I’ve had an interesting and varied career path. Having landed in Australian from the UK 20 years ago, I started out my career this side of the pond in Project Management, working for a large financial institution during Y2K and GST conversions.
My love for media an advertising, however, never went away and so I decided to make the leap from a very lucrative career into a small media house where I halved my salary but found my passion.
This love for media led to an 8-year career in the major publishing houses and culminated in the role of National Advertising Manager on Good Taste magazine, working closely with retail giant Woolworths
In 2006, I accepted the role of Sales Manager at media and production house Now Screen and, after maternity leave in 2008, found myself looking for a new challenge. It was at this time that I came across the opportunity to launch Product of the Year Australia (POY), a globally recognized award that has now been running for 32 years, in over 35 countries.
In the first three years, I single-handedly launched and ran the business and, in year one, managed to recruit Lisa Wilkinson, former TODAY show host, as the award ambassador. Due to delays in licensing issues I had just three months to market and launch the first Australian awards and, in its first year managed to build 17 categories. The first award night, held at Quay in Sydney, hosted 110 guests and speaking in front of them was my proudest career point to date.
It was from this beginning that POY Australia became the ‘award to win’ for new product innovation in Australia. Fast forward ten years, the Awards boast an average of 46 winners in categories spanning food and beverage, household goods, health, beauty and baby care, and are ‘the awards to win’ for new product innovation in Australia.
With global brands such as Unilever and Colgate, large supermarkets including Aldi, IGA and Coles and boutique brands all looking to make their stamp on the market by entering year on year, the award growth has been exponential.
So much so, that Australian-made artisan food brand, Birch & Waite, saw a 33% sales lift after being awarded a POY Award in 2017 for their Rich Tartare Seafood Sauce. The brand’s success story isn’t alone; in 2016 both Nexcare and Mater Mothers saw a 273% and 55% sales lift respectively; the former for their Blister Waterproof Strips and the latter for their nappies.
If I were to offer advice to other women going into business, my number one tip would be to ask for help. The startup of a new venture is exciting and rewarding but it can also be stressful, exhausting and very lonely. Try to find someone who has done something similar or who has their own small business. Simply talking out your ideas can be immensely helpful and motivating. It can help you clarify what you are hoping to achieve and it may also save you from making some expensive mistakes!
When I started my business I started with a simple diagram of everything I wanted the business to be and a list of things that I needed on a personal level in order to keep myself motivated and engaged. Starting from here I created small achievable goals every day, week and month which would lead me to these visions. It’s so important to have goals both big and small to keep you on track & maintain forward momentum.
I would recommend taking the time to identify your strengths and weaknesses and then work on the areas that need it most. Over time you will most certainly find it more productive to hire people who are more skillful than you in certain areas but, in the first instance you need to be prepared to do a lot of everything.
Finally, make sure you have realistic growth expectations & keep a positive outlook. It’s very easy to become disheartened when things move slowly or you don’t get the response you were hoping for. Resilience here is key, pick yourself up, go back to your vision and get back to work.