Ladies doing it for themselves in business by Jen Bishop Dynamic Business Magazine

20 May

Last year wasn’t all doom and gloom. Some plucky businesswomen battled through the GFC and are now looking forward to a great 2010.


A small businesswoman who certainly survived 2009 is Sharon Williams, CEO of Sydney’s Taurus Marketing. She is proof that a small business can have influence and service the big end of town.

She is celebrating her 15th year of business this year; a substantial accomplishment in the marketing and PR industry, which was hit hard by the recession. Taurus has grown to servicing industry leaders from ASX-listed QBE’s global CEO Frank O’Halloran to cosmetics king Napoleon Perdis and his brother Emmanuel. Last year saw Sharon take on her most well-known client to date: Jesus! Taurus won a project from the Bible Society marketing the ‘Jesus all about life’ campaign, which resulted in the agency achieving more than 500 pieces of press and broadcast coverage.

Taurus started out of Sharon’s living room in August 1995, just two weeks after the birth of her first daughter and with first client Peter Kazacos of the KAZ Group. Sharon was instrumental in taking KAZ from media obscurity to being one of Australia’s highest profile and largest ICT companies.

Hitting the bullseyeSharon Williams

Last year saw the launch of a brand new trademarked offering from Taurus: TaurusProfile, a product that builds the personal profile of CEOs, business leaders, politicians and celebrities in order to serve business growth. Cricket legend Michael Bevan, who now runs his own business, and Emanuel Perdis, have been through the programme. More recently, Sharon created the soon to be launched TaurusEngage, a social media service which manages and protects a company’s or an individual’s online reputation.

Sharon is now an international speaker and board member presenting on a broad range of marketing, PR and business issues. She appears on Kochie’s Business Builders as Channel 7’s marketing and PR expert and is a regular media spokesperson on SBS and ABC News. Last year Sharon also became Ninemsn’s leading SME blogger with her weekly blog The Bullseye.

Swapping corporate for charity

Few people choose to leave behind a successful corporate career and follow their passion. Jo Brennan has done just that. When Brennan left The Macquarie Group in July last year, she thought about where she could use her extensive corporate experience to help change the world. What she found was Habitat for Humanity Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that builds affordable homes in partnership with low-income families in need.

After a 20-year career spanning The Macquarie Group, Santos, NAB and Ernst and Young, Brennan was drawn to HFAH because it provided the opportunity to work for an organisation that directly helps people by delivering self-sustaining home ownership, offering families ‘a hand up, not a handout’. She was able to use her knowledge of the construction industry, coupled with her genuine passion and determination, to continue to build the bricks of HFHA’s innovative home ownership.

“The HFHA ideology is impressive; homes are sold to families financed through affordable loans, and the homeowners invest 500 hours of their own labour–what we call sweat equity–into building their own home and the homes of other Habitat for Humanity families in 85 countries,” says Brennan.

She hasn’t looked back. Corporate life has been replaced with a strong passion and motivation to make a real difference to families living in severe stress both here in Australia and across Asia. “I’m looking forward to using my experience to continue to grow this organisation by working with Government, major corporates, our partner families, sponsors and volunteers. My vision for HFHA is to drive further awareness of the real issue of housing affordability. Giving people the opportunity to achieve their dream of home ownership and to one day see a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live is a dream worth working for.”

Women in a man’s world

Olivia Maragna, founder and general manager of Aspire Retire Financial Services, is a woman working in a very male-dominated industry. Last year, her Queensland-based business won the Telstra Business Award in the MYOB-sponsored small business category. It was her second major award, having been named 2008 Pricewaterhouse Coopers Queensland Young Business Woman of the Year in 2008.

Her greatest achievement though, is being the youngest person to achieve Self Managed Super Fund Adviser certification alongside her Chartered Accountant and Certified Financial Planner status.

Aspire Retire is experiencing huge growth under Olivia’s management, primarily attributed to the key point of difference which has always been to provide more than just financial planning. “We constantly strive to educate our clients, nurture their understanding of money and investments, and grow their financial awareness,” she says.

Australian designer Jodie Fried is another former Telstra Business Award winner and founder of Bholu, a successful home interiors website. Bholu is a fair trade and climate neutral company which recently won the NSW Sensis Social Responsibility Award. She is supporting the launch of a new free book for SMEs from Sensis this month. The book shows SMEs how they can act sustainably and still maximise profits.

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