Celebrating our female entrepreneurs
The aim is to identify, recognise and showcase Australia's outstanding female business owners and tell their stories, as most business award programs are dominated by men.
Boy it was hard. The project was led by SmartCompany's editor James Thomson. Now James is very skilled at these type of projects: he is the former editor of the BRW Rich List and other flagships and he and I set up the methodology and processes behind SmartCompany's great award programs, which include our SmartCompany Awards in September and Start Up Awards in November, Web Awards and 30 under 30.
But nothing prepared him for the challenge of putting this list together. The project started late last year, when we began compiling a list of possible candidates, scouring business award winners, the business press and company financials to try and shake the tree. We called our contacts and put out the word: we want women running Australia's top businesses turning over millions of dollars to put up their hands.
At this stage we didn't know how many contenders we would get or what the revenue cut off would be.
We then attempted to contact the entrepreneurs themselves and asked them to tell us about their business – their revenue, employee numbers, their start up costs, their motivation for starting their business and their advice for up and coming female entrepreneurs.
Talk about pulling teeth. Most of the businesses involved are private companies. While the women were happy to talk about most things, asking them about their revenue and they clammed up. Many women hate talking about money. Some relented after much persuasion. Others simply refused to tell us their revenue, a problem we rarely encounter with men.
For those women who declined to provide this data, we have made a conservative estimate about the size of their turnover by consulting industry sources, research firms such as IBISWorld, Dun & Bradstreet, ASIC documents and other publically available information sources.
The project took much longer than anticipated and if you are a female entrepreneur, I would give James a wide berth for at least a week. But what we have uncovered is a truly inspiring group of female entrepreneurs with revenue ranging between $1 billion and $1 million, with diverse backgrounds and different paths to the top.
The research found that the women start in a more modest way than men, with most of them starting at home and few with start up funds of more than $100,000.
Fourteen of the female entrepreneurs run franchises, which is quite high. One reason for this is because the women are over represented in services industries where franchising is popular. But it could also be that franchising is a very efficient way to expand a business for time poor women.
The good news is that most of the female entrepreneurs believe it is now easier as a woman to start a business and this is partly due to better role models, which highlights how important female role models are to younger women.
Lastly, thanks to the SmartCompany team, led by James for a lot of very hard work over the last four months. You have all done a great job!