Australia’s top 30 female entrepreneurs: International Women’s Day 2014

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As we mark International Women’s Day, SmartCompany has compiled its annual list of Australia’s Top 30 Female Entrepreneurs.

Each year, we celebrate the Australian female business owners who have been exemplary in their industries, are trailblazers and demonstrate inspiring and aspiring business journeys. This year the list generated a combined revenue of $6.127 billion. 

That’s slightly down on last year’s list where the combined revenue was $6.452 billion last year and largely reflects the decline in the fortunes of Australia’s wealthiest person, Gina Rinehart. While Rinehart may have fallen from revenue of $2.37 billion to $1.986 billion she is still far and away the list leader. However, there are some extremely impressive business women in this year’s top 10.

There’s a new top 10 entrant this year, Sue Hollis, who has shot onto the list with a bullet and a revenue of $250 million from her corporate travel company TravelEdge.

Here’s the top 10 for 2014:

Entrepreneur

Revenue

Company

Gina Rinehart

$1.986 billion

Hancock Prospecting

Vicky Teoh

$724.5 million

TPG

Lesley Gillespie

$575 million

Bakers Delight

Naomi Milgrom

$445 million

ARJ Group

Maxine Horne

$345 million

Vita Group

Charlotte Vidor

$285 million

Toga Group

Sue Hollis

$250 million

TravelEdge

Janine Allis

$225 million

Retail Zoo

Therese Rein

$210 million

Ingeus

Iris Lustig-Moar

$175 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: $1.986 billion

The mining magnate’s personal wealth took a hit last year, as revenue and earnings slumped at Hancock Prospecting. Figures released in December 2013 by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission confirmed that the iron-ore mining company’s annual turnover had dropped by 14% (from $2.37 billion to $1.986) during the financial year 2012-13.

But despite having $7 billion wiped off her personal fortune, Rinehart remains Australia’s richest person and was recently named the fourth richest woman in the world by BRW magazine, with an estimated net worth of $20.02 billion.

With the much-anticipated Roy Hill site expected to commence production in late 2015, it’s safe to say this economic downturn will be short-lived, with reports Rinehart is close to securing the $8 billion needed to fund the massive project.

In October last year, following a long-running feud with her children, Rinehart avoided a court appearance by relinquishing her position as head of the $5 billion family trust. With no agreement reached on who should be Rinehart’s successor, the legal battle shows no sign of abating.

2. Vicky Teoh

  • Company: TPG
  • Established: 1992
  • Revenue: $724.5 million

The co-founders of ASX-listed company TPG joined the ranks of Australia’s billionaires at close of trading on April 24, 2013, when Vicky and David Teoh’s combined shareholding in the internet service provider exceeded the $1 billion mark by $9 million. The husband-and-wife team each own about 18% of the broadband company in their own names.

The previous month, BRW named Vicky Teoh the richest self-made woman in the country, due to her $390 million personal fortune that has since risen to $530 million.

The couple’s high-speed trajectory to success looks set to continue as TPG rolls out its new, faster broadband service, which will offer a budget price tag and speeds to rival the Abbott government’s National Broadband Network. That is, if they can fend off competition from telcos such as Telstra. 

In 2013, TPG’s revenue increased by 9% to $724.5 million.

3. Lesley Gillespie

  • Company: Bakers Delight
  • Founded: 1980 (becoming a franchise in 1988)
  • Revenue: $575 million (with Richard Gillespie)

Co-founder, executive director and joint CEO Lesley Gillespie founded her first bakery with husband Roger in 1980, and franchising commenced in 1988 when the pair had 15 Bakers Delight outlets.

Fast-forward to today, when a tried-and-tested business model and a 12.7% share of the Australian bread market has positioned Bakers Delight as Australia’s most successful bakery franchise. The couple now operate over 700 bakeries globally, including 30 bakeries in New Zealand and close to 80 across three Canadian provinces, which employ more than 15,000 employees. 

With nearly 34 years’ business experience, Gillespie takes her philanthropic commitments seriously and has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the community and support of charitable organisations. Last year, franchises across Australia raised more than $1.2 million for Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) through the sale of pink iced buns and donations.

4. Naomi Milgrom

  • Company: ARJ Group
  • Founded: 1939
  • Revenue: $445 million

Naomi Milgrom, the daughter of Melbourne entrepreneur and retail king Marc Besen, bought out the family business in 2003 and today is the sole owner, executive chair and CEO of private company ARJ Group, which owns women’s clothing retailers Sportsgirl, Sussan and Suzanne Grae.

The three brands combined have 504 stores and 4020 employees across Australia, generating annual revenue of $445 million in the year ended June 2013. This might signal a drop of $48 million in revenue from the previous year, but Milgrom has managed to keep net profits steady for the past three years despite competition from the arrival of international chains and more and more Australian consumers spending their money with overseas retailers online.  

5. Maxine Horne

  • Company: Vita Group
  • Established: 1995 (founded as Fone Zone)
  • Revenue: $345 million

Moving from the UK to Australia, Maxine Horne spotted a gap in the market and set up one of the first mobile phone retailers in Australia in 1995. Today, she is the joint chief executive of Vita Group, a multi-brand and multi-channel publicly-listed company whose share price rose from below 40 cents to above 65 cents in the past year.

As Australia’s largest Telstra dealership, Horne believes the secret to Vita Group’s success lies in forming partnerships with market leaders, keeping a close eye on overseas trends and investing in people:

The most important thing in any organisation is your people. Having engaged people who take on accountability and really believe in where they’re taking the business is what makes it successful.”

Revenue climbed 14% to $345 million in financial year 2013.

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Cara Waters is the 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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