Lessons from South Australia's top female entrepreneurs

Lessons from South Australia's top female entrepreneurs

It's no secret that South Australia is fast becoming a hub for the most innovative and forward thinking startups in the country, but it's the state's female entrepreneurs that are really trying to change the world.

On the opening day of the South Australian Entrepreneurs Week 2018 four of SA's brightest stars in the startup scene laid bare their secrets for success.

As part of the 'Celebrating South Australia's Female Founders' panel Flavia Tata Nardini (co-founder & CEO of Fleet Space Technologies), Dr Michelle Perugini (co-founder & MD of Life Whisperer), Sarah Gun (founder & social enterprise director of GOGO Events & GOGO Labour Hire) and Louise Nobes (founder & CEO of InspiredBUY and KIK) spoke about what it means to be a woman in the world of a male-dominated entrepreneur scene.

For Flavia (pictured centre right), entrepreneurship wasn't her first career choice. Having worked in the European Space Agency for a number of years, she migrated to Adelaide and found a part of the world devoid of any industry to work in.

"I was smart, but I wasn't an entrepreneur," says Nardini.

"I came here thinking I would find a job in no time, but instead I was a super qualified housewife. There was nothing for me here in Australia."

With years under her belt in the space industry, Nardini instead decided to pursue a career in entrepreneurship ignoring the voices around her telling her it wouldn't happen.

"We raised $5 million last year, and we were the first space startup in Australia," says Nardini.

"Don't listen to people when they tell you the industry cannot change."

Dr Michelle Perugini (pictured left) comes from a similar background as Nardini. Starting off as a student in biotech, Perugini quickly realised that to make the change she wanted to see in the world she had to go and do something crazy. Her business, Life Whisperer, is an innovative AI-based business that's helping increase the success rates of healthy embryos developing.

"Looking back on it, what I did was probably crazy," sasy Perugini.

"I wanted to be a Doctor, but I didn't get the marks to get in. So I did biotech instead. This was the best kink in my path that has ever happened to me."

For Perugini, entrepreneurship is more than just solving a problem, it's about overcoming the obstacles along the way.

"Entrepreneurship is about taking on challenges and overcoming adversity," says Perugini.

"You'll have plenty of naysayers who will say 'you can't do that'. But I'm proof that you can be an entrepreneur, be female, have two children and be successful."

"The pinnacle of success doesn't exist. It's about overcoming adversities."

One of the key themes of the Entrepreneurs Week is "social entrepreneurship". Though it's a buzzword, it's definitely something that's bubbling and boiling away in Adelaide's startup scene.

Both Sarah Gun (pictured right) and Louise Nobes (pictured centre left) run successful, innovative, and exciting social entrepreneurship startups in Adelaide, that are solving major problems that exist within South Australia's social and political bubble.

Gun's business, GOGO Events, is a self-described 'profit for purpose' business that gives Adelaide's homeless population opportunities to gain meaningful employment in hospitality & events. Gun says the success of her business is proof that startups can be meaningful and successful ventures.

"We have proven how a sustainable business can be a force for good," says Gun.

GOGO helps put on events for some of Australia's biggest companies, including Toyota, the South Australian Government, MINDA, the Adelaide Fringe and the Australian Hotels Association. In 2017 GOGO put on 120 different events in just 10 days.

"GOGO allows Adelaide's homeless population to identify as something other than homeless."

Gun also recognises the unique position she's in, as both female founder in a male-dominated scene.

"Being a social entrepreneur and a woman is a double whammy," says Gun.

"The purse strings are still held by men. Women are excluded from 80 per cent of government funding."

"But the proof is on this stage that women are not tinkering around in the economy. Awareness of female founders and their investability is paramount."

Like Gun, Louise Nobes' business KIK is solving the major issue of youth unemployment in South Australia.

KIK is a multi-service business that runs cafes, a cleaning business, and is now moving into manufacturing. The company is about to celebrate its second birthday, but this young company has already seen considerable success, having secured angel investment just four months into its existence.

Nobes' philosophy is different from most founders in that she hopes to allow unemployed young people to find success through becoming founders themselves, by providing them a platform through KIK.

"I want to challenge the concept that the founder is an entrepreneur couldn't we help people get themselves out of unemployment with entrepreneurship?" says Nobes.

"We need to give entrepreneurship to the most disadvantaged imagine if they could create their very own brand."

Of course, each of these brilliant female founders has a wealth of advice to impart on young entrepreneurs, but when asked to distil their advice into one tip, each had something different to say.

Both Louise and Michelle says networks are paramount.

"To secure angel investors I'd emphasise to first look at your own network, that's the best place to start," says Nobes.

"To make the best of success you need to build your own networks and work with them," says Perugini.

Flavia says sharing your journey with a co-founder makes the entrepreneurial effort far more enjoyable.

"When you share your journey with a co-founder it gets you through the hard times," says Nardini.

"If you do entrepreneurship do it well. Find the trends and nail them. If I went back in time I would do it 10 times bigger. Go big."

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