly to improve. There is no place for ego in this business. You must constantly keep an open mind and adapt to the market.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to continually grow the business in a financially secure way, whilst maintaining the integrity of my core values of quality and flattering design. Our business growth is hinged on multi-platform selling. This means TV, online, and retail entwined. Through the Television Shopping Network, many customers are discovering the brand and what I stand for. It creates a true connection that can be followed through via retail experiences or online. We have also been approached to sell our brand in the US, which is a great opportunity that has us intrigued. I am beginning to feel like the world is truly my oyster!

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

The whirlwind journey of fashion is long, filled with twists and turns. Jump in and try anything but recognise when things aren’t going to plan quickly. Adapt and redirect yourself. Be self-aware and recognise your strengths and weaknesses. Surround yourself with complimentary people whose skills and experience will be enhanced by your vision. You must be obsessed with bringing value to your customers to survive and prosper. You must truly love what you do.

August 22, 2014

Inspirational Women: Toni Planinsek

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.

Name and role:

Toni Planinsek, founder of Planinsek Property Group

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

I’m an educator and women’s advocate whose late – but stellar – foray into the real estate industry has been nothing short of remarkable. Prior to my real estate career, I was principal of a leading Melbourne private girls’ school (she has a Master’s Degree and several post-graduate qualifications). I took pride in educating girls to be independent thinkers who were going to make a positive difference in the world.

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

This career move came about because of breast cancer 15 years ago. A change had to be made and I decided it would be into business as I had never had the opportunity to work for myself – and I was up for the challenge. So at the same time as undergoing cancer treatment, I studied and did a real estate licence course.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I believe you should try to live a balanced life and I practice what she preach by learning French, doing Pilates, travelling overseas as much as I can, eating out and generally enjoying my small tribe – I’m a doting mother of four children and nine grandchildren.

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

I believe “education is everything”. This is because I was given the rare opportunity, as a bright student, to focus on academia at a time when most girls were being groomed for office jobs and marriage! I’m very fortunate to have been educated by strong women who set an example of what education and determination might achieve.

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

A second occurrence of breast cancer came as a bit of a shock six years ago. As usual, I used my high energy and positive attitude to focus on surviving and getting on with the things I still wanted to achieve in life – one of which is to attend my two- and three-year-old granddaughters’ 40th birthdays!

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

As the founder of Planinsek Property Group, and as a passionate property investment adviser, I think women of all ages should have the skills and confidence to seize control of their financial destiny. My book, Her Property, is a resource which aims to empower women with the tools and up-to-date independent advice needed to make savvy first-time decisions about property investments.

August 15, 2014

Inspirational Women: Diana Williams

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.

Name and role:

Diana Williams, founder of Fernwood Fitness.

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

Most of my day-to-day role involves ensuring that the company is headed in the right direction and following our vision to be the number one preference for women wanting to improve their health and fitness.  Most of my day is spent in meetings with key team members who treat their roles with a professional ownership mentality.

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

It was never a conscious decision of mine, but rather morphed into it as the business grew and became a national brand.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am easily inspired by the fabulous stories from the many Fernwood members who achieve such fantastic results and want to share their story with me.  It’s very rewarding to be involved in a business that has the power to change lives.

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

My mentor was the fear of failure.  Nothing makes you try harder than the knowledge that if you don’t you will fail.  Once I started the business and made myself accountable for what I wanted to achieve, then it was really only up to me and no one else, whether I was successful or not.

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

The biggest stumbling block was the limited cash flow needed to fund the business in the early days.  Rapid growth was vital for our success but that brought with it the hazard of growing too quickly to manage the cash flow.  There were some very anxious moments back then.

How did you overcome these?

I’ve always lived by the philosophy that 98% of things we worry about don’t ever happen.  If you worry about something and you can’t do anything about it then it’s a total waste of energy.  I would rather put my energy into finding solutions to problems rather than dwell on them.

What are your goals for the future?

The future is exciting for Fernwood, we’ve been in business for 25 years and are probably just as innovative and still an industry leader now, as we were when we first started back in 1989.  Being innovative and embracing the fantastic advantages that technology brings us is very exciting for business today.

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

Make sure you do it for the right reasons.  It’s not for gaining recognition, money or power, it’s because you really believe in what you are doing and the product you are selling.  Have courage in your conviction and the self-belief that you can achieve whatever you want if you put in the hard yards and don’t compromise your values along the way.

August 8, 2014

Inspirational Women: Annabelle Chauncy

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 chose 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.

Name and role:

Annabelle Chauncy, founding director of the School For Life Foundation.

What do you do on a day-today basis?

My role is really diverse and changes nearly everyday! I am in charge of the Australian operations of School for Life Foundation. This includes fundraising, marketing, media, donor relations, communication, events management, prospecting new donors and speaking at schools, community groups, Rotary Clubs and events. It’s an amazing job! I meet the most incredible people and no two days are ever the same. I travel to Uganda three times a year so I get to see the progress, know the children and adults we work with in the community personally and most importantly, see where all the hard earned dollars are being spent on ground. Uganda is a phenomenal place, with the strongest, most beautiful and generous people.

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

I sort of stumbled upon my passion and love for Africa. I was halfway through my law degree when I decided I wanted to do something completely different, to give back and use the brilliant education my parents had afforded me to help others. I travelled over to Kenya for the first time in 2007 when I was 20 years old and taught children from the floor of a mud hut, with no desks, pens, pencils or books, using a scratched out blackboard and the resources I had brought across with me from Australia. It was there that I realized just how passionate these children were about learning and how much it really meant to them! I did some travel to Uganda and Tanzania on that trip and was fortunate to visit the School of St Judes (founded by Australian woman, Gemma Rice). I remember standing there in awe of her achievements and thinking to myself, if she can do it, I can. So I sat in the airport on my way back to Australia formulating a plan to build education centres in Uganda.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am continually inspired by the many budding social entrepreneurs making a huge impact in the developing world. I love hearing success stories, where real changes are being made for the long term! My co-founder Dave Everett is a constant source of inspiration. His development knowledge, depth of field experience and perseverance is so unique. Plus, we are the very best of friends which helps to make work a wonderful place!

On an equal but different level, I am inspired by the people I work with in Uganda. The majority are from the poorest of the poor rural backgrounds, struggling to make even $1 a day but their outlook on life is so positive and happy. Their resilience and determination continues to astound and inspire me on a daily basis.

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

I have had so many incredible people help and guide my career along the way. Our Board of Directors grew organically with the Foundation and they have been pivotal to driving the organisation’s success. 

My professional mentor is world-renowned neonatologist, Professor Nadia Badawi. She was appointed to the position of Macquarie Group Foundation Chair of Cerebral Palsy in 2009. Professor Badawi is leading a dedicated team of researchers at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute and making ground breaking progress on overcoming Cerebral Palsy everyday. Nadia has dedicated her life to medical research and impacting the lives of children and families across the world. She is a truly inspiring person who gives me guidance, direction and most importantly understanding. I am continually in awe of how much she juggles and how she manages time and stress levels!

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

There were a lot of difficult business challenges along the way, including finding and appointing a supportive Board, fundraising the requisite amount to purchase 10 acres of land and set up a fully functional multi-purpose education centre, learning business acumen, overcoming age as a barrier, understanding foreign culture and ways of operating in a developing country, working with Ugandan citizens from the beginning and incorporating their ideas into decision making processes, working within corrupt systems, negotiating the politics of foreign systems and managing, coordinating and working with many different people in different decision making capacities along the way, from our Australian board to the locals in Katuuso, Ugandan government, lawyers and Ministry of Education.

Since the school opened, constantly finding more sources of funding is an ongoing challenge. It is an exciting one though as I get to speak with people from all walks of life about our programs and how they can get involved!

How did you overcome these?

These challenges were all overcome by being organised, staying true to my core beliefs even in compromising situations, persistence and perseverance, learning on the job and working hard to achieve my goals and objectives. I have also grown the team across Australia and Uganda to help expand the organisation. Without such a strong and passionate team, School for Life would never have been a success!

What are your goals for the future?

In the next few years, we will aim to build another primary school and a secondary boarding school which the graduates of both primary schools will attend. This will ensure the students receive a complete high quality education. Furthermore, retention of females in our schools is a core focus of School for Life’s. Ugandan women are the first to be removed from school to work on the land or have children when they reach puberty.

Ultimately our school is a model, which we aim to replicate in different areas of Uganda and the developing world. We have found that the Ugandans have a strong sense of ownership over the school and are highly supportive of the project. We provide a hand up not a hand out making our program sustainable for the long term.

I would hope that School for Life becomes an internationally recognisable brand in the not for profit industry. We aim to set a high standard of practise and continue to provide much needed education to those in need.

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

Get out there and do it! Creating social change, no matter how big or small, and positively affecting the lives of others is the most rewarding thing you can do. If you are passionate about what you do, you will never work a day in your life! Passion is addictive and if you live and breathe your goals, you can motivate others to get involved too. Founding School for Life Foundation has been the most incredible journey. We took a massive risk and had faith making the impossible, possible. People ask me on a daily basis why I ‘threw away my career’ (in law), my answer to them is simple, I haven’t thrown away a career, I have created one and pursuing that ambition is the most rewarding and worthwhile thing I have ever done! I don’t know many people who jump out of bed at 5:30am every morning excited to go to work but I certainly do!

August 1, 2014

Inspirational Women: Monique Talbot

Each week SHE‘SAID’ features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chose 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.

Name and role:

Monique Talbot, business consultant and founder of SHESAID.

Tell us about your role. What do you do on a day-today basis?

Right now, I am consulting to several businesses in Digital Sales and Marketing as well as being a busy mum of two young boys, aged 9 and 11. My day starts at 6am and the morning usually entails getting the boys ready for school, plus walking the dog as well as getting myself ready for work. We then run out the door to drop the boys at school and then I hop it into Sydney to my office to start my other job – Strategic Business Consulting. Phew!

Then I work all day on helping people grow their businesses with my 20 years of digital and business experience, which sometimes means helping people make hard decisions and sometimes just pointing them in the right direction on how to grow their business more efficiently or quickly. Hopefully helping them avoid some of the mistakes I made in business whilst running my own online advertising company for 10 years.

Then it’s a quick run home to do school sport, dinner, see friends as well as fight over homework and bedtime etc as most busy mums know is the daily routine.  That said, I wouldn’t swap it for the world as I get to be the consistent force in my son’s lives and still get to be a successful business woman and get all the mental stimulation I can handle at that same time. It is all about balance and choosing what is important in your day, in my book. Sometimes dropping the odd ball and not berating yourself too badly is a good thing. As is having a little moment to yourself at the end of the day with a good book or even a cheeky glass of wine with a good friend. 

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

I started my own online advertising company Tempest Media in 1999 with some venture capital and have not regretted it once… Ok maybe a few times in the middle of the night when I knew we could not pay the bills but, in reality, that spurred me on the next day to work out a way to pay the bills, keep the doors of the office open and my loyal staff gainfully employed. I still love everything digital and love seeing the industry growing and changing as it is keeps me inspired to be part of it.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Great question – people, people, people! I have always been inspired by smart, driven, passionate people. I love meeting new people and travelling has always helped feed my thirst for knowledge, plus with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and even Instragram, I can learn from what people are doing, thinking, inventing, discussing and investing all over the world without leaving home.

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

I have been lucky enough to surround myself with fabulous people over my career. I have never been afraid to pick up the phone and ask people I admire for their help or advice. Luckily for me many of these smart,  driven business people have become long term friends of mine,  and I have had the privilege of helping some of them in return over the years.

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

What besides being a blonde, 30-year-old, loud, outspoken, extraverted chick with no experience running her own company in a media landscape dominated by men? When I started my business in 1999, the online advertising industry was worth about $12-$15 million dollars in advertising revenue and that number, 15 years later, is now over $3 billion, I had loads of ambition and a serious “never say die” attitude which stood me in very good stead when times were tough over the 10 years of running my own business. 

How did you overcome these?

By being bloody determined! Failure was something that I did not want to consider. I was persistent and believed in what I was doing plus had an awesome support team to keep me going when it was really really tough. I saw my father drive his financial business for over 30 years and the saw the sacrifices he made and decided a long time ago that providing a great life for my family was a major goal I wanted to achieve in my life.

What are your goals for the future?

To continue to learn and be inspired by great people as well as being a fabulous mum, sister, daughter and friend, as well as an all-round top chick. I hope to see my sons grow up to be well mannered, kind and generous men that marry beautiful, smart women that will love and appreciate them. No doubt, I will still dance badly and sing loudly and put my foot it with people occasionally, but hopefully I will leave a positive mark on the world!

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

It sounds corny but a few of my favourite things to live by are:

  • Never give up
  • Never be too afraid to ask for help
  • Enjoy the journey and surround yourself with good people as you never know when you are going to need a helping hand to keep you going
  • Believe in yourself as you are probably way more amazing than you think you are
July 25, 2014
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