successful female entrepreneur stories
Small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy but did you know 97% of women-owned and led businesses are small businesses. Discover three successful female entrepreneur stories from Australia.
Did you know that according to census data, 97% of women-owned and led businesses in Australia are small businesses? We spoke to three inspirational female entrepreneurs to ask them about their successes and struggles since starting their businesses.
Mable Tan, Surface Pattern Designer.
Hi, I’m Mable Tan and I’m a surface pattern designer based in Melbourne. There are several components to my business and one of them is licensing. I’d create a collection of work, pitch it to companies and they, in turn, will license it to create all sorts of products – from fabric to wallpaper, art prints, homewares, etc. Another aspect of my business is mentoring. I do one-to-one coaching calls with other designers to guide them on how to get their art into the world. Last but not least, I organise virtual masterclasses for surface designers by inviting expert speakers to talk about specific subjects such as how to price our work as designers.
What drove you to start your business?
I’ve always been an artist and a visual thinker but it started with me trying to find a way to make an income with my creativity while looking after our newborn son. It was my husband’s idea for me to start a shop on Etsy to sell art prints. Eventually, I took an online course called ’The Immersion Course’ by American fabric designer Bonnie Christine and the course gave me a roadmap on how to be a surface designer. From there on, I poured every ounce of energy and time into developing my skills which eventually lead to me licensing with my dream company RICE DK (a Danish homeware company), and most recently, Spotlight Australia and New Zealand.
Can you share a struggle you’ve faced and how you overcame it?
In my first year, after completing the Immersion Course, I needed to hone in on my skill and my ‘voice’ as an artist. One of the most important things we have to develop is a ’signature style’. It’s the fingerprint of an artist and what sets us apart. It can take years of work before a style emerges. I didn’t have years to wait, because it meant years without an income. So, I worked like a beast. I drew between my son’s nap time. I stopped going out on weekends, and limited catch-ups with friends and family. I made art every single day, seven days a week for 18 months until finally, I was happy with my style. In that process, I created something like 200+ repeat patterns. Some of my earlier patterns were terrible, but I’ve learned that it’s important to get the ugly out so we can eventually create beauty.
Any advice you can give aspiring businesswomen who are keen to give surface design a go?
Be prepared to work hard and long hours, with not a lot of success at the beginning. I know that sounds horrible, but eventually, after building enough experience and momentum, you’ll find your place in the surface design world. Which is why you really have to love this to begin with. It makes the journey much more tolerable.
Gabrielle Diaz, Creative Director & Performer.
Princess Parties Australia is a Brisbane-based children’s entertainment business, specialising in princess character performers for birthdays and special events. We provide stunning parties with your favourite storybook characters, and give your little Princess or Prince an unforgettable, special day filled with storytelling, games, temporary tattoos, and more!
How did Princess Parties Australia come about?
Princess Parties Australia was created in 2015 and I began working for the business as a character performer about a year later. In 2018 the original owners decided to sell the business and at the age of 21, I decided to purchase Princess Parties Australia, with my co-director Adrienne. It was a big decision but one I am so glad I chose. Since purchasing the business we have been able to expand our team and have continued to provide dreams come true for children across Brisbane and more recently across Australia (via zoom). One of the most enriching elements of this business is the opportunity to provide work for developing young performers to enhance their skills as they begin their journeys in the performing arts industry.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Certainly, the biggest obstacle has been running an events-based small business during a global pandemic! Cancelling children’s birthday parties is pretty heart-breaking. We were able to (and still do) offer Personalised Birthday videos with our characters during the lockdown.
Please share a special memory.
Every party is so special and as an owner and performer, it is so wonderful to meet and inspire our youngest generation. I think my most memorable moment would be our work with the Starlight Children’s Foundation at the Brisbane Children’s Hospital. Just before the pandemic, we were able to celebrate Fairytale month with the Starlight team and have weekly visits and storytelling sessions from Elsa, Anna, Rapunzel, Moana, and Alice in Wonderland.
Volcanic Designs is a small e-commerce business specialising in handmade designs and products made here in Australia, using suppliers that are other Australian businesses – big and small. Volcanic Designs is a one-woman show. I design, manufacture, and package all products as well as run the website and social media.
What’s your USP?
At present, I primarily focus on sticker designs, while I have plans in the works to expand my product range rapidly (prints, enamel pins, cotton tote bags, t-shirts, and more!) I pride myself on being as ethical as possible; ordering supplies from Australian small businesses where I’m able, using plastic-free and biodegradable shipping supplies, and creating products that support social and environmental causes.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I worked as a travel agent up until the pandemic hit in 2020, I was consequently stood down from my role and left with no work and a lot of extra free time.
What are some challenges you have faced?
Customer growth. Sales have been slow while everyone is being impacted by the pandemic, the struggle trickles down to the small business owners also.
What’s the most memorable thing that has happened since you started your business?
I have had an order of my waterproof stickers from Scotland! It’s crazy that something I made was wanted by someone on the other side of the world!
Where do your ideas come from?
I create products based on things that interest me most. Things like popular culture, political and ethical causes.
Advice you can give to someone who wishes to start a small business
Just start it! Invest your time 110%! Take advantage of TikTok, Instagram, and other social platforms and create engaging content!
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