Entrepreneurs

Seven female leaders on turning passion into business success

Jen Dalitz /

Are entrepreneurs born or are they made? A bit of both, if the entrepreneurship panels at Women World Changers is anything to go by.

Whether you aspire to entrepreneurship, or you’re seeking inspiration in your own career planning, the advice from the panelists is unanimous: find something in life that you’re passionate about, and throw yourself into it.

But what is the price of that passion? How do business operators – with everything on the line – navigate the perils and the pitfalls to bring their dreams to life? And how do they pick themselves and keep pushing on when the going moves from tough to seemingly impossible?

This was the focus of our discussion and here’s some advice from each of the seven business leaders in the spotlight:

1. Just take the first step

Kim Liddell, founder and chief executive of Non-Destructive Excavations, says there’s no such thing as perfect preparation, no such thing as perfect pathways. Just take the first step, then worry about the second, then the third, and then keep going. If you wait to be perfectly prepared, your journey will never begin.

2. Be bolder than you think

Gen George was just 21 years of age when she founded OneShift, an online talent marketplace that instantly connects over 660,000 local candidates to 39,000 local businesses. In the early days her goals were modest, her expectations measured. After all, she was new to the job market herself. With the benefit of hindsight and experience – and $5million investment in the business – she says she could have aimed higher, pushed harder. And that’s just what she’s doing now in her second venture skilld.

3. When the rules don’t make sense, then change them

Since Ronni Kahn founded OzHarvest in 2004, the social venture has rescued and redistributed 53 million meals to women, children and men in need. Yet in the early days it was hard for the business to donate food due to the legal liability in place. By securing pro bono legal support to have the laws changed, Ronni was able to open up a whole supply chain of food to nourish those in need.

4. Accept your vulnerabilities

Serial entrepreneur Melissa Browne leads a portfolio of businesses that keep her challenged and motivated. And sometimes awake at night. Encouraged by a coach to open up to her team on her challenges and occasional feelings of overwhelm, Melissa created a real sense of trust and camaraderie with her teams and a shared commitment to working through those challenges together.

5. Failure can be your best friend

Sadhana Smiles had two failed businesses under her belt before she took the helm as chief executive of Harcourts Group Victoria and what she learned along the way is to focus on the learnings. Realising she works best and creates more value in a corporate environment than the start up scene, her move back onto the payroll has been rewarded with a string of awards and accolades.

6. Turn your weakness into a strength

As investment director of venture capital firm Blue Sky Funds, Elaine Stead is frequently the only woman at the table. Rather than be intimidated, she sees this as an opportunity to stand out, be memorable, and attract female founders.

7. Everything is about people, no matter what business you’re in

Even in a technology business. Michelle Melbourne attributes the success of Intelledox over the past 25 years not to building the best technical capability, but to an ongoing relentless commitment to understanding and meeting the needs of their customers; and to cultivating a culture in which her people feel supported and empowered to contribute fully.

Jen Dalitz is an award-winning business strategist, change agent and entrepreneur. She writes and speaks on Living. Real. Leadership. at jendalitz.com and facilitated the panel discussion on Entrepreneurship at Women World Changers.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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Jen Dalitz

Jen Dalitz is an internationally recognised change agent, having received numerous awards and citations for her entrepreneurship and expertise in gender diversity and business strategy.

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