Female Founder Spotlight

Olympia Yarger, Founder and CEO of Goterra

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

My name is Olympia Yarger – founder and CEO of Goterra. We’re managing food and effluent waste, onsite in modular, mobile insect farms. I came from conventional agriculture originally, but spent some time away from the industry. When I tried to come back and buy a working farm, the barrier for entry was too high. So I started looking for alternative options which would keep me farming. And now I’m here.

 

2. In the last year, what new belief, behaviour or habit has most impacted your business?

Having the courage to ask questions. All. The. Time. It can be easy to believe that because I started this business I should have all the answers. But I don’t. Worse, it can feel vulnerable and sometimes people lose faith in you because asking questions implies (sometimes) that you don’t know what you’re doing. So I’ve made it policy for myself and the team to ask anyone who will stand still long enough, what they would do in our position. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not sharing IP. It’s little fragmented things. An example, is we designed a new process which required an air compressor. I had to go to the local air supply store to get parts. But I had no idea what parts I needed. So I asked. Rob, who works there and who I didn’t know, got really into trying to figure out what worked. We were on the show room floor and he was running in the back for different nozzles and fittings.

He still doesn’t know what we’re using those bits and pieces for. But he called me the other day to tell me there was a new nozzle on the market that he thought would do a better job. Which it does. I can’ hire all the expertise I need. But I can gain access to it, by purposefully engaging with people who do.

 

3. If you could help aspiring founders avoid a mistake you’ve made, what would it be and why?

The biggest mistake I made was assuming that when I hit milestones, things would get easier, or I would somehow achieve some new sense of knowing. Unless you’ve built and exited a few startups all of this is going to be new and it’s all going to be a bit scary. So right now, if it came to starting another startup, sure, I’d be pretty ok. I know what that feels like. Growing one, scaling it, getting the right partnerships in the door – I’m not so confident on how that looks, what it feels like. And so I feel vulnerable and I worry if I’m doing it right. I can’t change those feelings. All I can do is make sure I have enough people who do know, and who believe in me and Goterra to assist. Everyone has a different role in getting Goterra to be a global leader in waste management. My job is not necessarily want ownership of all those parts. But to find the people who can help, who can take away some of the unknown, who knows what this looks like. Know yourself well enough to find others to fill expertise gaps you have, have compassion for yourself, for the epic task you’ve taken on, and don’t get too tied up in getting things wrong/not quite right. And lastly….. Push.

 

 

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Jane Kou, Founder & CEO of Bring Me Home

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

I’m the Founder & CEO of Bring Me Home. Bring Me Home is an online marketplace for excess food; we connect people to food retailers that have excess food to sell at a discount.

 

2. In the last year, what new belief, behaviour or habit has most impacted your business?

I must say that the “Law of Attraction” from the book The Secret has been the most life-changing belief that has helped me change my habits and behaviours to achieve my goals. In a nutshell, the Law of Attraction says that everything & experience that comes to your life go through this magnetic power of your thoughts; so whatever you think, you will become & achieve. It took me years to learned how to harness this, and I’m proud to say that I’m starting to see it work. From wanting to start a business in my early 20s, to launching a product in the market, From getting into the Startmate Accelerator, and to getting funding. It’s been a crazy journey and I truly believe in the “Law of Attraction”.

 

3. If you could help aspiring founders avoid a mistake you’ve made, what would it be and why?

A mistake I’ve made is not starting a business earlier. I wish I had realised that being young and inexperience is not a bad thing at all. Being young means there’s lots of energy to be used up on a daily basis, more open to new learnings and experience, and more creative in general. So for any aspiring founders that have an idea they’d like to work on, don’t wait too long & don’t give yourself excuses, you’ll regret the things you don’t do (not the things you’ve done).

 

 

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Madeleine Grummet and Edwina Kolomanski, Co-founders of girledworld

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

Madeleine Grummet and Edwina Kolomanski are the CoFounders of girledworld, an edtech startup engaging with some of the world’s biggest tech companies to equip teenage girls with the real-world skills they need to thrive in the Future of Work.

girledworld design and deliver large-scale education Summits, are building a global World of Work digital platform for students to give them access to the stories, role models and skills they need to lead and succeed in their future careers, and in 2019 are launching a book for teenagers called You Are Not Your Face featuring powerful stories from girls across the planet.

Research shows the next Gen will have up to 17 jobs across 5 different careers, which means in the future we’re going to see a nation of portfolio freelancers competing in a fractured and hyper-competitive global marketplace where transferrable21st century skills will be the valuable hiring and trading currency. Jobs for life will be gone, and we will see technology, automation and the exponential democratisation of digital opening out whole new value chains, efficiencies and marketplaces and as a result the traditional workforce disrupting rapidly. So what we do is ready girls for that world by giving them the skillsets, mindsets and access to knowledge they’ll need to bridge the gap between education, industry and the future workforce.

 

2. In the last year, what new belief, behaviour or habit has most impacted your business?

What we believe is that we really need to turn the diversity dial up right now.

Because despite the rhetoric and politicking and discourse, we keep seeing systemic inertia, inaction and incompetence when it comes to actioning real change. What’s getting in the way is the calcification of our status quo. People fixed in their ways. And it’s these old ways of work and fear-based waterfall power structures that prevent the changes we need to see, create toxic cultures and hold companies back from the innovation and human mindset shifts they really need to implement to survive in a new age of work.

If we really want to move to new ways of work and cultivation of a diverse, open, representative marketplace, then we need to do work that stays human, avoids short-termism, puts customers at the centre of value creation and actually makes sense for the planet.

In our work across innovation we’re lucky enough to see inside the spaces and think tanks of some of the most agile businesses in the world. They don’t work the way most people do, and it’s why they get shit done and stay ahead. And what’s clear is that you need the right people mix. People make companies. And if you find the right ones, who are invested enough in the work they’re doing, they’ll do the best work of their life, whether it’s in a co-work space, the car on the side of the road, or in ripped pyjamas. The thing is, the 8-hour day is a hangover from times gone by. What we know is we can work shorter and so much smarter than that. It’s the time versus opportunity cost you need to weigh up.

At girledworld we know we can’t sit around and chew out time we don’t have. Time is your biggest trading currency at early stage startup. So our forced behaviour to is adopt an OODA tactic, an act not ask policy.

As Seth Godin so rightly said: “You can’t save up time. You can’t refuse to spend it. You can’t set it aside. Either you’re spending your time. Or your time is spending you.”

 

3. If you could help aspiring founders avoid a mistake you’ve made, what would it be and why?

Don’t wait. And don’t ask for permission. Ask for forgiveness later. The people who change the world, even in small ways, are the ones who get shit done. And starting is the hardest part. Once you do, don’t look sideways. Focus, and execute. And use your time wisely. There’s a great quote from Annie Dillard and we use it in our everyday: “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.”

Another bit is advice is don’t try and go it solo. We all need a pot of wisdom to draw from.

Make sure you find your mentors and know your tribe. People who get you, who back you, who are willing to let you think big and do big, and not box you in because the legacy of that relationship means they can’t cope with you rising. There is no point turning your lights down so others feel brighter around you.

We’re all for turning up the dial, pushing the bounds of what’s possible, even when you have no idea where the end destination is. Take the risks. Everything to gain. If not in currency, then invaluable lessons learned.

And invest in people. We have lots of interns and incredible young women who work with us who are just at the start of their journeys, who don’t have it all sorted (who does?), but what we see time and again is that reverse mentorship is where the greatest transference and rich perspective learning happens. Careers are never lateral. So like we tell the young people we work with, use the village. You’re going to need a lot of peeps from all walks along the way. If you want to go fast (and get really tired), go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

 

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Lucy Liu, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Airwallex

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

Lucy is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Airwallex. Previously an investment consultant at the China International Capital Corp (CICC), China’s first joint venture investment bank, she is responsible for overseeing the ongoing business operations within Airwallex. After leaving CICC, Lucy was the Director of Hong Stone Investment Development Limited, a Hong Kong based investment company, where she designed and implemented their financial and operational strategy. She co-founded Airwallex in 2015 and was recently named one of Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30, Fintech Australia’s Female Fintech Leader for 2018, and one of Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneurs of the Year.

 

2. In the last year, what new belief, behaviour or habit has most impacted your business?

In the last year, we have started to provide a more comprehensive onboarding experience for new starters. This ensured that everyone can become an engaged and effective member of the team. To give an example, as Airwallex has many smaller offices globally, we would start people from smaller offices at a bigger office (either Melbourne or Shanghai) to spend 2 weeks with the team before returning to their base office.

 

3. If you could help aspiring founders avoid a mistake you’ve made, what would it be and why?

Bring in in-house HR expertise early on to improve your hiring and general performance management. We didn’t have an HR till we were about 50-60 people, which was a little late. When your team is growing quickly, having someone dedicated to the recruitment process will ensure the best time management for people doing the interviews in addition to having a systematic way of finding the best people for your team. HR motivates the team to perform as well as maintains the company culture.

 

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Ayla Toyokawa, Founder of WEDSITES

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

Ayla Toyokawa is the founder of WEDSITES, a project management platform on a mission to make the wedding planning process easier and more efficient by guiding couples through their planning journey.

She is also the co-founder of ThemeBoy, a creative studio specialising in developing website solutions to help sporting organisations create a professional online presence. ThemeBoy’s products are used by over a million athletes and sports fans worldwide.

When she’s not behind the computer screen, you’ll find Ayla spending time with her fiancé and their beautiful german shepherd.

2. In the last year, what new belief, behaviour or habit has most impacted your business?

I think there are a lot of us out there who can admit to being a perfectionist, I’m definitely one of them. While attention to detail is extremely important, I’ve realised that there is a fine line between making progress and delaying something just because you want it to be “perfect.”

In the early stages of a business, things are constantly changing and nothing is for certain. This past year I’ve really embraced the “strive for progress, not perfection” approach and have been focusing getting our products out there to get all the feedback I possibly can, and moving forward from there.

I’ve been throwing myself into new and uncomfortable situations where the end result is unknown, but this has really forced me to challenge myself and grow as an entrepreneur.

3. If you could help aspiring founders avoid a mistake you’ve made, what would it be and why?

Don’t be afraid to say “no” and listen to your gut. When I was first starting out, I found myself saying yes to a lot of things that weren’t necessarily serving my business because I was afraid of the lost opportunity or coming across as being rude.

While I think it’s important to get the experience you need to succeed, founders need to be mindful of how they are managing their time and what they are saying yes to. If whatever you are saying “yes” to isn’t pushing you forward towards your goals, you might want to reconsider it. Especially if you have that gut feeling that it isn’t doing you any good. I’ve gotten myself into awkward situations by not drawing boundaries and saying no when I should have.

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Toni-Marie Aston, Founder of 2aT Startup 

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

My name is Toni-Marie Aston and I am the fortunate Founder of 2aT Startup, we help bring daydreams to life.

I launched 2at Startup almost 3 years ago with a mission to become an accessible creative agency and supportive platform for innovative and creative Startups.

We have now successfully helped over 100 startups grow through our digital and design services and educated them through our consults, speaking opportunities and workshops.

I love what I do and whilst my skills are branding and marketing based, my passion is supporting small businesses through the power of storytelling and education.

 

2. In the last year, what new belief, behaviour or habit has most impacted your business?

I believe the first 2-3 years of running a business is all about trial and error, I’ve really learnt over the past year that i need to think like a big business in order to become one. So the two biggest benefits to my business lately have been to learn how to make the business run without me and to support this it was about the importance of having a good team and more than one income stream for the business and in particular, having consistent subscriptions to secure month to month income, instead of spending time hunting and marketing for once off sporadic projects.

 

3. If you could help aspiring founders avoid a mistake you’ve made, what would it be and why?

My biggest mistake was not making more mistakes earlier on. I played it safe, in order to be making mistakes, you must be taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone.  Mediocre businesses don’t survive, it’s the ones that are willing to take the risks that make it.

Be your own cheerleader.

 

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Sheree Rubinstein, Founder and CEO of One Roof

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

My name is Sheree Rubinstein, Founder and CEO of One Roof, leading co-working space dedicated to women-led businesses. Much more than a co-working space, One Roof is a movement. By setting up world class co-working hubs dedicated to women-led businesses in major cities around Australia, we are on a mission to be the driving force that puts Australia on the map as the #1 destination in the world to be a female entrepreneur.

 

2. In the last year, what new belief, behaviour or habit has most impacted your business?

I have discovered that with the right balance of curiosity and persistence anything is possible. Persistence has helped me push through the constant rejection, set backs and obstacles. I believe it’s at the point where many people give up that a successful entrepreneur continues to persist. Curiosity reminds me that while persisting we often need to test, observe, listen, ask for constant feedback, fail and tweak our ideas according to what the market is telling us. It reminds me to always put the customer at the heart of everything we do. One Roof’s success is built on honing in on a specific niche and truly understanding our customers’ needs.

 

3. If you could help aspiring founders avoid a mistake you’ve made, what would it be and why?

Thinking that I can do it all myself. The most successful entrepreneurs build a team of people who have the capacity and intellect to carry the business, outsource the skills and expertise they do not have and have a tribe of mentors, investors, advisors, friends and a network of people who support, empower, teach and elevate them to success. I am sure I could work it all out on my own eventually but there is no way to move with speed, scale effectively and have significant impact alone. Relationships are crucial to success. They take time to nurture and should be seen as a long term and meaningful investment. People have opened doors for me that have been integral to the growth and success of One Roof.

 

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