The cable gal: From her parents' garage to a $6.5 million business
Nicole Kersh started 4Cabling as a sole trader in her parents' garage in 2004 because she saw a gap in the market for cabling and IT management accessories in Australia. Eight year later, the business has an annual turnover of $6.5 million and employs 20 people.
Last week, the now 28-year-old picked up a gong for her efforts, taking home the Young Manager of the Year award given by the Australian Institute of Management NSW and ACT (AIM).
So how did a 20-year-old come to give up her interior architecture degree for a business based on computer equipment?
"There was nothing like it," Kersh tells Women's Agenda of her original plans. "My idea stemmed from frustration as an end-user that the communications products I needed were unavailable. I thought to myself, 'Why does it have to be so difficult?'"
So Kersh put her interior architecture plans on hold, and trawled the internet and Yellow Pages to gauge interest and build a solid client base. "I wouldn't say I had passion for cables – what 20-year-old would? But my dad is an electrician so I had industry insight. That really helped. That and I was determined to see if I could make a viable online, direct-to-consumer and direct-to-business model."
Kersh endured the challenges of succeeding in a traditionally male-dominated industry. "To begin with no one took me very seriously – I wasn't an electrician and I wasn't a middle-aged man. I'd often take my dad with me to meetings to make it easier for older male clients to relate. It was difficult and degrading at times, but ultimately I knew my business had merit and I wanted to give it a go."
Having built a business that holds a strong place in the communications industry, Kersh says she's learnt to manage existing gender bias with confidence and an open mind.
"It's difficult because the male to female ratio in my work is stark, but that's the reality. If you worry too much it can work to your detriment. With time, I've learnt not to hide. I meet with clients knowing my business provides an invaluable and unique service. That's the bottom line – not my gender."
The persistence has paid off. She now has 20 employees, half men and half women, who are mostly older than her. This presents another challenge, though: the age gap. "In order to have the best staff with the right experience, most of the people I have hired are older than me. This can be challenging at times, but also incredibly rewarding. I definitely learn a lot from the people I work with. I think the key is being receptive and encouraging of honest feedback."
Kersh is thrilled to have received the Young Manager of the Year award. "It's an honour to be recognised and definitely motivates me to strengthen my skills." The award makes available training courses and new networking opportunities for the young businesswoman.
"This all comes at a time when 4Cabling is undergoing growth and with that change and new challenges. I'm excited to learn more about business strategies and managerial techniques. I think it will be a really positive experience."
This article first appeared on Women's Agenda.