Jumping From the Corporate to the Business Scene: Key Advice From Successful Businesswomen


Jumping From the Corporate to the Business Scene: Key Advice From Successful Businesswomen

Women entrepreneurs in Australia are leaping from the corporate world to the business scene in increasingly larger numbers.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that women entrepreneurs now make up 34% of all businesses in Australia, a 46% increase over the past two decades. Some move into a field in which they’ve already been working in, while others are striking out in entirely new directions.

Why would a woman want to move from a secure corporate job to the ‘chancy’ life of a startup owner? Reasons vary; some see an unmet need, others may want a better work-life balance or dislike a corporate environment that has become increasingly cut-throat. Important events like the birth of a child may cause a woman to reassess her life and priorities as well. One study commissioned by the Office for Women found that of the 668,670 women who operated a small business in Australia last year, almost half had dependent children living back at home.

Of course, this is not to say you shouldn’t take the risk. After all, going into the world of business also presents a host of benefits and opportunities, from networking to higher potential profits. There’s also that sense of accomplishment that we all want.

For women out there planning to take the leap, here is some key advice from those who have done so successfully.

Adaptability and building networks matter.

Jane Cay moved from information technology to become an online clothing retailer with more than $20 million in turnover, and she did it from the rural town of Cooma. She employs 140 people—95% of whom are female—in her clothing store Birdsnest. Cay says, “One of the most important things women must remember is, you don’t have to be the smartest or the strongest, as long as you keep being adaptable to change and evolving you can survive and thrive.” Cay’s words resonate in a world where change is the norm. Technology significantly drives constant change, but many other issues, from climate change and population growth to social trends also have an impact on what we see as ‘normal’.

Kristi Chong developed ModiBodi, which uses a special fibre technology in leak-proof underwear for women. Chong credits much of her success to her involvement in networks, “Those types of networks where you can turn to people and people have your back make all the difference.” Marketing strategist Dorris Clark notes in the Harvard Business Review that networking is key to business success.

Laura Furiosi started Rashoodz Swimwear seven years ago. She has since made inroads into all of Australia as well as Japan and the United Kingdom. She notes that financing is a critically important issue and that bankers may not be prepared to talk to women entrepreneurs. That said, you should take pains to prepare well and learn how to negotiate. If you aren’t strong in this area, take classes or get some expert advice.

Mentoring and having the needed expertise is crucial.

A programmer, Ally Watson found that heavily male-dominated events like coding workshops were downright intimidating: even to her who has vast experience in programming. Watson created Code like a Girl, which puts on coding workshops aimed at females. She credits much of her success to finding a mentor. Watson says, “Managing director Kathryn Blackham of the digital agency, Deepend, has been an amazing mentor for me and has really encouraged me with Code like a Girl. She spends a lot of time with me talking about how the business works. She’s really taken me under her wing.” Finding a mentor can be one of the most important tasks for a woman moving from the corporate to the business world.

Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen own and operate Two Birds Brewing. Lewis says, “The key to their success is two-fold. First, you absolutely must understand the industry you’re going into, understand the nitty-gritty. Second, you must get personally involved.” She and her partner did it all in the beginning and are still heavily involved in the day-to-day operation of the business. As Lewis notes, you need expertise to be successful. While some skills are transferable from the corporate world, in other cases you need specialised knowledge.

Jumping into the business pool can be exciting and scary at the same time. It’s a decision that needs careful consideration, planning, and research. Getting advice from business women who have ‘been there, done that’ can give you invaluable insights that will inspire you and help you switch from the corporate to the business scene – and do so successfully!

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