Tonight I would like to acknowledge the achievements of five Canberra businesswomen who recently took out Telstra ACT businesswomen awards. The private sector in Canberra makes up about 50 per cent of the local economy. These awards highlight the diversity and the innovation of our business community, particularly what women are doing.
Kate Sykes won the Telstra ACT business woman of the year award and the Commonwealth Bank business owner award with her successful business, CareerMums. CareerMums is a national jobs board and careers centre website for working parents. The site also provides employers with a pool of specialist working parents, typically aged between 30 and 50. Kate believes that the website will become more relevant for Australian businesses as the population ages, as skills shortages increase—particularly here in Canberra—and as paid parental leave is extended.
Carol Sawyer won the Hudson private and corporate sector award for her success as General Manager of the Canberra Southern Cross Club, a not-forprofit business. Carol has been general manager since 2006 and has watched membership grow to 84,000 and turnover grow to $48 million. In 2009, Carol introduced the ‘small appetite’ meal option that proved very popular with the club’s senior diners and increased revenue. Reduced appetite is a real issue for the aged, so this is a great initiative. Carol also introduced a loyalty and rewards program that tripled membership. The club is a major contributor to the Canberra community and employs 200 people. One of Carol’s proudest achievements is her 16 energysaving and two waste reduction initiatives, which she introduced at the beginning of this year.
Catherine Carter won the White Pages community and government award for her work with the ACT Division of the Property Council of Australia. As its Executive Director, Catherine performs a dual ACT and federal advocacy role on Canberra-related property issues. Catherine’s leadership has seen the number of member companies jump from 112 to 172 over five years, and she has doubled revenue streams. Catherine is the public face of the Property Council. She is a tireless advocate for environmental sustainability, the need for long-term planning and a vision for our national capital.
ACT Health’s Executive Director, Brenda Ainsworth, won the Nokia business innovation award for establishing Australia’s first nurse-led walk-in centre at the Canberra Hospital, in my electorate. The centre treats minor illnesses and injuries and takes the pressure off the hospital’s emergency department. It provides faster access to treatment and, again, alleviates our skills shortage. Modelled on UK operations, the innovative walk-in centre model required legislative change in the ACT. Brenda was involved in challenging negotiations with clinical groups. The centre uses paperless medical records and has served 1,000 patients in its first month. It is a great concept. Carly-Jane Tozer won the Marie Claire young businesswomen award. Carly-Jane opened her first hair salon, CJ’s Style, at the age of 20 and now employs nine people on a full-time, casual and contract basis —and she is only 23 now. As part of her marketing strategy, Carly-Jane invited clients to pay what they think the service is worth, and the response was overwhelming. Only three people paid less than the asking price and others paid more, as they believed the salon provided better value for money than other salons. Since 2007, Carly-Jane has also invested in young Canberrans by training eight apprentices.
As a former small business owner I know the challenges of juggling your own marketing, administration, tax and superannuation at the same time as keeping clients happy. That is why I commend the Gillard government for making it simpler and easier for small businesses to operate through a range of initiatives. These include a range of tax breaks for sole traders and companies, an investment of $125 million to cut red tape when it comes to business name registration, an investment of $42 million to enhance small business advisory services, the establishment of the Superannuation Clearing House and the introduction of the Franchising Code of Conduct. The Gillard government recognises that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. These ACT award winners represent all that is best about business in Canberra and women in business in Canberra. I wish all the winners all the best for the national finals next month.