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  • 18 Dec 2023 8:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network (SCBWN) is celebrating a momentous 25 YEARS since the incorporation of the network under the name 'Women in the Workforce'.

    To celebrate this great milestone we are recognising those that have put so much into the long-term sustainability of SCBWN. We are incredibly excited to share with you all the interviews of our devoted past presidents and share their stories of personal contribution and their legacy to SCBWN over the years!

    Min Swan’s journey with the SCBWN, from a nervous first-time attendee in 2009 to becoming the president in 2021, reflects her commitment to inclusivity and empowerment. Her goal to leave a legacy of support and recognition for all members is evident in her leadership style, and she fiercely encourages women in business to trust in themselves, embrace life's adventures, and appreciate that it's okay not to have everything figured out. Min continues to lead the SCBWN, with a strong focus on empowering women and celebrating the 25th year of the organisation's journey.

    Min, what brought you to the SCBWN?

    “I moved to the Sunshine Coast when I was 16 and did my last two years of high school here. As most Sunshine Coasters of that generation did, I then left to go away to university. I also went to Sydney in my financial services career. When I moved back home to the Sunshine Coast when I was 33, I had disconnected from my previous life and the people that I was in business with, so I realised I had to meet new people. Despite my extroverted nature, meeting new people is not one of my favourite things to do, as I get nervous making small talk. I tried a couple of different organisations, but I just didn't feel that I gelled or they weren't overly welcoming. Then somehow I found the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network. I actually made a phone call because I had worked predominantly with men the majority of my career and I just really wanted to make sure it was an inclusive kind of network, and it just happened to be focused towards bringing women together.

    So I went to my first event and I was terrified. I walked in, they had a new members' table – so at least it was very welcoming – and they'd obviously put a lot of effort into making you feel welcome.  The new members introduced themselves to the room, which was a large leap outside their comfort zone, but it was a way of instantly getting into the community. Sue Willis was the president and she used to speak on stage for approximately two to five minutes at every single monthly breakfast which ended up being the two to five minutes that I would come to the monthly events for! Every single time Sue said something that inspired me for the next month and I got so much value. She was very real but obviously a very busy woman as she was the CEO of a print publication. I started coming every month and meeting people at those events. Over and above that I decided to join the SCBWN mentoring program and that's where I met Nikki Parkinson. Nikki was leaving her journalist career to start her own business called Styling You. She didn't really know exactly what that looked like and I had just started my events company White House Celebrations (now White House International). So I guess we were two very experienced people in new phases of our life. We did the SCBWN mentoring program together and there were maybe eight to 12 people there. We got closer to these 12 people which meant when we went to the monthly events, we had more people that we could just instantly walk in and say hello to.

    The next year I became a mentor for the SCBWN leadership program, which was a two-day offsite that SCBWN was facilitating back then. The Network also had a marketing committee, an events committee, a couple of different committees, and there was a position available so I ended up volunteering on the marketing committee. Then I ended up on the events committee and it was there that Nikki introduced me to who is now one of my best friends, Deb Battaglini. Deb and I ended up on the events committee together, and together with Michelle Hamer, we moved the SCBWN Gala from a Tuesday to a Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency Coolum and made it bigger than it ever was before. My business was very new, I was still working out what it was and I was finding incredible support from other people. I was finding who they were as well and being really open to sharing that together. So I found that the SCBWN wasn't a place that I went to get clients, the majority of my target market is time-poor professionals (mostly male), so the SCBWN was absolutely my support network.”

    What are your fondest memories of the SCBWN?

    “I would definitely say in those early days I can distinctly remember Sue Willis. I also have very fond memories from the first gala that Deb, myself and the events committee ran at the Hyatt. The feedback was that it really took that evening to a whole new level. I have the deepest respect for Michelle Hamer and what she brought to the judging chair role, so I’m proud we were able to pull off an event that was different to what she would traditionally do, but one that she was happy with the result. I would call myself a yo-yo because I've been in and out of the Network over the years and I also volunteered on one of Vickie Magic's committees as well. When Roz became the president, I was asked to come back into SCBWN to take on the events chair role. In that role, Roz let me express who I was and I would say one of my favourite memories was the committee giving me the permission to secure Rebecca Gibney as a keynote speaker. We filled Novotel Twin Waters with 500 people in the old Wandiny room for “International Women's Day with Rebecca Gibney”. On top of that, the Network actually let me interview Rebecca, which was a new thing for me. That obviously was an opportunity that not many other organisations would give you and it was very important to the Network and myself, so that was a really fond memory and a perfect example of who this network supports you to grow. I’ve got too many fond memories to name them all.”

    What did you always want to achieve? What was your legacy?

    “I think that I walked into the president role filling really big shoes in Roz White and the thing that Roz is so passionate about is that “You work out what legacy you want to leave”. When I was the vice president in the lead up to nominating for president, Roz did ask me that question probably more than any other handover has ever had before. I think the thing that I really want to achieve at the Network is that everyone can feel that this is a home where they can go to be supported. So whatever that means for you – if you want to take on the world and be the biggest corporate success story known to humankind, then you can do that at the SCBWN, we've got your back. But if you are lost and not sure what your next career move is, you can also find support at the SCBWN. So I think everything that I have been working on with the current committee has been around “How can we just have everybody's back?” and really looking at different markets and asking, "Well, what do they need?". Everyone needs something different, but you can group it all together. How can we be really inclusive? How can we make sure that anybody that wants to celebrate and empower women to achieve in business feels welcome and supported and part of the Network? 

    I've also really wanted to bring some recognition to those that have come before me. I want them to recognise how what they did 25 years ago has led to this ripple effect and now there’s 350 - 400 members that are still supporting each other because of what they did 25 years ago – standing beside fax machines and getting people to lunches and the like. All those women that have come before, and all those on the current and past committees that have donated copious amounts of hours, that's what's made this organisation so special. So if I can end my presidency knowing that people feel valued for who they are and what they've brought to the Network and life in general, then I'll be happy.”

    What are your hopes for women in business, now and into the future?

    “I hope that in the not too distant future, quotas become a thing of the past so that it's just not necessary to have to define, "Should it be a female in the role or not?" or, "Can a female do this or not do this?". I've got a six-year-old and a 10-year-old, and I've seen a really big shift. My six-year-old is in prep and five years ago it was always the mums, whether they were working or non-working, that were doing every drop off and pick up and the one or two token dads really stood out. Whereas this year, five years later, the dads are there and the mums are there and it's just whoever can get it done. So hopefully that indicates that we are closer to bridging the gap where we can have it all.  I do however recognise that predominantly women still do the majority of the domestic duties as well, so the mental load is quite incredible and probably underestimated. Hopefully we can get to the point where gender actually isn't a thing and you just get to do what you get to do because you make life choices. Whether or not that's to stay home with your child or not, regardless of your gender, or to take on the corporate giants, doesn't really matter and we don't actually have to think about it. I think there is still some recognition that there's work to be done on that front, so therefore we have to have quotas and focus on pay gaps until the evolution is complete.”

    What is the greatest challenge you believe faces women in business today?

    “I still feel that there's a lot of judgement sitting in the women's space, whether or not it's to ourselves or to other women. I am not convinced that men judge us anywhere near as harshly as we judge ourselves, or women judge us, but I'm happy to be debated on that topic. I think that there's a lot of judgement and it would be fabulous if that just didn't exist anymore. So if you stay home with six kids, congratulations. If you choose not to have kids, congratulations. If you want to be in the corporate world, start your own business or whatever it is you want to do, we actually just get to be humans and there doesn't need to be a divide. I still think that a challenge we have at the moment is that while we can go after it all, we're still very much expected to be able to deliver it all. I think that we can work towards a balance where, maybe in the next generation, it's just far more normal that you choose your role and gender doesn't play as big a role in that. That's obviously being quite stereotypical and I'm sure there's dads out there that feel the total opposite, but I would say if we had to do the stats on it, the women still play that role of being the domestic provider.”

    What would you like to see the Network do next?

    “I think that 25 years gives us a really beautiful reflection period and then I think the next step for us would be to play a more vocal role in the groundswell of reducing that judgement divide. Maybe that's just more people starting to understand each other. As a generation, we're starting to be more open about our story. Once upon a time you didn't talk about things, so you just assumed that people that we're achieving were doing it easily, whereas now we're obviously more open. I would like to see us help, be more supportive and potentially make people feel that it's okay, you can do it anyway. That they always feel that in whatever they're doing, we've got their back. I think a fresh new energy can come to this 25 year period where it celebrates the past and now all of us together collectively can be part of what the future looks like. People can move forward feeling really empowered by that and that’s obviously what we stand for. Whether you're the president from 25 years ago, or you're me, or you're the next president, we're all in this together so it's maybe more of a ‘together movement’ forward in year 26.”

    What are your thoughts on business and the economy in the Sunshine Coast now and over the next decade?

    “I think we’re in a really exciting time. Obviously there's all sorts of talk out there about the economic climate and the uncertainty behind it but I am also an individual who fully believes you create your own reality. I don't buy into a lot of what I see or read, and I believe I will work out how I can succeed anyway. I actually think it's really exciting. We're obviously leading into the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2032, which creates an exciting time for the Sunshine Coast. I think there's some work to be done in the next two to three years to get us all on the same page so that we actually don't end up destroying our beautiful community through lack of collective thinking. We need to identify how we can actually grow in a sustainable, enjoyable way that protects our lifestyle. Some people can't even wrap their heads around what it's going to be like in 2032 and what it will be like if we don't act now. So I believe the SCBWN has a role to play in some advocacy. We can tend to be pigeonholed into gender specific topics only, but I actually believe we care about lots of things that are non-gender specific that we could be having more of a voice on. We could actually be finding the people within our Network that have the skills and capability to share their educated voices. SCBWN has got a role to play in advocacy and as females we are genuinely collaborative individuals, I believe the SCBWN can be the secret to actually helping this next 10 years be a really collaborative time for the betterment of all.”

    Do you have a message of encouragement for women in business today?

    “I would really encourage them to feel, sooner in their careers, like they've got it all going on. We all have self-doubt, however I am a firm believer that if you actually sit and listen to yourself above anyone else, you probably know the answers. I know all of this other stuff comes in, whether it's self-judgement, judgement of others, opinions, etc that clouds your knowledge. I know that you get to your 40s, 50s, 60s, and you kind of look back at the younger generation and go, "Wow, if I knew that at 20." I actually think you do know it at 20 but then you listen to others and then you back track. I don't think there's any mistakes that you can make. I don't think life ever turns out the way you thought it was going to and I also think all of that is perfectly okay. So if we all thought earlier, "That's perfectly okay. Life is just one big adventure” and we just took all the judgement off that and how life should look, then we would be in a really good space.

    What are you up to now?

    “I'm here, leading the extraordinary group of individuals at the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network, and so humbled to have been supported. Being president was something that I wasn't sure I was up for, but Roz assured me that I wouldn't fill her shoes, I would find my own. This is just another fabulous example of what this Network is all about. “Don't be Roz, be Min”, she said. She even warned me that some people will leave, that more will be associated with Roz, and other people will join that more associate with me, and that's perfectly okay. So that comes down to what I was saying before about thinking “It's all perfectly okay”. You find your people and then they follow you, or you stick with them. So what I'm doing now is leading my own organisation with an extraordinary team, and I’m also really humbled to be the current president of the SCBWN – especially in the 25th year of celebration.”

  • 8 Dec 2023 7:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As the festive season approaches and homelessness continues to soar on the Sunshine Coast, the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network is aiming to gift a record number of presents to those in hardship this Christmas.

    Jeannette Allom-Hill, the Community Engagement Portfolio Lead at SCBWN, said the network has been supporting Maroochydore’s Laurel Place for 6 years and the long-standing tradition brings comfort and joy to those facing challenging circumstances during a time traditionally associated with warmth and togetherness.

    "Our Christmas breakfast event is like a big, warm hug. As well as raising funds for Laurel Place through our raffle, we have an annual tradition to set up our ‘Giving Tree‘ where members donate gifts to the amazing Laurel Place for their clients.
    “The positive impact we've witnessed in previous years, added together with the rising number of people struggling with homelessness on the Sunshine Coast, has really motivated us to make this year's collection the most remarkable yet,” Ms Allom-Hill added.

    Laurel Place is a community based, government funded organisation that provides free therapeutic services, counselling, group programs, community education and more to survivors of sexual violence - as well as their caregivers.
    They have four locations across the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay, Gympie and South Burnett areas with their main office being in Maroochydore.

    Laurel Place Adult Team Leader Kim Locklier said the organisation’s budget doesn’t leave much left over for gift giving after paying staff, wages and services, so receiving support like this from the community is incredibly welcomed.
    “Funding and resources for NGOs is limited and unfortunately we don’t have the funds to provide gifts and material aid to our clients so this initiative is extra special for us.

    “A lot of the clients we support – majority being women – are so focused on looking after their children and everyone else around them that they never buy anything for themselves. To be able to give these women a gift picked just for them is incredibly special,” she added.

    Ms Locklier said they have children’s programs that receive gifts for the little ones but they welcome presents for any age group.

    “The best gift would be something that’s a bit of a treat, something a little bit special that they would never usually purchase themselves like skincare or high quality, dignified products,” she added.

    Kim Locklier and Laurel Place Executive Director Lisa Mclean will be speaking to the SCBWN event guests at the Christmas Breakfast on Tuesday December 12th, sharing heartwarming insights into the impact of these gifts and funds.
    Ms Allom-Hill said donating Christmas gifts to Laurel Place is SCBWN’s way of spreading joy and giving back to the community this time of year, creating brightness during tough times.

    "It is just so beautifully aligned with what we do as a network, reaching out to the least privileged in our community and giving back,” Ms Allom-Hill said.

    If you would like to attend the SCBWN Christmas event and donate a gift to the Giving Tree, please visit the SCBWN website to purchase your ticket. If you would like to donate a gift to Laurel Place, please call the team on 07 5443 4711.

  • 7 Dec 2023 10:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network (SCBWN) is

    celebrating a momentous 25 YEARS since the incorporation of the network

    under the name 'Women in the Workforce'.

    To celebrate this great milestone we are recognising those who have put

    so much into the long-term sustainability of SCBWN. We are incredibly

    excited to share with you all the interviews of our devoted past

    presidents and share their stories of personal contribution and their

    legacy to SCBWN over the years!

    As president from 2018 to 2021, Roz White made remarkable advancements

    to the SCBWN. She strengthened the Network's partnership with the

    University of the Sunshine Coast, resulting in the development of MBA

    pathway programs. Roz also enhanced the organisation's structure by

    optimising the leadership team, committee portfolios, and reporting

    processes for greater efficiency. Under her leadership, the SCBWN adopted

    a new motto: "to empower and celebrate women in business to achieve."

    This forward-thinking approach solidified the Network's leadership position

    in the business community, leaving a lasting legacy of strength and


    Roz, what brought you to the SCBWN?

    “The Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network slipped under my radar

    initially -  probably due to the fact that I was busy building my own

    business and raising a family. In 2015 I was absolutely honoured to receive

    the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network ‘Outstanding Business

    Woman of the Year’ award. Soon after that I realised I wanted to be a part

    of the Network and it’s been a very big part of my life ever since.”

    What are your fondest memories of the SCBWN?

    “Being awarded the ‘Outstanding Business Woman of the Year’ award

    would have to be up there as one of my fondest memories and moments.

    It is such an honour and a privilege to be given an acknowledgement like

    that. I remember receiving the news that my nomination came through

    and I was stunned. That acknowledgement in itself was enough right at

    that point. Then I tentatively went through the process, grateful at every

    step that somebody had taken the time to nominate me. What I uncovered

    through the process was that the awards are an incredibly powerful,

    impactful experience. I gained so much insight and self reflection - you

    don't usually get that in your everyday life. There are so many fond

    memories and moments from that time, it's hard to define one.”

    What did you always want to achieve? What was your legacy?

    “As president, you tend to steer the Network in your own direction and it's

    important as a leader to put your stamp on it and lead in your own way. I

    was able to assemble a really powerful dynamic team around me and I

    think we became the enablers of a new vision for the Network. Together we

    created the new mantra: ‘empower and celebrate women in business to

    achieve’. It was the perfect timing for something fresh and I think this

    change further elevated the impact of the Network. Every president puts

    energy, enthusiasm and their own stamp on taking the Network in a new

    direction, or in a direction that keeps it alive. I'm really proud of what we did


    Another area I really focussed on throughout my presidency was the

    micro-credentials and professional executive education program. We

    broke it down into chunks so members can actually focus on, and

    complete modules that empower them to be successful. Bite-sized

    modules can help solve problems, provide support, and improve

    knowledge. I knew how important this approach was when I was growing

    my own business, so I was really pleased to be able to provide it as an

    option to the Network.”

    What are your hopes for women in business, now and into the future?

    “There's a lot of discussion around equality and the new discussion is

    about sustainability. For women in business, there's a lot to balance. So my

    wish for women in business is to find your calm. Find calmness, lead with

    calmness and slow down. It's focusing on the micro steps that will actually

    drive your success. Don't let the world overwhelm you, because it can, very

    easily. So just open yourself up to just micro steps.”

    What was your greatest challenge as a woman in business when you

    were president? What is the greatest challenge you believe faces women

    in business today?

    “Throughout my presidency, probably one of the biggest challenges was

    COVID. I was president when that was upon us all and so, that sense of

    adaptability was a big challenge. Any business person, the whole

    community in fact, suddenly had to adapt and change to a new world that

    we'd never experienced before. I think there's been a big change in the way

    we think and act as humans and the behaviour right across the globe has

    changed. This brings lots of opportunity, but if you haven't got the ability to

    adapt, then you'll find that very challenging. So adaptability is key. It can be

    a challenge, but if you have the skill, then there's opportunity.”

    What would you like to see the Network do next?

    “The Network is doing such an awesome job and Min is leading so well.

    She's inspiring and she just gets better and better, she continues to blow

    me away. The committee is just unbelievable and is doing a fine, fine job. It

    gives me a lot of pride, it really does. Going forward, I think the Sunshine

    Coast Business Women's Network must continue to evolve, adapting its

    mantra and focus as needed. It’s really about offering a fresh, energised

    and relevant space that advocates and empowers women at every step.”

    What are your thoughts on business and the economy in the Sunshine

    Coast now and over the next decade?

    “Currently there's some financial pressure and it's starting to really bite.

    Here we are in 2023 and you can see by the budgets being released that

    there's a lot of focus on the vulnerable for basic utilities like electricity etc.

    What concerns me is that money always has to come from somewhere. I

    absolutely do concur and support the notion of looking out for the

    vulnerable in our community and believe we have a responsibility, if we

    can, to help support people that need it. However one concern that comes

    with that for me in business is the pressures that exist. So we have to try to

    stay positive and work out ways in our business to maintain, be

    sustainable, meet all the pressures, and be able to continue while looking

    ahead with optimism.”

    Do you have a message of encouragement for women in business today?

    “Find ways to fall in love with what you do. Business is hard work, you need

    discipline and consistency to have an impact, and it’s very difficult to stay

    disciplined if you’re not enjoying what you do. Find ways to fall in love with

    what you do and it will love you back.”

    What are you up to now?

    “I'm really excited about the Sunshine Coast's prospects over the next 9 - 10

    years leading up to the Brisbane 2032 Games and beyond. The Sunshine

    Coast is already supportive and very collaborative, but if we come together

    as a community, harness that energy and make it into something really

    positive, then it is going to be an incredible decade ahead. We look forward

    to continuing to serve the local people in our community whilst highlighting

    and championing other local businesses through our locavore program.

    We delight in providing our shoppers with a unique shopping experience

    they won’t find elsewhere.”

  • 14 Nov 2023 11:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network (SCBWN) is celebrating a momentous 25 YEARS since the incorporation of the network under the name 'Women in the Workforce'.

    To celebrate this great milestone we are recognising those that have put so much into the long-term sustainability of SCBWN. We are incredibly excited to share with you all the interviews of our devoted past presidents and share their stories of personal contribution and their legacy to SCBWN over the years!

    Vickie Magic's remarkable impact during her presidency from 2015 to 2017 began with a simple desire to connect with like-minded women, seeking inspiration, advice, and a shared support system. Over time, this desire evolved into a presidential legacy, one deeply rooted in the mission to inspire women to acknowledge their equality and embrace their potential. Vickie's leadership was marked by her unwavering commitment to fostering collaboration, promoting understanding, and encouraging women to support one another.

    Vickie, what brought you to the SCBWN?

    “It started as a desire to connect with like-minded women, and so the Network seemed to be a place where there were lots of those. Initially I didn't know anybody, but to be honest, a lot of my friends that I still have to this day I did meet through the Network. So, originally it was to connect with women, to be inspired, to seek advice and to really support other women here on the Coast as well.”

    What are your fondest memories of the SCBWN?

    “I have to say that my fondest memory and probably my proudest moment as president was back in 2015 when I was successful in getting the current Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty here for International Women's Day. It was just amazing and I think it was a turning point for myself. I understood just how important it was for her voice to be heard on the Coast, and in Australia and in the world. It also brought some new members and more diversity in members to the Network. That was just incredible, and Rosie’s story was incredible, and she was just so inspirational… and I believe to this day still is.”

    What did you always want to achieve? What was your legacy? What were you most proud of with the network or in business?

    “One of my friends was the president of the Network prior to me and when she asked me to put my hand up to be a possible candidate to take over, I did have the thought that maybe I could actually inspire women to really see that we're all exactly the same. I wanted them to see that not one person on the planet is any better than any other person, and that we're all just running our own race. I wanted to encourage and entice and excite women to see that if we actually stop comparing ourselves to other people - which is what we constantly do these days through social media and all of that - and sit back and actually just support and encourage each other, they will see that we are all the same. There's no one lesser than, there's no one more than. We're just equal, and we're all just doing the absolute best that we can do in the moment that we're in, based on the knowledge that we have and where we've come from. We really have no idea what's happening in the world of the person in front of us, beside us, or next to us. So give them compassion and give them understanding. One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits is ‘seek first to understand’ and I think that a lot of women that I know, and knew as well, were quick to judge but we're not always as quick to seek to understand.”

    What are your hopes for women in business, now and into the future?

    “My hope for women, now and in the future, is to put themselves on a judgement detox. To sit back and use their hands to clap and support and complement each other. To give each other praise and help where needed. The biggest thing that I would love to encourage women to do is to seek to understand, and to put their hand up to help and support each other. Rather than competing we should be thinking “Yeah, I do the same as you, but let's talk about how we could both do that better”, rather than “Oh no, don't talk to her. She'll steal my secrets.” Rather than feeling that someone over the other side of the room is a competitor, we should be thinking about how we might collaborate in order to do what we both do better.”

    What was your greatest challenge as a woman in business when you were president? What is the greatest challenge you believe faces women in business today?

    “Then, before and now… I believe my biggest challenge was imposter syndrome. Even when I was president I would ask myself “Why would they choose me when there’s all these amazing women out there who could do such a better job than I could?” I think the biggest challenge was believing in myself and trusting I was the right person for this role and that I did have something to give and share… and this is something I believe a lot of women are challenged by, especially with social media these days. Women look at what it appears other people are doing or having or being, and they think that's real, but it isn't always. It's often actually just a facade or good marketing. I think that so many of us are actually challenged by this imposter syndrome, where we really do feel that other people could do or are doing better than us, and that we're not good enough to be on the pedestal. I think that that stands in the way of our business as well, because we are fearful that we're not good enough. We sit on the fence or we don't take the risk that we might have. So we sit back instead of stepping up.”

    What would you like to see the Network do next?

    “I think that the Network is on a great track. I think that Min is amazing. I think that she has really stepped into her own in this role as president, and she's been part of the Network for a really long time. I think that the whole committee and what they're doing is great. Personally, all I want to see the Network do is support each other more, help each other more, encourage each other more, excite each other more, and just more of the same… but just keep on being that stand for women to be in their power and to understand that we're all the same.”

    What are your thoughts on business and the economy in the Sunshine Coast now and over the next decade?

    “I think it's actually a really difficult time with the economy as it is with the interest rates rising and rents being off the chart.I think that in the future of business we have to look at how we can support local - how we can buy local, and how we can keep our money here on the Coast where possible. How can I use the skills and the brilliance that is right here on the Sunshine Coast? We have such a massive bank of talent here. I believe the one thing that could help us more is really making a decision to support local wherever possible.”

    What are you up to now?

    In the last few months, things have changed for me. I have just sold 'Matters Magazine' which has now been going for 17 years. I am so proud that the magazine will be able to continue on, even though I’m not able to do it myself because of health reasons.

    I also used to be a beauty therapist with my own business for 11 years. I was booked out five weeks ahead constantly. I did all the treatments that beauty therapists did, but I always had this dream that it would be great if I could just focus on facials and nothing else… So nowadays that is exactly what I do, specialise in facials and all things for the face. About two years ago I started doing that a couple of days a week and it's quite therapeutic. Now that the magazine is finished, I do more days and I absolutely love it.

    For the last 13 years, I have also run retreats for women three times a year. They’re mindfit, women empowerment retreats so they're all about this exact same stuff that we've been talking about here - supporting each other, helping to give each other confidence, encouraging each other, that sort of thing. So I keep myself a little bit busy. As we get older we realise that we actually can do what we want to do. It's like “Oh, if only I could just do facials, but I have to do it all” and I'm now like, "Well, hang on a minute, do I?"

    Do you have a message of encouragement for women in business today?

    “Back each other, support each other, encourage each other, be there for each other. We need to give each other a break and really understand that every single person on the planet is just doing the best they can with the tools that they have, and that’s also based on where they’re at currently and where they've come from. The message that I really want to get out there is that you have no clue what is going on for people, so support them. Give up the judgement and be curious. Think about what's happening in that person’s life for them to say what they did or act that way. Get curious, not furious. It's quite an impactful statement, isn't it? When we understand, we can actually support each other and have that compassion for each other.”

  • 6 Nov 2023 9:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network (SCBWN) is celebrating a momentous 25 YEARS since the incorporation of the network under the name 'Women in the Workforce'.

    To celebrate this great milestone we are recognising those that have put so much into the long-term sustainability of SCBWN. We are incredibly excited to share with you all the interviews of our devoted past presidents and share their stories of personal contribution and their legacy to SCBWN over the years!

    Michalle Faulkner's presidency during 2012 - 2014 was marked by a deep commitment to supporting women in business and fostering their growth. She initially joined the Network as a way to navigate a career transition and found herself increasingly involved in various roles over the years. Despite challenges, including the aftermath of the global financial crisis, Michalle's leadership and resilience shone through.

    Michalle, what brought you to the SCBWN?

    “In 2002 I was originally introduced to the Network by my national bank business manager who was introduced by Michelle Hamer. I was an employee back then and when I joined I had no idea what the future held and I certainly thought that my career was in that organisation. I eventually bought a 25% share in that business and then in 2005 we had a partnership dissolution and I started consulting on my own. So, I went from being in a team with other support networks and colleagues, to just being in a consulting business starting from scratch. 

    The Network was then my safe space. It was a place for me to connect with other like minded professional people. Michelle Hamer took me under her wing and supported me to find my place during those times in my career that I didn’t know where exactly I was going to go. I was a bit lost for a bit. I was given the opportunity to see what Michelle was doing in the training space which was very much appreciated. Michelle then invited me as a guest to the SCBWN Awards and I think it was there that I really saw the power that the Network could bring. I left very inspired and in awe of some of the amazing people in our business community. Year on year, to this day, it still surprises me seeing these incredible businesses and business owners doing incredible things on the Sunshine Coast that we sometimes don’t even realise.

    I loved it so much that I became more involved and entrenched in the Network when I started my consulting business back in 2005. From 2005 - 2009 I was the facilitator of the mentoring program for the SCBWN. I was a finalist in 2007 for the Micro Small Business Woman of the Year, and in 2008 I won the award which I was very proud of. I then moved on to a mentoring role in the Network from 2009 - 2012 and in 2009 I also took on the role of the chair of the professional development committee. So, when the opportunity came to put my hand up in 2012 for the SCBWN president, I was already part of the executive. I was president from 2012 - 2014 and then chair of judging from 2014 - 2016. So, across the 21 year history of being with the Network, I’ve held several different roles and lots of exciting and very rewarding community jobs.”

    What did you always want to achieve? What was your legacy? What were you most proud of with the network or in business?

    “There’s lots of things as a president that I was proud of but my biggest legacy was my participation in the mentoring program, it was something I was very passionate about. That led into a leadership program and we even managed to get council funding through that time. I’m proud of the results of that program year after year. Some of the amazing business women I see now who are winning awards, publishing books, and doing incredible things were newbies in that mentoring program. They came in fresh, nervous, petrified about business in general and they were supported by like minded professionals, people who sat in a place of support not judgement. They helped build them up, deal with their imposter syndrome, help them plan and be strategic around their business growth and their business planning.

    We covered marketing, HR, we had guest mentors come and speak on different topics, and these women learnt how to create a business plan and strategy, and they learnt about cash flow and knowing their numbers. It was teaching a myriad of really crucial business skills that we take for granted. I loved that these women could be part of the Network and get such a valuable nugget of gold with this program.

    I also recommenced the raffles which was a great revenue for the Network to give back to charity, and we introduced the trade tables. We had a challenging time with membership numbers during my tenure so I tried very much to review the governance and I looked at restructuring the strategic plan of how the executive sat so that we could really take advantage of the opportunities that were available at that time in the community. This was fresh off the back of the GFC so a lot of businesses were hurting meaning membership was a luxury for a lot of people. People were still getting back on their feet and dealing with new changes in business.”

    What are your fondest memories of the SCBWN?

    “One of my fondest memories definitely includes the camaraderie within the volunteer executive team. Regardless of who has held these positions throughout the years, there's a shared appreciation for the incredible resilience of these remarkable businesswomen who often juggle the roles of mothers, partners, and numerous other commitments beyond their personal and professional worlds. Balancing all these responsibilities while dedicating themselves to an organisation in a voluntary capacity is huge.

    Another great memory was the speakers, and putting on events that people were really excited to attend. Another is the SCBWN Awards and being part of those as a judging chair and as president - I absolutely loved my role in that. Reading the submissions and stories and being part of that process was so inspiring and was a privilege I never took for granted.”

    What are your hopes for women in business, now and into the future?

    “Lead with integrity. Building business through networks - yes it’s a community - but a lot of people are there to genuinely build trusted relationships where there’s like minded interest. This creates collaborations and partnerships in business, and creates opportunities for referring business or having business referred to you. People will only refer business when they like and trust those they're doing business with, so lead with integrity.

    ‘Givers gain’ has always been my motto. I’m a big believer in connecting people together and I think one of the most beautiful collaborations I saw happen was the connection between Kim McCosker and Roz White. They did lots of amazing business collaborations together. It's about always trying to think who would benefit from a great, trusting relationship.

    Another one is ‘replace fear with curiosity’. Business is challenging and if you need answers to your unanswered questions, reach out to your network and trusted advisors. Build your tribe. Surround yourself with those people who inspire and lift your spirits, those who celebrate with you and are genuinely happy for your success. Lastly, know your numbers. If you’re not across your numbers, it’s something you definitely need to build your skill and capacity on. Lean on your trusted advisors to get the insights you need.

    I want to see the women in this business community continue to lift each other up and be a great support network for each other. There's plenty of opportunities on the Sunshine Coast and some of the most successful people that I know are those that give their time to help and support others who are struggling in different areas with no exception, they just want to offer their support and be there.”

    What was your greatest challenge as a woman in business when you were president? What is the greatest challenge you believe faces women in business today?

    “I had a few challenges for me personally during the time I was president. The timing when I put my hand up wasn't great for me in business. We were coming off the back of the GFC, I merged with EastCoast HR Group in 2010, and I had also published my book in 2012. A very trusted client defaulted at that time on a 6-figure amount which resulted in me needing to seek a business partner or close the doors. I was volunteering my time at the Network but my team needed me and my business needed me. I was having to seek investors to try and keep the doors open while also being supportive to the members of the SCBWN that I had committed to. I just had to make that tough call, something had to give and it couldn't be my business. I had staff relying on me for their income and to feed their families, and I had my family that I needed to feed too. I’d also gone without an income for a significant period of that time and I reluctantly had to step down as president from the SCBWN in 2014 after having a severe asthma attack in which I was hospitalised. I still wasn't prepared to step away from the Network and I've been involved to varying degrees since. Now I get the privilege of being a life member and continuing to share what I love about the Network with other members when I get to events and the like.

    Thinking back, it was a really tough time. I had to rebuild the business and there were lots of challenges, but tough times breed new business innovation and opportunities. I managed to secure a fantastic business partner who I've been blessed to have a fantastic relationship with for the last 11 years, and EastCoast HR Group has gone from strength to strength, and we haven't looked back. So it was a tough time but those changes were necessary which created a good result in the end.”

    What would you like to see the network do next?

    “I love what the current executive is doing. I think they're doing an exceptional job. I think they continue to bring great speakers and I think great events are still being held. I'd also love to see the exceptional work for the business community under, again, either a mentoring program or something along those lines. I think that there are still many emerging business owners that need that structure, those that maybe aren't at that point in their business journey where they can afford to engage their own coaches or their own mentors or their own business specialists. I think that could spin off again, as it did, into two completely different categories.

    We had a mentoring program for small businesses, and then the leadership program for businesses that were a little bit bigger. It was for businesses that wanted to develop their leadership skill and capacity and learn a bit more about themselves individually as a leader to develop.

    I know that the Network is doing some exceptional stuff with the coffee catch-ups and allowing people connective opportunities. I think the diversification of events has been great. One of the things we used to do, and I don't think they're still being done, was professional development lunches. I think education and development are two great things that the Network has always been renowned for.”

    What are your thoughts on the business and economy on the Sunshine Coast now and over the next decade?

    “I'm sure anyone in business knows the challenges that we've had in our sector - recruitment and labour hires - in attracting and retaining talent at the moment. Many people hate the word unprecedented, but it has been unprecedented in the 20 plus odd year history I've had in recruitment. You either have an abundance of jobs and not enough candidates, but never have we seemed to be supposedly having all these candidates but nobody's available to work - as well as fantastic vacancies and great opportunities across the board. So I think employers honing their employee value proposition is very important to not just attract talent but retain talent… and it’s not all just about money. I think people really need to be mindful of what attracts them. I did an article for My Weekly Preview, and it was about ‘If you can't articulate to someone why they should work for you, then you really need to have a good look at what you are offering in terms of what's available out there in the community and what's available in other competitive businesses’. Come up with some innovative ways, innovative things that work for you, and sometimes it's as simple as flexibility and a respectful, healthy, safe environment. There are a lot of things that contribute to that.

    I think innovation's going to be critical over the next decade. We've seen as a business community how much we've all needed to pivot post COVID and redefine ourselves. We've worked with around 1500 clients regularly, locally, nationally, and I think during COVID, I believe I would've spoken to just about every single business customer I've ever had, of one varying degree or another. Whether it was to strategise ways in which they were going to be able to keep their doors open, or whether it was to keep abreast of the changes in legislation. All of those things were front of mind, and it was a very stressful time.

    Then I had other clients who were extremely successful at coming up with innovative ways in which to turn their business around and to take opportunity instead of looking at it as ‘Oh my God, woe is me. What are we going to do now? What's next?’. So I think innovation is going to be critical. I think we can't use archaic business models in the next decade and I think we need to be constantly looking at innovation, efficiency, and valuing our customers… ensuring that customer satisfaction is front of mind in how we do our business, and that that satisfaction adds value. For me, I say to clients that if I can't add value then I don't want to be delivering the work. It's about making a difference to the businesses.”

    What are you up to now?

    EastCoast HR Group is a very successful recruitment and consulting agency. We look after clients nationally and locally here on the Sunshine Coast. We provide a full range of consultancy services or human capital services. We do training and development with our clients, but more around that industrial relations piece. We remove all the pain points of people's problems, and we help clients look after their greatest asset, which is their people. I have a huge portfolio of not-for-profit clients. We do a lot of work in the community space, domestic and family violence service providers, community housing organisations, disability services. So we have a strong reputation in that area and I suppose we just quietly go along, making a difference one client at a time. 

    Do you have a message of encouragement for women in business today?

    Don't sit and suffer in silence, it's okay to ask for help. I remember struggling through that period in between 2012 and 2014 as president and many people were asking me, "How's business?" because a lot of conversation in that time was around post-GFC. I would be absolutely brutally honest, "It's not easy, but this is what we're doing as a strategy" and they'd go, "Wow, thank you. I talk to people and they say everything's great." I’d say, "Well, they're fooling themselves, or they're not being honest with you." 

    We went from being a fee-for-service recruiter where we were providing services to the engineering industries, large businesses and big corporate clients who instantly shut their external recruitment budgets down. So, it wasn't easy in our sector, and we certainly had to adjust and develop. That's when we developed the Employment Relations Masterclass series, which is educating our clients deeper on HR, industrial relations, understanding how to have difficult performance management conversations, how to navigate unfair dismissal claims, and teaching them new supervisor skills. All of a sudden you're now a supervisor and you've got to manage a team of people. How do you do that aligned with legislation that's also going to be empowering and inspiring them to do the best that they can do for the business? We developed lots of different things, but I was always honest when people asked but never negative. Tough times don't last but tough people do… and I think you have to have resilience.

    Again, build your tribe. Lean on your tribe. The Sunshine Coast is the most supportive business community. When I published my book in 2012, I did a lot of book signings and different things in Melbourne and Sydney, and I can tell you, they were nowhere near as welcoming as what the Sunshine Coast is. It really is a supportive business community. You’ll meet people through your business world that you don't connect with too, and that's okay. They may still have something that you can learn from, but build your tribe of those trusted advisors and lean on them when you do have those tough times. Just stay in your lane, focus on what you do and do it well. We just focus on doing the best possible job that we can for our clients, and that's our main focus.

  • 19 Oct 2023 10:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network (SCBWN) is celebrating a momentous 25 YEARS since the incorporation of the network under the name 'Women in the Workforce'.

    To celebrate this great milestone we are recognising those that have put so much into the long-term sustainability of SCBWN. We are incredibly excited to share with you all the interviews of our devoted past presidents and share their stories of personal contribution and their legacy to SCBWN over the years!

    From 2008 - 2011, Sue Willis's presidency was defined by her dedication to fostering professional development and empowering women to achieve their full potential in the business arena. Under her guidance, the network expanded its membership base and outreach, becoming a vital resource for professional women in the region. Sue Willis's dynamic leadership during her presidency left a lasting legacy of empowerment and community among Sunshine Coast businesswomen.

    Sue, what are your fondest memories of the SCBWN?

    “Fellowship and friendship. To inspire and be inspired through the network of clever, strong, interesting women who live and work in our business community.”

    What did you always want to achieve? What was your legacy? What were you most proud of with the network or in business?

    “To see what and how the network continues to provide to, and for, new generations of business women (and men). To remain in touch with so many who have impacted on my professional and personal growth and to have contributed in some small way is incredibly satisfying and is something I have passed on to my daughter as she develops her own successful career and networks.”

    What are your hopes for women in business, now and into the future?

    “Never lose sight of the importance of surrounding yourselves with inspirational, positive people. We are what we consume and that includes what others offer. Always approach life - business and personal - with an understanding that the more you invest in the growth and success of others, not just yourself, the more you will receive and the richer the experience will be. I wish for women in business now and in the future to hold true to the principles of reciprocity and stand together to ensure that this path we have carved to equality continues to lead each generation to an easier and more inclusive working experience.”

    What was your greatest challenge as a woman in business when you were president?

    What is the greatest challenge you believe faces women in business today?

    “I think the greatest challenge was the juxtaposition between being professionally unaffected by the stereotypical gender pay in-balance in my corporate life, but being incredibly challenged by the gender power in-balance in my working life. There continues to be an underlying culture that facilitates a consensus amongst professional women that it's just not worth it to challenge the boys club or rock the boat, rather just learn to play the game. This means the status quo is not challenged as it should be, and I do think this continues to be one of the greatest challenges for women in business today and into the future.”

    What would you like to see the SCBWN do next?

    “I’d like to see the SCBWN continue to focus on training and development offerings, and most importantly open the door for underprivileged or struggling young women, who have goals and dreams for their future, to achieve those goals. This will be more important than ever as young women face more diverse and new challenges in this rapidly changing world. Mentoring and helping to open doors to the future business women (and men) of our community will be the greatest legacy for the Network.”

    What are your thoughts on business/economy on the Sunshine Coast now and over the next decade?

    “This is the hardest question. The business environment faces so many new challenges that didn't exist just a short few years ago. The need to be adaptable and change resilient will be more important for our Sunshine Coast businesses than ever before. The next decade will see us understanding our consumer markets and being quick to respond to their changing wants and needs, underpinned by the old fashioned 'good business' service and integrity on which we built this business community. The need to work closely with and partner together to develop the future Sunshine Coast will be more important than ever as we navigate rapid change and changing consumer needs.”

    Do you have a message of encouragement for women in business today?

    “It's okay to not be okay and to ask for help. Burnout, exhaustion and mental health issues are all very real challenges that more women than we realise struggle with as our lives have become increasingly busy, demanding and stressful. More of us need to speak up about the very real issues we face as we navigate business and family in this generation of high expectations, 'perfect lives' as depicted on social media, and the very real daily challenges of delivering to societal expectations. You are enough. Follow your dreams and goals with integrity, be realistic and do you. The level at which you perform will fluctuate. It's okay to take a break, it's okay to have a down day. I've learned even God can't change the past, the future hasn't happened yet, the only time is now and I get to choose to be the best version of myself in this moment. Oh, and a glass of champagne with a girlfriend is always a good idea!”

    What are you up to now?

    “After many years running newspapers and radio stations and taking on/relaunching a hugely successful accommodation booking agency, I have semi-retired into a more balanced lifestyle, consulting and working on my own business development and launch here in my chosen home town of Noosa.”

  • 3 Oct 2023 10:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network (SCBWN) is celebrating a momentous 25 YEARS since the incorporation of the network under the name 'Women in the Workforce'.

    To celebrate this great milestone we are recognising those that have put so much into the long-term sustainability of SCBWN. We are incredibly excited to share with you all the interviews of our devoted past presidents and share their stories of personal contribution and their legacy to SCBWN over the years!

    During her tenure as president for five years, Karen Neuendorf achieved remarkable success including substantial growth in membership numbers, establishing valuable mentoring program opportunities, and spearheading initiatives in financial and business literacy. Through Karen’s visionary leadership, the SCBWN flourished and left a lasting impact on countless women on the Sunshine Coast.

    Karen, what was your fondest memory of the network?

    “I think for me it was the first entrée into business on the Sunshine Coast because I was not from the Sunshine Coast and it was an opportunity to have that collegial involvement. When I joined the network I actually had previously been awarded the small business award with the Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network awards. That was the first foray into the awareness of the network, and Michelle was the president at the time, so I won the award and that opened doors. Then it occurred to me that I should be a part of this network. I became a member and not long after, Michelle tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘I’d like you to consider taking over the presidency’. For me, that was a bit of a long stretch, so I said to her ‘let me be on the executive first, let me understand the history and what the network is all about’. So that’s what I did and then I subsequently became the president. The journey of finding myself within a world of businesswomen was very lonely. It became a great opportunity to have that collegial part of my life. It was very exciting.”

    What did you want to achieve/your legacy/most proud moment within the network?

    “The first thing was building the network. When I became president, it had been growing from strength to strength through Michelle’s time as president, but I think there was about a 90 person membership, and when I left it was roughly around 400. It was about growing the membership strategically to offer women the opportunity to be a part of the Business Women’s Network, at an elevated opportunity. Not at the shallow level of business, but to elevate their financial literacy, their business literacy and to give them all of those opportunities, particularly the mentoring programs that we ran with some federal grants.” 

    What are your hopes for women in business, both now and in the future?

    “Huge question. It’s changed so dramatically. I remember when I first went into business and it was all sort of ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ (to do something difficult without the necessary skill or experience). I wasn’t really qualified, I had other qualifications and as the years went on, but in retrospect and reflecting, I wish I had more education around a whole raft of subjects to build on being a businesswoman. I think the Business Women’s Network gives those platforms to women, so despite your core discipline, they give these other educational opportunities. We also didn’t have the pressures of life today. I’ve got a 28-year-old daughter who became a lawyer a couple of years ago, and I see the enormous pressure on her to work far more hours than she has been paid for. The underpinning is the ambition to prove herself, and yes that’s all very admirable, but I also see the danger in not having a life-work balance. I think that’s one of the challenges of women in business. I think for women that want to have children, I see the childcare issue as being fundamental to success.” 

    Is there anything else that you think was a challenge when you were president/today?

    “Getting back to core discipline, we always talked about ‘you could be the best hair dresser, you could be the best builder, you could be the best interior designer’, but that doesn’t mean you’re the best business person. I did interior design – I studied in America – and for me, I learnt a miniscule amount of business, and about how to run a business and how to have financial literacy. We always identified that as one of the major issues for women in business, and I think that, sadly, we don’t get taught politics or finance at school. Anything that revolves around personal finances and business finances, I think is still a struggle. I think that most people don’t know how to run a good set of books. I don’t think they understand any of that, and I think the Business Women’s Network maintains programs to teach that. It’s not about lacking intelligence, it’s unconscious incompetence.”

    What would you like the network to do next? 

    “I just think they are doing the most extraordinary job at the moment. I’ve watched the presidents since my time and they’re just extraordinary women, with extraordinary leadership abilities, but they’ve also got this amazing team around them. I think that’s one of the things Michelle and I were very strict on ourselves about. We wanted to surround ourselves with good people, people who we could delegate to. We also had pretty good succession plans, not just for the presidency, but for the committee. I see the network as being in that place at the moment, so I think that doesn’t need to be tinkered with. I think that they really understand that and that’s why it’s one of the best organisations that I’ve been part of. It’s that whole procedure, compliance and governance. I think the awards don’t need tinkering with either. I think, personally, I would like to see more of an emphasis on finances, politics, the economy, than mindfulness. I think that’s an important part of the Business Women’s Network, but I personally think that when there’s a lot of motivational speakers in a year, that’s terrific, but I think we need other takeaways from monthly meetings as well.”

    What are your thoughts on the business economy on the Sunshine Coast right now, and looking into the next decade? 

    “I truly despair, to be perfectly honest. I think, globally, we are in a precarious position. When we bring it down to a national level, we are lacking leadership in government, not specifically our current government, but politicians in general. I think that our democracy is certainly being eroded, so therefore that impacts on economies. That filters down to the Sunshine Coast. I think that the Sunshine Coast is somewhat sadly driven by state policy in terms of population. The infrastructure of the Sunshine Coast is terribly inadequate, it’s never going to keep up with population, and yet there doesn’t seem to be a strong enough emphasis on it. In a past business of ours, we were retailers, and we had consultants and sales people that had to go to people’s homes and businesses. That meant that we would coordinate a salesperson and let’s say they go to Noosa one day, they would do half a dozen trips for consulting, around one an hour, plus a bit of driving. Over the years, those consultancy appointments dropped back to five a day, four a day, three a day or two a day. So, if you’re only doing a couple of consultancies during a day based on traffic and lack of infrastructure, therefore your ability to make profit is gone. So, how can businesses, let alone tourists or anyone else, function on the Sunshine Coast? For me, that’s one of the biggest problems on the Sunshine Coast and I see this change of low density to medium density to high density, regardless of town planning policies. It just seems to all get material change of use, it goes to environmental courts. I’ve lived here for 35 years, and my husband’s been here for close to 68 years. Yes, we all understand change, and all the demographers will say we need population growth, but I don’t see how we can have population expansion when we don’t have all these other things. It’s not even a privileged lifestyle, it’s what we’ve had taken away from us and the impact it’s had on business."

    Do you have a message of encouragement for women in business today? 

    “I think that, theoretically, anything is possible. I am a big advocate for investing in education and I think that it doesn’t matter what education you do, whether it’s formal or informal, it certainly can never be taken away from you. It gives you really good grounding, it makes you credible and if you’re wanting jobs and a career, it’s a very good thing to have on your CV. If you are a business owner, it also goes to that breadth of your knowledge. I think education is really critical. I’m finishing an undergraduate degree at the university and my goal is to graduate before I turn 70. For me it wasn’t pertinent to a job or income, but it was very pertinent to my critical thinking, my outlook and the way my brain works, and then my contribution to the community and how I am skilled to do that. So, education would be my one suggestion. Joining the Business Women’s Network would be second and the other tip I have for joining the Business Women’s Network is: participate. I’ve always believed that you can’t just turn up with a bulk of business cards telling people your email address and your Instagram. You can’t play business cards like a game of poker, you actually have to build relationships. That’s the other fundamental thing with business is to build relationships. I know in my instance, I see the relationships I’ve built and the loyalty I’ve been able to achieve, and how easy it is to do business, because I can pick up the phone or text and I get quite immediate answers on all sorts of things.”

    What are you doing now? 

    “Well, I’m finishing an undergraduate degree. I’ll graduate in September, so I’m in the last part of that. I still sit on a couple of boards on the Sunshine Coast: the University foundation board and the Arts Foundation. Next week, I’m going to Government House to be the proud recipient of an order of Australia. I think the pivotal part of that was the response from my two daughters; their response to it was quite overwhelming. They take lessons from my philanthropic, my community, my career life, and the business side of my life to be better versions of themselves. So that was pretty overwhelming. I guess that’s what my parting words would be: I hope I’ve touched a lot of women and men on the Sunshine Coast to be a better version of themselves, to seek a better education and be better business people and better societal people.” 

  • 4 Sep 2023 9:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network (SCBWN) is celebrating a momentous 25 YEARS since the incorporation of the Network under the name 'Women in the Workforce'.

    To celebrate this great milestone we are recognising those that have put so much into the long-term sustainability of SCBWN. We are incredibly excited to share with you all the interviews of our devoted past presidents and share their stories of personal contribution and their legacy to SCBWN over the years!

    Back in 1998, Michelle Hamer was asked if she would like to be involved with facilitating the Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network Awards. Little did she know, that saying yes to this opportunity would not only contribute to her being elected as President of the network two years later, be awarded a lifetime membership in 2007 for her contribution to the Awards, but in 2023 year celebrate 14 years as the chair of the Awards. Michelle has been an integral part of SCBWN for over two decades and continues to be a fierce supporter of women in business on the Sunshine Coast.

    Michelle, what brought you to the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network and why did you get involved?

    “My first interaction with the SCBWN was in 1998 when Celena Ross as President asked me to facilitate the launch of the Business Women’s Awards, as I was involved in the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) awards. Subsequently Sally Scott (then deputy chair of the Network) nominated me to become president. I had never considered being a president, it just wasn’t on my radar. When it happened, I was surprised but thought ‘let’s do this’. So, I resigned my AIM chair role and joined the Business Women’s Network as President in 2000.”

    What are your fondest memories of the network?

    “That’s an interesting question because there are so many… and fond memories continue to. My biggest surprise was when Karen Neuendorf awarded me life membership for my contribution to the Business Women’s Awards in 2007 on the Awards night. It was really special. We were up at Twin Waters and about halfway through the night the host Catherine O’Sullivan went off script, and I thought ‘Oh, what is happening?’. Karen was invited to the stage and she gave a beautiful speech as she always does, and announced the Network was awarding me life membership. My life membership is for my contribution to the Awards, it’s not about being a president as if often the case. If I had known it was coming, I would have sat there and listened properly, but I was thinking ‘Oh my gosh, we’re off script!’ - that would be my personal fondest memory.”

    What did you want to achieve/your legacy/most proud moment within the network?

    “My legacy is not about things we achieved while I was president, it’s about the Awards. It’s about celebrating the success of women. I’ve been so fortunate that my mother, as a businesswoman, was a leader in real estate, and she was the first female REIQ president. The awards to me are what I hope people associate me most with… and while the Network is celebrating its 25th year anniversary, I am celebrating 14 years as the chair of the Awards.”

    That’s just incredible isn’t it?

    “It is. I have had the pleasure to listen to various women talking about being involved in the awards and what it has given to them. Many people say it has changed their lives!”

    What are your hopes for women in business, both now and in the future?

    “I think Kellie Simkin, our 2022 Micro-Small Business Woman of the Year, nailed this. She talks about backing yourself. My hope for women in business now and in the future, is that they learn to back themselves. Sure, it’s critical to identify the risks, put boundaries around the financial risks but don’t let paralysis by analysis overtake what you are doing. If you’ve analysed the risks and you understand what the downside is, work out how to back yourself and just do it. ‘What’s the worst thing someone can say to you?’ It’s NO, and that’s not actually too bad.”

    What was your greatest challenge as a woman in business when you were president and what do you think the greatest challenge that businesswomen face today?

    “Often women don’t believe they are in a business. Often, they consider what they are doing is a hobby, rather than a business. The other side is, they are often all doing the hard yards and they put somebody else in front. That person is often their husband or their life partner, and they just don’t recognise themselves as businesswomen. And I still find that with businesswomen today. When they get their nomination letter and I call them to say congratulations, they then often come back and say, ‘but I’m not a businesswoman.’ And I say, ‘what do you mean?’

    I think this comeback is particularly relevant in the health industry, even more than in other industries, because there are a lot of women in the health industry. I read in 2022-2023, Australia spent $150 billion in the health industry. That’s 16.8% of the Australian Government budget. The predominant gender in the health industry is female, and they’re often not considering themselves as being in business, and I say, ‘but you are!’ I think one of the greatest challenges facing women, is often not recognising that they are businesswomen and learning to stand up and go ‘yes I am’.

    I also consider the women in my age demographic are probably being challenged balancing their family, their parents, and their businesses. You sort of think that when you are approaching my age, that you are actually going to enjoy the last period of your business, but then you are managing your family life again.”

    What would you like to see the network do next?

    “I recognise that there are so many activities grabbing women’s time. One of the things I see the Network doing really well at the moment is offering three different outlets for women in business.

    There are the primary events, which we’ve been offering since conception, but I hear so many women talking about the coffee catch-ups and the sunset sessions. I would love to see these 2 styles of events continue. I think that most women like having that time to be with like-minded people, it’s not a huge time commitment, and it suits their timetable.

    I encourage the network to continue with that model going forward.” 

    What are your thoughts on business and the economy on the Sunshine Coast now and looking forward to the next decade?

    “As a young girl growing up on the Coast from the age of six, the Coast's economy was built around tourism and service industries. With mum in real estate, I remember collecting trays of fruit, and delivering these to the different blocks of units that were rented out for the summer. When you look today, you see the coast becoming a leader in many industries. For example, in agriculture. Roz White did an interview recently and spoke of over 200 local providers. That’s a huge industry in itself. Another is the health and science industries. SCUH becoming the first digital hospital in Queensland and there’s the Thompson Institute which is all about mind and brain. The Aviation industry; with Bonza turning up. I also see the clean technology sector growing on the Sunshine Coast. We’ve diversified from being a tourist destination and I think there are so many industries that we don’t even realise are happening here. I believe the local economy has a hidden strength and with the promotion around buying locally, we are actually supporting ourselves and we will continue to grow.”

    Michelle, what are you up to now?

    “Right now, I have just wrapped up the 2023 Awards program. This is nearly a full-time role for the duration of the Awards in supporting the over 160 women who were nominated. The process is about encouraging the women to feel comfortable and confident to actually put their submissions forward, and that’s going back to backing yourself.

    But in business, last year I made a conscious decision to step back from my successful training and consulting business and to share my 30 years of Microsoft knowledge through my new site This business is starting to reap rewards. Learning to go back and set up a business again is quite interesting at 60. I’m really excited about the business, and I’m still working with a government client every Wednesday. So, while the next season of life is approaching, I’m enjoying the give back and working with only a couple of clients, rather than a lot of clients!”

    Do you have a message of encouragement for women in business today?

    “This totally relates back to what I said before: back yourself and build a tight network around you to encourage you to keep going. There are great days, there are good days and there are some that need a bit of sparkle, so build your network and they will help you.”

  • 29 Aug 2023 10:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Thursday August 10, together with our valued sponsors, finalists and guests, we held our much-anticipated 24th Annual Awards night.

    The event served as a platform to honour and celebrate a remarkable and diverse assembly of businesswomen who have left an ingrained impact across multiple industries within our region.

    This year, the prestigious Outstanding Business Woman of the Year was awarded to Renee Cooper from Indepth Accounting.

    Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network 2023 award recipients:

    Corporate Business Woman of the Year – Angela Tondelstrand, Catton & Tondelstrand Lawyers

    Professional Business Woman of the Year – Anna Owen, Sunshine Coast Grammar School

    Young Business Woman of the Year – Josie Collins, Helimods

    Micro/Small Business Woman of the Year – Beth O’Leary, Woombye Cheese Company

    Sustainable Business Woman of the Year – Jacqui Atique, ECOllaboration

    Outstanding Business Woman of the Year – Renee Cooper, Indepth Accounting 

    SCBWN president Min Swan extends heartfelt congratulations to all nominees, finalists and winners of this year’s awards.

    “The awards are a celebration of the dedication, resilience and grit of every single businesswoman on the Sunshine Coast,” Ms Swan says.

    “Every year I am reminded that we are surrounded by truly inspirational women who are at the forefront of their industries, right here in our region.

    “Continuously, I am in awe of the stories we learn and the people we meet as part of the awards process.

    Building an impactful business is not easy and so it’s wonderful to see these women reflect on and be acknowledged for their dedication and commitment to their careers and businesses.

    “Their courage, diversity and innovation are the essential attributes that will help us navigate the future as we continue to grow and strengthen business on the Sunshine Coast.”t

    As the overall winner, Ms Cooper will also receive a major media prize worth $15,000 thanks to our media partners Sunshine Coast News, 91.9 Sea FM, 92.7 Mix FM, Channel 10 and Listnr.

    Thanks to our event photographer Eyes Wide Open Images for capturing our finalists, award winners, entertainment and sponsors throughout the evening on stage, in the green room and moments throughout the night.

    Thank you to Jaya of Empire Art Photography for capturing your fantastic social photos and turning them around so fast so that we could share them so soon after the event.

    Thank you to our sponsors for all your support and helping us bring to life the 2023 Sunshine Coast Business Woman of the Year Awards:

    Pacific Law

    Sunshine Coast Council

    Pacific Ford Sunshine Coast

    University of the Sunshine Coast

    Westfund Health Insurance

    Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay

    BOQ Maroochydore

    Natalie and Mitch - Sinclair Property Group

    91.9 SEA FM

    92.7 MIX FM


    My Weekly Preview

    Sunshine Coast News

    Empire Art Photography

    Bli Bli Boardrooms

    This glamorous gala event is one of the most prestigious nights on the Sunshine Coast’s business and social calendar and consistently draws a gathering of more than 300 esteemed business leaders, dignitaries and sponsors.

  • 31 Jul 2023 5:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year the Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network (SCBWN) is celebrating a momentous 25 YEARS since the incorporation of the network after its humble beginnings as Women in the Workforce.

    To celebrate this great milestone we are recognising those that have put so much into the long-term sustainability of SCBWN. We are incredibly excited to share with you all the interviews of our devoted past presidents and share their stories of personal contribution and their legacy to SCBWN over the years!

    When Celena Ross joined a Women in the Workforce lunch in 1992, she enjoyed attending lunches and connecting with other small business women. In 1994 she became an integral part of the committee and sparked a new wave of progression, including initiating changing the name to the now widely-known Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network.

    Celena, how did you join the Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network/what brought you to it?

    At the time it was called “Women in the Workforce”. I had moved up from Victoria and had gone to their very first lunch in 1992 and it was just a small group of women that met socially once a month for lunch to get to know other women. My husband and I had moved up from Victoria and had management rights in Maroochydore so it was about networking and making contacts.

    In 1994 they needed a new newsletter editor and it was around that time the group was struggling with attendance numbers at the lunches. I went to a lunch at Alexandra Headland and at that stage the numbers had dwindled. I volunteered to take on the role of newsletter editor as I had a journalism/writing background and I immediately started to source dynamic and interesting speakers. This was pre-internet days so I would go down to the library, I’d flick through the Courier Mail and I would buy the Sunshine Coast Daily. I started to look for business award winners and women who had written books. I instigated the change of the meeting time to breakfast instead of lunch because of the low numbers and the fact it may have been difficult for women to attend in the middle of the day. Breakfast events immediately attracted larger numbers and it was from that time that I morphed into a volunteer coordinator role. I had experience in event management, marketing and journalism and I had an instinctive vision of for how the organisation could develop and flourish.

    At the time I was also the coordinator for what was called at the time ‘Go Mooloolaba Chamber Of Commerce’ and was writing feature articles for the local Weekender Newspaper. I linked both Go Mooloolaba and the Women in the Workforce for publicity and organised some large joint events and in doing so, the whole time I was out there talking to people to encourage them to join both or either organisation. I took the membership numbers of both groups from initially around 45 to over 200 members. They were the top organisations on the Coast to be seen at and to belong to. I initiated strategic planning the structure of a professional and training committee, a mentoring committee, the awards committee and the marketing committee with the Chair of each represented on the Executive committee.

    When I was appointed the Regional Coordinator of Office of Women’s Policy it enabled me to link into government contacts and resources. This role and subsequent roles as Business and Economic Development officer for government enabled me to tap into key people and resources and the ability to link at all levels of government and from small to large businesses. 

    When I took on the newsletter and marketing role I knew it was critical to obtain the lawyers, banks, large and small corporate organisations and encourage them to identify women in their business to join as members. We started to get members representing Council, banks, law firms and other middle to large corporate businesses. In pre-internet days, I would stand at my fax machine for a day-and-a-half until I had 100 attending every monthly breakfast.

    I had a passion for helping women and one of the things that I’ve always done is talk to them to find out what they do, and in that discussion I’d learn what help they might need, or what difficulties they were having.

    One of the things that I’m really proud of is establishing the strategic structure, another is changing the name of the network as I knew for the group to flourish and be seen as professional it needed a strong structure and a professional title so government and large corporate business would take note, include us in regional planning sessions, and turn to for feedback with development of policies and events. 

    What are your fondest memories of the network?

    I’m grateful for the fact that we had fun, we worked hard but we had much laughter and a lot of friendships developed. Everyone was so committed. I am proud that I had the vision for the first ever Women’s Expo held at the Sunshine Coast University. There are so many memories of a huge amount of work accomplished and now the satisfaction of seeing how the foundations have supported the ongoing development of the network.

    I had the leadership, vision and drive but it means nothing if you don’t have a team of people supporting you. I’ve always said everything I’ve achieved in my volunteer and career life is because of the women who believed in my vision and helped me to achieve it. One of the other memories is of Cheryl Picton. She was expecting her first baby and she was in labour in the hospital completing the documentation for our very first and successful corporate directorship grant.

    What did you want to achieve/your legacy/most proud moment within the network?

    For me what I’m most proud of is the foundation I put down and the structure that I put into place with those committees. I’m proud of the foundations I worked hard to create over the two years before turning into the Sunshine Coast Women’s Business Network by getting the membership up, the publicity, the buy-in from all levels of government and media. I’m also proud of the moment after so many years working as a volunteer coordinator we could finally employ a part time coordinator, Kim Curd.

    What I had put into place was the communication. I’m proud of my vision, I’m proud of the leadership, but I absolutely acknowledge that I had the most fantastic group of women and we had fun! 

    I am proud of the legacy of hundreds of women who have benefited from membership, and participated on the committees. I’m proud of the award winners and the women who had the passion and skills to further develop the financial viability of the network. 

    What are your hopes for women in business now and into the future?

    I’ve always hoped that women will help other women with no expectation of any kind of payback. I hope that women would be looking to other women in terms of how they can help them, not what’s in it for them. That’s how I always operated. If I go to an event and I see someone by themselves, I speak to them and bring them into a group of other women who are there by themselves. It’s the little things that we can help with.

    I think it’s more important than ever for business women to be establishing contacts and doing it with authenticity and no expectation. Now with social media and technology the focus can be so short so it’s harder business women to really get their message across. Their marketing and personal relationships are going to be absolutely critical and that’s one thing that doesn’t change. 

    What do you believe is a challenge for women in business today?

    The challenges are about getting your messaging across. It’s such a crowded, noisy market with social media and that’s why it comes down to those personal challenges. When I first started, there was no internet and everything took ten times the amount of time that it did now. Now you have the ability to reach so many so quickly but you’re competing with everyone else who is doing the same. So, I think the challenge is having yourself heard, having your marketing and communication seen and to be acted on.

    Do you have a message of encouragement for women in business today?

    If you love what you do and have a passion for what you do, it won’t feel like you’re working.  Don’t make the mistake of having a business that’s really nothing more than a job and so therefore you won’t have your business plan in place. It won’t be sufficient enough for you to grow. It’s great to have an idea but if you really love it and have a passion for it, go and get yourself educated on everything you can possibly do to make that a successful business.  I hope that recorded documentation of my volunteer work will inspire Maddy and Chloe and future grandchildren. 

    Celena is currently running a Sunshine Coast over 60’s SOLO women’s group which she founded for other widows, divorced/single, or retired women to connect.

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