The founder of Billie Goat Soap has been named the 2015 Council of Small Business of Australia Small Business Champion for her work to highlight the importance of mental health among small business owners.
Leanne Faulkner started her organic soap business in 2004 for people with sensitive skin, growing the company to the point where its products were stocked in stores like Myer and David Jones.
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However, in 2011 business slowed significantly and Faulkner was diagnosed with depression.
The entrepreneur shared her story with SmartCompany last year, and since then has continued to advocate for better resources to help small business owners tackle mental health issues in the workplace.
Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, Faulkner said she was honoured to be recognised by COSBOA because it means mental health in business can get the attention it deserves from both industry and policymakers.
The former business owner will act as a liaison between mental health organisation beyondblue and COSBOA members in order to ensure there are appropriate resources and campaigns aimed at small businesses, including sole operators.
“It’s been – and still is – a long road in terms of developing resources for small business owners and COSBOA are definitely very passionate about that,” Faulkner says.
“I don’t think we’ve had a big shift yet. But certainly with this new project beyondblue are partnering with, it’s an exciting time because it’s a step in the right direction and small business is getting a lot of attention at the moment. So the timing is just perfect to say look, it’s not just about the dollars and running a business – it’s also about your health and importantly your mental health.”
Faulkner says it’s essential mental health isn’t left out of the conversation, particularly since there has been a wave of interest in small business from politicians recently.
“Sometimes you think business is something you don’t connect with on a personal level, but when it’s small business it’s your neighbour, your wife, your brother, your sister,” she says.
“With this project with COSBOA it’s a great first step, but let’s not forget it’s the first step. We still have a long way to go and need to maintain the attention, increase the funding for this important area and get the message out there. This is just the beginning.”
Beyondblue chief executive Georgie Harman congratulated Faulkner in a statement and said small business owners often work for a reduced salary and in a highly competitive environment with very little support.
“All these factors can impact their mental health,” Harman said.
“Beyondblue looks forward to working with Leanne, COSBOA, and the reference group to deepen our understanding of the needs of small business owners and sole operators and provide useful tools and resources they can access to create mentally health workplaces.”
Mental health costs Australian businesses an estimated $10.9 billion annually.