International Women’s Day: “Choose to Challenge”

Celebrating leading Australian business women for International women's day

We speak to some inspiring Australian women in the beauty space about their personal and career journeys for International Women’s Day.

Every year on March 8th, the world comes together to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), a day dedicated to recognising the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women globally.

It’s also a time to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality and to raise awareness about the challenges that women continue to face.

We chat with six Australian female business owners on their challenges and successes and what it’s like being a small business owner, a woman, wife, friend and a parent in some cases.

Lana Kelly

Founder of Haircare brand Auriche

“The idea for Auriche required creating a world-first product range. This meant there was no research or testing to back my hypothesis about the problem or the solution. I am not a scientist but I strongly believed in the idea. I had to hold firm and trust myself even through multiple stages of research and development, which cost approximately 5 times the original estimate.

Auriche is entirely bootstrapped because I wanted to create a brand that reflected my values. I love having total control but having my personal savings on the line adds an additional level of risk and stress.

I started my career as a diplomat, then moved into corporate litigation. I continue to work full-time as a lawyer. I started Auriche with no experience in the beauty sector other than as a consumer and no background in e-commerce or marketing. This has meant I needed to learn a lot, and quickly.

Self-funding this venture means I am driven to be lean on costs, while realising I have limited time and energy due to my demanding day job. Choosing what I do and what I outsource is an ongoing challenge.

As an outcomes-driven person, I am often looking to the next thing and don’t take the time to celebrate.

The first time I remember feeling proud of myself in my career was standing at the United Nations headquarters in New York at age 25. I had been trusted to travel alone to represent Australia for some meetings, which were critical to Australia’s bid to obtain a seat on the UN Security Council.

I have had a few other big wins in my legal career, including success for my clients in matters before the High Court of Australia. 

Launching Auriche was a big milestone. It was the culmination of many years of hard work and passion, and there were many times that it seemed impossible.

I love learning – once a nerd, always a nerd! Whatever my role, I want to learn something every day and challenge myself to be better. 

I also love the opportunity to connect with a diverse range of people within and outside of my organisation. Approaching relationships with curiosity, respect and kindness has always offered me great satisfaction and opportunities.

My parents raised me and my siblings to be confident and fiercely independent. I am constantly inspired and proud of my 4 amazing sisters, who are each smart, caring, driven and successful in unique ways. For proof that women can do anything, I don’t need to look any further than these incredible women.

I have had the opportunity to work alongside brilliant women in all of my roles, each of whom is a role model. The legal sector was historically male-dominated and I owe a huge debt to the trailblazing women who demanded our profession do better and lit the path for the next generations.

I am constantly in awe of my female friends, many of whom balance the demands of motherhood and career in a way that looks effortless but I know is far from it.

My husband is my greatest champion. He is the first one to enforce boundaries for me when he sees the burden is too great. We tackle everything in life as a team, recognising that the reality of the family/career balance is a daily discipline. What each of us requires or can offer is in flux and we support each other, without question or blame.

I adhere to a strict morning routine, which starts at 5am. Movement and mindfulness are essential to me and set me up for success and joy, whatever the day brings.

While I work 7 days a week, I value and prioritise spending time with the people that I love each day. I have been through periods when I did not do that and I was not only less happy but less productive.

I think each person has a different concept of work life balance and even within periods of one’s own life, it can change. I inherently love work but don’t think working long hours should be glorified.

Prioritise making connections with others who are building a business. There are some special and unique challenges to being an entrepreneur that only those doing it can understand. It can be a lonely and overwhelming journey if you let it.

The biggest mistake I made, in the beginning, was thinking I could not network for fear of sharing my confidential business idea. While it is good to be prudent, what makes a business is execution, not the idea. Build a network much sooner.

If you don’t know where to start finding your people, get in touch and I am happy to help”.

Briony Oayda

Owner of Bondi Active

“Bondi Active was already a business when I stepped into the role. Between the Flags had created it as a brand within their stores several years before and had tried to launch it as a stand-alone business seven months before I came back. The struggle when I returned was to make it succeed: rebranding it, improving the product and digital presence, launching a standalone physical presence, and creating a strategy that would allow for an authentic, successful Bondi brand.

To run a business, especially one that you inherited and that was not necessarily succeeding when you did, the biggest challenge I faced was backing myself, letting go of imposter syndrome, and trusting that my experience and capability were enough.

By having an amazing network of friends and family around to celebrate wins and work through challenges with. As well as surrounding myself with a great team at work. 

My mother has been a huge influence on me. Watching her run her own business my whole life definitely made me see that as the norm for women. She was also the one who made me interested in fitness to begin with, from school sports to taking me to her gym classes and health retreats, even convincing me to become a PT while doing my undergraduate degree.

I really try to keep my weekends sacred as much as possible – this isn’t always easy or possible, but I also try to make sure when I am with friends or family, I am present and disconnected from work. I also try to keep mornings during the week for myself. I love getting up early, walking my dog, listening to a podcast and getting a workout in before the workday starts. 

If you are working late and you’re tired, ask yourself what the impact would be if you waited to do what you are doing until tomorrow. If the impact is minimal, just go to bed”.

Frances van der Velden

Founder of Skincare brand Airyday

“Creating a beauty skincare range, especially within the sunscreen category, is not for the faint hearted. One of the biggest and hardest hurdles we faced was the frequent rejections from potential suppliers. I completely underestimated the scepticism and reluctance of suppliers to work for a non-existent brand, even though we were prepared to invest in their services and had years of prior experience in the industry.

Navigating the sunscreen industry can be tough since there are only a handful of specialized manufacturers. Every “No” or “come back with a brand” felt like a setback, knowing that each rejection brought us closer to failing before we even got a chance to try.  

Nevertheless, each rejection strengthened our resolve to find partners who believed in our vision to bring Airyday to life. While the journey was far from easy, it reinforced the importance of staying true to our goals and pushing through the adversity.

I’ve been fortunate to spend two decades working in an industry that feels more like a passion than a job. However, in my mid-30s, I hit a point where I felt stuck in a rut. Unsure of exactly what I needed; I knew I wanted to create something of my own—it was just a matter of figuring out what that something was.

Then, in September 2020, life threw me a curveball: a diagnosis of skin cancer. Fortunately, it turned out to be a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), which, when detected early, can be treated and cured.

After 9 stitches later and an all clear from the dermatologist, Airyday was born. 

My husband and our two amazing girls, aged 6 and 8, are the centre of my life’s success. Everything I do, I do for our family. 

But amidst the joy of family, there was a surreal moment six weeks after launching Airyday. One Saturday morning, Sephora slid into our Instagram DMs with an inquiry to stock our products. It felt so unbelievable that I had to pinch myself—I even questioned if it was a hoax!

Fast forward 12 months later, and we proudly launched into all Sephora stores across Australia and New Zealand. It was a dream come true and a testament to the incredible journey we’ve embarked upon.

While I’ve come to appreciate the excitement of overcoming challenges, I won’t sugarcoat it—juggling everything can be downright exhausting! There are days when it feels like I’ve drained every last ounce of energy, only to come home to my amazing husband, kids, and a giant Sheepadoodle eagerly awaiting more.

Despite the hurdles I’ve faced (and believe me, there have been plenty), I’ve been amazed by just how much I can stretch myself. And you know what? Seeing Airyday evolve from a mere idea sparked by a bump on my head to being stocked in hundreds of dermatologists, skin clinics, and even Sephora across Australia—it’s all worth it in the end, especially knowing we’re helping people find a sunscreen they love to wear daily.

I am lucky to encounter some remarkable women in both my professional and personal spheres, I draw endless inspiration from their resilience, determination, and ability to navigate life’s complexities with grace.

What strikes me most is the diversity among these women – each with her unique set of circumstances, aspirations, and challenges. Yet, despite their differences, they all share a common thread of courage and tenacity in breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and carving out their own paths toward success and fulfillment.

Their stories serve as powerful reminders that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to life. Instead, they showcase the infinite possibilities that exist when we embrace our individuality and forge ahead with authenticity and conviction. Their influence continually shapes my own journey, fuelling my belief that each of us has the capacity to make a meaningful difference in the world. 

Lists, schedules, and a repeating routine are my lifelines. They provide a sense of predictability that makes me feel (mostly) in control. Knowing exactly when I’ve allocated time for something or when I need to be somewhere, brings a comforting sense of order to my life.

That’s why I devote considerable time to planning schedules for both my home and work life. It’s a bit of a juggling act, but with a well-structured schedule, I find I can navigate the chaos and savour the joys of both worlds.

My husband and I had an argument once about my lack of work/life balance…. I was doing emails on my phone while being wheeled in for my daughter’s C-section.  He was probably right on that one.

I’ve made deliberate lifestyle adjustments and despite my tendencies to fight it, I’ve worked to set clearer boundaries between work and personal time. However, I find it hard to maintain complete separation. For me, work-life balance is more about integration than separation. Instead of aiming for a perfect equilibrium, I focus also on making conscious choices that align with my priorities.

Some days work takes precedence, and other days it’s all about the kids. I hate to sound defeatist, but I have never achieved the stereotypical work life balance, so for me it’s about being present where I am and understanding that balance also needs to be a fluid concept, which I work to try to control with my routines, to ensure things don’t spiral out of control. 

You can be sure there will be problems and some of them will leave you feeling utterly devastated. 

While you may have some incredible and supportive individuals around you, for many, it’s just a job. However, for you, finding solutions is vital for the survival of your business.

What I’ve come to understand is that the determination to break through those invisible barriers and solve problems lies solely with you. It’s this level of determination and resilience that sets you apart from others. Embrace the challenges as opportunities for growth, and never underestimate the power of your own perseverance in navigating the entrepreneurial journey.

Cliché as it may be – my advice to my past self is to wear sunscreen – everyday!”.

Gabrielle Requena

Founder of Skincare brand Wrinkles Schminkles

“I created Wrinkles Schminkles 10 years ago and like many founder led businesses, the passion that drives you to create the business – the creative side – is not often where you end up spending the majority of your time as the business grows.

For example I have become an expert in inventory mgmt and it’s not my favourite thing! Secondly, I continue to remain the sole owner and have no investors. So balancing growth with cash flow always remains a challenge. You grow and you put all profit back into the business to hold more stock and invest in more Marketing. It can feel challenging to see growth and not necessarily see the fruits of your labour right then and there. 

Having a business like Wrinkles Schminkles is like having a child. The focus and dedication needed to grow a business can be at the cost of elements of your personal life so balancing that is a constant challenge. 

The most memorable moment after launching my business was appearing on Shark Tank. While the exposure immediately drove sales, it is like the gift that keeps on giving in terms of leveraging it in conversations, advertising and credibility. 

Ensuring I work on the ‘creative’ side of the business together with the necessity of running the business ensures I maintain fulfilment. I thoroughly enjoy growing the business so I continue to focus on expanding into retailers, other markets, new products and other creative sides of the business. We maintain a close relationship, beyond just donating to them and this ensures a frequent sense of purpose is tied back to our revenue

Women influence me from all areas in my life. I have beautiful old friendships I nurture together with new friends who can be on a more similar path, right through to my Mother and Sister with their big hearts and constant support. Women make the world go around

By ensuring when it becomes unbalanced, I take the necessary steps to rebalance! Being conscious that when I start to feel overwhelmed by work, to simplify my work and personal life until the workload gives me a chance to be in balance.Living between Sydney and Byron is really helpful for me to maintain work life balance…Sydney often equals work, and Byron often equals life!

Reflecting on my journey so far, I would highly recommend to anyone starting out, to surround yourself with the right people, agencies and experts to seek the right advice from and be prepared for a journey you enjoy rather than being focused on a rigid end goal. Success comes when you are enjoying the moments not an end goal revenue target. Chill out and enjoy the ride”.

Jana Baramilis

Founder of Luxury Haircare brand Livani

“The toughest part of creating LIVANI was nailing down the formulation and keeping it Aussie-made. It took over 5 years of testing on thousands of salon clients. I was determined on perfecting a natural product that not only works but also gives that luxury salon feel that my clients had come to expect.

We were often pushed to outsource production overseas, but I was firm about keeping it in Australia. I wanted to show off the awesome clean products we can make right here in our own homeland.

I was once told by someone very successful “Nothing good happens overnight” and this has really stuck with me. Owning and running several salons in Sydney gave me some insider knowledge about the beauty scene here in Australia. But the biggest lesson for me was learning that good things take time. You can’t rush success in this game. Skipping important steps only leaves holes in your business that come back to bite you later on.

Launching LIVANI after 5 years of hard work was a major milestone for us. I’ll never forget the surreal feeling when we released the video announcing our launch. And landing our first department store within the first 12 months, David Jones, was beyond words. Walking through those aisles as a kid, seeing my own product on those shelves was an incredible moment that meant the world to me.

Cheering for the little wins is key. It’s important to make a fuss and celebrate whenever something good happens. Looking back, you’ll see it’s those small steps that really count and bring you to where you are today.

I was really fortunate to have two strong women in my life: my mom, Helen, and my first boss, Julie. Both of them were hairdressers and ran their own businesses. Watching how they handled things taught me a lot about leading a team effectively, standing up for myself, and being a strong leader in business.

Having two energetic boys, a hubby, and three businesses definitely keeps me on my toes. It’s a juggling act for sure. But working as a team is key to keeping everything running smoothly and finding that work-life balance. Also I make sure to carve out some “me time” too. My daily pilates routine helps keep me sane!

It’s definitely not as easy as it looks. But you need to stay true to your dreams and don’t let all the distractions cloud your vision. When setbacks happen, don’t let them discourage you; keep your focus on your ultimate goal. However, it’s also important to keep an open mind and be willing to adapt to new opportunities that may arise.

Enjoy the ride! Its definitely as they say the journey not the destination.Enjoying the journey is what it’s all about. 

One of the highlights for me, looking back, was actually creating the product itself. Back then, I thought it was the most stressful, frustrating, and challenging thing I’d ever done. But now, reflecting on it, it’s become my favourite part of this adventure”.

Georgie Browne

Founder of Lifestyle / Fashion brand Araminta James

“My strength lies in design and marketing, obsessing over products, which is what I love to do. However, when you start a business, this passion is quickly overtaken by the demands of finance and HR. Scaling quickly means thinking on your feet and having the confidence to take risks.

It took 15 years of working full-time in the corporate sector before I had enough savings to start my own business. In hindsight, this was a blessing, as it allowed me to learn about the ‘business’ of retail, not just the creative side.

And now, Araminta James is being picked up by La Samarataine in Paris, showing at Cabana in Miami. However, building a community organically over time – that has been my greatest joy.

Making my children proud is a priority. As a single mother and business owner, my children benefit from witnessing their mom’s strong work ethic. My mum always told me I could do anything. Sadly she has dementia now, but she would be proud and excited I am sure.

Some days I feel like a good mom and on other days a good business owner, but not simultaneously. Balance is virtually impossible in the early days of starting a business. Over time, you can create boundaries and systems to facilitate quality moments with your children.

I’ve incorporated a morning routine into my schedule. I rise at 6 am for meditation, breathwork and stretching. This intentional start not only energises me for the day but also ensures I prioritise self-care before the demands of work and family begin. It’s a mindful approach that sets a positive tone and helps me navigate the challenges with a centred mindset.

Reflecting on my journey so far, if I could give any advice to someone wanting to start their own business, it would be this: If they don’t give you a seat at the table, build your own table. By that, I mean launching your own business takes resilience. Making mistakes is essential—fall forward and learn from them quickly.

Be grateful for closed doors, bad vibes and things that fall apart. They could be the biggest blessings you will ever receive later on. The struggle makes you stronger”.

Belinda Jeffrey

Founder of Hair Salon La Boutique

“The biggest challenges I faced when starting my salon 20 years ago was in creating and maintaining a strong team, managing a mix of creative personalities and ensuring the salon magic (high end environment, excellent service, quality control etc) is there for every single client.

For me balancing life outside of work and giving everything 100% at the same time has often been a challenge.

In the 10 years of my career prior to founding La Boutique, I had so many highlights whilst building my clientele- including winning hair awards such as AHJ most creative colour awards and colourist of the year award at the hair expo. Also flying over to Mexico to colour Russell Crowe’s hair for the film Master and Commander every 4 weeks for a period of 6 months was amazing!

After launching my own business, watching it grow from a small salon with 2 staff to a pumping, hot salon that had to move to a bigger premises across the road with 15 staff. 

Now as we celebrate our 20th year in business, we are the specialised boutique salon with 8-10 staff that I always envisioned. 

After many years of focus on the business, children, my partner and realising everything must coexist with balance has been challenging. 

As I don’t have a business partner, my partner, father of my children and husband for 14 years keeps me grounded and helps so much with our boys which allows me to focus on the business when I’m at work. It takes a village and it also takes a strong team working alongside you- my La Boutique family is a brilliant mixture of personalities, creatives and likeminded people that I am proud to have in my team.

I’ve also realised it’s important to take more regular breaks to stay fresh and focused/on point, sometimes it takes getting out of your usual environment to stay inspired!

Strong women are my favourite people. I have always been drawn to and surrounded myself with strong, hard working, passionate women like myself and I really treasure these friendships.

Sometimes it’s very difficult to juggle work life and personal life, I’m lucky to have amazing support from my partner, and my parents who help care for my boys when I’m working at the salon for long hours, or while on set for a film.

It has taken me many years to achieve a better balance.. now my boys are getting older I try to focus on taking regular trips away with them to create meaningful memories.

The feeling of actually going for a dream I would do again and again. It’s important to take risks and put yourself in vulnerable situations and be nervous about making moves towards a career and focus on your passions. The pleasure of achieving something after facing challenges and putting yourself out there is irreplaceable. After 20 years of business at La Boutique Salon, I have launched my own specialised colour care range to continue renewing my career and challenging myself with new opportunities to be creative.

You have to push boundaries and believe anything is possible. Believe in yourself and what you can achieve”.

Rebecca Wilkinson

Beauty Editor

Rebecca is a freelance content creator and beauty editor for Bondi Beauty. She is a pescatarian, who may yet become vegan. She loves all things beauty, health & travel, has a weakness for coffee and is obsessed with cats and yoga. If she's not answering her mobile - it's probably because she's trying out the latest beauty trend, like massaging crushed pearls into her skin for the ultimate collagen and vitamin boost to skin cells.

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