WOMEN IN BUSINESS
From a young age Alex Nicolaidis knew she wanted to work with numbers. She worked as an accountant for 4½ years until she became disillusioned at being an employee, working herself to the bone to make a real go in a male dominated industry.
At 26, she is now the sole director of Booksmart Accounting Solutions, a cloud based bookkeeping business based in the Hunter but servicing clients across Australia. Booksmart was registered in October 2014 and has since moved offices twice (for more space), hired three new employees and grown from three to 30 clients.
Alex doesn’t have a typical day, but if things do go to plan, she wakes up at 5.30 am to head to the gym before kicking off at 8 am, working onsite with clients for half of the day, driving around Newcastle to pick up client records, then heading back to the office until about 6.30 pm and then off home in time for Home & Away (yes, it’s her guilty pleasure!). After dinner and some time out, she will work for a few more hours.
Alex says she was a ‘high school dropout’ who left school in year 11 to work as a full time manager at McDonalds. She completed Certificates III and IV in Business Administration while she worked, then completed a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Newcastle, finished an accounting traineeship at a local accounting firm and was quickly promoted to intermediate accountant. Over the next two years her role developed further.
Alex was truly inspired by her parents. “As typical Greeks, our family had a fish and chip shop and while we were growing up my siblings and I saw just how hard my father worked to provide for our family. Meanwhile my mother was holding the fort and keeping the Nicolaidis ship afloat. This is something that will stay with me and drive my motivation for the rest of my life”
Alex has faced many challenges but has the life motto “your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Her first and most important challenge was to live her life motto and back herself.
She says the bookkeeping industry is in the middle of a great automation evolution that allows accountants to spend more time adding value to clients, which is what Alex loves to do. She uses the Xero software and loves to show clients that bookwork isn’t so scary or time consuming, it can actually be very easy.
For other women, Alex advises “If you are not enjoying your job then change what you’re doing so that you can enjoy life, it’s there to be lived and if your gut is telling you something then listen, because you won’t find fulfilment until you follow your inner being.”
“You are the only one to answer for your own life so take ownership of it and rock it. You are woman, make people listen!”
Cassandra Kavanagh is Little Big Boss at Rethink Financial Group, a multiservice professional, financial and lifestyle business. The original financial planning business was established in 1979, but the current business was established in late 2014 and went from 18 team members to almost 30 in just a few months.
Personal development coaching is a big part of Cassandra’s business and also her life. She is an early bird, which gives her time alone to meditate and set her intentions for that day. Cassandra has three kids, so they’re always a big part of her day at home. In the office, she can be anywhere from finishing projects on the newly renovated office to jumping from meeting to meeting.
Cassandra finds inspiration in everyone. “We all have our wisdom, through our life stories, to share and you can learn a lot from that if you are open to hearing the lessons from others. My children inspire me.
They are all so open to the vastness that life offers them. Richard Ford has also been an incredible mentor for me over the past 8 years.”
Very early on in the business, she learnt to play to her strengths and respect the strengths others bought to the table.
She also found she had to face the work-family balance issue. “Raising young children and working is a common challenge for woman in business. I’ve learnt there is no right way to do this. I now accept I am doing the best job I can of being a business woman and a mum and I absolutely want both roles and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve learnt to be kind to myself now and let go of the guilt. “
Cassandra’s industry is quite traditional, but she doesn’t believe it has to be. Rethink created a role called the Dreamcatcher who meets with new clients before they meet the specialists and ensures any advice is in line with the client’s goals.
Personally, Cassandra likes that she can be herself and bring her skills to the business. She loves that the team are so dedicated to supporting clients and that she can support them to do this in their own very unique and significant way.
Cassandra’s advice to other women in business is “Firstly I strongly encourage you to trust yourself, your skills and wisdom…then take a deep breathe and go for it. Don’t get attached to the form of what you are creating, being willing to adapt and pivot and the creation unfolds. Stay true
to your vision and don’t agree with the fears that come up along the way! People need to forge their own paths and let go of the attachment to what your career or life might look like and you can have the freedom to move easily and pivot between what you do and love. You can do it differently.”
Olivia Olley is Producer for the video production company Good Eye Deer and also the co-owner of the co-working office, The Production Hub. Olivia’s partner Gavin Banks established Good Eye Deer in 1998. She joined the business in January 2012 and they opened The Production Hub in August 2014.
Good Eye Deer has been able to grow their client base to work for national and internationally recognised brands. They have won numerous awards for TV commercials, promotional videos and educational or training films. The growth is put down to the talented crew and the opportunity to work with clients who wish to develop more creatively daring concepts.
Olivia has an interesting job that requires her to work both in the office and on location in various places across Australia. Olivia gets to travel with work and meet extraordinary people for example filming in a police car, in prison and on a drought affected farm near Mt Isa. Locally they have filmed on track for ARTC in places like Gunnedah and Boggabri.
Olivia also loves the development and editing process in Newcastle. It’s the office bound aspect of their business that inspired Olivia and Gavin to open a co-working facility. Olivia enjoys that her role requires her to be creative yet very practical.
Before Good Eye Deer, Olivia worked at the Sydney Opera House (2003-4) as a stagehand working with set and props for Operas, ballet and small theatre performances. In 2005 she moved to London and worked as a runner at a postproduction house. She ‘ran’ for visual effects editors on projects such as Life on Mars, Spooks and a range of BBC productions. In the UK Olivia started producing, writing and directing short films. Upon moving back to Australia she studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts specialising in screenwriting and media production. In 2011 Olivia graduated with honours in documentary production and her breakthrough 2010 piece screened at multiple festivals.
There is a large focus in the screen industry to see more women in the workplace. However, all Olivia’s mentors and inspirations come from women in the industry who have achieved great things.
Olivia’s personal goal for the future is to develop a TV series that can be developed, shot and post-produced in the Hunter. She is working with local screenwriters on Newcastle-centric concepts – and interestingly many of the writers are women!
When advising other women setting out on a similar path Olivia says “Get as much experience as you can in the industry. Make your own short films; intern at production companies, be prepared to start at the bottom and be pro-active to achieve your goals. Being a Producer is about making things happen and understanding that creativity is a business.”
Meg Purser Managing Director of Purser Corporate Communications. A highly experienced public relations and corporate communication practitioner, she has won awards from the Public Relations Institute of Australia and from the Society of Business Communicators.
Purser Promotions was established by her father Bob Purser in 1983. Meg joined forces with Bob in 2000. Together they grew the business by providing integrated communication programs for clients across the Hunter and beyond. In 2012 Meg became the Managing Director. The team now includes eight public affairs and administration staff as well as a number of specialist service providers.
Meg’s day normally begins at around 6 am reading the Herald before travelling to her offices in Mayfield East at around 7.30 am. Public affairs and communication is a bit of a lucky dip so while there is always plenty of projects to start the day, there is always something that pops up that takes her day into a completely different direction. It is lots of hard work and equally as much fun (most days). She particularly enjoys connecting people and seeing those links create great outcomes. Meg’s working day ends at about 7ish and then its home to walk her dogs and have dinner with her partner Scott.
Meg’s varied career path includes media relations for Charles Sturt University, communication and media relations manager for Port Waratah Coal Services, Senior PR Consultant with Peach Advertising, and Course Coordinator and part-time lecturer in Public Relations at the University of Newcastle. She has also provided guest lectures at TAFE and regional community colleges and provides in-house training and education in the areas of business communication, writing and media relations.
Meg has found inspiration from many people in her working life who have provided her with great lessons about her profession, leadership and business. These people are colleagues, clients and people she has had the pleasure of working with through charity and not-for-profit organisations – and of course her dad.
When Meg started her career in the late 1980s, there was just a handful of women working in PR but it is very different in 2015.
The challenge now is not about gender equity, it is about ensuring that communication is valued as a critical tool of business rather than something that business does when times are good. Meg’s advice for other business women is “Look, learn and listen. You will always hear something that can help you do your job better.”
Cody Kennedy is a Naturopath with a business called CK Health and has recently launched Beat Lupus Naturally, another side to the business that focuses solely on autoimmune diseases and natural therapies. The business was originally set up in in 2001 before it was re-launched in Newcastle in 2014 here.
Cody spends most of the day working one on one with clients and their health goals. She is very interested in using nutrigenomics, which involves the use of nutrition that is specific to that individual and their genetic makeup Cody originally studied Advanced Diplomas in Nutritional Medicine and Naturopathy, and is currently studying for an honours degree in complementary medicine. She considers ongoing training to be vital for both her professional growth and personal development. Two people have been particular inspirations for Cody. A fertility naturopath, Angela Hywood, was an inspiration during training. Cody’s husband is a constant inspiration as he has overcome enormous health challenges and continues to remain upbeat and positive despite this.
When Cody first started out lack of funds was probably one of the biggest challenges. Currently it would be juggling being a mum of a 3 year old and getting a new business off of the ground at the same time.
Cody would like to see Naturopathy incorporated more into main stream medicine and for naturopaths to be able to work together with western medical practitioners. Unfortunately we are seen as being the opposition.
The best part of Cody’s job is having the opportunity every day to teach people how to improve their health and feel better.
She considers it an amazing gift to share this knowledge and see people get well again, often after years of ill health.
When advising other women about setting up a business, Cody says “Look at what everyone else in your industry is doing and do it slightly differently. Find a niche and stick to it, you will become known for being the expert in that field.”