Australia’s top 30 female entrepreneurs 2013

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feature-iwd-2013-200aMeet Australia’s top female entrepreneurs, they are smart, focused and risk takers. Many have built their businesses from scratch and together they generated $6.452 billion in revenue last year.

There are some names you will recognise on this list like Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest woman, but others you might not, like Vicky Teoh, the co-founder of technology company TPG and Vanessa Garrard, owner and founder of product development company E3.

Compared with 2012’s list the combined revenue of the list is up on the $5.898 billion recorded last year.

There’s plenty of inspiration to be had on International Women’s Day from these 30 top female entrepreneurs who have each done their part to shake things up in Australia’s business community.

Here’s the top 10 for 2013:

Entrepreneur Revenue Company
Gina Rinehart $2.37 billion Hancock Prospecting
Vicky Teoh $663 million TPG
Lesley Gillespie $564 million Baker’s Delight
Naomi Milgrom $493 million Sussan Group
Jan Cameron $336 million Retail Adventures
Charlotte Vidor $285 million Toga Group
Maxine Horne $222 million Vita Group
Janine Allis $214 million Retail Zoo
Therese Rein $210 million Ingeus
Iris Lustig-Moar $171 million Lustig & Moar

The list of Australia’s top female entrepreneurs is ranked according to revenue. Where possible, revenue has been provided by the entrepreneurs; if not, SmartCompany has sourced the revenue from publicly available sources, industry contacts or internal estimates.

An asterisk (*) denotes where revenue has been estimated.

Here are their stories:

1. Gina Rinehart

  • Company: Hancock Prospecting
  • Established: 1955
  • Revenue: $2.37 billion

Gina Rinehart was briefly anointed as the richest woman in the world last year by BRW magazine. However, analysts have questioned the methodology used and the latest Forbes’ billionaire list has pegged the mining magnate back a notch to fifth richest woman in the world with an estimated wealth of $29.17 billion, thanks to falling iron ore prices. It’s quibbling over small change though as records filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show Rinehart is by far Australia’s wealthiest female entrepreneur with annual turnover at Hancock Prospecting of $2.37 billion.

Rinehart has taken a more prominent role in public discourse in the last year, weighing in with her opinions on how Australians need to stay out of the pub and how she is really a small business woman. She’s been in and out of the courts too, but has also managed to continue to build her empire with the establishment of her flagship project, the Roy Hill Mine, set to open in 2014.

2. Vicky Teoh

  • Company: TPG
  • Established: 1992
  • Revenue: $663 million

Malaysian-born Vicky Teoh and her husband, David, moved to Australia in 1986 and set up TPG. Initially it was a computer equipment business, selling hardware such as PCs and printers, as well as network services and internet services. But by 2005, the equipment sales had ceased and TPG was a rapidly growing internet service provider. Three years later, TPG listed on the ASX through a reverse takeover of SP Telemedia, which saw the Teohs emerge with $150 million and a majority stake in the business. TPG has continued to go from strength to strength with revenue up 15% on last year thanks to TPG growing its broadband and mobile subscriber bases.

3. Lesley Gillespie

  • Company: Bakers Delight
  • Founded: 1980
  • Revenue: $564 million

Lesley Gillespie has built one of Australia’s most successful franchises along with her husband and joint chief executive Roger Gillespie. Their first bakery was in Hawthorn, Victoria and in 1988 the Gillespies owned 15 bakeries which they then began to franchise.  By 1991 Bakers Delight had grown to 43 bakeries and it now operates over 700 bakeries and employs around 15,000 people.

“In life you are always presented with challenges,” Gillespie says.

“For me, it is how you approach the challenge that is most important. If you are clear in the direction you wish to take and you have the support of your team, it is irrelevant if you are male or female, you will achieve your goal.”

4. Naomi Milgrom

  • Company: Sussan Group
  • Founded: 1939
  • Revenue: $493 million

A tough retail environment has caused Naomi Milgrom’s wealth to take another hit this year. As the owner of fashion retailers Sussan, Sportsgirl and Suzanne Grae, she is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of fashion. The daughter of retail king Marc Besen, Milgrom bought out the family business in 2003 and has set about putting her own stamp on the company including making sure it has a culture that supports women.

Of the group’s 4,500 staff, 95% are women. But unlike other fashion companies, the chief executives of all three retail brands are women, and women make up the majority of the senior management level.

“A culture that supports women doesn’t come about spontaneously; it only happens when the leaders of companies create policies and initiatives to stimulate such a culture,” Milgrom says. “In my experience, mentoring women into leadership is fundamental.”

5. Jan Cameron

  • Company: Retail Adventures
  • Established: 2006
  • Revenue: $336 million*

Jan Cameron has suffered a fast fall from grace after establishing her name as an entrepreneur by founding outdoor retailer Kathmandu and then taking on her former business by heading up competitor MacPac. However, Cameron appears to have lost her Midas touch with her newest business, Retail Adventures, which operates discount retailers Sam’s Warehouse, Chickenfeed, Crazy Clarks and GO-LO. The business went into administration in October last year with Cameron controversially buying it back from administrators for $58.9 million. The failure has significantly dented Cameron’s personal wealth and she told The Australian: “This will keep me off the Rich List, let’s put it that way … I have often referred to this company as retail nightmares or retail misadventures.”

6. Charlotte Vidor

  • Company: Toga Group
  • Founded: 1963
  • Revenue: $285 million*

The Toga Group was founded by Charlotte Vidor with her husband Ervin after they migrated to Australia from Poland and Hungary. The group owns and manages four hospitality brands:  Medina Apartment Hotels, Adina Apartment Hotels, Vibe Hotels and Travelodge Hotels and has 1,800 employees.

7. Maxine Horne

  • Company: Vita Group
  • Established: 1995
  • Revenue: $222 million

Maxine Horne co-founded the Vita Group starting with one store back in 1995. Now the joint chief executive runs a multi-brand and multi-channel publicly-listed company with its two key partners being Telstra and Apple. Revenue is up 9% on last year and Horne likes to take to Twitter to reveal her mantras like “well behaved women seldom make history”.

8. Janine Allis

  • Company: Retail Zoo
  • Founded: 2000
  • Revenue: $214 million

Janine Allis describes herself as “a girl from the burbs who had no idea about business”. She started her first Boost Juice bar in Adelaide and 11 years later, there are now 250 stores in 14 countries. The company’s revenue has soared since last year thanks to the addition of the new Mexican chain Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill to Allis’ business empire.

Allis credits the amazing people along her journey with having helped shape her success.

“Probably the main woman who helped me was my mum, as she helped me with my children,” she says. “I would not have been able to do what we did without her selfless support.”

Her tips for success are to work hard, take accountability for everything you do and surround yourself with great people.

9. Therese Rein

  • Company: Ingeus
  • Established: 1989
  • Revenue: $210 million

Therese Rein may have been better known at one stage as the Prime Minister’s wife but when it comes to business acumen, Kevin Rudd is left firmly in Rein’s shadow. Ingeus helps job-seekers find work through government contracts and has achieved remarkable success both in Australia and overseas. Ingeus now employs more than 2,000 people in around 150 offices internationally and Rein, the company’s managing director, holds about 97% of its shares.

10. Iris Lustig-Moar

  • Company: Lustig & Moar
  • Established: 1971
  • Revenue: $171 million*

Iris Lustig-Moar heads up property development business Lustig & Moar Group along with her ex-husband Max Moar. The business was started by Lustig-Moar’s late father and projects undertaken by the Lustig & Moar team include the Park Hyatt Hotel and Treasury Gardens Apartments in Melbourne, the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne, Chatswood Chase in Sydney and the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong.

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Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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