Five lessons from our top 30 female entrepreneurs

If you’re feeling inspired by SmartCompany’s list of Australia’s top 30 female entrepreneurs, you are probably keen to know what makes a woman a successful entrepreneur.

What differentiates these women from struggling business owners and what challenges have they overcome, especially those which may be specifically related to their gender?

When we interviewed the top entrepreneurs in our list they had the following tips for other SME owners:

1. Work hard but be flexible

Betty Fong, the co-owner of food retail chain Pie Face, says she has worked 24/7 to grow her business.

“I have the ‘freedom’ of planning my own day but balancing children and a business that is becoming global (talking to America from 5pm-midnight regularly) means a very long day,” she says.

“One minute you’re having a board meeting conference call; the next reading a story book to the girls before bedtime.”

2. Have the right people

Lesley Gillespie, co-owner of bakery franchise Bakers Delight, says having the right people in your business is essential.

“From support staff and franchisees to first-year apprentices, for us it is having the right people for every job,” she says.

3. Support women

Naomi Milgrom, owner of the Sussan Group, advocates supporting women in your business.

“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.”

4. Focus on strategy

Carolyn Cresswell, owner of Carman’s Muesli and Telstra’s Business Woman of the Year, says it is important to stay focused on the big picture.

“I think you need to be organised, get the clutter out of your life so you can focus on strategy and risk,” she says.

“I would try and get out of some of the operational detail so you can protect your business to a certain extent and push it forward as aggressively as you can to the next level if that’s what you want to do.”

5. Speak out and don’t think of money as a dirty word

Naomi Simson, owner of Red Balloon, says successful women need to speak out more and not think of money as a dirty word.

“We don’t have to give up our feminine characteristics to achieve what we want – but to get there – you need to be heard now,” she says.


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