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Clockwise from top left: the 2017 Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame inductees Bronwen Healy, Jodie Fox, Roslyn Campbell, Kim Liddell, Emily McWaters

“Success: it’s a staircase, not a doorway” – key insights from five trailblazing businesswomen

Seventeen businesswomen were  inducted into the Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame this week. Now in its 19th year, the initiative celebrates female business owners, including social entrepreneurs, who are not only trailblazers in their industries but role models for other women.

The Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame was developed by Suzi Dafnis, the founder and CEO of HerBusiness  – a national community of 30,000 business owners.

“The initiative recognises women business owners who are industry leads, champions of the community and quite achievers who are working towards creating great impact in business and in their customers’ lives,” Dafnis told Dynamic Business.

“Inductees are nominated for the Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame by alumni, industry and business groups and the HerBusiness advisory board. A highly-respected selection panel, which features a diverse group of women in business, past inductees, government and industry representatives are responsible for the selection process and review each year.

Dynamic Business spoke to five of the 2017 businesswomen’s Hall of Fame inductees about the secrets to their success, key motivators, challenges overcome and lessons learned. We put questions to:

  • Bronwen Healy, 2014 Australian of the Year finalist (QLD) plus founder and CEO of Hope Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation helping women wanting to be free from addiction and prostitution.
  • Emily McWaters, founder and CEO of the SOL Group (Gifts Australia), an online giftware marketplace boasting five gifting websites. [See also: From rundown café to e-commerce giant: the rise and rise of Sol Group’s Emily McWaters]
  • Kim Liddell, founder and managing director of NDEA, a non-destructive excavation services for construction industry.
  • Roslyn Campbell, founder of Tsuno, a social enterprise providing disposable, sustainable bamboo fibre sanitary pads.
  • Jodie Fox, co-founder and chief creative officer of Shoes of Prey, an online retailer enabling women to deisgn their own shoes.
Dynamic Business: What does this recognition mean to you?

Bronwen Healy: That years of hard work have been worth it. Great things are being achieved by truly incredible women in the NFP sector, so to be considered in their league is an honour.

Emily McWaters: It came as a very pleasant surprise. Running an online business, it’s easy to create a bubble around yourself. Being recognised like this has allowed us to pause and reflect on our accomplishments.

Kim Liddell: Not only is it an absolute honour and a privilege, it’s also validation of 12 years of triumphs and challenges in the civil construction industry.

Roslyn Campbell: It’s an honour being recognised amongst a diverse line-up businesswomen. It proves hard work and perseverance are valued and that you don’t need to be head of a multi-billion-dollar multinational to receive kudos for doing well in business.

Jodie Fox: This year’s inductees set the bar for their respective industries and fields, so I feel honoured to be counted amongst them. The recognition strengthens our resolve to continue providing women around the world with a unique shopping experience where they can design their own shoes.  When we started, no one else did what we were doing (i.e. custom-designed shoes, at scale, in an online retail space) so it wasn’t immediately clear whether we were serving a need in the market. Being inducted into the Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame demonstrates we are. It has also allowed us to consider how far we’ve come and how much more we can offer.

Dynamic Business: How did you respond to your greatest challenge?

Brownwen Healy: There have been many, including the launch of our Social Enterprise café, The LoveWell Project, in 2016. I’ve learned to respond by leaning in to my faith and the incredible army of people around me who help The Hope Foundation flourish – the Board, our staff, the volunteers, the donors and my husband.

Emily McWaters: Being a self-funded operation, a key challenge for SOL Group has been cash flow. The best decision I ever made was to move away from wholesale and focus entirely on online retail. Because there are multiple revenue streams (e.g. website, eBay, third party retailers, corporate gifting), payment is more consistent and timely. The refocus allowed us to reinvest smartly into the growth of the business.

Kim Liddell: Several years ago, there was a severe downturn in construction, by some accounts the worst the industry had seen in 30 years. To survive trying times, we had to build NDEA into a stronger, healthier company.

Roslyn Campbell: The biggest challenge, especially in the beginning, was striking a work/life balance. I am now settling into making sure that my health and relationships take equal priority, alongside running my business, by being disciplined with work hours, etc.                                                            

Jodie Fox: The biggest challenge I faced was right at the very beginning.  It was incredibly scary leaving a stable job to create something that hadn’t existed before because it meant there was no guidance. My co-founder Mike Knapp gave me advice that I still use to this very day: “fail fast.” It’s easy to feel out of your depth and fall into the trap of trying to make everything perfect when starting a business and forging a new path. Informed decisions involve continuous research and laying the necessary ground but the best way to determine your strengths and weaknesses it to jump straight in – you’re able to identify, early on, where you need to invest your energy and what you’re already doing well.

Dynamic Business: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?

Bronwen Healy: I am not alone. I might be the dreamer, visionary and pioneer BUT it’s the people around me who bring the dream to life!

Emily McWaters: Never ever rest on your laurels. I am fortunate to have a thriving business but we’ve been bitten once or twice before when we’ve become complacent. It’s not necessarily about being fiercely competitive, it’s more about always striving to do better and not accepting the status quo.

Kim Liddell: Learn your strengths and weaknesses and then surround yourself with a team of experts, i.e. the right people for the right jobs.

Roslyn Campbell: If you are not physically and emotionally looking after yourself, it doesn’t matter how many hours you put into your work – it will suffer too.

Jodie Fox: Do everything before you’re ready. Regardless of the industry, it’s always better to act sooner than later and not wait until you’re ready. There aren’t courses that provide entrepreneurs with the lessons you can only learn by doing. You need to dive in, have confidence in your business idea and yourself and do what you love.

Dynamic Business: What key factor has fuelled your success?

Bronwen Healy: Never giving up! Even when times have been tough – and it’s seemed like financial partners and donors have been pulling out left, right and centre – we’ve believed in the vision and mission of Hope Foundation to come alongside women wanting life change, whether it’s from addictions and/or the sex industry, with the key message: “you are loved, valued and created with a purpose”. If it worked for me, it can work for them!

Emily McWaters: My two sisters, Amy and Libby, work in the business and together, we set a different trajectory for the business. It was never by design. Three years ago, the stars aligned and I realised we could all contribute in different ways and balance each other’s skills.  Without my sisters, Sol Group would only have excelled at half the rate it has, I believe.

Kim Liddell: Persistence and resilience. Success is a staircase not a doorway.

Roslyn Campbell: The ability to engage a supportive customer base from day one. Without our customers, and the relationships I have formed with them, Tsuno would not be here today.

Jodie Fox: Our customers. From the beginning, we constantly looked to feedback from our customers who were taking the journey with Shoes of Prey to ensure our offering met their wants and needs. Feedback has alerted us to any gaps we need to fill. A perfect example is when we were making a big push into the US market, we realised how cold the weather can get and flats aren’t going to cut it! We listened and understood the demand from our customers and then launched our customisable boots range.

Dynamic Business: What inspires you to continue leading your business?

Bronwen Healy: The brave and courageous women we support – they are CHOOSING life and they inspire me to keep going every day! Witnessing them be loved back to life and finding freedom is a truly remarkable thing!

Emily McWaters: When I first started out in business, my drive was wanting to prove myself – I was young and inexperienced but I believed that if anyone could do it, I could.  Today, my inspiration comes from an innate desire to achieve and better myself.  I really, really want to become Australia’s leading online gift company.

Kim Liddell: I’m motivated to make a positive difference in the world and to inspire and empower others in any path they choose.

Roslyn Campbell: Seeing an idea not only come to life but also start to work gives me such a buzz and I get so excited with every little win, and more determined any time a problem arises. In the end, I am trying to make the business work so I can help send girls in Sierra Leone to school, and the better the business does, the more girls will have the opportunity to change their lives, that’s incredibly motivating.

Jodie Fox: Being able to empower women all over the world to design their own shoes inspires me to continue leading and growing the business. Shoes of Prey is all about embracing and feeling confident in your unique style, and I love that we allow women to do that.

Dynamic Business: Where to next for you and your business?

Bronwen Healy: We want to expand. Hope Haven is our drop-in space and we would love to see similar spaces pop-up in all the places across Australia where our women are currently located –when there is contact they tend to flourish more. Eventually, we’d like retreats for our women called “Acres of Hope”! One step at a time…

Emily McWaters: We’ve been focused on innovating our operating model by leveraging core products and infrastructure. Notably, we’ve created two new websites (now a total of five) and a corporate gifting platform, and we’ve launching a personalised product range, produced in-house. Our focus this year is to allow each of these new offerings to hit their stride.

Kim Liddell: As we continue to learn and grow we are continually focussed on achieving a better way of doing things. We have some exciting projects in the pipeline, so watch this space!

Roslyn Campbell:  Growth! Being a low-value consumer goods brand, I really rely on selling in volume and at the moment Tsuno is doing well but it could be reaching more women all over the world and that is something I am focusing on quite heavily. Finding great retail partners and distributors to sell my product for me all over the world

Jodie Fox: Shoes of Prey is constantly evolving, and we’re always looking at what we can do to create the best user experience, whether that’s launching new products, or evolving our platform. One day, I’d like to see Shoes of Prey offer women an on-tap custom design printer. I’d like to open my wardrobe, have a screen there that’s checked my calendar, the weather and knows who I’m meeting, and will print out my shoes while I’m in the shower. If Shoes of Prey is just a website in the future, I’ll be disappointed. Fashion should be fun and exciting, and the less time spent on having to worry about what you’re going to wear, the better!

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James Harkness

James Harkness

James Harnkess previous editor at Dynamic Business

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