Women business leaders success secrets
Women business leaders success secrets

Top female entrepreneurs share secrets to success

Some started small ventures from their garage, others switched careers after many years and found a new passion but all have found success. Meet the Queensland women at the helm of some our booming startups and scaleups.


Paypa Plane

After trying a few earlier ventures that seemed perfect on paper but failed to fly in real life Simone Joyce took a job way outside her areas of expertise at a payments company.

"Something just clicked. It was really obvious to me where the problems and pain points were in that scheduled payments space," she says. "And it turns out it's a problem that resonates with a lot of people, as a consumer or as a business."

After the payments company was wound down Joyce, and brother Jonathan Grant, rallied private investment to acquire the IP, retain core technology staff and set about creating a new version to deal with the problems she knew she could fix.

Paypa Plane co founder Simone Joyce.
Paypa Plane co founder Simone Joyce.

Since August 2018 Paypa Plane has since powered about 26,000 payment agreements covering 370,000 payments.

As a software as a service provider, Joyce says it really shines anywhere there is scheduled payment or direct debit arrangement in play.

That could be gym memberships or prepaid travel plans where the software allows consumers to adjust payment schedules or pay trade invoices for building work.

In late 2020, ASX-listed Tyro payments made an equity investment in the business for an undisclosed amount, and last month announced plans to use Paypa Plane across its Bendigo Bank platforms.

Paypa Plane also has a US and Australian partnership with Square Up and Joyce was last year appointed chairperson of Fintech Australia.

Joyce says in the next two months Paypa Plane, which has grown to 15 staff based in Brisbane, would be used by "large companies and a bank" although users will never see its name as its software sits in the background powering the transactions.

The move to open banking and new rules around cross-bank transactions - where transfers from Westpac to NAB for example happen instantly even on the weekends - means there is huge opportunity for the company as the entire direct debit system is replaced, she says.

"We are the only company in Australia, actually in the world at the moment, that creates a scenario where as a business and as a payer you have a connected, living link that lasts for the lifespan of your payment agreement and both parties have transparency," Joyce says.

"And soon we will get to see that happening in a banking environment and that's super exciting."

What is the secret of success?

"Constantly taking time to stick your head up to look at the bigger picture by reading as much you can, listening to webinars or conferences, and even reading documents like policy reviews where you might find a nugget of information."

What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?

"Stay curious and never think that you have got all the answers because you'll miss something."


The Dog Mum

The story of these two entrepreneurs started in very different realms of suburban Brisbane each doing separate ventures.

As Robertson was busy taking Roza's Gourmet, originally her mother's home-cooked sauces range to the world in an ever expanding empire, Karanges was securing an Instagram handle and website for The Dog Mum.

Neither knew each other.

The Dog Mum founder Emma Karanges and director Jasmin Robertson with their four dogs.
The Dog Mum founder Emma Karanges and director Jasmin Robertson with their four dogs.

Roberston, whose business was turning over $8m a year started to field offers of a buy out and in September 2018 she accepted a deal.

After taking some time off it was then in the middle of Covid lockdown that she and some fellow "young entrepreneurs" were spit balling about what they would do if they could do anything and suddenly a new fire was lit.

"I said I'd probably do something with animals. I love them. My two pugs are my life and during Covid I really was living my best pug mum life," says Robertson about the conversation.

"It took a long time for me to even be interested again (after selling Roza's) but as soon as we started talking about that, it hit me that I was back."

Mutual friends hooked her up with Karanges and the two met for coffee and never looked back.

Within months Robertson had bought into the business, taken a 50 per cent stake in a new property that will become their warehouse and shop front and is now a director.

For founder Karanges, the timing was perfect with The Dog Mum, which actually sells dog-themed apparel for humans not pooches (although the plan is now to expand into the later) booming.

Almost 4 years since starting by printing tees in Karanges' garage, The Dog Mum is now Australia's most popular online retailer of ethically-made threads for dog parents.

While Karanges curates the brand's image, oversees its pitch perfect customer service and plans new designs and wares, Robertson's investment has helped turbo charge the business as well as offering new skills.

Karanges says the business has experienced over 50 percent sales growth year on year and is sending out close to 1000 orders per month.

What is the secret of success?

"There is no secret to success, it's really about hard work, sacrifice and persistence". (Emma)

"Good decisions come from experience and experience comes from making bad decisions". (Jasmin)

What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?

"The last thing the world needs is another boring person or brand. Embrace all the things that make you different". (Emma)

"If it's not a hell yes, then it's a hell no". (Jasmin)


Beginning Boutique founder

Sarah Timmerman is well on her way to building a global online fast fashion retailing brand.

Over the past 13 years, her Beginning Boutique has carved out a niche as one of the country's go-to ecommerce sites for fashion-savvy 18-24 year olds.

She is now pushing ahead with plans to expand into the United States and the UK and will use social media influences to amplify the brand's reach.

One of the retailer's most successful collaborations has been with Canadian-born Instagram star Emma Rose Leger.

Online retailer Beginning Boutique CEO Sarah Timmerman at her warehouse in Fairfield. Photographer: Liam Kidston
Online retailer Beginning Boutique CEO Sarah Timmerman at her warehouse in Fairfield. Photographer: Liam Kidston

At the launch of the 13-piece Emma Rose x Beginning Boutique collection last month, the retailer saw over 35,275 visits to its website, resulting in 80 per cent of the merchandise being sold out in 30 minutes.

"The collaboration is part of Beginning Boutique's expansion into the US and extensive work with influencers across the globe," she said.

"Recently the brand has pushed into TikTok where it has worked with major influencers like Addison Rae, Charli D'Amelio and Loren."

Beginning Boutique, which employs almost 70 people at its Fairfield office and Lytton warehouse, has plans to open an office and warehouse in the US this year.

The retailer has experienced 240 per cent growth in the US and expects American sales to soon top the Australian market.

Timmerman won't reveal global sales figures but says her business has achieved 50 per cent growth year-on-year for the past two years and is on track to do the same this year.

"If you are a good retailer you can survive anything, as long as you can pivot fast enough," she said of the tumultuous last 12 months where the COVID-19 pandemic derailed many of her expansion plans.

The retailer was also forced to shake up its fashion offering as more of its customers had to abandon their party-loving lifestyles and were looking for more comfortable but stylish work-from home wear.

What is the secret to success?

"Never giving up. It's constantly about problem solving and taking care of the people around you so that you can all get to the end goal. Being comfortable to make mistakes - no one is perfect and I am definitely not perfect. It's about trying to do the best you can all the time."

What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?

Don't give up, find people doing the same thing as you to share your heart ache and trials with, don't stop learning and grow an excellent team. You need excellent people to achieve any amazing goal."


Like a Photon

Nadine Bates and Kristen Souvlis have built one of Australia's most successful media production houses from a former warehouse in Rocklea.

With content deals with Disney, Universal, Dreamworks and Sesame Street, Like a Photon is now valued at $20m and during peak production times employs up to 100 people.

The nine-year-old company's latest project involves a series of animated feature films for Universal based on Australian bush animals, including Combat Wombat and Daisy Quokka.

Kristen Souvlis and Nadine Bates are the owners of Like a Photon Creative which has recently won a mega-animated movie deal with international rights. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Kristen Souvlis and Nadine Bates are the owners of Like a Photon Creative which has recently won a mega-animated movie deal with international rights. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

With more than two decades of combined experience in children's television, publishing and digital entertainment, the women say they are passionate about producing quality content for children all over the world.

In 2014, Like a Photon became only the second Australian company to produce for Sesame Street US as well as the first female Australian writers and producers for the channel.

Now after several years of solid revenue growth, the company was on the acquisition trail as it sought to beef up its output. "COVID has changed the landscape and it has been hard to finance content," Ms Bates said.

She said the company had been able to continue its global work during COVID-19, largely thanks to Zoom conference calls. The shutdown allowed them to quickly access online the kind of people that they would usually have to wait to see in person.

"We almost feel we are on a level playing field at the moment" she said. Ms Bates said she and Ms Souvlis would seek to exit the business in the next couple of years when she estimates the company could be worth up to $100m.

Ms Bates said there was still a need for more gender diversity in the television production industry. "There are still 'gatekeepers' who decide on funding who are predominantly male," she said

What is the secret of success?

"Being yourself and realising that kindness is a superpower".

What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?

"Back yourself in whatever business venture you decide to undertake".


Active Truth

Nadia Tucker and Stevie Angel's business has gone from strength to strength on the back of a growing global obsession with activewear.

Their Brisbane-based online brand Active Truth has boosted staff from 6 to 13 over the past year as it capitalised on the expanding market. The retailer has advertised to add another four staff members to its team (senior digital designer, social media manager, social media coordinator, customer care officer).

Ms Tucker, a former lawyer, co-founded the brand in 2016, with her friend Stevie Angel.

Active Truth co-founders Stevie Angel and Nadia Tucker.
Active Truth co-founders Stevie Angel and Nadia Tucker.

The pair were frustrated with buying activewear online that didn't measure up to expectation.

Their label specialises in "supportive, relaxed workout gear" with fits from XS to 3XL (6 to 26), including maternity and petite options, and swimwear ranging from S to 3XL.

"Talking with our friends and family it was quickly apparent that we weren't the only ones experiencing this disappointment, and that finding quality tights was especially difficult for women who wore larger sizes and pregnant women," Ms Tucker said.

Ms Tucker won't provide revenue figures but says turnover is up more than 200 per cent over the past year.

Like many companies, Active Truth has a humble origin story.

It was launched from Ms Tucker's living room with 100 pairs of tights, a homemade website and no marketing budget.

The company now has a warehouse at Capalaba, a head office at Nundah and exports to New Zealand and the United States.

"Our growth is testament to the demand for greater activewear options and a more diverse representation of women generally," Ms Tucker says.

Active Truth was late last month named Small Business Champion in the fashion category at the Australian Small Business Champion Awards.

What is the secret to success?

"The secret to success is believing in yourself, hard work, passion and enthusiasm with a great community, team and co-founder. We believed women deserved better from the activewear market, so we thought why not do it ourselves?"

What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?

"I love sharing my experiences starting up my own business, overcoming obstacles along the way, and how important it is to push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to grow. My advice is to follow your passion and surround yourself with like minded women and community who believe in your dream. I can't wait to see the businesses of the future created by amazing young women."