This is our list of the top 5 Australian women to watch right now. They’re Australia’s top up and coming women in business. They’re the movers and shakers, the disrupters and the innovators.
Monique Filer and Dannielle Michaels of b.box are a dynamic duo. These women had respective successful corporate careers in finance and marketing and had been friends for years when they decided to combine their skills and go into business together. “It took two years of hard work and research before the business was up and running, so we wanted people to take it seriously,” Michaels says.
While the pair had always wanted to go into business together, the idea for it came about in 2007 when Michaels travelled with her then three-week-old baby. They made a mock-up version of what they wanted to create – an all-in-one nappy wallet, with room for nappy wipes, nappies and a change mat – by cutting up a cardboard box.
B.box quickly developed a reputation for design-led, innovative products that solve small problems that mothers face every day. Most of the ideas for new products come from Michaels’ and Filer’s experience as mothers, or from friends and family. For instance, b.box sells a non-drip toddler “sippy” cup with a weighted straw that ensures water continues to flow no matter the angle at which a child holds the cup. This product is now the #1 selling sippy cup in Korea, stocked by more than 500 Australian retailers and sold internationally in more than 25 countries.
Spell and the Gypsy Collective is the creation of sisters Elizabeth Abegg and Isabella Pennefather. Having come from a creative family, Ms Elizabeth Abegg says the sisters started the brand as an artistic outlet for their everyday lives.
“We’re demonstrating to the fashion industry how a female-centric small business can grow and flourish in regional Australia,” says Ms Abegg.
At 21, after just three years in the corporate world, Jane Lu found herself sitting bored in her dull little grey cubicle at work staring at spreadsheets and wondering, “Is this it for me?”
“I spent most of my time surfing Facebook and shopping online – and I really struggled to find a store that was on-trend, had quick delivery so I could get something to wear for that Friday night out, and that wasn’t going to eat up my entire entry-level pay check,” Lu explains.
This is when the idea came to her to start a fashion retail business providing trendy but affordable clothes and accessories for girls. She called it Show Pony aka SHOWPO.
However still living at home, Jane couldn’t bear the thought of telling her parents she’d quit her corporate career aspirations to start a business. So she didn’t.
“For the first six months of starting the business, I just pretended to go to work every day. I was still living at home, so I got up early every day, put on my suit and went off into the city. That was definitely the hardest part of this journey so far – it’s hard to not question your decisions when you are carrying around an empty lap top bag,” she said.
Today Showpo has become one of Australia’s biggest online fashion retailers, bringing in over $1 million in revenue each month. It has a social media presence bigger than online rival The Iconic, as well as traditional retailers Myer and David Jones. That social media presence has been the reason why the company has been so successful and is currently valued at over $10 million and ships its clothing to 45 countries across the world.
Lisa Messenger is an entrepreneur, author and magazine publisher who revels in breaking the rules. Now her flair and renegade approach to entrepreneurship sees her rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in business, including Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.
“I began my first business on October 22, 2001, at 31. I had 11 years of really nothing, churning along in business, over-servicing, under-charging, being everything to everyone, comfortable but not excited every day – 11 years of that slog. And finally I got to a point where a light bulb dropped and I thought, ‘This is what I want to do’.”
Her “entrepreneurial and lifestyle” magazine, Collective Hub, launched in 2013 into a challenged publishing environment plus Lisa knew little about magazines and had never worked for one.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” she admits. “I had three staff under the age of 25 and I was going into a market that people said was dead or dying. So it was an interesting time.”
Lisa’s instincts proved to be excellent. The idea of launching businesses without multi-page business plans encapsulates her notion of what she calls “failing fast” – just jumping in and doing it.
Lisa now oversees a media empire that includes the magazine (now sold in 37 countries), website, books, events and even homewares.
Many entrepreneurs dream of the day when they land that first big investment, but OneShift founder Gen George has found it is just the beginning of the journey. Her Sydney-based technology start-up, which matches employers and staff for casual shifts, secured a $5 million investment from recruitment company Programmed in October 2013.
“What I’ve really learnt is that from day dot, you’ve got to hit the ground running from when you start that arrangement because you should be jet-packed from there,” George says. “I think the mentality in the lead-up to it is that you’ve got to get that deal and then you’re okay … but you’ve still got a business to run and now you’ve got to keep investors happy.”
George says she learned this lesson from watching other start-ups flounder when they hit this point, but also from her own experience in riding the emotional high of securing the investment. OneShift now has more than 300,000 registered job seekers and 35,000 businesses in Australia as well as 2500 job seekers and 500 employers in New Zealand. Oneshift is valued at more than $20m.
If you’re looking for someone to walk beside you through the highs and lows of the business journey we’ve recently launched the next intake for the Women’s Business School.
The 6 month IGNITE program for new business owners starts with a Masterclass Day in May 2017 in Newcastle, Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Register here to find out more: