March 8th marks International Women’s Day – a time to celebrate women’s achievements and all the trailblazers the world over who are making positive change in the world. Calling for greater gender equality, this year’s theme is #balanceforbetter.
We spoke to several successful female CEOs about their unique business journeys and missions to create change in the world, beginning with Anneke van den Broek, founder and CEO of Australia’s most awarded pet care brand, Rufus & Coco.
Anneke has been recognised as one of Australia’s 50 most influential women entrepreneurs by Rare Birds, won the Anita Prabhu Women in Business award in 2013 and in 2016 was inducted into the Business Woman’s Hall of Fame. Following a highly successful marketing career working at David Jones, Bonds and Blackmores, she took a leap and launched one of the first pet care brands with personality. Anneke was struggling to find natural, fashionable, high quality products for her pets and simultaneously noticed a growing trend towards pet humanisation. Seeing the opportunity to fill a gap in the market, Rufus & Coco was born. Just over ten years later and Rufus & Coco are stocked in nine different countries, sell 2.5 products per minute and are the largest privately-owned pet business selling into the Australian grocery channel, in the pet accessories category.
Anneke shares “When we launched, our mission was to help pet owners find products that were as high-quality as those they would buy for themselves. Today, our mission has extended to supporting pet owners in every way we can – particularly advocating for pet owners rights in Australia. We partnered with the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation to support their efforts lobbying local governments to change rental laws to include pets by default – saving thousands of pets from unnecessary euthanasia each year.”
“We’re also passionately working to reduce the environmental paw-print of our pets, through innovative products like our Wee Kitty Corn Clumping Litter which is an all-natural alternative to clay litters which are mined from the earth and contribute significantly to landfill.”
Building a brand on this scale didn’t come without its challenges. To anyone starting out, she says “As an entrepreneur one of the most challenging things is persisting and not becoming distracted by the next shiny thing. We were rejected from supermarkets three times over the course of several years before we were ranged.”
Another successful female founder who shares this sentiment is Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of in-home aged and disability care service Afea Care Services. “When I launched Afea it was just myself and a couple of carers who I would drive to and from appointments. Growth was steady – nothing is an overnight success.”
Starting the business at just 24 years old, Esha set out to redefine the experiences of our ageing population. “I was working as a carer in a local nursing home and realised that a lot of the residents weren’t in need of full-time care and could have continued living in the comfort of their home with a carer coming to visit during the day. It was an option many people hadn’t even considered.”
“My goal has always been to connect those in need of support with the most loving and compassionate carers, matching clients and carers based on their mutual interests or cultural background to foster connections. Sometimes a carer is the only person our clients will see in a day, so building those relationships is everything.”
Her advice to anyone starting out is to back yourself and trust your gut in business. “When you learn to trust your instincts, everything else aligns.”
Lastly, we spoke with Ann Marie Johnston, founder and Director of Yogamate.org whose mission is to help make yoga accessible to everyone.
After suffering persistent depressive disorder, it wasn’t until she discovered yoga – and not the poses that ‘yoga’ brings to mind, but the breath work and meditation, that she began to shift her health. She aims to better educate the world on what ‘Yoga’ fully encompasses, and help anyone who can breathe feel better empowered to reduce their suffering and move towards better health and wellbeing.
In 2019, she is launching the app Yoga Therapeutics Pro; helping yoga and healthcare professionals (or students themselves) to better understand and utilize Yoga’s therapeutic benefits. Teachers and practitioners will be able to quickly establish which poses and practices are beneficial or harmful for certain health conditions at the click of a button.
“All yoga can be therapeutic, but not all practices are safe for everybody, so if you have health concerns, make sure to find a qualified yoga therapist or teacher who has specialised training.”
We celebrate these fearless female leaders who are working to create a better world and brighter future for the next generation of women in business.