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Celebrating our women inspiring and leading change

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Words: Ocean Road Magazine Editorial Team Photography: Brian Usher – www.usherusher.com Magazine Issue: # 43 Winter Ocean Road Magazine

The Gold Coast is well known for punching well above its weight – especially when it comes to trailblazing women.

Left to Right: Sharyn Watson: Founder and Managing Director of Watmar Electrical & Air, Cheryl Stewart: Co-Founder and Export Manager, Morlife and Mavella, Lauren Hall: Founder and CEO, iVvy Holdings Pty Ltd, Lucy Johnston: Director & CFO, TCLH, Alana Beattie: Director, Coffee Roasters Australia.

FROM our perpetual charity fundraising generosity and record volunteer numbers  – as displayed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – to our powerhouse space technology and health and knowledge research capabilities, the Gold Coast has earned a fierce reputation as the home of entrepreneurial spirit.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the women in business space, where savvy female leaders are taking giant strides forward across a myriad of sectors, proclaiming both local and international successes.

From the mining sector and online venue management systems to biodegradable coffee pods and wholefoods, a fire has been lit by these giants of industry, carving a path for others to admire and follow – and they are, in their droves.

When you manage to wrangle them and place five of these fierce highfliers in one room  – the revamped JW Marriott Surfers Paradise presidential suite, as we did recently for the Ocean Road cover shoot – there’s an air of quiet confidence that would thaw any boardroom.

In meeting each other, a laissez-faire atmosphere fills the room that could appear to an onlooker like a girl’s fun day out, but behind the playfulness lies a group of seriously talented women who have each become stars of their sectors, forging powerful enterprises.

These five achievers all share one commonality – they have each been honoured with the highly coveted ‘Gold Coast Woman in Business of the Year’ award.

As the Gold Coast Women in Business Awards program, celebrating its ninth year in 2021 opens for nominations across eight categories, five of the past eight years’ award laureates have come together to inspire each other with their tales of success, challenges and lessons learnt on their journey to the top.

As they share their stories, the common thread undoubtedly is that as women infiltrate the sphere of management, they offer a different perspective and a way of working with and managing people that can produce immensely successful outcomes. By defying the odds, they have established themselves as mavericks, but all agree they’ve undertaken enormous, albeit calculated risks to climb heady heights of success.

According to recent Queensland Women in Business research, the percentage of female founders has reached an all-time high and the Gold Coast is leading the charge when it comes to new, emerging talent. During the past eight years, more than 950 local women have been nominated for the prestigious awards and leadership program, which celebrates success and advancement in entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, small business, community endeavours as well as tourism, arts and culture.

Queensland Women in Business executive director Karen Phillips says embracing diversity in leadership is critical for success across industry sectors, and the Awards program provides a valuable platform to identify both leading and emerging talent, support and celebrate it.

She says across all industries, it is becoming increasingly imperative to create an environment where both sides of the equation can achieve success. It just makes good financial sense to ensure 50 per cent of the possible brainpower and the potential for new ideas is increased by expanding the diversity of a group.

“Through our annual state-wide awards and leadership programs, we advocate and profile women who are achieving across the highest echelons of business as well as those leading small enterprises and community endeavours,” Karen says.

“It is a privilege to bear witness to these women’s journeys and to champion their achievements and ongoing success, knowing they are Gold Coast-based businesses taking on the world.”

The city’s highly esteemed recognition initiative, supported by City of Gold Coast and prominent corporate and media partners, empowers other female-led businesses to examine their own success metrics and aspire to greater heights.

“The key is that women in a position to influence others through broadly-defined spheres of influence inspire other women forward in their journey of success and that is extremely powerful to create the conditions under which many more people can gain confidence to want to stand up and lead,” Karen says.

Let’s face it, it’s a paradigm shift that must come and what Australia needs is more leaders, of whatever gender or background. We need more leaders at every level – whether it be in businesses, government, community and professional associations, schools or religious institutions.

The axis has shifted and through change and complexity, it’s coming at us all faster and harder from all directions, so we can’t afford to depend on just a few to lead us. We all need to support and champion those who dare to lead us forward towards a brighter future.

And it’s not just the C-suites roles where we are seeing change. Female-led small enterprises are popping up like mushrooms, many in unexpected fields, right across the Coast.

During the past century, women have played a key role in shaping Australia and the world as we know it. In this celebration of female achievement, five exceptional Gold Coast leading lights come together to share their words of wisdom and life lessons on their rise to the top.

Visit www.wibaa.com.au for more information on the Women in Business Awards Australia.

Our 5 Covergirls with Women in Business’s Karen Phillips

THE RISK-TAKER

Lucy Johnston: Director & CFO, TCLH

Every time I’ve done something brave in my life, something incredible has happened as a result and for that, I’m so grateful. Fortune favours the brave, right?”

Lucy is an extremely driven and determined individual, especially when that focus is on her work and her career. She has owned TCLH with partner Craig since 2015, taking the business from a simple startup to a formidable multi-million-dollar entity that boasts a list of ASX-listed clients in the mining and resources sector. TCLH employs 80 full-time staff and is growing. Lucy is currently developing a new business that will enter the e-commerce and training industry, bringing specialised industry knowledge to the marketplace. She is currently studying for her MBA and is set to graduate in 2022. In any spare moment she has, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their two toy poodles.

What determines success for you?

I believe success can only be determined by you as an individual and that’s all based on the goals that you’ve set out in life to achieve. I think everyone measures success in their own way, but to me, success is knowing that the work I am doing and the business I’m in is genuinely making an impact on the lives of people involved with us. As we approach the end of the financial year, of course, I’m tracking our progress financially, and even this week I sat at my desk and had a wave of emotion hit me (in the best possible way) – in seeing that we’ve paid over $2 million in wages this year. The fact that I’ve helped to create a business that generates that kind of income for so many people is mind-blowing and humbling. That truly to me makes me feel successful.

What has been the most significant achievement for you?

Aside of course from being awarded 2019 Gold Coast Woman in Business of the Year (of course), my most significant achievement is my own personal growth since then and the development of a true sense of self-belief – knowing truly that I can achieve anything I set out to do if I work hard enough for it. Being able to wake up every day knowing I am capable and able has had the most tremendous effect on my work and ability to succeed. That self-belief continues to drive me each day, through both the good times and the challenging times.

What has been your most challenging or terrifying moment in business?

Other than being asked to get up on stage and speak publicly (!) without a doubt COVID-19 has been both the most challenging and terrifying time of my life full stop. Dealing with never-ending uncertainties while growing a business is never easy, but through COVID-19 the twists and turns of its impact on our business and industry have been ravaging, to say the least. We faced contract losses, financial losses, an unstable business environment and at times what felt like no light at the end of the tunnel. I am delighted, however, to proudly say those challenges are finally behind us and we continue to move forward and grow.

Why did you choose the Gold Coast as your base?

Who in their right mind wouldn’t choose the Gold Coast? We are the city that really does have it all. I’ve called this place home for nearly 10 years now after leaving the UK and after all my travels around the world, I have never found a place quite like here. Not only do we have the most beautiful scenery around us, but the Gold Coast community is also one that welcomes you in with open arms and wraps you up in a big, warm, sunny Queensland hug. For both my business and personal life, my roots are firmly cemented in the city I’m fortunate enough to call home. Working in the mining and resources industry, most of the companies we deal with are either Perth or Brisbane based and they often ask us what made us choose the Gold Coast as our base. When we get to about reason six or seven, they’ve usually got our point!

What value do you admire most?

Back in my waitress days, I worked at the Hard Rock Café (and loved it) and one of their values is “love all, serve all”, a sentiment I carry with me through life. Especially being in the hospitality and service industry, I love the notion that we’re all equal, and that everybody deserves the same treatment, respect, and care regardless of who they are or where they came from. To me, that sentiment is more than just everyone getting the same great burger. It encourages kindness and openness, two things I most definitely try to spread around in my everyday life both inside and outside of work. Both myself and Craig continue to work so hard to push this culture around our company – that we are all equal and that we all deserve respect and fair treatment.

What is one word that defines you?

Brave. Like so many of us, I faced severe trauma and hurt in my younger years and at a very young age had to make a conscious decision to pull myself out of a toxic and damaging environment, go out on my own and start making a life for myself at just 17. At 23, I still wasn’t satisfied with my average life in England so I sold everything I owned, stuffed some clothes into a backpack and bought a one-way ticket to Australia on my own. And how glad I am now that I was brave enough to do that! Not only did I learn some amazing things about myself, but I also had some amazing experiences, met some incredible life-long friends and of course, met my wonderful husband and business partner by complete and utter chance at a backpacker’s bar in Byron Bay. When I arrived in Australia in 2012, if you’d have told me I’d be married and in business with the love of my life by 2015, I’d have told you to lay off the vodkas, but that’s been my reality. Every time I’ve done something brave in my life, something incredible has happened as a result and for that, I’m so grateful. Fortune favours the brave, right?

 

THE MAVERICK

Lauren Hall: Founder and CEO, iVvy Holdings Pty Ltd

Being able to survive and come through COVID stronger than we went in has been an enormous navigation and a huge achievement.”

Lauren is a serial entrepreneur with more than 25 years business management experience at executive and board level across the manufacturing, retail (FMCG), advertising and technology industries in both South Africa and Australia. With a background in programming, accounting and marketing. Lauren has successfully built five multi-million dollar companies from startup to exit.

Lauren is founder and CEO of iVvy, a multi-award winning Australian SaaS Technology company that provides Enterprise software to the events and hospitality industry including the world’s first real-time marketplace for groups and meetings – a real game-changer for the events industry.

Lauren was chosen by Ernst and Young as a leader of industry with the EWW program in 2016 and won four prestigious international Global Stevie Awards – for Best New Product of 2016, Entrepreneur of the Year Globally 2016, Innovator of the Year 2016 and Entrepreneur of the Year Asia Pacific 2016. She was named Gold Coast Woman in Business of the Year in 2016, Innovator of the year 2016 and won the Queensland iAwards for Best Innovation in the Digital Economy in 2016. She also won the Gold Coast Mayor’s Award for Innovation in 2017 and took out the Women in Technology Award for Innovation in 2020.

Lauren is a Second Dan Black belt in ITF Taekwondo and is a former National Taekwondo Champion for South Africa (Springbok) who competed in the World Championships (Russia 1995) and on the international circuit for five years. She lives on the Gold Coast with her husband and two sons.

What determines success for you?

Success is about delivering on a goal that is important to me. Firstly, making a difference and being a purpose-driven organisation. Secondly, knowing that the sacrifices I have made are worth it in the end and my children can see that if you dream big, it is possible to achieve. And finally, it’s about Freedom. Having the ability to do what you want, rather than what you have to do.

What has been the most significant achievement for you?

Several achievements are significant for me:

– The birth of my 2 boys, as I was always terrified of having kids. Additionally, I did it while running multiple companies in a country under sanctions.

– Earning my Springbok Colours in Taekwondo and competing in the World Championship in Russia.

– Raising $20 million in capital for iVvy as a women-led Tech company.

What has been your most challenging or terrifying moment in business?

Surviving the impact of COVID on the hospitality industry and all our customers being shut down. Being able to survive and come through COVID stronger than we went in has been an enormous navigation and a huge achievement.

Why did you choose the Gold Coast as your base?

I wanted to find a place where my family would be happy moving from South Africa. It had to be warm, have the beach and city life combined, providing a good lifestyle to work and live. With boys who love the outdoors, fishing and surfing, the beach was a must. It also gave us a place at a lower cost to Sydney or Melbourne and we have never looked back.

What value do you admire most?

Honesty and trust. They are the core values that I operate with and are important in everything I do.

What is one word that defines you?

Fearless

 

THE FUTURIST

Cheryl Stewart: Co-Founder and Export Manager, Morlife and Mavella

When we receive testimonials from our customers saying how our products have been able to make a difference with them or their family, it warms my heart, for they are our best advocates.”

Cheryl Stewart is a co-founder of Morlife and spearheads the company in sales. She has grown Morlife into an international success that employs more than 60 staff, with hundreds of products sold in more than 20 countries. Morlife has won more than 50 innovation and company excellence awards.

What determines success for you?

At Morlife and Mavella we create products to change people’s lives in wellness. When we receive testimonials from our customers saying how our products have been able to make a difference with them or their family, it warms my heart, for they are our best advocates.

Secondly, my company wouldn’t be successful without the right team of staff around me. We train, motivate, and encourage them to grow within our organisation and for our brand values to flow through their work and hope that they look forward to working each day with us.

I also see success as having good relationships. I have an amazing family who are incredibly supportive, especially with my constant travelling. I enjoy the relationships I have built with international buyers. It’s humbling to see our brand in major supermarkets and pharmacies in countries like Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand and to me, that is success – to see your brand out there in the world, miles from home.

What has been the most significant achievement for you?

For me, one significant achievement was being recognised by WIBAA and winning the Gold Coast Woman in Business of the Year 2018 in front of my peers.

Another significant achievement was our first foray into Woolworths. It changed our business significantly and brought us to the next level, especially in manufacturing and brand exposure.

What has been your most challenging or terrifying moment in business?

Challenging! Well, every day presents a new challenge in business. (With the emergence) of COVID we pivoted our business to online sales. Even though we were doing this in Australia, we had to change our export strategies immediately and look for opportunities online in export.

Why did you choose the Gold Coast as your base?

The Gold Coast has amazing weather and is a great area to bring up a family. We love the lifestyle which fits with our brand to “get more out of life”.

What value do you admire most?

I admire self-made people who have created their own success, whether that be in business, sport or career. All these people have a strong drive to succeed and it is what I most admire. When people have said ‘you cannot do this’ and they go ahead and do it!

What is one word that defines you?

Determined

 

THE ORIGINATOR

Alana Beattie: Director, Coffee Roasters Australia

Being the director of my own business gives me the flexibility to participate in my children’s lives when and where they need me, such as coaching my son’s rugby team.”

Alana Beattie was born and raised in New Zealand. After moving to California for her final five years of college, she decided to relocate to Australia in 1990.

Her successful years of career started as a pharmacy assistant before she spent 10 years as a Retail Category Manager at Pfizer Australia and as Nestle’s Category Sales Development Manager.

In 2009, Alana and her husband, Mark Beattie, purchased Coffee Roasters Australia.

Fast forward to 2021 and the business has grown substantially in revenue, employing 20 people in Australia and Hong Kong.

Coffee Roasters Australia is now part of the well-established CRA Group, which also consists of Capsule Pack and CRA Technology.

What determines success for you?

To run a profitable business that has loyal and satisfied new and repeat customers surrounded by a committed team delivering high-quality products and services.

What has been the most significant achievement for you?

If I had to choose one it would be starting up Capsule Pack. At the time we were one of the first capsule manufacturers in Australia. It was a very new business model, so everything had to be planned from scratch. We took a top-down approach and spent the time listening to what the industry needed. I feel this approach has been one of the keys to the success of Capsule Pack and one I am immensely proud of.

What has been your most challenging or terrifying moment in business?

My most challenging moment in business was the switch from being an agent selling brands to becoming an Australian manufacturer.

As a manufacturer, you are responsible for all aspects of your product and whilst this is the part I love, it is also the most challenging as you must ensure all those around you are engaged and have the same level of understanding as you so you can deliver to the highest quality and standards.

Why did you choose the Gold Coast as your base?

While I was working in a corporate environment in Sydney, I did not feel confident of finding the right balance to raise my two beautiful children.

As always, I wanted to continue to grow professionally and achieve success whilst being present in my children’s life. Being the director of my own business gives me the flexibility to participate in my children’s lives when and where they need me, such as coaching my son’s rugby team.

What value do you admire most?

Resilience. No matter what you are facing in life both professionally or personally, having the ability to bounce back and recover from challenges helps us to grow and learn so we can be the best we can be.

What is one word that defines you?

Passionate.

 

THE CHANGE MAKER

Sharyn Watson: Founder and Managing Director of Watmar Electrical & Air

I think you know you have succeeded when you can choose to not go to work for the day as you have a team in place to get things done whether you are in the office or not.”

Sharyn founded the company in 2013 and has grown the business from small beginnings as an electrical services company to an operation that employs 16 staff and boasts more than $2 million in annual turnover.

She has also recently assisted in a capital raise for the successful launch of Bidcrete – an app that is revolutionising the concrete industry.

Sharyn manages to balance the demands of her business alongside her dedicated involvement in charity and community work. In 2020, she was awarded Rotarian of the Year and named a Paul Harris Fellow for her work via Rotary.

After being named as a finalist in the Gold Coast Women in Business Awards in 2016, she was determined to dedicate more time to community endeavours and re-enter the awards with a more well-rounded success story to attempt to take out the highest honour. In 2020, she re-entered the program and was proudly proclaimed Gold Coast Woman in Business of the Year Award winner – a testament to her determination and inspiring achievements.

What determines success for you?

For me, success is having choices. I think you know you have succeeded when you can choose to not go to work for the day as you have a team in place to get things done whether you are in the office or not. That then gives you the choice to use your time for other things – helping your community, volunteering, spending time with your family, charity work. For me, that is success.

What has been the most significant achievement for you?

Far and away it was the Water for the West Project. This project – that I founded via my Rotary Club – had more than 700,000 litres of water donated and delivered to the Granite Belt during their recent drought. I was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow from Rotary for the project but the real recognition was from the people in the region. When an elderly lady tells you that without your project she would have had no drinking water for a week, you know you have made a difference.

What has been your most challenging or terrifying moment in business?

Early 2018, after we had a builder go out of business in late 2017, owing us more than six figures. We then realised in early 2018 that a lot of the Gold Coast wouldn’t get back to full noise in construction until after the Commonwealth Games. We had to make a couple of guys redundant and it was soul-destroying. I made the pact then to make sure we were very diversified so that could never happen again. Imagine my fear in early 2020 when we had an international pandemic coming at us. Luckily, that hasn’t been too catastrophic for us.

Why did you choose the Gold Coast as your base?

This is my hometown – I was born here.  I tried moving away once when I was about 18 – to Melbourne, the big smoke. I hated it. Mum and Dad had to send me money to come home after about three months. I decided then that I would always live here – have my family here and grow old here. Now I have also built a business here and have a beautiful granddaughter, I’m not going anywhere.

What value do you admire most?

Integrity – without it, you have nothing. People need to be able to trust your word and that you will always have this at the forefront of every transaction.

What is one word that defines you?

Driven.

 

Credits

Words: Ocean Road Editorial Team

Location: JW Marriott gold coast resort & spa

Photography: Brian Usher  www.usherusher.com

Stylist: Melissa Usher

Makeup: Rosie Johnson www.makeuppalace.com.au

Hair Styling: Bernadette Cliff  Toni&Guy Broadbeach

Cover image: Our Awardees wear the Awards diamond pendant trophy – My Jewellery Shop

Fashion: Ladies wear own fashion and pieces supplied by Liz Clift Boutique

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