The attrition rate for start ups is notoriously high – 90% of new businesses fail. That means the odds are heavily stacked against anyone who launches a start up. But the long odds only serve to make spectacular start up success more impressive.
Meet five female entrepreneurs who have more than made it on the back of qualities including grit, nous and sheer flair. In their own style, these exemplars are changing the way Australia does business.
1. Jessica May, founder and chief executive of Enabled Employment
Enabled Employment is a recruitment agency for people with disabilities. The company’s mission is to deliver flexible opportunities, so capable people with disabilities can find the well-paid, fulfilling work they deserve.
The spark for Enabled, which launched in 2014, was founder Jessica May’s own experience of debilitation. A thyroid condition aggravated her existing anxiety, causing a panic disorder.
When she returned to work, her employer removed her responsibilities, fearing she could no longer handle the stress. Languishing, Jessica realised that people in her predicament needed better options. Enabled was born as a result.
Jessica’s attitude is that through hard work, any venture can fly. Her achievement is especially inspiring because it originates from a severe knock-back that she was able to bounce back from.
2. Emma Welsh, co-founder of Emma & Tom’s
Health food guru Emma Welsh is on a mission to help customers become as healthy as possible. The gateway: nutritious, minimally processed fruit products ranging from smoothies to energy bars.
Emma & Tom’s emerged in 2004, founded by Emma and her childhood friend Tom Griffith. Their company runs on the belief that Australians spurn mediocrity and insist on excellence: pure, invigorating, tasty food and drink.
The company’s popularity stems partly from peppy marketing. From the outset, Emma, who has a high-powered corporate background, pounded the pavement and asked retailers to taste her wares, and then returned to them three days later.
Emma’s advice is to stay up-to-date with current market trends and never drop off the radar. Her story shows the importance of marketing and being bold enough to physically put yourself out there – personally approaching potential clients takes gumption.
3. Carolyn Creswell, founder of Carman’s Foods
Another thriving health food business, Carman’s launched in 1992 when entrepreneur Carolyn Creswell bought the muesli business where she worked for $1000. Her motivation was pragmatic: the fact that it was about to close, which would have meant her losing her job.
Turning the business around, Carolyn prospered through hard work – a willingness to pack muesli into the small hours while still at university. She also took advantage of her family connections – with no marketing budget, her mother entered shops and boldly announced that she had outstanding muesli to sell.
For Carolyn, success is about being quick off the mark and positive. Capitalise on your strengths, and the optimism you exude will encourage others.
Carolyn’s pluck serves as an inspiration to other women in business. It took guts to buy out a business at such a young age – she was just 18. Carolyn’s story shows that you have to be a risk-taker – speculate to accumulate and you, too, could become a turnaround queen like Carolyn.
4. Leanne Faulkner, founder of Billie Goat Soap
Skincare sage Leanne Faulkner owes her success to personal motivation – using milk from her goat herd to soothe her son’s eczema. The treatment worked wonders, so she decided to take it to market, founding her startup Billie Goat Soap in 2005.
The biggest challenge the innovator faced was depression. Before Leanne established her business, she was disheartened by looking at other outstanding entrepreneurs and thought she’d never achieve the same success. But she rebounded with the help of her supportive family and the University of Tasmania’s Business In Mind project, aimed small business owners suffering from stress and depression.
To thrive, face your demons and persevere. Leanne had to prove that her rustic product put together on the kitchen table was special. Packing her car boot with product, she visited health stores across Sydney and persuaded buyers to add another soap to their range.
Leanne’s dynamic promotional approach proved effective. Her impromptu kitchen enterprise has blossomed into a household brand sold in more than 2000 retail stores across the country.
Like Jessica May, Leanne demonstrates how to rebound from despondency and cope with hard knocks. Resilience is critical in the startup space. So, too, is persuasiveness. Like plucky Leanne, you need to totally believe in your product and ensure you convey your conviction to prospects.
5. Michelle Melbourne, co-founder of Intelledox
Michelle Melbourne has transformed her business Intelledox from a local IT company into a global software vendor.
The self-styled digital disruptor, who came out of the gate over two decades ago, has some serious academic credentials, including a science degree from the Australian National University. She is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Michelle is inspired by risk-taker Richard Branson. She admires how Branson challenges convention, as you must, because every day presents new challenges that take grit to overcome.
Think globally, Michelle advises. Headquartered in Canberra, she has offices in Singapore, New York, London and Toronto. Enthusiasm is crucial, too, according to Michelle, who describes herself as passionate about business.
Her entrepreneurial journey has won her plaudits, not least the Telstra and ACT Government’s Small Business Award and the Telstra and ACT Government’s Young Businesswoman of the Year Award.
Michelle’s journey to the top illustrates the fact that you need vision. Be ready to scale. The greatest success goes to those who dream big, so be prepared to reconsider boundaries.
Whichever line of business you enter, always be realistic. Check out the three misconceptions that might be holding you back.
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