Think HBR

Women in business

Lisa Kernes


Lisa Kernes is the Chief Operating Officer of Ignite Alliance, a ‘one-stop shop’ that offers small and medium-sized enterprises a full suite of back-end services and skills – accounting, grants, technology and marketing.
It was formed in January 2016, when Lisa merged her chartered accounting, operations and virtual chief financial officer services, with Wayne Banks’ business advisory and consulting service.
Since 2014, Lisa’s business has doubled year on year and the staff has doubled in the past 12 months.
Although she travels the Eastern Seaboard visiting clients, Lisa sets up her day with exercise. Then at work, her daily ritual starts with planning and ends with a ‘daily wrap’ of reflection and preparation. In between she spends time with the team, clients, networking, grants and accounting.
Delivery is her driver and Lisa puts this down to life experience. At 17, she had a kidney transplant then felt the need to catch up. While on dialysis, Lisa studied, worked or read and with this pattern has completed a BComm, CA, Tax Institute courses, plus self-development through Tony Robbins and hundreds of business books.
She attributes the majority of her success to having incredible mentors in different areas of her life, like Wayne Banks, who became her business partner.
Early on Lisa’s biggest challenge was her health. However, she found being a woman in business had a huge advantage due to women looking after each other.
Lisa’s wish is for every businesswoman to have an incredible mentor and learn to take a holistic approach to advice. She also wants the accounting industry to be more technology focused and multi-disciplined.
Her passion to help SMEs has seen Lisa specialise in grants to help them access the money available through the state and federal governments. To her credit, a dozen Newcastle SMEs have received grants valued between $40,000 and $500,000 in the past year.
Her advice is: “Be open to continuous learning, read a lot, always have a mentor and focus on helping others. There is so much opportunity for anyone who is willing to have a go”.
tammy guest


Tammy Guest of is a health and business mentor who helps women have flow and freedom in body and business.
Established in 2010, the business has evolved from an award-winning clinic in Lambton to a location independent business, which gives Tammy the flexibility to support her dream to be the first women to fly around the world east to west in a helicopter while shining a spotlight on the planet, its people, health and wellbeing.
For Tammy, each day is bookended by mediation and time spent with her husband talking about their next adventure. In between she weaves school drop offs and pickups, nutritional energising meals, one-on-one coaching via Skype and phone, meetings, webinars, planning and preparing for projects including immersion workshops and retreats and online education through the Flow Seeker Academy.
With 11 years in medical science and seven years in naturopathy, two university degrees and numerous related diplomas and certificates, Tammy developed her passions for understanding cells, optimising health naturally, mentoring and developing immersion experiences.
Her inspiration comes from many people including Denise Duffield-Thomas of, Vishen Lakhiani of Mindvalley and Lores Bonney, the first woman to fly solo from Australia to England.
When starting out, Tammy found her biggest challenge was finding successful women role models in business education and the natural health community. She turned to the online world and found women sharing similar stories, then self-publishing and spreading the word through social media.
She hopes this shift and change continues and more and more inspiring women are seen as leaders, especially natural health practitioners, entrepreneurs and lifestyle businesses owners
Tammy is passionate about women doing business their way that suits their family, health and wellbeing. She loves she can be anywhere in the world and share her message as well as fly helicopters.
Her advice is “Be true to yourself. There is no need to follow a traditional business model. Create a business that matches you then do your business your way”.
Christina Gerakiteys



Christina Gerakiteys is in the business of opening hearts and minds to possibility. As Chief Enabler and CEO of Ideation At Work, she is an innovation and creativity consultant and trainer. Ideation At Work exists to increase the capacity of creativity and innovation in every organisation, individual, SME and corporation the business works with.
Ideation At Work began as a sole trader business almost four years ago and quickly moved to company status two years later. Growth came through defining the ‘why’ or the purpose of the business. Ideation At Work now services clients up and down the east coast. Christina is constantly looking to create opportunities and make connections. Some of them turn into exciting projects and others don’t.
No two days are the same for Christina. She usually wakes up at 5:30 am, grabs her camera and walks the coastline for some thinking time, where she sets her intent for the day. Days might be filled with client consultations, facilitating the Rippler Innovation program, facilitating the Talking Heads program at the University of Newcastle, creating new opportunities for the business itself, facilitating corporate planning days, attending conferences, running workshops, or organising an entrepreneurial event like Top Shots, Hunter Collective or the Hunter Innovation Festival. Then there is the answering of the constant emails and late night phone meetings with clients or associates overseas. The diversity is what Christina loves so much – that and the amazing people she gets to work and collaborate with.
Christina’s working life has been extremely varied. After leaving school she studied law, then a Bachelor of Arts and a Music degree, studied education, leadership, management, completed a post grad qual in Business Management and is currently undertaking doctoral studies in Creativity and Innovation. She has worked in hospitality, media production, free-lanced, worked in agencies, worked as a Medical Herbalist and played in a band. She has also founded and co-founded many projects including Newcastle Music Week and Create and Innovate.
Christina has been inspired by many people. Her parents were always in business and worked hard for what they believed in. Other influencers include second class teacher Mrs Metcalf, piano teacher Mrs Lutton, herbal teacher and mentor Nancy Evelyn and friend, colleague and mentor Claire Williams. She has also learnt from the readings and behaviours of Sir Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Simon Sinek, Tom Kelly (IDEO), Peter Diamandes (Singularity University) and others who tried, failed and tried again.
Christina finds the best way to overcome challenges is to face them head on, with a clear head and heart. “When you know your Why as Simon Sinek puts it, it is remarkable how easy it is to stay focused on the end goal,” says Christina.
Jane Huxley from Pandora Music said two things that left a profound effect on her, “Focus, focus, focus” and “It’s not personal”. It is also important to ask for help when you need it and not constantly strive for perfection.
When advising other women in business, Christina says “Get some sleep! Always be true to your beliefs and core values. Trust your gut. Grow yourself as you grow the business. I don’t believe we can achieve our true business potential unless we are growing our own personal potential. We often get lost in the business and forget ourselves. But I can tell you unequivocally that the more you learn about yourself the more secure you are in your business decisions, and the more secure your business decisions, the more your business will grow.“
Suzie Gately



Suzie Gately is Manager Libraries, Newcastle City Council.
She has worked in Local Government for 20 years and been in Newcastle for 2 years. Suzie came from a successful stint in local government libraries in Victoria, having overseen the building of three new large facilities in 10 years. She left as construction commenced on the fourth.
The library business has had a rollercoaster ride in the last 10-15 years, having experienced declining loans of physical items and a slight decline in overall usage amid dire predictions of the end of libraries because of the internet. However the library is experiencing increased participation as people make use of free access to technology and spaces. Programming has also extended beyond "reading" based activities. Coding, robotics, wellness, sustainability, for example, are attracting new audiences. Digital literacy and innovation is the new currency which is particularly relevant to the libraries' transformation, given that Newcastle aspires to be a smart city.
Suzie originally worked as a teacher and taught for 10 years before moving to local government in the early 90s as a children's librarian and discovered she loved the extension to learning though in an informal setting. Suzie says that lifelong learning is a culture that society needs to develop if our communities are going to be resilient.
In 2014 Suzie completed the Williamson Community Leadership program which consolidated her previous leadership and applied this knowledge to real life problems.
When Suzie started in local government, the majority of leaders within her organisation were men. A Women in Leadership program was funded for women leaders from across the organisation, focussing on developing leadership strategies and carving out a career path. The course was transformational for Suzie and started her on a 20 year leadership journey to her current position. Today, Suzie still finds that too few women are in leadership positions either to reflect the work force and to act as role models.
For the future, Suzie would like the library industry to be viewed as professionals akin to accountants or lawyers instead of being perceived as a vocational soft skilled industry. She also believes that female leaders in local government and libraries need to be prepared to diversify their skill base, stick their hands up, be vocal, and be at the table. Women need to proactively identify and nurture the talent from within, and to encourage career planning.
She is excited about the opportunities for libraries to really be of value to a rapidly changing society and particularly excited for libraries to assist the council to make sense and to explore what it means to be a smart city.
Suzie has clear advice for other women starting out:
• Have a vision and a plan - set your goals, understand where you want to be in the medium term and long term
• Be clear about your core values and what matters to you. Choices are easier if they align.
• Find your voice early, be at the table and ask for help.
• Self belief is a choice.
• No question is dumb. No opinion, well framed is offensive.
• Continue learning.
• Become an expert at the art of negotiation and finding the mutual benefit
• Don’t assume that people understand you and your business, but when you find those that do, nurture the relationship.
Kerry Hallett


Kerry Hallett is General Manager of Hunter Region Business Hub aka Hunter Region Business Enterprise Centre, established in 1992. It is a NFP community-based organisation servicing the business community of the Cessnock, Maitland, Dungog, Singleton, Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter LGAs. They also offer serviced offices in Kurri Kurri.
No matter how carefully planned Kerry’s day is, there’s always the unusual. First up is dealing with emails, then pre-arranged appointments and dealing with the unexpected. The unexpected could be a staff issue or a breakdown of equipment such as air conditioning or security systems. Sometimes the day seems to be solely around driving as most offsite appointments are at least a 20 minute drive each way.
Kerry commenced her working life in a bank (Rural/State) and progressed from a junior to a branch administrator over a 15 year period – no mean feat at a time when preference was given to male employees. She then left to raise her son. It wasn’t a picnic though as she assisted her husband manage beef, sheep and chicken properties (unpaid of course).
When Kerry re-joined the paid workforce in admin/cellar door sales, she found that computers were a main part of the workplace and enrolled at TAFE to complete a Certificate 3 in IT. She also taught herself about bookkeeping, MYOB and bank reconciliations. From there Kerry left to manage a couple of doctors’ surgeries and learnt a whole new language. During this time she completed a Certificate 4 in Practice Management and also worked to get accreditation for the surgeries.
Kerry then had a very small interim at a real estate, before commencing at Hunter Region BEC as Administration Manager. During this time she completed a Diploma in Business Management and Certificate 4 Training and Assessment. Kerry progressed to Business Advisor, completed her MBA and then, 7 years ago, successfully applied for the Managers position. She has also completed Certificate 4 Frontline Management, kept her TAE up to date, completed a partial qualification in Governance and has two thirds completed a Doctorate in Business.
Kerry has also always looked for volunteer prospects to develop her skills, including mentoring through several youth programs, being active in Maitland Business Chamber executive and later Kurri Kurri District Business Chamber (this year as President), being on the committee of the Australasian Institute of Business and Enterprise Facilitators (this year as Vice President) and working on various committees.
Kerry has had some great people in her life who have inspired her. Initially it was her dad who had the belief that you can do whatever you want. More recently, the present President of AIBEF has been there to run ideas past, sound off at, or whatever required, giving a balanced and impartial view to assist making the right decisions.
Kerry says she has seen major changes in the way women are viewed in business. When she commenced working in the bank women only really worked until they got married or became pregnant, which usually closely followed anyway. There were minimal opportunities to progress.
There are still challenges in being a woman in business, including at times not being showed the level of respect deserved. Kerry has also heard of women having difficulty with business finance unless their husband, who wasn’t involved in the business, was on the paperwork as well. Thankfully, this is becoming a rarity.
In the future, Kerry would like to see the recognition of the importance of what her community based NFP does, including a willingness to pay for a service.
Kerry’s advice to other women in business is that it’s hard work, and requires a lot of study, but it so worth it.
“Don’t worry if you feel you want to work before doing any more study.
“I wouldn’t have coped as well if I had continued onto year 12 and university, but have really enjoyed the challenge as a mature age student.
“You can do what you want to. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you!”