How more women in Australia are creating their own opportunities and becoming their own boss.
When the founder of e-tailer Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso, wrote a memoir and business advice book titled #GirlBoss, she gave a name to the movement of a new trend: the rise in the female entrepreneur.
In the last two decades, there has been a 46 per cent increase in female business operators in Australia. According to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, in 2014 just over a third (34 per cent) of business operators in the country were female. This is a three per cent increase from 1994, where women made up 31 per cent of business operators in Australia.
That increase may seem minute – however, the ladies are making progress. In 2011, females founded 1 in 6 start-up companies. By 2014, women were founding 1 in 4.
Lee Sutherland, a Sydney-based health and fitness expert, launched Fitness in the City and left her job as a national promotions coordinator with Universal Music.
“My business Fitness in the City was born out of sheer frustration at the lack of fitness (and health) options available that I myself wanted to do,” she stated on her website.
After studying natural medicine and nutrition, Lee decided to combine her knowledge and love of a healthy lifestyle into a platform to inform and educate others. Lee is a master personal trainer, running boot camps in Sydney and is a regular contributor to publications such as Lululemon Aust/NZ, Yahoo!7, Prevention Magazine online and MindBodyGreen. Her own platform, Fitness in the City, covers the latest health and fitness fads and her organic tea range Little Wildling Co. is just another one of her start-up businesses. The thing Lee loves most about her career is the lifestyle it enables.
“Having the flexibility to create my own hours and spend more time with my 5 month old baby, pup and husband is pretty amazing. My game. My rules,” she told the Newsroom.
In response to the “Girl Boss” movement, Lee says, “I love this! Sure the phase might be a little overused but anything that lifts and inspires others to kick ass and follow their dreams? That is all that matters.”
Proportion of women business operators by age: 2014. Source: dpmc.gov
One thing that has helped Lee become successful is the fact she started Fitness in the City in Australia – currently the second-best place in the world to be a female entrepreneur. Yes, in the 2015 Global Women Entrepreneur Leader’s score-card, Australia and Canada secured second place, with 69 points, just two marks behind the US. Countries were ranked in regard to business environment, gendered access, leadership and rights, pipeline for entrepreneurship and potential leaders.
According to Nicole Williamson, start-up advisor and investor, 2016 will see women stepping up.
“2016 will be our year – women as founders, women as investors and women taking on senior roles in Turnbull’s innovation leadership team.
“There are some kick-ass young female entrepreneurs out there,” Nicole said.
Australia’s top 30 female entrepreneurs are making a combined revenue of $10.67 billion, a figure that is up $200,000 from last year.
One person who carves a big chunk of that pie is Lorna Jane Clarkson, founder of Lorna Jane retail stores. Lorna left her job as a dental therapist to pursue her activewear ambitions and proved herself to be be a trail-blazer in the sportswear industry. She opened her first store in Brisbane in 1990 and now has 155 stores worldwide, with a reported turnover of over $100 million annually.
But obviously that kind of revenue can’t be expected in the early years, as success for Lorna didn’t happen overnight. After twenty years of hustling, in 2010, CHAMP Ventures, a private equity firm, co-invested into the Lorna Jane brand. The defining moment for Lorna’s activewear empire, after two decades, was reaching all corners of Earth. She had made it.
However, not everyone has the luxury of being able to leave their day job to chase their dreams: statistics show eight per cent of female business operators have more than one job.
Natalie Rapisarda is the founder and director of Interlaced Media, but also works full time in the Communications Department at Queensland Transport and is one busy woman.
“My focus is on managing working both a full time job and running my own passion project,” she told The Newsroom.
“Working full-time in the communications and marketing world gives my life structure and stability, and it especially allows me stay up to date with global corporate standards in my field, as well as it of course enables me to fund my business.”
Natalie is all for the “Girl Boss” movement, and remains supportive of equality within the workforce.
“I’m the first one to put my hand up to say women can most definitely achieve anything, however I also come from a background where I see the benefit of having both male and female leaders in a work environment as this provides a balanced dynamic.”
Interlaced Media brings people, fashion and travel together on one platform. In the past six months, Natalie has dotted across Australia, even venturing across to Asia where she covered Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Tokyo and Seoul Fashion Week. She also runs “fashion blogger brunches” in several locations, attracting a range of photographers, designers, models, artists, writers and creatives who bond together, network and share their dreams.
“I think no matter who you are if you strongly believe in something you should look for the people around you who can guide and support you no matter what and just go for it,” she said. “I’m not in the industry for followers, fame or for fortune. I just believe in hard work. If your heart is truly in what it is you want to achieve and you follow your values then never take no as an answer and just keep going until you ticket off all your dreams, no matter how big or small,” Natalie says.
Between Lee and Natalie, the women are doing it for themselves: breaking out of societies barriers and choosing to be a #GirlBoss.
The top 30 female entrepreneurs for 2016 have been ranked by SmartCompany. Katie Page, chief executive of Harvey Norman tops the list with a 2014-2015 revenue of $2.71 billion. She’s trailed by mining magnate Gina Rinehart, who topped the list consistently from 2012, but this year fell to second place. – Olivia Grace-Curran
Images created by Olivia Grace-Curran using Piktochart online graphic app.