Carolyn Creswell, the owner of Carman’s Fine Foods, was crowned Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year at an awards ceremony in Sydney last night.
As an 18-year-old, Creswell bought a Melbourne muesli company with a friend for $2,000, an initial outlay that she has turned into a business which turns over about $50 million a year.
She now employs 130 staff and has grown Carman’s into a multinational brand exporting to 32 countries.
The awards judges described Creswell as a hands-on leader with strong business skills in a competitive sector.
“She’s an articulate communicator, an inspiration to women of all ages and she’s also passionate about being a great mum,” said Kate McKenzie, Telstra group managing director for innovation, products and marketing.
Creswell told SmartCompany she was genuinely surprised to win the award and had been up since 5am for media commitments surviving on adrenaline, a bit of caffeine and, of course, a muesli bar.
“I did not expect it, you are not supposed to say you did not expect it, but I really didn’t,” she says.
“It has been an incredible experience. You are in a room of the most diverse people. I can understand people might say ‘You run a good business’, but there are people saving lives: the head of the police force, and one of the winners even tows broken down navy boats at sea. I was shocked to think that they judged me the best.”
Creswell attributes her success with Carman’s to staying 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.”
As a mother of four children, for Creswell, winning the award is an opportunity to spread the message about Carman’s and also to advocate for a more non-judgemental approach to working mothers.
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