Happy International Women’s Day! As a female-led business, International Women’s Day (IWD) is always an important date in the Balmer calendar. Last year, we reflected on what IWD means to us both individually and as a team. This year, we’re celebrating female business leaders in Australia, who demonstrate that age is nothing but a number.
These ladies have certainly achieved a lot in their 20’s.
When most of us have only just started getting stuck into our careers in our 20’s, these individuals are already changing the game.
Name: Lucy Liu
Job: President and Co-Founder of Airwallex
This Lucy Liu is one you might not be too familiar with. Far from acting and selling fabulous Asian fair, this super talented Lucy Liu is the co-founder and president of Airwallex, and a leading figure in the Australian start-up scene.Like any good tech start up, in 2015, Liu and a group of college friends noticed that traditional banks charged small businesses exorbitant fees to import supplies from overseas. So they set about to solve the problem, creating Airwallex, a fin-tech company utilising cross-border payment technologies to connect businesses around the world. Genius.
In just a few years, Airwallex has reached unicorn status (a term to describe start-ups worth over $1 billion) and is one of the fastest growing fin-tech start-ups in the Asia Pacific region. While Liu says that she is happy to represent women in the tech industry, she is wary of making it a label. She believes the key to success is to stick to what you do best. “It’s just how you play to your strengths,” she says. We couldn’t agree more. Definitely one to watch.
Name: Kayla Itsines
Job: Personal Trainer, Author, and Co-Founder of the Bikini Body Training Company
Kayla Itsines is not your average personal trainer. With over 12 million Instagram followers, she’s one of the most influential figures in the fitness industry, and a successful entrepreneur. While working as a personal trainer in Adelaide she noticed that women wanted training programs to target specific areas of their body, such as abs, arms, and thighs. She created her own training program for her clients, and documented their transformations through her social media. Over time, word of her program spread and in 2014 she created the Bikini Body Guides (BBG) to provide women all over the world with education and support throughout their fitness journey.
Through her e-books and #sweatwithkayla app, she was able to create one of the largest online communities for women’s fitness. In 2017, she released the ‘Sweat’ app alongside her business partner, growing their fortune by ove $400 million in the span of one year. While social media played a key role in her success, Itsines’ entrepreneurial spirit has allowed her to identify gaps in the market and leverage incredible business opportunities. To other girls thinking of starting their own business, Itsines says “Be willing to learn. Listen to and always put your customer first.” We can’t wait to see what she does next.
In their 30’s and leading the way.
These next two are super inspiring. Not only do we admire their phenomenal track record of success, we use their products, and closely follow their careers to see what’s coming next.
Name: Melanie Perkins
Job: Co-Founder and CEO of Canva
Canva has become a recognisable name especially for those who work in the creative industries, like ours. It’s CEO, Melanie Perkins, is one of the world’s youngest female founders to run a billion dollar venture-backed company. As a 19 year old uni student, Melanie noticed a lack of user-friendly graphic design software. After garnering the support of renowned Silicon Valley investors like Bill Tai, she launched Canva in 2013.
As of October 2019, Canva was worth US$3.2 billion, making Perkins one of the richest women in Australia. What we admire the most about Perkins is her ambitious spirit. Even with many milestones and achievements under her belt, she believes she can take Canva even further, claiming the company has only done 1% of what is possible. With new corporate focused products planned, and expansion into the USA imminent, there is no stopping this changemaker.
Name: Gretta van Riel
Job: 5x start-up founder including Skinny Me Tea, The Fifth Watches, Drop Bottle and Hey Influencers
As one of Australia’s most well-known entrepreneurs, Greta van Riel is unstoppable. As founder of multiple successful businesses including Skinny Me Tea, Greta’s early start as an entrepreneur at the tender age of 22 has certainly paid dividends. At the beginning of her journey, with just $24 in her pocket, she turned to Instagram to build her customer base. Within the first six months, Skinny Me Tea was bringing in monthly revenues of up to $600,000. The rest is history.
What sets Van Riel apart, is her willingness to take risks. As a pioneer of Instagram marketing, she was able to establish a strong presence on the platform even before most multinational brands. And Van Riel’s success doesn’t stop at e-commerce, nowadays, she’s leveraging her social media expertise and turned attention to tech, launching Hey Influencers, a relationship management and campaign creation platform to help connect influencers with brands. With 5 successful businesses already under her belt, we can only imagine what the empire will look like in another ten years.
Leading the charge in their 40s.
And that they are. These are businesses that we have followed from so early on in our careers. These women we find truly inspirational.
Name: Carolyn Creswell
Job: Founder of Carman’s Fine Foods
These days, Carman’s Muesli, is a breakfast and snack staple in homes around the world. But how did a struggling business turn into an international empire? It took a founder with a vision, grit and ambition, who was willing to put in the work. When she was just 18 years old, Carolyn Creswell bought a failing muesli business for $1000. Now in her mid 40s, she has turned Carman’s Muesli into a multi-million dollar brand with more than 100 products stocked across 30 different countries. In spite of facing her fair share of obstacles throughout her career, Creswell’s persistence is what has kept Carman’s afloat and thriving.
“I am persistent and I’m stubborn,” she says. “I entered the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Award 16 times before I won. Who does that? Who deals with that level of rejection?”- Carolyn Creswell (As quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald).
Over the years, Creswell has continued to develop her business, harnessing the power of Chinese Social Media to break into China where she now has 1000 outlets. We’ve seen her speak, and instantly loved the business success story, and the fact that despite the ups and downs, she’s kept her sense of humour.
Name: Cyan Ta’eed
Job: Co-Founder of Envato, Founder of Hey Tiger and Milkshake App
From tech to chocolate, Ta’eed’s business decisions may sound random to outsiders, however they are far from that. As a former graphic designer and the daughter of a photographer, Ta’eed is a champion for creators.
Envato, the online digital asset marketplace she co-founded, is one of the most profitable tech companies in Australia. Ta’eed is not afraid to cause disruption. In the early days of Envato, she was disappointed to learn that stock photography companies kept up to 90% of proceeds from each photo sold, leaving photographers with a mere 10% cut of their own creation. Since then, Envato has lowered their own cut per sale, allowing sellers to earn up to 80% of each sale.
In the same vein, her chocolate company Hey Tiger aims to change the cocoa industry where the majority of cocoa farmers live in poverty. Together with their charitable partner, The Hunger Project Ghana, Hey Tiger creates delicious and ethically sourced chocolate, whilst supporting cocoa farming communities in a variety of ways including micro-loans, childhood education and HIV prevention.
Her secret to success is tenacity, “My dad would always say that the secret of success in life is to keep showing up, again and again… if you can keep picking yourself up, getting back out there and continuing with your purpose, you’ll outlast everyone else.”
Breaking new ground in their 50s.
Both of these Sharks are panelists for a reason. Their impressive track record, diverse portfolios, and willingness to share their experiences makes them firm favourites in our eyes.
Name: Naomi Simson
Job: Founder of RedBalloon, Co-Founder of Big Red Group
In 2001, Simson launched RedBalloon – an website that sold experiences ranging from romantic getaways, to cooking classes to skydiving sessions. It took two months until the start-up received its first customer, but from that point on, Simson has grown RedBalloon into a profitable business, selling experiences to more than 3.5 million customers. Simson’s key values include “passion, persistence, positivity and purpose”, all of which have played a part in RedBalloon’s success. “Every complaint and interaction with a customer since has been an opportunity for the business to grow and improve, Simson says.
Simson Co-Founded The Big Red Group in 2017, the parent company of RedBalloon and a handful of other experience based businesses, along with Marketics, the world’s first Artificial Intelligence marketing platform. She’s also a popular blogger and thought leader on LinkedIn, and has amassed 2.8 million followers on the platform.
Name: Janine Allis
Job: Founder of Boost Juice, Executive Director of Salsa Fresh Mex and Retail Zoo, and Director of Michael Hill Jeweller
Boost Juice is one of the largest juice bar chains in the world, with over 500 stores across 14 countries. However, founder Janine Allis, wasn’t always in the juice business. From working in media, to being a stewardess on David Bowie’s yacht, Allis’ life has been filled with adventure. Starting Boost in 2000, she has grown into a formidable force in business, heading Retail Zoo, a retail entity comprising well-known Australian F&B players like Salsas Fresh Mex and Betty’s Burgers. She’s also appeared as a shark on the Australian version of Shark Tank.
Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to be original – “When you copy something, you can’t innovate. But when you create a brand, you can have fun with it.”
There are so many inspirational people that motivate us daily. And while it’s important to recognise their contributions on International Women’s Day, it’s more of a year round thing for us. Who are your most inspirational female business leaders?